A Glorious Institution
The Church in History
By Standford E. Murrell
PART ONE: When the Church Was Young (33–754), focuses on the early growth of the Christian Church, developing from a small assembly of believers in Jerusalem to become a vast spiritual kingdom touching the lives of millions in many lands. Apostolic Fathers and Church councils issued the carefully worded creeds of Christendom. Jews and then Gentiles persecuted the saints, but the Church miraculously became the spiritual force of the Roman Empire and fulfilled the Great Commission for its day. Part One ends with the militant sweep of the Mohammedans conquering much of known Christendom.
PART TWO: The Church in the Middle Ages (754–1517), traces the days of Charlemagne to the dawn of the Reformation. During these Middle Ages the Church divided into the Eastern and Western Churches, and de-spite its great wealth and organization, fell under the control of the civil governments. Popes and emperors maneuvered for power, and the Crusades sought to free the Holy Land from the Turks. New ways of thinking swept in the Renaissance. Pagan culture influenced the popes along with Christian truth, resulting in a mixture of the two and persecution of those who questioned the Church. A cry for reform could be heard. The moment was at hand for a tremendous spiritual renewal in the Church, which would in time transform the entire western world.
PART THREE: The Reformation and Its Aftermath 1517-1648 observes the tremendous upheaval when brave men were transforming the spiritual Church into conformity with God’s inerrant Word, in deliberate departure from the traditions of men. We see Luther’s increasing conviction in Germany, then Zwingli, Calvin, and Farel in Switzerland—at great personal cost. We see the spreading flame of reformation come to France, the Netherlands, Scotland, and England, including incredible struggle for supremacy between popes, monarchs, and ideas. We see the rise of different Protestant denominations as men struggled to understand the clear teachings of Scripture.
PART FOUR: In the Church in the Modern Age 1648-1900s, we see the difficulty men have when given freedom to study the Scriptures, to avoid false doctrines springing out of pride and greed. Nevertheless, “our God reigns!”—there were Great Awakenings as the Holy Spirit revived true Christianity repeatedly and brought evangelical missions’ movements worldwide. Though it faces real challenges, the Church Triumphant continues to grow as a blessing to the world.