Leo Stancliff - History of the Church

Well, basically speaking, a lot of times people don't understand what the history of Christianity is and it leaves a gap and a mystery and all, but the Lord doesn't intend for us to suffer along with this gap. But a lot of people have and they walk by faith and that's wonderful. But basically, if we go back to Christianity and its beginning; you know, and I know, what Jesus gave the world and that's the MINISTRY.

Now the ministry is the foundation of Christianity. Paul said, "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is Jesus Christ." And what Jesus Christ was, was the pattern minister and pattern preacher and He gave the New Testament ministry to us. And He outlined that very clearly.

Now then, the next thing of real importance, you might say, two things on which the Truth of God rests: Jesus gave us the ministry and a way of fellowship. These two things and these things are very, very important to us.

Now, a person might wonder, how did these things get changed in the world so that there are so many other religions and so many ways of worship in the world? Well, a person can find the foundation for how some of this came about in the Bible. Let me say this first, that by the year 300 there were 90 different denominations in world. 90 different denominations. That's a lot of denominations!

All right! Let's back up and see how those Christian, so to speak, denominational, nominal Christians got started. Now these all had to come out of the TRUTH or break off from the TRUTH. Now there's two ways that this got started. It got started by there being those preachers that were false preachers; that departed from the true ministry and started preaching their own way and doing just what they wanted to do. Now we have examples and patterns for this. You take in II Corinthians 11:13 and 14, it tells us, "such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ and no wonder, no marvel for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light," So that there were those that got started in the days of the New Testament. It didn't have to be very long after Christ that there were those that departed from the ministry of Christ to preach it their own way.

Well, there is another way that false religions got started and that's by false elders. Now in the III John 9, it tells us about a false elder. "I wrote unto the church but Diotrophes who loveth to have the preeminence receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come I will remember his deeds which he doeth prating against us with malicious words and not content therewith neither doth he himself receive the brethren and he forbiddeth them that would and he casteth them out of the church.”

Now, here's a man. It's evident that he must be an elder and has meeting in his home and he will not receive one of the apostles. How did he word it? He loves to have the preeminence among them and he says that he receiveth us not. Now this is John the Apostle writing and he does not receive us, he won't accept us.

So that a person can get the picture now, that there were those that broke off and wanted to get a hold of the authority of this thing and run this thing that weren't preachers at all. They were just those that were elders. And it could be in an area where the apostles did not get around too often and so they got the upper hand. They got the authority and took it away from the apostles.

Sometimes it could be because Pharisaism crept inside and they were competitive in their ways and instead of them being willing to submit to the advice and council and the simplicity on the matter and the humility and the Way of Christ, they wanted to make it a fancier way, you might say, and make it more pleasing to the flesh. They didn't like the apostles telling them how to do things. They wanted to do it their own way. So, they just wouldn't receive the apostles into their homes and any person that did receive them, they cast him out of the church. They wouldn't have them in their fellowship anymore. There is another way it got started.

Now then, before a person goes too far, it is good to know a little bit about what the Bible says about changing things and altering things. In the last chapter of Revelation it says, "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book. If any man shall add unto these things God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. If any man shall take away words from this prophecy God shall take away his part from the Book of Life and from the Holy City and from the things that are written in this book.” Now he is saying if anybody adds to or takes from, we are not supposed to add to or take from the truth of God. The Truth of God is supposed to remain the same right down through the ages, it is supposed to be that same way.

Now there is no doubt in my mind that the Truth, so to speak, in God's Way has always gone in cycles. In the Old Testament it did. Now one of the nicest books to read in the Old Testament to get this point clear is the book of Judges. The chapter to read in Judges is the second chapter. It gives you the way the cycle works. Now for instance, it tells you about God's people and then about them going after strange gods and God selling them to the heathen, so to speak. It mentions Him selling them to the heathen and then worshipping the strange gods and then they were in bondage to the heathen and deeper and deeper in bondage until finally they cried out in their need and God raised up a deliverer.

