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Understanding the language of the Bible is critical. The language of the N.T. is written in the later Greek, and the writers applied the Greek to subjects on which it had never been used by native Greek writers. The things concerning Jewish affairs, their theology, and rituals. I have committed the work of the Greek dictionary found within, to assist in your personal study, and in repelling those who choose to distort the word. Acquaint yourself with the language of the Greek N.T., you will find it to be of an indispensable importance.
The author of these articles and features quotes verses from the King James Version. We investigate the Bible's original text, examine the Greek, Hebrew, text, context, symbols, and terminologies. We will continue to make every effort to aid readers to grow in their individual faith. We will also make every effort to assist, and to support those who have vowed to honor our Lord Jesus Christ, and His finished work.
Part 9: The decline of the church. See parts 1 thru 8 in lower left had column.
Arius; Christian Deacon of Alexandria Egypt; born 250 A.D., died 336. His teaching gave rise to a theological doctrine known as Arianism. He maintained that, "The Son of God was not;" He stated that the Son of God could not be co-eternal, co-essential, and co-equal with the Father. He reasoned that it was inconsistent and impossible, since the Father, who begat, must be before the Son, who was begotten: the Son therefore, could not be absolutely eternal. This is a teaching straight out of hell. It caused division in the early church, as it still does today.
After the council of Nice, Arius was removed, but not silenced. He and his friends vigorously made every effort to persuade the Christian world that they had been unjustly condemned, and asked to be restored to their former rank and privileges in the Church. The sister of the emperor Constantine favored their cause. In her last moments, she prevailed on Constantine to recall Arius from banishment; to repeal the laws which had been made against him and his party, and even to permit them, in various ways, to oppose the leading members of the Nicene council. This was done in the year 330 A.D. But Athanasius, the successor of Alexander, in the bishopric (office of bishop) of Alexandria, refused to receive Arius as a presbyter (priest) under him. And because of his stance, he was in turn, removed and banished into Gaul. The church in Alexandria, however, was true to its principles, and though Arius had been reinstated with great solemnity, they would have no relationship with him. Constantine then ordered him to Constantinople. The emperor had thought that peace would be made, for he had been made to believe, that Arius was unjustly condemned, and that there was no essential difference between him and his accusers. He was now required to give his opinion of the Nicene Creed. Arius, without hesitation, agreed to it. The emperor could never conceive of men subscribing to the same words, and have entirely different views. This was the case at that time. The Church said that Christ was God. The Arians allowed it, but in the same sense, that rulers and angels were styled gods in scripture. Deluded by the apparent frankness of Arius, Constantine ordered Alexander, bishop of Constantinople, to receive him to communion. Alexander could not resist, but gave himself to fasting and prayer. The Arians were flushed with success; but while parading in triumph through the streets of the city, Arius became sick and retired than suddenly died in 336 A.D. Soon after, Constantine, who had been an instrument in the hand of God, producing many changes in the religious world, went to his eternal reward, but having first received baptism from Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia. Somehow at this period, baptism had now superstitiously been attached by the church of having the power to save.
His successor, Constantius, favored the cause of the Arians. He entered heartily into their views, and, from the year 337 to 364 A.D. violently persecuted those who opposed them. Athanasius, who, after a banishment of more than two years, had returned, but now was obliged to flee to Rome. A number of his friends were scourged and imprisoned. Extreme severities were now inflicted upon many ministers who held to the Nicene Creed. Some were banished; others were shackled with irons, and scourged to death. The Arians multiplied creeds upon creeds, laboring so to express themselves, that no essential difference might appear between them and others; and multitudes might be able to subscribe to their way of thinking without rendering uneasy their consciences. Among those who were induced to this, was Liberius, bishop of Rome. The Arians filled all the high places in the Church, and sought vigorously after wealth and power. Eusebius, of Nicomedia, the zealous friend of Arius, was made Patriarch of Constantinople.
In 349 A.D. Constantius was urged to reinstate Athanasius in his seat of power. It was a moment of triumph to his friends. But his enemies had now determined his utter destruction, and accused him of the most detestable crimes. Athanasius retired to the deserts, and hid himself among some monks, who refused to betray him to his persecuting adversaries. For nearly forty years, Arianism reigned, especially in the East, almost without any checks and balances, and it became a proverb, “All the world against Athanasius, and Athanasius against all the world.”
