The growth of the church: A miraculous achievement

If you were to ask Henry Ford or John D. Rockefeller, Sr. to name Jesus Christ’s most significant accomplishment here on earth, it is unlikely they would refer to any of his miracles—not even his virgin birth, his resurrection or his ascension.

And they most certainly wouldn’t mention his first miracle of all: Changing water into wine at the Wedding Feast of Cana. Such a miracle, they would point out, would be mere child’s play for the almighty Creator of the Universe.

In all probability, the great American capitalists would single out the establishment of the Church and the transmission of the Gospel throughout the world as Jesus’ most remarkable accomplishment here on earth

This might strike some folks as strange, but only because people today tend to take the Church for granted. After all, it has been around for an awfully long time—two millennia, in fact. And that is time enough and to spare for people here in the West to have grown so familiar with it that they are scarcely conscious of its existence. For them, it is simply part of the fabric of life—no more remarkable than the wallpaper in the kitchen or cereal they eat for breakfast.

They are, thus, entirely oblivious to the profound influence the Gospel has exerted in framing our society and shaping our thoughts and aspirations. Indeed, the Christian Gospel is the foundation upon which the whole of Western civilization is constructed.

They are equally unaware of the remarkable speed with which this was accomplished. History tells us that within a decade of Jesus’ resurrection, the Christian Gospel had been preached throughout the Roman Empire—tantamount to saying it had been preached throughout the whole of the known world.

Within 30 years of the Crucifixion, Christianity had its own separate identity and, furthermore, was believed to pose such a threat to the social and political order of the empire that full-scale efforts were under way to stamp it out completely.

Not only were the leaders of the Christian communities automatically arrested and sentenced to death, but the little people were treated in the same draconian manner. Rational, well-ordered societies like the Roman Empire do not behave this way unless they are confronted with a challenge of quite overwhelming proportions.

The threat Christianity was perceived to present can be gauged from the fact that religious persecutions were alien to the Roman tradition. The Romans were remarkably tolerant of foreign faiths and usually embraced exotic new religions with enthusiasm.

Christians terrified Rome’s political class with their rejection of relativism. They taught that God is perfect in all respects—almighty, all knowing, absolutely good, absolutely loving and absolutely righteous. And as such, he holds the people he created to absolute standards of goodness and righteousness. No less frightening, they taught that all people—male, female, bond or free, no matter their race, class or condition—are equal beloved in the eyes of God. What’s more, they taught that man’s duty to God comes way ahead of their duty to the state.

No message could be more calculated to dismay amoral, power-hungry politicians than that. No less terrifying was the speed with which the Christian Faith was spreading.

In AD 33, Christianity had been an obscure Jewish sect. However by AD 63, it had become not just a major religion, but a unifying force that transcended ethnic and national boundaries, binding peoples of all races, creeds and colors together in a common faith that taught that all their vast differences—in background, upbringing and economic circumstances—were superficialities in light of their duty to God.

When one recalls that politicians in places such as France and Russia regard McDonalds and Coca Cola—hamburgers and soft drinks—as a dire threat to their nationhood, one begins to appreciate how frightening this new religious faith must have been to the Romans, and would be to any dictator trying to compel a similar degree of loyalty.

Small wonder then that the Christian faith terrifies the members of the self-anointed secular elite in whose hands are the levers of power that control our national life, nor that it inspires a similar degree of dread among the leftist radicals who aspire to replace them. GPH✠

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