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How Far Back Does The Christian Church Go?

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This week, we received a theological question that was worthy of being answered.

From: Jim B.

How far back does Christian church go? Send me more info. Probably Christian church goes back 500 hundred years or more. People must know the truth.


Jim, thank you for your great question.  In fact, the Christian church goes back much further than 500 years.  In Matthew 16:13-18 we read:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 

Jesus told Peter that He would build His church starting with Peter.  In his letter to the Galatians, Paul referred to Peter, along with James and John to be pillars of the church (2:9).

The first community of Christians were in Jerusalem and led by Peter, James and John (Acts 1:15-19).  From Jerusalem, the next Christian church was established at Antioch, located today in the very southern tip of Turkey, not far from Syria.  After Antioch, came the church in Galatia, located today in Turkey.

The Roman Catholic Church considers Peter to be the first pope of the church that was established during his journey to Rome.  Peter was also reported to have been martyred by Roman Emperor Nero in AD 67.  The Christian church was confined to Catholicism from the time of Peter until the Protestant Reformation in 1517.  Once the Protestant schism took place, a number of different denominations were started.

For more information on the history of the Christian church, I recommend Introducing Early Christianity – A Topical Survey of Its Life, Beliefs & Practices.


Introducing Early Christianity – A Topical Survey of Its Life, Beliefs & Practices

Laurie Guy provides an illuminating, broad-brush survey of the early church in its first four centuries.

Her highly readable account is a welcome supplement to chronological histories of the early church, providing something of an aerial view that lets us see patterns in the historical terrain.

From the apostolic fathers to the great ecumenical councils, we see the church undergoing persecution and martyrdom and then rising to favor under Constantine, shaping its ministry and order while worshiping and developing its understanding of doctrine. Baptism and Eucharist, asceticism and monasticism, and the developing roles of women unfold in this thematic account of the rise of Great Tradition Christianity.

Richly illustrated and filled out with maps, charts and close-up windows on related topics, Introducing Early Christianity will inform the curious and enliven courses in early church history.

Paperback, 310 pages

About the Author: Laurie Guy is lecturer in church history and New Testament at Carey Baptist College, Auckland, New Zealand.


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  • Morgan Pell

    The term “Christian Church” is not found in Scripture, but the terms “Church of God, Church of the First Born, Church of the Living God, and Churches of Christ” are found in the New Testament in connection with the Church that Jesus said He would build in Matt 16. . The Church that Jesus founded was established on Pentecost, AC 33 (see Acts 2). The Catholic Church, and all the Denominations came into being at later dates. The “Christian Church” as mentioned in the article is at best a generic reference to Christianity, but this terminology is unused as such in the New Testament.
    Jesus founded “His Church”, which is described and outlined in its function and work in the New Testament. The term “Body of Christ” is found 4 times in the KJV. The only concusion that the New Testament leads to is: The BODY OF CHIRST is the Church and the Church is the BODY OF CHRIST in the spiritual understanding of the concept that Jesus gave it. All churches cannot be defined as the Church that Christ built because of conflilcting doctrines and practices that are foreign to New Testament teaching. This misconception of the Lord’s Church is seen in the assumption assigned to the term “Christian Church”, which assumes that all churches are the same Church that Jesus built. The Churches of Christ (Rom 16) are the body of believers that are found throughout the world, in reference to the Church (one Church) that Jesus built (Matt 16, “My Church”).

    • mich

      Agree 100%-you said the facts.I like to call it the bride of christ because thats direct from the bible. This is the TRUE church!

    • Larry Killion

      Christ had His “church” before the day of Pentecost. He instituted it during His personal ministry in Galilee. The Sermon on the Mount was His charge to His church. It had the two ordinances B4 Pentecost, an order of discipline (Matt.18), a membership roll of about 120, they had a business meeting to fill the Apostolic vacancy left by the fall of Judas, and after they were empowered by the immersion in the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, 3000 souls were ADDED to them. They did not start that day they were ADDED to that day. Here is an audio study of these things:

