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Understanding the language of the Bible is critical. The language of the N.T. is written in the later Greek, and the writers applied the Greek to subjects on which it had never been used by native Greek writers. The things concerning Jewish affairs, their theology, and rituals. I have committed the work of the Greek dictionary found within, to assist in your personal study, and in repelling those who choose to distort the word. Acquaint yourself with the language of the Greek N.T., you will find it to be of an indispensable importance.

The author of these articles and features quotes verses from the King James Version. We investigate the Bible's original text, examine the Greek, Hebrew, text, context, symbols, and terminologies. We will continue to make every effort to aid readers to grow in their individual faith. We will also make every effort to assist, and to support those who have vowed to honor our Lord Jesus Christ, and His finished work.

Part 10: Decline of the church: Parts 1 thru 9 can be seen in the lower left hand column.

The 4th century produced men of great learning and holiness. In the east there was Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, to whom we are indebted for the best history of the Church; Athanasius, patriarch of Alexandria was a firm and powerful opponent of Arianism; Basil, surnamed the great, bishop of Caesarea was an eminent controversialist; Ephraim, the Syrian, a man of great sanctity of life and intimate fellowship and communication whose moral writings were an honor to the age. Then there was John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople, one of the most able preachers that graced the Christian Church. To strong powers of mind and a lively imagination, Chrysostom added powers of oratory, and commanded immense audiences. He was a skillful commentator on Paul’s epistles. In opposition to Origen, he adhered to the literal sense of scripture. He was a firm supporter of the doctrines of grace, stood against every vice, but soon fell a victim to the persecution of his foes. He was banished from the See of Constantinople and died at Pityus on the Euxine Sea, in 407 A.D. at the age of 53.

In the west, was Ambrose, bishop of Milan, a man of eminent piety and learning; and Jerome, a monk of Palestine, whose writings are very voluminous, he translating the Bible into Latin. His translation was called the Latin Vulgate, and was afterwards exclusively adopted by the Roman Church, although it contained many errors, and by his own writings he contributed to the growth of superstition. Still, he was the most able commentator of all the Latin Fathers. Hilary of Poictiers, a firm defender of the doctrine of the Trinity and the simplicity of the gospel; and Lactantius, who lived in the same period exposed the absurdity of pagan rites. Ulpilas was zealous in civilizing and converting the Goths, he translated the four Gospels into their language.

But by far the most distinguished and valuable man of the second age of the Church was Augustine, bishop of Hippo in Africa, who flourished in the latter part of the fourth and beginning of the fifth century. He was born in Numidia and converted about the year 354 A.D. at the age of 30. Soon there would be an evident outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the churches by which godliness was revived from its fallen state, especially in the east. He was raised to the bishopric of Hippo, and by his humble piety and powerful defense of the fundamental truths of the Gospel, soon became the admiration of the Christian world. His best commentary was on the Psalms. He died in the year 430 A.D. at the age of 76. He was a star of the first magnitude, and was a guide for centuries after to all Christians, who, amid the darkness of the Popes, would walk in the truth.

Augustine was raised up to defend the doctrines of grace. These doctrines had remained fundamental from the apostolic age, though they had been corrupted by Justin, Origen, and others, who were led astray by a deceitful philosophy. But when in the days of Constantine, the world came into the Church, they were a dead letter. All were viewed as Christians, who professed Christianity though in their own experience knew nothing of the Holy Ghost. A great part of the Christian world therefore, was ready to subscribe to a system which rejected the necessity of the grace of God. 

Than Pelagius a man of talent and boldness went to Jerusalem, where he found patronage and formed disciples. His opinions were hotly opposed by Augustine; who firmly maintained the entire depravity of man; the necessity of divine grace; that there is an eternal purpose of God or predestination with regard to those who shall be saved, and that they, and only they will finally obtain it. The Christian world was now distracted. Council after council was held, and degree after decree was passed, condemning or approving the opposite parties; but in 420 A.D., the secular arm was raised and Pelagianism was suppressed throughout the empire. However, a new sect soon arose, favored by Cassian, a monk at Marseilles. It’s called Semi-Pelagians, they allowing the necessity of divine grace to preserve one in holiness, though not to begin it, and especially these men who had been engaged especially in France, in controversy with the followers of Augustine.

