June 13, 2024 1:28 am

Ten Motives for Studying Church History

There is a lot we can learn from the lengthy history of the Christian religion, regardless of whether church history is what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning or you’ve always assumed it was simply made up of old books and cranky old guys.

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We believe and hope in a historical religion, even though it isn’t always pretty since history reveals sin and human frailty. Because the Church has a history, we may study church history. However, in the context of evangelicalism in particular, we may be less knowledgeable about church history now than we have been since the Reformation. To our fault, we just don’t talk about Church history enough.

Ten factors make it worthwhile to learn.

1) Church History is surprisingly readable, with plenty of real people who are just like you and me.

Because church history seems to be the chronicles of a distant past and ancient people, many people are afraid to approach it. However, the history of the Church is the history of God’s people, regular people just like us. History shows that billions of people from many nations, beliefs, and backgrounds have embraced Christ’s invitation to redemption. Discovering the past of the Church reveals individuals who resemble ourselves. We discover the mighty and the rulers, the wretched and downtrodden, and everyone in between! Human nature remains constant. Everyone has sinned and failed to live up to God’s expectations. However, everyone who accepts salvation from Christ is redeemed. Globally distributed brothers and sisters comprise the ancient Church. This is the past of our family!

2) History demonstrates that God is dependable in keeping His promise to maintain His Church.

The Church is maintained by the all-powerful God of history, despite its gender diversity. Our Scriptures are historical writings, and Christianity is a historical faith. God makes the pledge to maintain His Church in the New Testament. He assures us that the Church will stand until the second coming of Christ.

We discover not only that God fulfilled this promise, but also how marvelously He did so when we study Church History. God has remained dependable to His people even during difficult and painful times. We keep seeing that wonderful fact as we examine the lengthy history of the Church.

3) Church history demonstrates God’s omnipotence over the entirety of creation, both old and new.

God has absolute sovereignty. Scripture says as much, and history demonstrates how marvelously accurate this is. What a delight it is to know a God who cares for all of creation and who guards His people! Examining the Church’s past reveals time and time again how God raised up men and women for the appropriate roles. We witness a history of weak and helpless people being used by a strong and great God rather than a history of heroes. The reason Church History is so amazing is because it consistently shows us how God is at work.

4) Church history serves as a reminder to honor God for His deeds.

As we examine church history, God’s amazing might, grace, and constancy always astound us. History demonstrates that humanity is never the protagonist in the Christian faith’s narrative. We should give God the glory since He is the only one who consistently bestows blessings on His Church. John is shown a glimpse of God’s throneroom in Revelation 7. He notices a multitude of angels around the throne, and they cry out (vs. 12):

Glory and praise,

and discernment, gratitude, and honor

and strength and power

God be praised forever and ever.

Indeed!

The great God of all peoples, all eras, and all creation is being exalted by these angels. A glimpse of God’s magnificence is revealed to us in Church History via His amazing interactions with His people. The angels of Revelation 7 should be the model for our response: praise and honor to this amazing God!

5) Church history, like to scripture, inspires us to examine and gain knowledge from our predecessors.

Paul exhorts Timothy to use what he has learned in 2 Timothy 3:14 since he is aware of the people who taught him. He is urged to consider his mother, grandmother, and Paul as role models. Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to emulate him in 1 Corinthians 11:1, just as he emulates Christ. Scripture reveals a tendency of us turning to our elder, wiser brothers and sisters as role models for living lives worthy of our calling and learning from those who have gone before us.

By studying church history, we may gain knowledge from our predecessors. Eric Liddell, the 1924 Olympic gold champion from Paris, is one of my heroes. Even though he was not flawless, reading about this athlete’s life has inspired me to prioritize spending time in God’s Word every day and to use my abilities for His glory rather than my own. God has brought up men and women who serve as our role models for godliness throughout church history. Even if these saints are not flawless, we may learn a great deal from studying their lives.

6) Church history casts doubt on our haughty view of chronology.

The phrase “chronological snobbery” was first used by C. S. Lewis, and the phenomenon he decried is still very much alive today. We believe that we are better only because we came after those who came before us. We have improved in terms of development, capability, and comprehension. Although it’s a silly belief to know all the answers just by virtue of being alive, it’s a mindset that is simple to get into.

With our sophisticated social media, international parachurch organizations, and contemporary ministries, it’s all too simple to assume that we have the Christian life figured out. We can confidently believe that we know the answers.

A review of church history inspires us to think about these issues in a new way. We recognise problems and difficulties that we also encounter, and we may frequently pick up new coping mechanisms. There is much to be learned from the way obedient Christians live in this wicked and hostile world. Ignoring the many astute Christians who have come before us would be a mistake.

7) Church history aids in our ability to grow from our errors.

Despite the fact that our lengthy Christian past is filled with wisdom, the Church has unquestionably committed grave sins over the years. Men and women in every church are sinners, and sin may increase a lot. Among the numerous blatant violations are the atrocities of the crusades and the persecution of minorities in Christian communities around the world. Even though the Church occasionally worked to eradicate the abhorrent practice of slavery, it also occasionally encouraged and supported it. Locally, tales of exploitation and misuse of authority have the potential to upend church families for many years.

Gaining a deeper comprehension of Church History—both its positive and negative aspects—will enable us to avoid making the same mistakes as our ancestors.

8) Church history serves as a reminder that all of God’s people were included in the Great Commission.

“The history of the church is simply an account of its success and failure in carrying out Christ’s great commission, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded,'” Harman and Renwick write (xiii) in The Story of The Church (4th ed.).” This was a mandate for the entire Body of Christ. It was an order to spread the gospel over the entire world.

The first Christian communities, the devoted churches of the Middle Ages, and the revivalist preachers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were all examples of this Great Commission in action. It also applied to the first hearers. For us, that is also true. Because the Church has linked all Christians throughout history via this amazing missionary endeavor, we may draw courage and wisdom from those who have gone before us as we venture forth into our own surroundings. Church history helps us focus on the God who is really in charge, pushes us to avoid mistakes and sin that would impede us, and encourages us in this endeavor.

9) Discover the variety of Church History!

There is so much to discover, so many lives to examine, and so many challenges to take on, ranging from histories of Christian sportsmen like Eric Liddell to tales of devoted congregations opposing the mistakes of Medieval Rome to the first generation of the post-Apostolic Church. Theological stances and outstanding sermons have been expressed.

Whatever your experience or interest, there is something to be found in Church History since it is so vast. I urge you to go into the times or places that really captivate you after doing some exploring. God imparts knowledge to us via His Word, and church history enables us to see how these lessons have been applied to the lives of people who comprise God’s Church.

10) The history of the church is amazing.

Church history is rich, unexpected, and enthralling, ranging from radical groups in the Roman Empire to modest preachers in kings’ and emperors’ courts. There are a plethora of people and events to delve into over the two millennia of church history, which is frequently where humanity is best (and worst) understood. It’s worth dissecting, investigating, and delving deeply into the amazing tale of the Church!

The lengthy history of the Christian Church has a wealth of information to go into. I hope you will take some time to investigate it for yourself after reading this essay. Upon studying Church History, we are often confronted by one of the well-known principles articulated by John Calvin in the sixteenth century. Gloria Soli Deo. There is only one clear conclusion to be drawn from the lengthy history of the Church: honor belongs to God alone.