And that's the way the cycle went. Then that deliverer would deliver them from the heathen and they would have maybe 10, 20 years, sometimes 80 years of good going and then again they would go after the heathen gods and go into a period of darkness and they would be in bondage and slavery and then in their bondage and slavery after a time, after years they would raise a cry to the Lord and He would raise up a deliverer to deliver them. And that's the way it worked in the Old Testament days. And I am convinced that this is the way that it has worked down through the ages.

Now in the Old Testament days, the difference was this: God was delivering them as a nation and making it possible for them to come back a natural nation in the world as long as they would keep His law and do what was right. In a natural way, the legal part of it. The reason God wanted the law kept, the legal side of it, was because the gospel preached by the prophets could prosper in that framework, you might say, where the law was kept in a legal way. Whereas in a heathen country under heathen laws and the corruption of heathenism, it was very hard for the prophets to work, for things to go as they should.

And salvation has always been preached by the prophets, that is in the Old Testament. In the New Testament Jesus gave us, you might say, the same form of ministry as the prophets of the Old Testament, but it’s more perfect, more right. In the New Testament it was given by revelation to them and it was given by the Son of God in the New Testament. That's the difference!

Alright, now let's come up to the New Testament. Coming up to the New Testament, we see how it was that people did depart from the New Testament way of doing things. And even John speaks of them in one place in I John 2:19. He says this, "They went out from us because they were not of us." It does not mean that those people went out and had nothing to do with anything religiously speaking. They went out to do it their own way and God wasn't in it at all.

Now then, some of the best history is preserved in the Vatican. And there have been certain writers that have published some of those stories that have come out of the Vatican. The Vatican doesn't like or allow anything that comes out of there to be pub­lished if they can stop it. They have retained the history of the world in the Vatican, but they don't allow anyone to read it except Catholic priests. And sometimes Catholic priests who have access to it have begun to realize what the Catholic church did and how they were born you might say and they saw the corruption and rottenness of it so they decided to publish it. And in publishing it, generally speaking, they have been excommunicated and ostracized and they lost their place in the Catholic church as priests and even as members of the church. Well, some of these writers have given a clear record of how the Catholic church got started.

Now the Catholic Church actually didn't get started until along around the second century. And in the year 189, there was a man rose up. It says the little churches met in the homes of the poorer people in the foreign section of town. But in the year 189 there was a man rose up by the name of Victor. And it’s evident that he must have been an elder in one of the little churches. And it’s evident, also, that the churches of Rome must have been spiritually sick and they were willing to follow the elder rather than to follow the apostles, and so it tells us that he raised himself up and declared himself as the Bishop of the Bishops of Rome and it’s evident that others followed. And he kept his place and ruled over the church in the city of Rome. Now there’s only one thing that this man did in taking over the authority. He threw the ministry out. He threw the authority of the apostles out and in throwing the authority of the apostles out, he threw the foundation out. The very foundation.

This is the foundation of Christianity. So in one sense of the word, he still had the name of Christianity still with him, but. the real foundation of Christianity he threw out. He didn't have it anymore. Then he died in the year 198. And in the year 198 a man by the name of Zacharimius took over. And he ruled over the church until the year 217, and he didn't change anything in the church, He simply followed in the steps of Victor, And they did not have the ministry. The meetings were still in the home and it was still a matter of people testifying one by one still in the same order. But you can imagine without the guidance of the apostles, it would have become a kind of complaining, murmuring fellowship where they were glorying in the fact that they didn't have to follow the apostles anymore and they could do what they wanted, and the way that they wanted.

Well, this man died in the year 217, and then there came a man into authority whose name was Calistas. This man was determined that he was going to make some changes. He made the statement: What the church needed was a beautification project. He said it had to beautified in order to be more attractive to the heathen. Otherwise it would never grow.

One of the things that he did was take to himself the title Pope which means “father” in the Latin. Then he bought a little tavern and he turned this into a basilica which is just a little church where all the people would sit facing him. And then he gave them a ceremony. Then he made a change that altered the thing, inasmuch as he threw out now the matter of them all giving their testimonies.

