There is no other religion that is built on the person and works of its founder except Christianity.
Without Christ, Christianity will be void because He is the core, the essence, the pillar and the heart.
He was the origin and will be the fulfillment of its hopes.
PROPHECIES CONCERNING THE BIRTH OF CHRIST
Jesus Christ did not come to earth unannounced; He came in the ―fullness of time. Galatians 4:4. All the prophecies concerning Him were fulfilled exactly as prophesied:
- Christ would come out of Judah. Genesis 49:10, Luke 1:31-33.
- Christ would be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2, Luke 2:4-7.
- He would be born by a virgin. Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18, 22-23.
- John the Baptist would be His forerunner. Isaiah 40:3, Matthew 3:3.
THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF CHRIST
In accordance with the promise of God, in Isaiah 7:14, Christ was born by the Virgin Mary. This miraculous conception was necessary because God required a sinless blood to cleanse the sin of mankind. By this birth, Christ did not inherit the sin nature and so, He was able to atone for the sin of mankind. The mystery of the virgin birth is to believed and accepted.
THE PURPOSE OF THE VIRGIN BIRTH
- To reveal God to mankind. John 1:18
- To bridge the gap between man and God. I Timothy 2:5
- To save men. Hebrews 2:14-16
- To rescue the whole creation. Romans 8:19-22
THE DEITY OF CHRIST
No one who accepts the Bible as the infallible word of God will doubt the deity of Christ. Jesus claimed the Deity Himself in John 10:30 and this was the main reason He was crucified. John 19:7.
Scriptural Proofs of the Deity of Christ
- God has come to live with us. Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14
- Christ is identified by divine names. Isaiah 9:6-7, John 10:30
- The personal name JEHOVAH (I AM) belongs to both God and Christ. Exodus 3:14, John 10:5-8.
- Jesus forgave sins. Mark 2:5, 7.
- He claimed equality with the Father. Matthew 28: 18-19, II Corinthians 13:14.
- He claimed omnipresence. Matthew 18:20, Omnipotence Luke 8:24 and Omniscience Mark 11:2-6.
- The fact of His resurrection. Romans 1:4; 6:4.
THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST
In order to be the Saviour, Jesus had to not only be divine but also a true man. He was like us in every respect except sinful nature. If He were not fully human, He could not have represented us on the cross and He could not be the High Priest who comforts and strengthens us. Hebrews 2:16-18.
Scriptural Proofs of His Humanity
- Jesus had human ancestry Luke 2:7, I John 4:3.
- He was subject to the law of human development Luke 2:40.
- He was subject to human instinct such as:
i. Hunger. Matthew 4:2, 21:18;
ii. Weeping. John 11:35;
iii. Sleeping. Matthew 8:24;
iv. Prayer. Matthew 14:23;
v. Anger. Mark.3:5;
vi. Death Hebrews 9:27-28.
|DISPENSATIONS||PERIOD||MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY||MAN’S FAILURE||CONSEQUENCES||DIVINE MERCY|
|The Dispensation of Judgement / Tribulations||From therapture of the Church to Millennium. Rev 6:19; Dan 12:1; Jer 30:7||Rev 14:6; To recognize God and worship Him.
|Men are evil and will not repent Rev 9:20-21; 18:21.||Utter destruction. Rev 14:20; 19: 17-21; Zech 14:4.||Shown by the saved gentiles and sealed Israelites.
|The Kingdom Dispensation||From the descent of Christ to the Great White Throne Judgment – 1000 years. Psa 2, 11.||Obedience and submission to the King.Ps 66:3; Rev 20:7-9.||Some men will still live in disobedience.||Destruction caused by fire descending from heaven. Rev 20:9
|God provides a new earth and a new heaven
The Dispensation of Faithful Angel and the Redeemed
|No failure again, Eternal home and rest for the saved.
|DISPENSATIONS||PERIOD||MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY||MAN’S FAILURE||CONSEQUENCES||DIVINE MERCY|
|The Dispensation of Promise||From the call of Abraham to the Exodus. Gen. 12:1 to Ex 12:37
|Gen. 26 :2. To live in the promised land.
|Gen. 47:1. Jacob’s house went down into Egypt.||Exo 1:8-14. Slavery in Egypt.||Deliverance from Egypt and preservation of Israel.
