Continue to learn doctrine, study your Bible, affirm the creeds, sing God’s praises—and read church history. Whatever you’re suffering, you’re not the first Christian to face that (Hebrews 11:39-40). Take confidence in knowing the stories of your brothers and sisters who went before. These stories offer real confidence. When you grow weary and desperate, look at how God has carried others through their trials. Trust him to do the same in yours. He’s far greater than our circumstances.
Church history has remained a pivotal aspect in tackling modern issues in the church. My love and passion for it grew from the time I was an undergraduate student. Grappling with church history, I saw how truly unique the church is.
More than this, I appreciated the role of the preservation of this history in the growth and the life of the church. The lessons from it have made me see God’s sovereignty, unfailing faithfulness, and unrelenting purposefulness. I have celebrated the many who went before me. Those that paid tremendously for defending doctrine and faith (Hebrews 10:32-34). Many faced death, because they knew that even death itself was temporary and that what they believed was forever (2 Corinthians 11:16-33).
In this article, I endeavour to show that church history reminds us of God’s sovereign hand and presence with his people.
Jesus is Powerfully Present with His Church
The character of God is at the centre of the study and pursuit of the Christian faith. The significance of church history in this is that upon encountering it we are reminded of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 16:18, “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
The Bible is full of stories of people who experienced the faithfulness of God. The history of Israel repeatedly shows God’s compassion and holiness. He overcomes for Israel. He brings them into a land of physical inheritance. Yet throughout their history he points them forwards, to Christ, when God would come to dwell with his people. So Jesus Christ brings salvation, the fulfilment of Israel’s hopes.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave on the third day sparked the beginning of Christianity. However, early church history is also the continuation of Israel’s story. The resurrection identified Christ as the Son of God, truly human and truly God. The disciples and the onlookers attested to his power over death. Convictions were strengthened and the Holy Spirit was manifest at Pentecost where many received power to become witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).