In the remainder of the fifth, and whole of the sixth century, little is found to engage a reader of ecclesiastical history. The Church washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God was scarcely visible. Immense changes took place in the civil world which did not fail to affect the visible kingdom of our Redeemer.

In the year 476 A.D., an end was put to the western part of the Roman Empire by the incursions of a fierce and warlike people from the northern part of Europe, those who had for more than half a century, been overspreading Italy, Gaul and Spain, and erecting new kingdoms in these countries.

There are those who depict this great event as the one found in Daniel vision in which he beheld a beast, dreadful and terrible which had ten horns. This beast is said to be the Roman Empire, and these horns were ten kingdoms, into which it was now divided by the barbarous nations.

These barbarians, the Goths, Huns, Franks, Herulians and Vandals, were idolaters and strangers to Christianity; but they had little concern about religion of any description, they being chiefly intent upon wealth and power, and were for the most part, induced to renounce their idolatry and become nominal, but pitiful Christians. However, some of the old Pagans, who remained in the empire, hoped to revive their ancient worship, and, in a few instances, instigated these heathens to acts of cruelty and oppression towards those who would not bow to their idols.

Had these idolaters been of the same nature of the old oppressors of Christianity, they might, in that degenerate age of the Church, have easily exterminated it from the earth. But they came down from the cold regions of the north for comfort and to improve their own way of living; and finding Christianity in all respects, a better religion than their own, they embraced it. Over time it softened their manners and redefined their morals. They adopted the Arian system, so the Nicene believers received from them bitter persecutions.

One of the ten kingdoms was that of the Franks; Clovis, their king, had married Clotilda, niece of Gondebaud, king of the Burgundians. Her own nation had already embraced Christianity, because they though the god of the Romans most able to protect them against their enemies, and so went their thinking concerning the Gospel of Christ. But they, as well as the Vandals, Suevi and Goths had sided with the Arian party. Clotilda, however, was attracted to the Nicene faith. She labored greatly for the conversion of her husband to the Christian faith; but he was obstinate, and when her child, that had been baptized, died, he attributed its death to its baptism. But at length fearing his defeat in a battle with the Alenmans, he prayed to Jesus Christ for victory; promising that if he would grant it, he would become a Christian. Victory ensued, and he was baptized at Rheims and received into the general Church in 496 A.D. Also, three thousand of his army was baptized with him. This was an important event. All the other rulers of the world were either bowing to Pagan deities or infested with the Arian opinions. But now Clovis and his people embraced and soon revived the faith of the primitive churches.

Also in this century, the Irish were led to renounce idolatry; and embrace Christianity; partly by the exertion of Palladius, but chiefly through the zeal of Patrick, a Scot, who has usually been styled, the Apostle of the Irish. He died in 413 A.D; at the age of one hundred and twenty.

Phillip LaSpino

Idolatry in the strictest sense represents the worship of a deity in a visible form, whether the images to which worship is paid are symbolic representations of the true God, or of any false divinities which have been made the object of worship. Paul teaches us that idolatry is the result of deliberate religious apostasy; and in the book of Revelation, John predicts in the last days a time of idolatrous apostasy will prevail. He than goes on to describe in detail a period of seven years, a time of great tribulation when a person he calls the antichrist or the Beast will be paid divine honors.

The ancient Jews, and sadly to say, many religious people today claim to fear Jehovah, yet these same people serve their own gods. Many have blended in some strange manner a theoretical belief in the one true God with the external reverence which, in different stages are led to pay homage and honor to idols said to represent some saint; some individual, cult religion or organization.

1 Sam.15:23, Samuel is speaking to King Saul, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (divination) and stubbornness is an as iniquity and idolatry.” In ancient Israel, idolatry was a political crime of the gravest character; it was considered high treason against the majesty of God. But it was much more than all this.

While idolatry of foreign nations is stigmatized merely as an abomination in the sight of God, an abomination that calls for His vengeance, the sin of the Israelites was regarded as a more glaring enormity and having a greater moral guilt.