  • Galen robison

    Obviously the Church of Jesus Christ goes back to the beginning when Adam and Eve, who were instructed by an angel to establish it. It commenced with their Baptism. Our first parents were obedient and they taught their children but few listened. Cain was cursed because of his rebellion and was followed by many. Many false churches were established but the Church of Jesus Christ was well established as it received instructions and guidance from Jehovah and it prospered until just like the Bible says. The God of the Old Testament was Jehovah, who was born of Mary. He gathered a following of “saints”, who were persecuted and driven. When Jesus (Jehovah) was rejected and crucified, and driven out and killed by the thousands. The one true Church was banned for about three hundred years, until the Emperor Constantine in an attempt to restore the ancient true church, could only guess at it, as there was no revelation to guide them didn’t even come close, but he did introduce the Catholic order, which falls way short from what the ancient church had and was rejected by worldly men. In this case they just started a new church, but later on when men were allowed to think for themselves, rebelled from that and the Protestants rebelled and started their own sects. They call themselves “Christians” and there are Christian Churches by the hundreds, but they still are not authorized to perform in the name of Jesus Christ.
    There is only one true Church, and it is just like the ancient one. It has a living prophet, and it has twelve apostles who are alive and well, and the only true church is growing by the millions world wide.
    Now you have the answer! Take it or leave it.

    • Stephen Ray Hale

      I am definitely not going to “take it” nor “leave it” for that matter. The assembly (church) was established not by Peter but uppon the words of his statement concerning Jesus being the Son of the Living God. Adam never knew this. The assembly actually is NOT a UNIVERSAL, invisible OR visible entity. It is a local, visible assembly that will not exist as we know it after the rapture. Between the statement of Matthew 16 to the rapture, yes, the rapture will the church only exist. BUT the influence of this interval reaches to heaven and provokes even the Angels in contemplation of the greatness of their Jehova Gods (a plurality in the sense of the trinity, not actual individual, seperate deities with their own peculiar substance – it is about time for the churches to stop being so set toward unitarianism in their day to day speech…the old testament is not so shamed in talking like this…that is why we have so many ELOHIM or plurality indicating designations for Jehovah…or whatever you like to pronounce YHVH he is ECHAD or a single unit, not yachid a simple singularity.

  • mich

    Christ is the Rock of the TRUE church.

    • glenn caron

      EXACTLY. Peter was never in ROME as he was sent to teach to the ‘Lost tribes of Israel”. Paul was sent to Rome to teach to the Gentiles. The Catholic church was started by a vey good magician called Simon Peter or Simon Magus and HE DID go to Rome and start the LARGE CATHOLIC CHURCH of today. Jesus said ” my church is a small flock”. Do you consider the catholic church a “small flock”? I am sick of all this deception brought on by the one and only LUCIFER . Soon ALL will be rectified. G.

  • kate1022

    Matt.16:17-18 read this an Roman16:16 “The Churches of Christ salute you” . Acts 2 All of it . The Church that Christ died for begain on Pentecost about AD 33. Everyone should study to show thy self aproved. And that goes for me to an I have been a member of the Church for a number of years . May God bless you in your study.

  • Larry Killion

    Terminology can be a bugger. There is a difference between the Family of God, The Kingdom of God and the Church of God. The question deals with the church. This is a term that was substituted by King James for the word ekklesia in the Greek text of the New Testament which was literally a local visible assembly of called out Biblically immersed followers of Christ that were fitly framed for the purpose of doing His will in the great commission. It was this kind of an institution that received the commission to go and the promise that Christ would be with them in Spirit until His literal return. For those interested in a brief history of The Lord’s true New Testament congregations, I suggest the small pamphlet by B.H. Carrol called “The Trail of Blood.”

  • Byron

    Here’s my answer, the Catholic church has nothing to do with the Christian church that was started by Jesus an the Aposles. They are the Founders. The Catholic church is in fact NOT THEE Christian church as they like to believe & teach they are.

  • Alice

    The “Philidelphia Church” has been in existence from the day Jesus established it; throughout all the years of the other named churches, the church of love has been preaching the Gospel. Most often, the Church preached while under persecution from the world and the other six churches who follow one another through the centuries and leave vestiges and/or complete anti-Christ theology while calling themselves “Christian.” One can chart the development of the churches mentioned in Revolution throughout history – today’s Laodecia (people’s rights) is riding high on the waves; but, the church that introduced control over the membership by its leaders (nicolaitonism) has been strong for centuries. Jesus said he would establish his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Look around, you can find the truth still in spite of the other historical departures many churches preach. In all the churches mentioned, there is a remnant that are instructed to come out from among the false teachers; this prophesy concerning the churches is, to me, one of the greatest forward looking Scripture in the Bible. One can match the churches to the historical world view very easily. If one doubs God, see how he describes the churches through the millennia. No one but God could see the future so clearly.

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