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Christianity: the first five centuries

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Part 3 of 3

In the previous two articles we looked at:

1. Some key characteristics that made up the secular world of the first five centuries AD.

2. The Ante-Nicene period (before 325 AD).

In our final instalment, we will look at what is termed the Post-Nicene period (after 325 AD).

Post-Nicene period (after 325 AD)

During the Post-Nicene period for the first time, the church no longer had to grow in the context of an aggressive environment of threats of death and persecution. Up until the Edict of Milan in AD 313, this was never the case. This newfound freedom was not without its own set of problems, however, with the wonderful opportunity to grow came the first time that church and state would meet and mix (Terry et al. 1988:174-175).

Many people that entered the church during this time did not do so out of Holy Spirit conviction; rather their motives appeared much less genuine, prompting the origination of the Monastic Movement. It is also during this period that large numbers of pagan tribes began to migrate into Roman-dominated territory, leaving the church with a significant challenge to now evangelize these previously unattainable people groups (Terry 1994:39).

Some notable figures that featured during the Post-Nicene period were: Ulfilas, the prodigious proselytizer to the Goths; Martin of Tours AD 316-397; Ambrose of Milan, preacher extraordinaire; and John Chrysostom AD 347-407, the bishop of then Constantinople, John Chrysostom is also considered one of the most gifted preachers of all time. However, probably the most prominent figure during this era remains Patrick of Ireland AD 389-461, a man born in Britain, kidnapped at the age of sixteen and taken to Ireland, forced into slavery for six years, eventually returning to Britain only to receive a vision that prompted him to return to Ireland a preach the Gospel, doing so for over thirty years (Terry 1994:40-42).

Our conclusion

There can be no doubt as one examines the historical backdrop of the Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene periods that God in His sovereignty had orchestrated every fine detail that allowed for the spread of the Gospel message. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the favourable conditions, in times of peace, and even in times of persecution, His servants were zealous for the advancement of the Kingdom, at whatever the cost. We are to learn from these examples of the original Gospel-Trailblazers.

Having journeyed through these first five centuries of Christian heritage it is understandable to see how Western civilization has at times neglected to remember that it is from these regions (once christened Asia Minor), many of which have even lost their names of origin over hundreds of years, that the Christian faith was both established and spread throughout the world.

Let us not forget our heritage, let us not be foolish and claim exclusivity on a faith that was born for the world far from most of today's Christian epicentres. History demands that we remember why our faith was established in the first place.

John 3:16-17 NKJV

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Works Cited

Terry JM 1994. Evangelism: a concise history. Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman and Holman Publishers.

Terry JM, Smith EC and Anderson J 1988. Missiology: an introduction to the foundations, history, and strategies of world missions. Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman and Holman Publishers.

Written by Dwain Donovan Stewart