The first and second commandments are directed against idolatry of every form. In Israel every detail of idol-worship was made the subject of a separate enactment, and many of the laws, which in themselves seem trivial and almost absurd, received from this point of view their true meaning. So let’s examine a few of these supposed “absurd points.”

The prohibitions against sowing a field with mingled seed, and wearing garments of mixed material, were directed against the practices of idolaters, who attributed a kind of magical influence to the mixture, Lev.19:19. Also the precepts which forbade that the garments of the sexes should be interchanged, Deut.23:5.

There are allusions to the practice of necromancy (communicating with the dead) in Isa.65:4 or at any rate to superstitious rites in connection with the dead. Cutting the flesh for the dead Lev.19:28; 1 K.18:28, was also associated with idolatrous rites.

The law which regulated clean and unclean meats, Lev.20:23-26 may be considered both as a sanitary regulation and also as having a tendency to separate the Israelites from the surrounding idolatrous nations. The mouse, one of the unclean animals of Lev.21:29, was sacrificed by the ancient Magi, Isa.56:17. Eating of the things offered was a necessary appendage to the sacrifice; compare Ex.18:12, 32:6, 34:15 and Num.25:2. 

The Israelites were forbidden “to print any mark (tattoos) upon them” Lev.19:28, because it was a custom of idolaters to brand upon their flesh some symbol of the god they worshipped, such as the ivy-leaf of Bacchus, 2 Macc.2:29.

Kissing the images 1 K.19:18; Hos.13:2, hanging votive offerings (those given by vow) in places of worship 1 Sam.31:10. Also soothsaying, interpretation of dreams, witchcraft, magic, and any other form of divination were forbidden.

So ask yourself, “has God changed, or have men changed? Let us consider the light in which idolatry was regarded in the Mosaic code, and the penalties with which it was dealt. If one main object of the Jews legislation and administration of government was to teach the unity of God, the extermination of idolatry was not but a subordinate end. Jehovah was the God of the Israelites, he being the civil head of the State. He was also the theocratic king of the people, who had delivered them from bondage, and to whom they had taken an oath of allegiance. Idolatry, therefore, to a Jew was a state offence, 1 Sam.15:23, a political crime of the gravest character and high treason against their King.

In the figurative language of the prophets, the relation between Jehovah and his people is represented as a marriage bond,

Isa.54:5, “For the Maker (Jehovah) is thine husband; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel” and Jer.3:14, “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you,” so the worship of false gods becomes the greatest of social wrongs Hos.2; and Jer.3. Regarded in a moral aspect, false gods are called Ezek.14:3, a “stumbling-block;” Amos 2:4, “And their lies cause (lead them) to err,” Rom.1:25, “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator;”

1 K.15:13, “And also Maachah his (Asa’s) mother, even her he (king Asa) removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron.”

Jer.50:38, “A drough is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up; for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon (insane with) their idols.”

Deut.32:16, false gods are an abomination, “They (the Jews) provoke him (Jehovah) to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger.”

1 K.11:5, “For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.”

As considered with reference to Jehovah, they are “other gods” Josh.24:2-16, “strange gods” Deut.32:16, “new gods” Judg.5:8, “devils – not gods” Deut.32:17;  and as denoting their foreign origin, “gods of the foreigner” Josh.24:14-15.  

1 Cor.10: 20-21, “But I (Paul) say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: you cannot be partakers of the Lord’s Table, and of the table of devils.”

In this generation we are losing sight of Jesus Christ and the finished work of the cross. Many have strayed, or are about to stray off course, they being caught up in the understanding and beliefs of foreigners that have made their way to America bringing with them their false religion and their gods.

Today, the light of the Lord Jesus remains but a struggling ray among the people as a moral and spiritual darkness appears to be overtaking this land. And it is so much more today that is influencing the people, drawing us away from the simplicity and truth of the gospel. Paul urges is not to become careless in this matter. Even though idols are nothing, they still are a tangible expression of demons that stand behind them. We must rely absolutely on the Lord Jesus Christ, stand firm against any and all idol worship, for our Lord is constant and true in contrast to all that is not God.

Gal.5:22, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness (kindness) goodness, faith (faithfulness.)”  

Phil LaSpino

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