11 From the history of Christianity

582  How did the first Christian congregations come into being?


The first Christian congregation came into being on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2: 37 et seq.). This congregation consisted only of Jews. Owing to the persecutions that followed, many of the believers fled from Jerusalem (cf. Acts 8: 1; 11: 19). In their new surroundings they continued to preach the gospel, which also met with faith there. So it was that Christian congregations began to form in other places.

583 How did the gospel come to the Gentiles?

The Apostles at first worked under the assumption that the gospel was only to be preached to the Jews. In a vision, however, God made it clear to Apostle Peter that the gospel is also intended for the Gentiles (cf. Acts 10 and 11).

At the Apostles’ council in Jerusalem, questions concerning the mission to the Gentiles and the significance of the Mosaic Law for baptised Gentiles were clarified (cf. Acts 15: 1-29). These decisions were contributing factors in helping the Christian congregations to eventually shed many traditions of the Jewish faith.


Gentiles: see explanation of Question 256→ Mosaic Law: see Questions 272→ et seq.

In special cases, God uses a “vision” to reveal His will to human beings whom He chooses for this purpose.

584 Which Apostle primarily proclaimed the gospel to the Gentiles?


Apostle Paul primarily proclaimed the gospel to the Gentiles. To this end he travelled, at times together with Apostle Barnabas, to present-day Turkey, as well as Greece, Cyprus, and finally even to Italy.

585 Where did the designation “Christian” come into being?


The followers of Jesus were first referred to as Christians in Antioch (cf. Acts 11: 26).

586 How long were the Apostles active?


The Apostles were likely active until the end of the first century AD. John is thought to be the last Apostle of the early church. After this began the period in which the Apostle ministry was no longer personally occupied, even though it did not cease to exist. It was not until the nineteenth century that the Apostle ministry came to be personally occupied again.


Personal occupation of the Apostle ministry: see Question 450→ and explanation

Continuation of the Apostle ministry: see Questions 447→ et seq.

587 How did the activity of the Holy Spirit reveal itself after the death of the early Apostles?


The Holy Spirit ensured that the binding collection of writings from the Old and New Testaments (canon) could come into being.


Through the activity of the Holy Spirit, important fundamentals of Christian doctrine were formulated in large church assemblies (ecumenical councils). These include, for example, the doctrine that God is triune, that Jesus Christ is both true Man and true God, and the recognition of the decisive significance that the sacrifice of Jesus and His resurrection hold for the salvation and redemption of mankind.


It can also be attributed to the activity of the Holy Spirit over the centuries that the Christian faith was able to spread around the world.


Bible, canon: see Questions 12→ et seq. Council: see explanation of Question 33→ 

Triune God: see Questions 61→ et seq. Dual nature of Jesus Christ: see Questions 103→ et seq.

588 How was salvation imparted throughout this period?


Salvation was primarily imparted in that the gospel was proclaimed and Holy Baptism with water was dispensed.


Salvation: see Questions 243→ et seq.

589 How did Christendom develop after the second century AD?


What had begun with the stoning of Deacon Stephen grew into waves of persecutions: many Christians were killed for their faith and thereby became martyrs.

Despite these persecutions and many obstacles, the Christian faith spread throughout the entire Roman Empire.


Martyrs: see explanation of Question 394→

590 Who handed the teachings of the early Apostles down to posterity?

The original teaching of the Apostles was handed down and further developed by the “Apostolic Fathers”. These were church teachers of great influence. Their ranks included the likes of Clement of Rome (died around AD 100), Ignatius of Antioch (died around AD 115), Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (born around AD 69, died around AD 155), and Papias of Hierapolis (born around AD 70, died around AD 130/140). It was their endeavour to defend the Christian faith against both Gentiles and Jews, and to protect the fundamentals of the Christian doctrine.

One of the defining personages for the church was Athanasius the Great (around AD 295 to AD 373), under whose influence the Nicene Creed was formulated in the year AD 325.