No sooner had the Arians attained power, they split into various parties. They could not agree even among themselves on their views of the character of Christ. A multitude of new sects sprang up among them, under the names of semi-arians, eusebians, aetians, eunomians, accasians, psathyrians, etc., all were as hostile to each other, as they were to the Nicene party.
The Arian controversy also produced a multitude of other sects, which, for a time distracted the Christian world; but many have long since passed away and lost like the tumultuous waves in the ocean. But on the other hand cults such as the Jehovah Witnesses have emerged.
Constantius died in the year 361 A.D. His successor, Julian, was no friend to Christianity in any way, shape or form, and all parties were obliged, for a short while to hide them-self. Jovian, the next emperor, was a Trinitarian, and, in his reign, almost the whole of the Empire renounced the Arian system. Valentinian and Valens, two brothers, succeeded Jovian. The former was the patron of the Trinitarians; the latter, of the Arians. Valens renewed in the East the spirit of persecution, and many were banished.
Gratian and Honorius, the next emperors, were active in suppressing Paganism, and extending Christianity. But their successor, Theodosius, who came to the empire in 379 A.D., entered on the boldest measures both for destroying idolatry and establishing a uniform religious faith. He drove the Arians out with terrible violence and exposed them to the greatest calamities throughout his dominions. Unquestionably it was a most criminal abuse of authority; but he seemed to have no idea that religion is to be established in the minds of men by reason and not by force, he also appeared to have little understanding of the system he was so zealous to establish.
As the secular arm had now, for many years, been turned against different portions of the professed followers of Christ, the Pagan world came out from their dens. They rejoiced in the contentions that had sprung up among Christians; and when they saw the Arians depose those who had deposed them, they said, “The Arians have come over to our party.” But now Satan was about to make one more bold and daring effort to drive Christianity from the earth, and regain his seat of power.
Julian had been educated a Christian, was a public reader in the church of Nicomedia, and zealous for the faith, though he probably was never truly acquainted with the true spirit of the Gospel. But because of his hatred to the Constantine family, and the artifices of the philosophers, he apostatized from his professed faith and bent the whole force of his empire to the reinstitution of pagan idolatry. Julian was a man of many talents, false appearances and cunning, he pursued measures which would have ended in the extermination of Christianity had it not been the saving hand of God. For he not only repealed the laws made against idolatry, he also opened the heathen temples, raised up an immense priesthood, and set the whole machinery of Paganism in motion throughout his vast empire; but he labored, in a thousand ways to undermine Christianity, by destroying its moral influence. He made the Christians continually the object of ridicule, calling them Galileans; he shut their schools; took from them their civil and religious privileges; broke up the clergy by depriving them of their incomes and burdening them with taxes and civil duties; he befriended the Jews; reformed the morality of Paganism to make it acceptable to the pious, and used every ensnaring artifice, to draw over the unwary. He abstained from open persecution, because he saw that the blood of martyrs had been the seed of the Church. And if he did not take away life, he deprived it of all its pleasures.
But Julian soon found out that there was a supreme power above him. In defiance of heaven, he undertook to build the Temple of Jerusalem. “He committed the conduct of the affair:" writes Amianus Marcellinus, a writer of the period, and an enemy to Christianity; “to Alypius of Antioch, who set himself to the vigorous execution of his charge, and was assisted by the governor of the province; but horrible balls of fire, breaking out near the foundations with repeated attacks, rendered the place inaccessible to the scorched workmen from time to time, and the element resolutely driving them to a distance, the enterprise was dropped.” Gregory Nazianzen, Ambrose, and Chrysostom, who lived at the same time, and ecclesiastical historians of the next age, all attest to the same facts.
To what extent would the church have been persecuted and reduced by as formidable an enemy as Julian had he lived to old age, no-one could say. A kind of providence removed Julian from the stage after a year and a half in power; he died at the age of 32. He had attempted the conquest of the Persians, and was killed by a Persian lance. Conscious of his fate, he filled his hand with his own blood, and cast it into the air and said, “O, Galilean (speaking to the Lord), thou has conquered.”
This would be the last persecution of Christianity by Pagan Rome. Pagans, however beyond the bounds of the empire, continued to defend their ancient superstitions by arms, massacring multitudes who bore the Christian name. This was particularly the case in Persia, where, from the year 330 to 370, a destructive persecution raged, and incredible number of Christians were put to death – Magi and the Jews persuading Sapor that Christians were friendly to the Roman emperor
Phillip LaSpino www.seekfirstwisdom.com
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