I’d Rather Be An Old-Time Christian
By Charles Grisham
“I’d rather be an old-time Christian than anything I know. There’s nothing like an old-time Christian with Christian love to show. I’m walking up the grand old highway, I’ll tell it everywhere I go. I’d rather be an old- time Christian than anything I know.”
We live in a world where there is a constant demand for something new. We Apostolic Jesus Name people are not immune from these pressures. However, our world is not too different from the world of Bible times in this respect. In the seventeenth chapter of Acts where we have recorded a portion of Paul’s sermon at Mars Hill, we are told that his audience spent their time in either hearing or telling some new thing.
New things are wonderful, yet in our relationship to God, the great need is not for something new, but for something old, something that is rooted and grounded in God’s revelation to man. God has not changed. The New Testament describes Jesus Christ as the same yesterday, and today and forevermore. Likewise, God’s will for man, since His revelation was complete in Jesus Christ, has not changed and will not change.
In the early church it was the apostles preaching, followed by signs and wonders, that made the church great. It was the application of doctrine which caused the church to be spread throughout the known world. The early church was a great church and everytime the church has been great since then it has been on the basis of forthright doctrinal preaching and living the Word of God.
Contrasting those times with today much of the church world either has no doctrine, a watered down doctrine or false doctrine. In this “dukes mixture” Christianity the sign of maturity is often gauged by how much a person can ignore and still call someone “brother.” This, of course, is the result of “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.”
CHRISTIANS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
We read in Acts Chapter eleven, verse twenty-six that “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” We live in a time that is filled with religious division and many people are more concerned with preserving the name and doctrines of a denomination than they are with being real Christians.
We also see that in all this confusion there are those who are “seeking out the old paths” that lead back to the simplicity of the early church when the disciples were simply called Christians.
The word “Christian” is not found in the Old Testament because Christ had not come and Christ had not been preached. But early in the book of Acts we are told that the gospel was preached on the first Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection. For the first time in all of history we find Christians being made and we find the church existing with people simply being called “Christians.”
But like so many good things this favorable situation did not continue for long. For we may turn just a few pages past Acts to First Corinthians, chapter one and we read of division beginning to sweep over the church. In the city of Corinth Paul found some people insisting that were followers of Paul, while others followed Apollos, others Peter and some were still following Christ. Paul raised the challenging question, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank god I baptized none of you save Crispus and Gaius; lest any man should say that ye were baptized into my name.” (I Cor. 1:13).
The solution to division in the early church was for people to turn their attention once again to the central figure of all history, Jesus. He was God in flesh, the Saviour, our redeemer.
WHAT HAPPENED THEN?
After the close of the early history of the New Testament church, we find the secular records of the direction that the “so called” church took. It began to divide several different ways. Later came the rise of Roman Catholicism, followed several hundred years later by a further division when the reaction against Catholicism resulted in the protestant Reformation. This reform movement did not accomplish the desired purpose of its leaders, but rather resulted in the establishment of still further religious division.
While I personally believe there has always been a witness of the original truth, it is obvious that when men take their eyes from Jesus, “the Author and Finisher of our faith,” divisions will continue.
When anything or anyone eclipses the treasure of the simple gospel message of Acts Chapter Two and verse thirty-eight, there is no limit to the diversity of fragmentation. That’s the root, meat, fiber and strength of New Testament doctrine.