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The kingdom of Constantine: relegating the true Church to a worldly organization Created: August 2011

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1. Introduction   2. Christians fooling themselves
3.What Christianity is not   4.How did we lose the plot?
5. Is "church" as we know it today really representative of the Body of Christ?   6. The source of the problem
7. The church seen as the Israel of old   8. Constantine’s vision – a work of God?
9. The fruit of Constantine’s vision and the co-opting of the Church   10.Conclusion

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Introduction

There is only one Body. One Spirit. One Lord. One faith. One God and Father of all. As such, there is only one Church of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:4-6). But is it the church we know; the place where the seeking or the curious and the faithful gather on Sundays? I don't think so. The reason being that I do not believe that Emperor Constantine the Great was a true Christian when he:

(Incidently, I believe that whilst the Reformation was a step in the right direction, because the Catholic Church was not the true Church of Jesus Christ to start off with, it (the Reformation as led by Luther, Calvin and others) was not a genuine or even a complete 'correction' from error either. As such, like Catholics, pure Reformists find themselves in a dangerous comfort zone concerning 'the One Church' idea which they pursue.)

Christians fooling themselves

It seems as if some church doctrines are derived from the presumption that 'church' as we know it today is the "church" which the Bible describes. Yes, the church as we know it today has believers attending it. But the church that we think about today is not what the Bible describes as "church". What we have today is a pastor or priest (man or woman) who has been appointed to the top of the organizational hierarchy mostly on the basis of their academic studies and 'experience' working in that hierarchy. That is no different to any other commercial entity, which is why 'churches' operate like commercial entities; as attendance drops, so do standards. Where things go well - whether attendance is up - little will be done in the way of correcting systemic error so as to not upset the applecart. It may serve good purposes like teaching some things from the Bible, but it seldom teaches vital but unpopular messages because it practically cannot afford to lose members' financial contributions. It may provide opportunity for so-called "praise and worship" but it seldom actually equates to genuine praise and genuine worship. Most often it is simply an item on the day's "worship service program". It may provide fellowship of sorts but seldom is it genuine fellowship - the type where believers are totally authentic about their thoughts and feelings concerning a matter (Eph 4:25). Most often fellowship in church equates to 'having a good time' or 'hanging out together' or being polite and respectable. Seldom does it equate to absolute authenticity. It prizes the praises of men above the praises of God (Jn 12:42). Almost never do you see 'ordinary believers' live out their ministry:

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,  12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;  14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,  15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Eph. 4).

What Christianity is not

I got saved in a 'commercial entity church'. The pastor wasn't a perfect man but he preached truth. That is what mattered in my case. So, I am really grateful for that. People like me get saved in commercial entity churches everyday, I'm sure. But, is that how God really wants it? I don't think so. He wants believers to live out their ministries despite the unpopularity of their message (Eph 3:10). He wants church-goers not to go to church but to be Church. And, He does not want His message to be diluted just to make it palatable. If we did not get to write the Bible, then who do we think we are to try and change it?

Christianity, in certain circles, seems to have issued the 'Christianity 2.001 version' of the faith. Since the turn of the century, or perhaps before then, being a Christian has become about being 'cool', being 'hip', being 'easy'. It has become about 'hanging out', about speaking christianese, being a 'winner' or a 'conquerer'; being a 'happy child of God'.

To make a difference as a pastor you should have a fancy hair do, or drive an iPhone, or an Apple Mac. You should be a 'technology geek' of sorts. It is about gel in the hair, being 'motivated', being 'with the times'. It is about having read clever 'Christian books'. It is about you "being relevant".

If you are a Christian and you want to make a real difference - not just an ordinary difference - it is about being an entertainer; playing the guitar, having a good voice, cracking jokes. We go by mantras like "don't judge" because it sounds conciliatory or even loving and then forget that such behavior is not being loving at all (1 Corinthians 5:11-13, 1 Corinthians 11:31).

Yes, that is the Christianity 2.001 version. But that is not Christianity at all. Christianity is not about you and me. It is not about 'living out your full potential'. It is not about 'building a Christian empire'. It is about obedience. It is about love, God's style. It is about genuine, practical, everyday faith and trust for things, primarily, He wants. It is about hearing God and doing what He says because you are born of Him (Romans 8:13-14).

See how far we have traveled from the Way, the Truth and the Life?