|The Dispensation of the Law||From Sinai to Calvary.||Exo 19:5. Israel was to keep the law with all social and civil requirements. (Rom 2:12; 9:4)||II Kings 17: 7-17. Acts 2:22-23. Man failed to keep the law and crucified the only one who did.
|II Kings 17:6. 25: 1-11. Israel was sent into Assyrian and Babylonian captivity.||Judgment on Israel was delayed for 40 years after crucifixion. Elimination of animal sacrifice after Christ’s death.
|The Dispensation of Grace||From the descent of the Holy Spirit to the descent of Christ.||To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. John 3:36; Acts 16:31; Eph 2:8-9. Man is saved through faith alone.||II Tim 3:1-7. Man becomes lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.
|God gives them up to their unbelief. I Tim 4: 1-3: II Tim 4: 3-4.||The death of Christ on the cross.
|DISPENSATIONS||PERIOD||MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY||MAN’S FAILURE||CONSEQUENCIES||DIVINE MERCY|
|The Dispensation of Innocence||From the creation to the fall of man. Gen. 1:26 to 2:23.||Gen. 2: 16- 17. Man had only one commandment to obey.
|Gen. 3:6. Man chose to believe Satan rather than God||Gen. 3:14 — 19.||Gen. 3:15. God promised a Redeemer who would come and restore man’s dominion.
|The Dispensation of Innocence||From the fall of man to flood – 1656 years:
Gen 3:27 to 8:14.
|Gen. 4:7 He is to choose between doing good and doing evil||Gen. 6:5, 11- 12. Man is exceedingly wicked: “God saw that the wickedness of man was great.”
|Gen. 7. Judgment through the flood.||Gen. 7:1. Eight people are saved out the flood to begin the new dispensation.
|The Dispensation of Human Government||427years. From the flood to the confusion of tongues
|Gen.9: 1,6 “Whosoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made the man.
Noah’s downfall – Gen. 9:20-23
Building of Tower of Babel. An organized political and religious rebellion against God.
Idolatry and apostasy.
|Gen. 11:5-9; Confusion of tongues and the dispersion of the people. Division of the earth to continents and islands. Gen 10:25; I Cor. 1:19.||God was merciful to them in their idolatry and sought another man who would follow Him.
A dispensation is a period of human history defined in terms of divine revelation. It is a period of time during which man is tested with reference to a specific revelation from God. According to the Bible, history is a sequence of divine administrations. These consecutive eras reflect the unfolding of God’s plan for mankind. The doctrine of dispensations is the vehicle by which believers living at specific time can orient to God’s will, plan and purpose for their lives.
Dispensation is from the Greek work Oikonomia, which means an administration, a stewardship or guardianship. It refers to a moral or probationary period in human history, during which time God deals with man according to a particular test or responsibility, under which man is expected to remain true. Knowledge of dispensation enables the believer to understand the progressive revelation of the plan of God to mankind, the particular provisions and requirements of each dispensation and its overall objective.
PRIMARY CHARACTERISTICS OF EACH DISPENSATION
In order for each dispensation to be distinct from all other dispensations, it must have three essential characteristics.
First, it must have a particular way of God’s administration of His rule. Each dispensation is characterized by a unique ruling factor or combination of ruling factors.
Second, it must involve a particular responsibility for man. Each dispensation makes man responsible to obey God in accordance with its unique ruling factor or combination of factors.
Third, it must be characterized by divine revelation which had not been given before.
In order for man to know God’s new way of ruling and his new responsibility, he must have these things revealed to him. Each new dispensation requires new revelation from God. [Eph 3:2-10]:
SECONDARY CHARACTERISTICS OF EACH DISPENSATION
The fact that each new dispensation involves a newly revealed responsibility for man indicates that each dispensation also has some secondary characteristics.
- Each dispensation applies to test man. The nature of the test is whether or not man will perfectly obey God’s rule by fulfilling the responsibility which is characteristic of that dispensation.
- Each dispensation demonstrates the failure of man to obey the particular rule which characterizes that dispensation.
- Each dispensation involves divine judgment because of man’s failure.