591 Who were the “Church Fathers”?


“Church Fathers” were scholars who formulated the fundamental truths of Christianity after the time of the “Apostolic Fathers”. Their ranks include such men as Ambrose of Milan (339 to 397), Hieronymus (347 to 420), and Augustine of Hippo (354 to 430).

592 When did Christianity become the state religion in the Roman Empire?

After some difficult times of persecution, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great proclaimed religious freedom for the Christians in the year 313.

In the year 381, Emperor Theodosius elevated Christianity in the Roman Empire to the status of state religion. He forbade the worship of pagan gods.

“Religious freedom” refers to a condition in which people are free to profess and practise the religion and worldview of their choice.

593 How did Christianity develop in the time before the Middle Ages?


During the great Migration Period (in the fourth and fifth centuries) Christianity gained in strength in both Europe and Asia.

Monasticism, which first came into being in Egypt in the third century, played a special role in the spread of Christianity. One of the principle duties of the monks was to live a life of poverty in accordance with the example of Christ, and to spread the Christian faith. In the Middle Ages, monks and nuns accomplished outstanding achievements in science, and were also involved in agriculture and social issues.


Increasingly, Christianity came to define the lives of the people, as well as the culture, politics, and society of Europe.

In the year 1054, tensions led to a split between the Western Church (Roman Catholic) and the Eastern Church (Orthodox).

Monasticism is a lifestyle in which people endeavour to dedicate their entire lives to their religion in isolation from all things secular. Both men and women (nuns) engaged in this “monastic” lifestyle.

594 What else did the Christians have to contend with starting in the seventh century?


Starting in the seventh century, Christians in parts of Asia, Africa, and even Europe had to contend with a new religion, namely Islam. Many areas were lost to the Christian faith, for example the Middle East and Northern Africa.

This led to battles, for example, the Crusades. These took place between 1095 and 1270 in the Middle East with the stated objective of conquering Jerusalem and the Holy Land for Christendom.

Islam is the youngest of the major world religions. It was established by Mohammed in the seventh century AD. Islam teaches belief in one God, but not in a triune God. In Islamic teaching, Jesus is considered a prophet. The holy book of Islam is the Koran.

Crusades: Palestine, and with it Jerusalem, were under Islamic rule. Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, successive popes called upon the rulers of Europe to bring this region back under Christian control. These military campaigns were called “Crusades” and its soldiers were known as “Crusaders” because they went to battle in the name of Christ and for His glory.

595 What developments led to the efforts to reform the church?


Over the course of the Middle Ages, the church became more and more secular— faith and doctrine lost more and more of their value. This can be attributed to a lack of orientation from the gospel.

It was for this reason that an increasing number of efforts were made to reform the church. On the one hand, there were endeavours to reform the church within monasticism, and on the other hand, others like the Frenchman Peter Waldo (1140, died before 1218), the English theologian John Wycliffe (1320- 1384), and the rector of the University of Prague, John Hus (1369-1384), began to make efforts of their own. All of them were consistent critics of the secularised church. The movements initiated and supported by them affected large parts of Europe, and eventually led to the Reformation.

596 What is the Reformation?


The Reformation (from the Latin reformatio, meaning “restoration” or “renewal”) was a religious renewal movement in Europe, which was based on the desire to return to the gospel.

It is closely associated with the German monk Martin Luther (1483-1546). According to his conviction, the sole basis of the doctrine was to be the biblical testimony of Jesus Christ. Luther translated the Bible from the Hebrew and Greek languages into German, and thus made it accessible to the people.

The Anglican state church came into being independently in the year 1534.

597 Who are the most significant of the Reformers?


In addition to Martin Luther from Wittenberg, this group included the Reformer Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), who was active in Zurich, and John Calvin (1509-1564), who ushered in an independent Reformation movement in Geneva.