How did we lose the plot?

So how did it happen? How did we come to even deny that there are apostles and prophets around today?

From my perspective we got to this point because genuine, sincere Christians got lured away from the original meaning, form and purpose of the Church to accept a lesser, inauthentic, de-focussed role in society. And that process started the moment Constantine saw a light in the sky, which he - a pagan at the time - presumed to have been the representation of the Christian God.

From the introduction above, I don't believe he (Constantine) was a genuinely born again Christian at the time he influenced the above 5 events. As such, I do not believe he was led by the Holy Spirit. Consequently, Constantine was likely directed or influenced by the "prince of the power of the air". Below you'll find hard evidence that the 'fruit' of the 'church' Constantine helped to usher in, certainly was not godly fruit.

As noted, I do not believe he was simply a malevolent dictator who smartly used Christianity to achieve his goals. Constantine is reported to only have been baptized on his death bed. That says something about his faith, or lack thereof during his lifetime. So, perhaps he was the one being used by the "prince of the power of the air" - Satan - to achieve a major victory over the true Body of Christ.

By creating a state-endorsed system of faith, Satan could dictate the pace and direction of the faith of every Christian, which he has done successfully over time to that end that Christianity today is one large pool of confusion; a far cry from the "One Body, One Lord" noted in Ephesians 4. Accordingly, has made ineffective the genuine desires of born again believers to serve the living God well. And, importantly, he can hijack the process of being genuinely born again by - through 'official church doctrine' - limiting this truth to one of a number of doctrines taught today, which state that;

1) born again means to be baptized into the Catholic Church,

2) born again means to be baptized into the Church of England,

3) born again simply means the legal transaction during which a sinner gets issued with a 'new rap sheet',

4) born again means when you believe that Jesus is alive,

5) born again only happens when you die and go to heaven.

Of course, none of the above is complete, their reliance on carefully selected Bible verses (whilst ignoring others) being the give-away to their error. And so, all of them are wrong.

Importantly, I believe Satan has achieved another major victory (albeit temporary); he has sold the idea that the activities, ministries and gifts of the Holy Spirit, which were given to equip the Church for the work it must do on Jesus' behalf, no longer exists today. This is how he has done it: because it cannot be argued that Holy Spirit inspired teaching are given today, it cannot be argued that Apostles exist today. Then, it cannot be argued that Prophets exist, Teachers exist, speaking in tongues exist, the word of wisdom or the word of knowledge exist today. This is known as the "Cascading argument".

But, Satan has been found out. I am not suggesting that Cessationalists are of the devil, only that they've swallowed his lie. You can see the lie by looking at the validity of the Cascading argument. Here's the problem with it:

So, either Cessationalists apply a double standard or they use invalid assumptions in their Cascading argument.

We'll look at just of the above assumptions: Is what we know as "church" today the Authentic Church or the inauthentic church? This does not address whether or not there are authentic Christians in these congregations, only whether or not the gathering constitutes Authentic Church.

Let's now look at what whether or not "church" as we know it today really represents the Body of Christ as the Bible teaches.

The answer is found in looking at how the church as we know it today was formed. Again, I am not suggesting that there cannot be genuine Christians in "churches", only that "church" as we know it today is not the Church of the Bible.

In a previous article I wrote about the Kingdom of God and non-Biblical views about where it is and how it is found. Jesus tells of His Kingdom being found only by having been “born again” (John 3:3-7). It follows a person’s sincere repentance and true faith towards God expressed in confession and in open obedience to Christ and His word (refer 1 John 2:3-5). It is not a privilege that is available to a culture or a law or a social setting. It is the rebirth of the spirit of a person by the Spirit of God (John 3:5-7, NLT).

Still, not every Christian sees it this way. Some redefine the Kingdom as something more physical or territorial, social-political, socio-economical or even legal. And so, where does this contrarian view of the Kingdom of God come from? The advent thereof stems from the earliest days of Christianity, thus obscuring the error thereof by presenting itself as ‘the age old way’. Indeed, it is an age old way, but an age old way of error.

Roman Emperor Constantine the first had a major bearing on how we see the Kingdom of God. In this article I try to point out that Christianity may have been high-jacked by the ‘Constantine shift’. In this article I make no judgment of Constantine’s personal faith and I make no judgment of churches or church leaders.

