A Short Review of Church History and Why It Matters

A Short Review of Church History and Why It Matters

Explore Church History and Learn How It’s Relevant to Your Life Today

Church history is a fascinating study . . . but why should the average Christian learn about it?

We believe you have to know where you come from in order to know where you’re going. Church history helps us understand biblical context and connects with the Christians who came before us.

While studying church history might seem overwhelming at first, the payoff is so worth it. Through your study, you’ll learn about how the Bible came to be canonized, how Protestant Christians broke away from the Catholic Church, and how your role in the church matters here and now.

Together, we can discover where we go from here.

Important Stages of Church History You Should Know About 

It would take years to study all that church history has to offer. After all, there are over two thousand years between you and the crucifixion of Christ!

Here, we’re starting with the basics: Pentecost, the canonization of scripture, and the Reformation. As you explore these essential pillars of church history, consider which ones you might want to study more in-depth.

Pentecost and Early Christianity —  AD 33

Pentecost is one of the most significant events in all of church history. So significant that you can read about it in Acts 2—and see its aftermath for hundreds and thousands of years.

After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples were celebrating a Jewish feast called Pentecost. During the feast, the Bible describes the Holy Spirit coming to men like a mighty wind and settling on the apostles as “tongues of fire.”

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit allowed the apostles to preach the Gospel in multiple languages and to receive the many gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts would serve each of the apostles through intense persecution and eventually into their martyrdom.

How Is It Relevant Today?

The Holy Spirit still works in our hearts and allows us to confess our sins, connect with God on a deeper level, and minister to friends and family.

Pillars of the Christian Faith Are Discussed — AD 325–397

The Council of Nicaea met in modern-day Turkey to settle scriptural debates among Christians of the time. Led by Constantine I, the council determined the concept of the Holy Trinity to be a scripturally sound and essential doctrine.

Later, the Synod of Hippo and the Council of Carthage helped to canonize the New Testament scriptures. These are the books of the Bible that we read today and recognize as God-breathed (or God-inspired) scriptures. Believe it or not, there are several books that didn’t make the cut—specifically, some historical books called the Apocrypha and the Gnostic Gospels.

How Is It Relevant Today?

The canon of scripture is still debated to this day. The Catholic Church uses the Apocrypha (a collection of additional historical books) in their Bible. Understanding the canon will help you to firmly embrace what you believe—and confidently approach subjects like the Apocrypha and Gnostic gospels.

The Bible Becomes More Accessible — 1380–1486

Up until the 1300s–1400s, the Bible was only accessible to people through the church. Most people couldn’t read or write, so educated priests would preach sermons and pass on the messages of God to the people.

This often put too much power in the hands of the priests, and people were fed false teachings about Jesus. Eventually, John Wycliffe, Johannes Gutenberg, and other scholars and inventors helped the Bible become more accessible through English translations and printed versions.

How Is It Relevant Today?

Isn’t it cool that we have so many Bibles and Christian resources at our fingertips? Christians before the modern age didn’t have this luxury. This knowledge can make us appreciate our cozy Bible studies and verse memorization even more. And, we can be compelled to share the Bible with those around the world who don’t yet have it in their own language.

The Reformation — 1517

Call it a religious revolution. Since it was still difficult for everyday Christians to read the bible, the church was using its power to accumulate wealth and make political moves. In fact, many priests requested money from churchgoers as a form of payment for their sins.

Martin Luther and John Calvin (two leaders of the Reformation) voiced their disgust with these practices. They began to preach the Gospel of grace—according to the Bible. They believed that scripture alone had authority over men. Once people caught on, a huge subsect of the church broke off to become what’s now known as Protestant Christians.

How Is It Relevant Today?

Even though we have access to God’s authoritative scriptures, some religious leaders still try to take advantage of Christians and speak on God’s behalf. The Reformation is a reminder that God is our ultimate authority—and the scriptures and the Holy Spirit are our guide to Him.

Be Part of Your Own Church History — How to Make a Long-Term Impact Today

Church history is happening all around us. Whether it’s revivals, political movements, mass salvations, or quiet prayers—your part in God’s mission today is vital.

As you study church history, pay attention to what the Christians who came before us did right and what they might have done wrong. God gives us these examples to learn from—and to help us become stronger believers.

Oh, and if you want a different perspective on your faith today, check out some writing by early church leaders like Thomas à Kempis, John Calvin, and John Bunyan.

Just for Fun — What Christian Apparel Picks Would These Church History Leaders Wear?

  • Martin Luther — He wasn’t afraid to make waves or stand for his faith (even if it meant opposing the powerful Catholic Church). For him, we choose the Jesus “Come as You Are” Christian Hoodie. His message was clear: only Jesus has authority over our lives and hearts.
  • John Wycliffe — A brilliant scholar, Wycliffe was another opposer of the early Catholic Church. He’s best known for translating the Bible into English, so more people could have access to the Word of God. For him, we choose the “Never Too Busy to Pray” Christian Tote. As a Catholic priest, we imagine he spent a lot of time talking to God.
  • Constantine I — An extremely influential man, Constantine the Great’s conversion to Christianity was extremely unexpected—and it changed the course of history. He made Christianity the primary religion of Rome and was part of the Council of Nicaea. With a life so dramatically changed by Jesus, we think he’d appreciate the “Redeemer” Christian Hoodie.
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