598 How did the Roman Catholic Church react to the Reformation?


As a response to the Reformation, the Council of Trent (which began in 1545) ushered in a renewal of the Church and prepared the ground for the Counter-Reformation, which in turn reinforced the power of the papacy.

The term ‘Counter-Reformation’ denotes the response of the Roman Catholic Church to the Reformation.

599 What were the consequences of the conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism?


In the course of the conflicts between Protestants and Catholics the Thirty Years’ War broke out (1618-1648), which ultimately served to strengthen the influence of the state on the church. Thereafter, the sovereign determined the religious affiliation of his subjects.

The followers of the Reformation were known as “Protestants”.

600 What was the condition of Christendom in the Europe of the eighteenth century?


In the eighteenth century, the Christian faith often came to be associated with a school of thought that regarded human reason as the sole measure of all things (“The Enlightenment”). As a reaction to this, Pietism, a movement within the Reformed Church, began to grow in power and influence. Identifying features of the Pietists included intensive Bible study, social commitment, and missionary activity.


“Mission”: see explanation of Question 393→

601 What was the condition of Christendom in the nineteenth century?


In the nineteenth century, increasing efforts were made in order to win back those who had, through poverty and ignorance, grown alienated from the faith, for the gospel (“Inner or Home Mission”). Beyond that, “missionary societies” were established in order to see to the spread of Christianity in countries outside of Europe, particularly in Africa.

602 What important developments occurred in the Christendom of the nineteenth century?


The so-called “revivalist movements”— which became especially popular among Protestants in England and the USA—were also of great significance: believing Christians appealed for people to turn away from “cultural Christianity” and return to a living Christian faith. This call for reflection on the gospel was often associated with the hope in the return of Christ.

This is the historical context in which God prepared for the renewed activity of Apostles.

603 How did the renewed occupation of the Apostle ministry in the nineteenth century come about?


Between 1826 and 1829, believing men gathered for conferences in Albury (Southern England), in order to study the Revelation of Jesus Christ together. These conferences took place at the invitation of the banker Henry Drummond (1786-1860) in close collaboration with Edward Irving (1792-1834), 
who was a clergyman of the Scottish National Church. The participants of these conferences wanted to gain clarity on the biblical statements concerning the activity of the Holy Spirit and the return of Christ.

Believers of various denominations in Scotland were also waiting for an increased activity of the Holy Spirit. In 1830, manifestations of healing, glossolalia (speaking in unknown tongues), and prophecy occurred in their circle, and were widely noticed.

In the autumn of 1832, John Bate Cardale (1802-1877) was called by the Holy Spirit to be an Apostle and was designated as an Apostle by Henry Drummond.
Starting in September 1833, another eleven Apostles were called by prophecy— especially through the Prophet Oliver Taplin (1800-1862).

604 How did the Catholic Apostolic Church come into being?


In 1835, the Apostles withdrew to Albury for a year of intensive deliberations together. They developed the “Great Testimony” (1837), a confessional text that was made available to all spiritual and secular leaders of Christendom.

In this document the Apostles called upon Christians to gather under their leadership and thereby prepare themselves for the return of Christ. They were thus not interested in establishing a new church, but rather in bringing the various existing churches together under the leadership of Apostles.

The majority of Christians did not accept the call of the Apostles, however. The few Christians that did believe the Apostles banded together in a new church, namely the Catholic Apostolic Church.

605 When did the first sealings take place?


The first sealings—at the time, this act was known as the “apostolic laying on of hands”—took place in 1847 in England, Canada, and Germany.

606 What happened when some of the Apostles died?


In the year 1855, three of the Apostles died. Through the prophets Edward Oliver Taplin and Heinrich Geyer (1818- 1896), successors in the Apostle ministry were called. These callings were not accepted by the remaining Apostles, however. No further Apostles were ordained.

Ultimately, the result of this point of view was that there were no more Apostles in the Catholic Apostolic Church after the death of the last living Apostle Francis V. Woodhouse in the year 1901. No further ministers were ordained either.