I should interject here just what our little testimonies amount to. It’s sharing just a little bit of the bread of life that God has given to us. Now you may just have a few crumbs to share but that’s the bread of life. And we're sharing the very bread of life one with another and this has life giving power. Now there's another part of the meeting that is very, very important and that is the breaking the bread and the partaking of the cup. We must remember the breaking of the bread and the partaking of the cup is ceremony. There are two ceremonies in the New Testament. One is baptism and another is the breaking of bread. We are to examine ourselves and remember the Lord and what He did for us; his death on Calvary's cross all of this that He gave Himself for us. This is the breaking of bread, the communion. The other is the sharing of the bread of life. Now I hope we can understand the difference.

Now we are supposed to break bread and each time we do it we are to remember the Lord's death until He comes again. Now that's important! But when we're sharing the bread, it is the bread of life, we are feeding on the living Bread. Now what Calistas did was throw out the sharing of the living Bread, that’s the ceremony of giving testimonies. And he took this ceremony and he enlarged it, magnified it and made it fill the whole service and he called it the “mesaph,” which is what is known as the MASS today. And this really consists of taking of the bread and the wine and it’s made a beautiful, elaborate ceremony in the Catholic church. And if you go to the Catholic church today whether it be to a marriage or a funeral or a regular mass on Sunday morning or Saturday morning. They do have both Saturday or Sunday morning Mass today. They have made it so that they are competing with both the Catholic and Protestant churches in whatever day you want to worship that is perfectly alright with them. They'll give it to you whatever day you want.

I remember a woman that came one time to our gospel meetings in the Philippine Islands. She made the remark one time about the Catholic service. "Oh!” she said, “It's just so beautiful, its so beautiful it makes me feel like I'm in the presence of God." Well, it’s just ceremony. That’s all it is, and it’s empty ceremony because God isn't there! They don't have anything else to go with it. If they don't have the ministry and they don't have the testimonies then it’s just an empty ceremony. There's no life or power or inspiration in it because it’s just all false. Well, this is what Calistas did.

Another thing that Calistas did is he bought a piece of acreage on the Appian Way. The Appian Way was a road that went through Italy. He turned this acreage into a cemetery. Now I don't know if you noticed in the National Geographic Magazine lately. I was reading an article in a recent issue just this summer. What Calistas did was set something in motion. When he died, in order for the church to use this property, they had to incorporate. They were a property owning corporation now. This church would never have become important or mighty except for it’s location in the capital city. There were other denominations that were bigger and far wider spread and the amount of money they took in was far greater.

Now in the year 300, the Catholic church made a few more additions. They added the liberty to pray for the dead and they gave them the sign of the cross. You will oft times see a Catholic person make the sign of the cross if they get a fright or a scare or even when they start to go down a flight of stairs.

In the Philippines we lived across the street from a house of prostitution and we saw those women make the sign of the cross whenever they left the house and when they went up the stairs and down the stairs. They were faithful in going to Mass every Sunday.

By the year 300 there were 90 different denominations in the world. Man-made organizations. In the year 306 Constantius, the father of Constantine, died. Constantius was the emperor of the Roman Empire and at this time the Romans ruled over the British Isles, all western Europe and everything surrounding the Mediterranean Ocean. They were the rulers of the western world.

It took Constantine about six years to figure out what to do. He wanted to be sole ruler. His mother was a Catholic, his father had been pagan. He had noticed something. He had noticed that Christianity has started out unpopular and unknown but now it was way up here and popular. He could see that heathenisn was going down and denominational Christianity was going up. He claimed that he had seen a banner in the sky and on the banner was a cross with the words “hoc signo vinci” which means “by this sign you will conquer.” So he took this to the people as a sign that they were to conquer the whole nation for Christianity. So he made a decree that all denominations were to merge with the Catholics and there would be just one church and with one church they were going to stamp out everything that was pagan.

Well, when you try to conquer with swords you will have bloodshed, of course. And you will have people surrendering to the new power whether they are willing or not, simply to save their lives. So they will continue to be heathen in silence. So in 12 years he conquered the nation for himself saying that it was for Christianity. But in doing this he had done more for the Catholic church than he realized. In a few years it would be the Pope who would rule the empire.