- The different dispensations are not different ways of salvation but different ways of God’s administration of His rule over the world. Throughout history God has employed several dispensations but only one way of salvation. Salvation has always been by the grace of God through faith… [alone in Christ alone]
- There have been dispensations during which God exercised His divine rule over all mankind and there have been some when He did so over just a segment of mankind. For example, the Dispensation of Human Government was over all of mankind, but the Dispensation of the Mosaic Law was over only the nation of Israel.
- Each dispensation demands a new revelation showing that the previous way of relating with mankind has been discontinued and that a new responsibility has been instituted for mankind. This is school of thought of dispensational theologians who recognize successive dispensations and therefore emphasizes progressive revelation.
– gabriel ajibade
After our study of the beginning and spread of the early church, it is necessary for us to consider the sacrifices made by the early Christians, especially the disciples left by our Lord to propagate Christianity.
- SIMON PETER: Tradition says he was crucified in Rome head downwards.
- JAMES THE ELDER: He preached and converted many in Jerusalem. He was eventually beheaded by Herod around AD 44.
- JOHN THE BELOVED: Laboured in Asia Minor especially at Ephesus; was banished to Patmos Island where he wrote the book of Revelation. He was freed afterwards and died naturally.
- ANDREW: Crucified on a St Andrew’s Cross.
- PHILIP: Stoned to death at Hierapolis.
- BARTHOLOMEW: Burned at the stake in Armenia.
- THOMAS: Suffered martyrdom in India.
- MATTHEW: Thrown alive into hot oil in Persia,
- JUDE: Said to have been burned alive in Persia.
- MATTHIAS: Martyred in Ethiopia. .
- LUKE: Believed to have been hung on an olive tree by the idolatrous priest of Greece.
CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST: DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH
The martyrs proved by their joyful endurance of persecution to the end that their faith was better than life itself. It was left to those who lived to explain to Jews and Pagans what the faith really was. These writers were called Apologist, because they wrote books, which explained and justified Christianity. The arguments they used in defense of Christianity can be divided into four way or groups.
- Appeal to the authorities to treat Christians Justly;
- Attack on pagan religious beliefs and practices;
- Presentation of Christian beliefs and way of life;
- Theological arguments to justify Christianity.
These apologists included Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Aristides, Quadrates, Tertian and a host of others.
We leave our review of the development and life of the early church with gratitude to God for all that He gave to Christians through those times of persecution, and express our hope and confidence that God will surely complete the building of His body, which is the church.
– gabriel ajibade
The Beginning of the Church
It is difficult to set a date for the beginning of the church though we know it arose out of the ministry of Jesus and became a universal witness to Him at Pentecost.
In his ministry, Jesus Christ predicted the spread of the gospel, but He did not, before His death, set forth a programme of evangelism (Mat 281: 8-.20). The conviction and power to witness was given at Pentecost. At Pentecost fundamental changes took place in the character and structure of the people of God.
- The NT universal church replaced the strictly Israelite congregation.
- The people of God ceased to be a national people and become an international universal community.
- The preacher replaced the priest and the sacrifice of Christ replaced the ceremonial sacrifice of animals.
The Spread of the Church
The Christian differed from the Jews in that he held that God had sent His Son Jesus Christ (John 3 16). The Messiah revealed Himself and saved them and they invited anyone to join them irrespective of their language or creed. This aroused the rabid opposition and grating persecution of the Jews against the Christians, in so much that many of them had to flee Jerusalem. But wherever they went, they preached the gospel, and this became an avenue for spreading the good news. When the imperial army of Rome besieged Jerusalem in 10 AD, they were dispersed further still. St Paul carried it through Asia Minor to Greece and Arabia; Mark to Alexandria and James to Spain.
