Text: I Corinthians 1:18-31
I. God promised a kingdom that would never fall
A. Daniel 7:13-14 - One that would never be destroyed
B. Not so with human kingdoms
1. Every empire of the past has collapsed at some point
2. It has been noted that democracies tend not to last more than 200 years or so
3. People wonder if we are in the last days of the United States
C. How is it that God created something that can’t be destroyed?
II. The power is in the message
A. There is nothing of man like it - Jeremiah 23:28-29
B. Romans 1:16-17 - The power to save
C. I Corinthians 1:21-24 - God chose a simple message that would be rejected by those who think they are religious or wise by the world’s standards.
1. It is a message that doesn’t depend of men’s approval
2. So that it is clear that the power comes from God - I Corinthians 1:29
III. And yet is it is delivered by men
A. The message is spread one person to the next
B. A treasure in earthen vessels - II Corinthians 4:7-12
1. Doesn’t that strike you odd? A precious message being delivered by flawed people?
2. Is that a weak point?
C. Romans 10:14-18 - God’s plan was to have the message taught.
1. It is a geometric scheme – that is it can spread rapidly
IV. A distributed scheme
A. Have you noticed that ropes are made of multiple strands braided together? - Ecclesiastes 9:9-12
1. There is no single point of failure so whole continues
B. I suspect that this is way God wanted man to spread out and not gather into a single city - Genesis 11:4-8
C. Among the churches, there is no central headquarters
1. Which means there is no one point of failure
2. There is no one place to wipe out the ability of churches to function
3. There is no one point to introduce false doctrine
4. Even in each congregation, there is no one person in charge
a. The eldership is always a plurality with no one person in charge
b. The duties are distributed between elders, preachers, deacons, and teachers
D. The Jews sought to wipe out the church in its infancy - Acts 8:1-3
1. But the result was spreading the church, instead of it remaining in Jerusalem - Acts 8:4
E. During the early times of the church, the Roman government tried to destroy all copies of the Bible
1. It didn’t work. People could make copies for themselves.
2. "It was the nineteenth year of Diocletian's reign [AD 303] and the month Dystrus, called March by the Romans, and the festival of the Saviour's Passion was approaching, when an imperial decree was published everywhere, ordering the churches to be razed to the ground and the Scriptures destroyed by fire, and giving notice that those in places of honour would lose their places, and domestic staff, if they continued to profess Christianity, would be deprived of their liberty. Such was the first edict against us. Soon afterwards other decrees arrived in rapid succession, ordering that the presidents of the churches in every place should all be first committed to prison and then coerced by every possible means into offering sacrifice." [Eusebius, History of the Church, VIII.2]
3. This persecution lasted 8 years, until the emperor became gravely ill.
4. “Consequently, when we issued an order to the effect that they were to go back to the practices established by the ancients, many of them found themselves in great danger, and many were proceeded against and punished with death in many forms. Most of them indeed persisted in the same folly, and we saw that they were neither paying to the gods in heaven the worhsip that is their due nor giving any honour to the god of the Christians. So in veiw of our benevolence and the established custom by which we invariably grant pardon to all men, we have thought proper in this matter also to extend our clemency most gladly, so that Christians may again exist and rebuild the houses in which they used to meet, on condition that they do nothing contrary to public order....Therefore, in view of this our clemency, they are in duty bound to beseech their own god for our security, and that of the state and of themselves, in order that in every way the state may be preserved in health and they may be able to live free from anxiety in their own homes." [Eusebius, The History of the Church, VIII.17.6-10].
5. In other words, Christians were permitted to build homes and churches again provided they pray for the recovery of the emperor.
6. It was only a few decades later that old Rome collapsed and Christianity was made the state religion.
7. But wonders of it all, Christianity benefitted from the very government that tried to destroy it.
a. Roman peace and Roman roads allowed easy travel from one of the empire to the other.
b. Christianity could not be wiped out because it spread everywhere
F. One of the first corruptions in the church was a trend toward centralization
1. It lead to the growth of the Roman Catholic church, but it had left its roots and continues to stray from Christianity as taught in the Bible
2. In the middle ages the Roman Catholic Church tried to control all copies of the Bible
3. “In 1199, Innocent III, writing in a letter to the bishop of Metz, banned the reading the Bible in private meetings ... Since, however, the individual by himself apart from private meetings could hardly procure Bible texts, this ban was practically equivalent to a Bible ban for lay people” [Wikipedia]
4. “We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old and New Testaments; unless anyone from the motives of devotion should wish to have the Psalter or the Breviary for divine offices or the hours of the blessed Virgin; but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books” [Council of Toulouse]
5. In 1234, the Second Council of Tarragona said, “Nobody may be in possession of the Old or New Testament books in their mother tongue. If someone has such books, they must hand them over to the local bishop within eight days of the announcement of this ordinance so that they can be burned.”
6. It was all in the name of preventing inaccuracies in the Scriptures and teachings from spreading.
7. When John Wycliffe dared to translate the Scriptures into English in 1383, an order was issued, “that no one in the future will translate any text of Scripture into English or into any other text than book, scripture or tract, or that such a book, scripture or tract be read, whether new in the time of said John Wycliffe written or written in the future, whether in part or as a whole, public or hidden. This is under the punishment of the greater excommunication until the bishop of the place or, if necessary, a provincial council approves the said translation. But those who act against it should be punished like a heretic and false teacher.”
8. It didn’t work. The Bible was too widely spread and people didn’t obey the orders.
9. But you know it was the schools established by the Roman Catholic Church that trained men to translate the ancient languages.
G. Note that the very forces that strive to destroy God’s work always end up helping God’s message to spread - Ecclesiastes 2:26
V. What will happen?
A. When this country was founded the government was distributed and the powers spread to form checks and balances
1. Over time the power has shifted to a more centralized structure
2. But it also created a single point of failure
3. Anti-Christian forces have taken power and that has many concerned
B. We don’t know what is best - Ecclesiastes 6:12
C. God allows hardship so we are left guessing - Ecclesiastes 7:13-14
D. But I do know that it will work out for God’s people - Ecclesiastes 8:12-13
E. And I know that they can’t stop God’s message because God designed it that way - I Corinthians 1:27-31