In the year 325 Constantine called the Nicene Council which added to the holy days the day of Easter. They accepted this now into Christianity with its bunny rabbits and eggs because it was a celebration of fertility. And that’s the way things got added into Christianity.

This man Constantine, before his reign was over had to flee from Rome for his life to Turkey to establish his capital in Constantinople. He died in the year 337 at the age of 65 years.

The next thing of importance happened in the year 354. Paganism was not stamped out. It was underground. There were many ways that this was manifest. They worshipped the Sun. Solar Sun. They said that December 25th was the birthday of the Sun. Pope Liberius had noticed that heathens who claimed to be Catholic would bow to the Sun before entering the church. Liberius got the idea if he could transfer the pagans allegiance to the Sun to the Son of God. It says in the Catholic encyclopedia that no one knew when Christ was born. But Liberius decided to declare that December 25th was the birth of Christ and made a decree that anyone who wanted to celebrate the birth of the Sun could celebrate the birth of Christ and bring along all of their traditions such as Christmas trees and all that went with it. And that's where all these things came from. They were not from a Christian source, they were a heathen source.

In the year 370 something else was added. Pope Domicus saw that people were not spiritual. They were natural, materialistic people. So what he did was issue a decree that they should make pictures of Jesus, Mary and the apostles. Remember, this was in Rome, not in Palestine. All the pictures were done in Roman style, not in Jewish style. The only reason a Jewish man would have long hair was if he took a vow as a Nazarite. But remember, Jesus was not a Nazarite--He was a Nazarene. Those disciples of His were not Nazarites--they were Nazarenes. And their hair was not long. But Romans made those pictures in the style of the Romans.

When I was in school taking art, I remember learning about the picture of the Lord's Supper. The artist used a very handsome man as the model for Christ. Then he spent several years painting the other apostles. When he tried to find a model for Judas Iscariot he looked for a long time to find someone evil, and finally found a man who was very dissipated from a life of wickedness. When he began painting him he found that it was the same man he had used as a model for the picture of Christ. So this goes into the story of those pictures being painted.

Okay that was the year 370. Let's move up in history a ways. We've got pictures now, and images added to Christianity. In the year 600 there was something happening that was very interesting. They issued the order over the empire that the Mass must be said in the Latin language because they said it was the language of the angels that would be spoken in heaven. Now you can see how narrow minded and short-sighted they were. They didn't realize that other people's language seemed just as important to them as their language did.

Let me use a little illustration that might help you understand. When I went to the Philippine Islands 40 years ago, we got a man to help us learn the language whose name was Alvar. He was a purist in Tagallo and he loved the Tagello language. However, he could speak both Japanese and English fluently,but Tagallo was his first love. He said, "You know, Tagallo is the most beautiful language in all the world. There's no language in the world that sounds just like what it means. But when you talk Tagallo it sounds just like what it means.”

To him it did, but to me it didn't make any sense at all. But that's the way it was for the Romans in those days. They thought their language was the most beautiful language in all the world. And they made it the language of the church whether people understood it or not. That decree stayed on the books until 1960.

Anyway, let's come down to the year 788. They made the decree that liberated the people to worship the images and pictures and relics now that they had of Christ. Some people tell us that there were so many relics of the cross that if it had all been put together it would have made a mountain. It was just a matter of selling stuff, selling something, with the purpose of making money.

In the year 800, the fishermen went to the Pope and asked for help because their business was going on the rocks because people had become more meat-eaters, eating beef and pork and other things. So the Pope made a decree that people all had to eat fish on Friday. That's where it all got started and it stayed on the books until 1900 and something too.

They felt that they could rule over the people in ignorance better than if they were educated. They forbade education and this is what ushered the whole of western Europe into the Dark Ages. And it was an age of ignorance where the people weren't allowed to get an education. This went on hundreds of years until the Reformation.

In the year 1000, holy water was added. In the year 1090 the rosary was added. Rosary was a matter of coming to the place where they all had memorized prayer and the rosary consists of a chain of beads of 50 small beads and 5 large beads, interdispersed. Every 10 beads is a large one. And they pray; when they say an Ave Maria it is a small bead or a Hail Mary. For a large bead they say the Lord's prayer. They had these memorized. They count their beads, one for Mary, one for the Father. The rosary is actually copied from the heathen and it is still in use today. The heathen also have their beads and their prayers to the heathen gods. So it’s the same old system ushered into Christianity.