The Persecution of the Church
The Roman Empire that ruled the world in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD was so large that it could remain united only if it recognised the local customs, tribal laws and religions convictions and practices of the many people it governed. With the enthronement of Emperor Augustus, this policy began to change. Romans began to see their emperor as a god to whom they sacrificed in their temple. The refusal of Christians to make sacrifice to the emperor therefore caused the government to regard Christianity as unlawful religion (religio illicita). From then on, Christians risked their goods, their freedom, even their lives to confess the name of Christ. Because of this refusal, Christians were hated, imprisoned, banished, fed to lions as a public spectacle and executed by the sword. This was the situation when Emperor Nero, perhaps the cruelest tyrant of his time, was enthroned. In AD 64, a great fire broke out in Rome, destroying the wooden building of the poorer part of the city. Though it was believe that Nero had started it in order to rebuild the city more splendidly to his own glorification, Christians were accused of having ignited the fire. Christians were further persecuted for this. In addition they were regarded as atheists and haters of mankind. Their refusal to sacrifice to the emperor was said to cause the anger of the gods and this brought calamites to the state. They were accused of immorality in their religious assemblies. They were said to eat human flesh when they met for purpose of prayer at night. In fact, they were persecuted not because of what they did but because of what they were. 1 Pet: 4. 14-16. The Christians buried their dead in underground passages in Rome called catacombs. In AD 156 Polycarp, the heroic bishop of Smyrna met his noble death. . Replying to the proconsul that bade him to revile Christ and burn incense to Caesar, he said, “eighty and six years have I served this Christ and he has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my king who saved me”
The last persecution of the early church took place in the reign of Emperor Decius, but despite all the devices its enemies devised, the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. In AD 133 during the reign of Emperor Constantine, an edict of tolerance was issued permitting imperial subjects including Christians to worship as they pleased and ordering that all confiscated churches and property should be restored to the owners.
– gabriel ajibade
The Christian church was born in a world that was already old. Great empires such as Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Persia and Greece had risen and fallen. The church was born in the Roman Empire, the greatest of the ancient empires that governed the civilized world. It was almost exclusively in that empire that the Christian church lived the first five centuries of its life.
The roots of the Christian church reach back deeply into the history and religion of Israel. Jesus said, “Salvation is for the Jews” (John 4: 22, Gal 3: 29). The earliest church was wholly Jewish, her saviour was a Jew and Jews probably wrote the entire NT. A brief note of Israel’s history is necessary here.
David founded the Kingdom of Israel around 1090BC. He reigned until about 960 BC. At the death of Solomon his son around 930 BC the kingdom split into two because of the rebellion of Jeroboam (1Kings 11: 26). The northern part called Israel, was taken into Assyrian exile in 721 BC while the southern part called Judah was taken into Babylon exile in 586 BC. In 539 BC Cyprus king of Persia conquered Babylon and allowed any exile who wished to return to Jerusalem to do so. These returnees in time rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem and the temple (Nehemiah 7:1). Ezra led a second set of the returnees and he re-instituted Israel’s observance of the Torah, Israel’s Law (Nehemiah 8). The Pharisees grew out of this movement. Around 334 BC Alexander of Macedonia conquered Greece. When he died in 323 BC his generals divided the empire among themselves. Egypt and Palestine came under the authority of Ptolemy. In 198 BC Palestine came under the authority of the descendants of Seleucid.
The Ptolemy Kings had permitted the Jews to practice their religion but the Seleucid pressed them to surrender their religion. An aged priest named Matthias and his four sons led a rebellion. Of these, Judah was the leader and together they are called the Maccabees i.e. men who fight violently. The Seleucid was subdued in 141 BC and Israel became independent again. In 63 BC, civil war in Palestine gave occasion to Rome to establish her authority there; therefore Israel’s rulers were appointed by Rome. In 37 BC, Herod the Great, during whose reign Jesus Christ was born, became the King with Rome’s approval. After his death, the kingdom was divided among his three sons:-Archelaus, Herod Antipas and Philip. Herod Antipas was the one who killed John the Baptist (Mat 14: 1). In 6 AD Archelaus was deposed and sent to exile, his area became a Roman province and ruled by Procurators. From AD 26 to 36 the procurator of Judea was a Roman named Pontus Pilate.
– gabriel ajibade
The canonicity of NT became necessary after the death of the apostles and the infiltration of heretical teachings into the doctrine of the apostles.
It took almost four centuries after the death of Christ before the canonicity of NT was completed. As in the case of the OT, there was an attempt to infiltrate a number of previously rejected writings into the canon of the NT. These included the Acts of Paul and Thekla, the Epistle of Barnabas, the gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Andrew, the gospel of Peter, revelation of Peter, the shepherded of Hermas etc. Therefore, some criteria had to be set up to specify once and for all which books were to be excluded and which were to be included in the NT.