In the year 1215, they brought in the confessional which meant that the people were supposed to confess every week before they were to partake of the Mass; that is, to partake of the emblems. They were to confess all their sins to the priest. Every person in the church had to do this.

There was something else added in the year 1209. It was the law of the Inquisition which made it so that they began investigating into the lives of all the people to see if they were worshipping in any other way than the Catholic system. For instance, if they were worshipping in their homes, they would take them out and put them to death. They had many ways of putting them to death. One of them was to put them on a cross and then to build a fire under them and slowly roast them to death. This was one of the worst systems. Hundreds of thousands of people were put to death.

And again, all these records were kept by Catholic priests. One man was given the job of keeping these records during the Inquisition and it became so horrible to him that he decided he would publish it because it was just too terrible that the Catholic church had done these atrocities. And he himself became excommunicated and he became a fugitive and had to flee from Paris to Madrid and back again. Finally he died, just being hounded to death.

Well, we come to the year 1439, the teaching of Purgatory was introduced. It is just a scheme for getting people's money. Everybody goes to a place of burning fire where they have to pay for their sins. Now that's the teaching of Purgatory. If this teaching were true, it would mean this. It tells us in the Bible that Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins, to pay for our sins. And if Jesus paid for our sins, then they are already paid for; but if we go to pay for them again, then they never were paid for. It's a contradictory teaching. And it was only used to make money. And what they do, they say, “Now, your husband or your wife is in Purgatory and you have to pay money for us to pray for her to get out." And they sap people down until they get all the money they've got. And this is what Jesus said about the Pharisees, "Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees for you devour widows houses and for pretence make long prayers." The reason for the long prayers is to get the husband out of torment. The Catholics adopted the same system.

Now then, the Catholic church had become so rotten, so foul, it was repulsive. There came a practice of selling indulgences. This meant the priest would go around and people could say that they intended to commit some sin. It could be thievery, adultery, anything and the priest would tell him the price he had to pay. So he could pay the price ahead of committing the sin. That was the practice of selling indulgence.

Now when a power gets so much money involved, it becomes corrupt. You see it in politics or any system that gets money. We could have this happen among us too. If we ever get too much money, we could become corrupt. Because of this corruption, there were those who saw it and hated it and this is when the Reformation came in. One of the Catholic priests who saw this was Martin Luther.

Martin Luther was born 1483 and lived until the year 1546. He was a German catholic priest. There was another man John Calvin born in the year 1509 and lived until 1564. He was a Frenchman and a lawyer. Another man, John Knox was born in the year 1515 and lived until the year 1572. He was a Catholic priest also. These men met in Switzerland. They wanted to take the Catholic church back to the days of the Bible. They were honest men. We will give them that much. They wanted to clean up the Catholic church and take it back to the days when the Catholic church was young. They only knew the Catholic church, the church without a proper ministry and without the church in the home with the testimony. They did not go back far enough. They did not go back to Christ. The Catholic church was like a tree cut down to the ground but its roots were still alive, the root of bitterness.

Luther started the Lutheran church. John Calvin started the Hugonots and the Puritans, something a little this side of the Catholic church. And what John Knox started in 1560 was the Presbyterian church.

Now then the mistake they made was that they did not go back to Christ. The people who did people a real favor are the ones who took man back to Christ....It's a long chain of human beings. If I take a piece of wood one foot long; a one by two. I tell you to cut ten thousand pieces just like that. You cut a piece of wood and throw away the pattern and use the next piece for the pattern and you keep on cutting ten thousand pieces, always using the last piece for a pattern. The last piece will be 14 feet long because you have used the last piece for the pattern instead of using the original pattern.

You must be sure that we use the pattern of Christ for the ministry. That makes all the difference in the world. We may not know where God's people were in all ages but that doesn't matter. If God has raised up in our day a prophet that has gone back to Christ, that's all that's important. We must keep that firmly in our minds.