There was an initial objection to the inclusion of some books in the canon of the NT. For instance, the style of 2Peter was seen to differ from that of 1Peter, so some scholars thought the writers might not be the same person. Also, the writers of James and Jude called themselves servants not Apostles. The writer of 2John and 3John called himself Elder. Questions were also raised about the style of revelation. Only twenty of the present twenty seven books were readily accepted.
CRITERIA FOR NT CANONICITY
- Apostolicity –Books written by an Apostle or someone closely associated with any of the Apostles were taken to be authentic. Mark was associated with Peter and Luke was associated with Paul.
- Reception by the churches – The book must have been universally received by the local churches as authentic at the time of their writing.
- Consistency –The book must be consistent with the doctrine that the church already possessed and with the OT and Apostolic teaching.
- Inspiration-Each book must give evidence, internally and externally, of being divinely inspired (compare I Cor.12: 10.)
- Internal -To be canonical, each book must contain exhortation to public exegesis of the word (compare Col. 4:16 I Thes 5:27; I Tim 4:13; Rev. 1:3:7; 3:6.).
In 336AD, the churches decided to meet together to finalize the NT canon based on the above criteria. The first council meeting rejected only the book of Revelation as being canonical but subsequent church council accepted Revelation and other books of our Canon. The first council met in Laodecia (336AD); Second council in Damascus (382 AD); Third council in Carthage (397 AD); Fourth council in Hippo (419AD) Thus concluded the canonicity of the NT as we have it today.
– gabriel ajibade
The term canon of scripture means the complete collection of books which are regarded as of Divine authority. The word canon in Greek means a straight rod, rule or measure. As applied to the Bible it means the rules by which certain books were declared as inspired and accepted as such. It should be noted that before the books of the Bible as we have it today were compiled, many books in circulation were purportedly divine and inspired. The Fathers of faith therefore found it necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff; hence, very stringent rules were employed to ascertain the books that were divine. The books of the Bible we have today was the result of their work.
Why does the believer need a canon of scripture? Why were the various portion of the divinely inspired word of God collected and bound into a Book called “The Holy Bible”? There are four main reasons why there was a need for the canon.
- So that believers in every generation might have the complete revelation from God.
- So that believers might have God’s word in writing. If the contents of the Scriptures were still being transmitted orally, a lot of distortions would have come into it.
- There was a need for the preservation and circulation of the sacred writings.
- That the people might know which writings have the authority of God.
FORMATION OF OT CANON
The generally accepted date for the completion of the OT canon was the year 425 or 424 BC. The Septuagint (LXX), was the first translation of the OT carried out by Ptolemy Philadephus (285 -247 BC) in Egypt. By that time there were many Jews living in Egypt who could no longer read or write Hebrew having been influenced by Greek culture and adopted the Hellenistic Greek of Egypt as their language. This translation was done by a group of seventy scholars hence the name Septuagint and Roman numeral LXX.
Josephus Flavius, a famous Jewish historian of the 1st Century A.D stated in one of his treatise that the canon of his time consisted of 22 books, namely the Pentateuch, thirteen books of the prophets and four of hymns and practical precepts. Although Josephus did not give a concise list, scholars believes that the book of the prophets included Joshua, Judges, Ruth; Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Isaiah, Jeremiah- Lamentation, Ezekiel, Daniel, The Twelve Minor Prophets and possibly Job (or Canticles). The hymns and precepts would be made up of Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Canticles (or Job).
CRITERIA FOR A CANONICITY (Four Criteria were applied)
Inspiration:- Was the author an acknowledged messenger of God, commissioned by God to make known His will” 2 Pet 1:21 . Books by such people were accepted.
The Principle of internal evidence:- Deut 31: 24 -26; Judges 3:4. The books which were read in other places in the Bible were accepted since those who read such passages must have accepted them as canonical. Daniel must have read Jer. 25: 11-12 and 29: 10.
Documentation by quotation:- Books from which Jesus Christ or other apostles quoted from were accepted Mt. 22:29, John 10:35
The law of Public Official action:- This is an historical law which required that public action be taken to solemnly declare a portion of the scripture to be the word of God ; Neh. 8:5 .
Jesus Christ’s Endorsement:- Mat 23:35; Luke11:51 this statement by the Lord is believed to be an endorsement of the OT from Gen 4 to 2 Chro 24: 20-21. In fact, He endorsed the whole OT here because Chronicles was the last book in the Hebrew OT Canon.
– gabriel ajibade