Why this article is important is that if we see the extent to which we have adopted pagan world views in pursuit of the Kingdom of God, then we may readjust our priorities as true operatives working in the Body of Christ.

So, where has the wrong thinking come from?

The answer is in plain view. It is not hidden. To illustrate this point I will quote extensively from Wikipedia, which notes historic accounts that are verifiable. Reference to each new Wikipedia page is done through a link from the first word of a paragraph. Whilst Wikipedia offers verifiable content, I nonetheless caution the reader to prayerfully reflect on what is written.

To every Christian, Roman Emperor Constantine I should represent the epitome of a ‘game changer’. I have found this article which does not take a view on the topic discussed here but which puts into perspective the socio-political and socio-religious context in the time during which Jesus walked the earth (click here).

According to Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic tradition, Constantine I adopted Christianity as his system of belief after the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312.[3][4][5] His legions, who were victorious, fought under the "labarum", a standard with the first two Greek letters of Christ's name.

It is commonly stated that on the evening of 27 October with the armies preparing for battle, Constantine had a vision which led him to fight under the protection of the Christian God. The details of that vision, however, differ between the sources reporting it.

Lactantius states that, in the night before the battle, Constantine was commanded in a dream to "delineate the heavenly sign on the shields of his soldiers" (On the Deaths of the Persecutors 44.5). He followed the commands of his dream and marked the shields with a sign "denoting Christ". Lactantius describes that sign as a "staurogram", or a Latin cross with its upper end rounded in a P-like fashion. There is no certain evidence that Constantine ever used that sign, opposed to the better known Chi-Rho sign described by Eusebius.

From Eusebius, two accounts of the battle survive. The first, shorter one in the Ecclesiastical History promotes the belief that God helped Constantine but does not mention any vision. In his later Life of Constantine, Eusebius gives a detailed account of a vision and stresses that he had heard the story from the emperor himself. According to this version, Constantine with his army was marching when he looked up to the sun and saw a cross of light above it, and with it the Greek words "Εν Τούτῳ Νίκα", En toutō níka, usually translated into Latin as "in hoc signo vinces," both phrases have the literal meaning "In this sign,[you shall] conquer;" a more free translation would be "Through this sign [you shall] conquer". At first he was unsure of the meaning of the apparition, but in the following night he had a dream in which Christ explained to him that he should use the sign against his enemies. [4]

The accounts of the two contemporary authors, though not entirely consistent, have been merged into a popular notion of Constantine seeing the Chi-Rho sign on the evening before the battle.

Constantine the Great (Latin: Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus; c. 27 February 272 – 22 May 337), also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all religions throughout the empire.

According to Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic tradition, Constantine I adopted Christianity as his system of belief after the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312. His legions, who were victorious, fought under the "labarum", a standard with the first two Greek letters of Christ's name.

In 313, the Edict of Milan legalized Christianity alongside other religions allowed in the Roman Empire. In 325, the First Council of Nicaea signaled consolidation of Christianity under an orthodoxy endorsed by Constantine, and though this did not make other Christian groups outside the adopted definition illegal, the dissenting Arian bishops were initially exiled. But Constantine reinstated Arius before his death and exiled Orthodox Athanasius of Alexandria. In 380 Emperor Theodosius I made Christianity the Roman Empire's official religion (see State church of the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire and the Goths) and did enforce the edict. In 392 he passed legislation prohibiting all pagan cultic worship.

During the 4th century, however, there was no real unity between church and state: In the course of the Arian controversy, leading Trinitarian bishops, such as Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers, and Gregory of Nyssa, were exiled by Arian emperors, as were leading Arian and Anomoean theologians such as Aëtius.

Towards the end of the century, Bishop Ambrose of Milan made the powerful Emperor Theodosius do penance for several months after the massacre of Thessalonica before admitting him again to the Eucharist. On the other hand, only a few years later, Chrysostom, who as bishop of Constantinople criticized the excesses of the royal court, was eventually banished and died while traveling to his place of exile.

What the above historic events signal is a departure from what up to that point had defined ‘the Church’. Overseen by bishops or rulers, the Church up to Constantine’s assimilation thereof in 312 AD had been a loose affiliation of believers who minded not the persecution by the Roman Empire which came as a consequence of their obedience to Christ.

Now, where dis it all start? What then was first defined as the Church?

Christian groups were first organized loosely. In Paul's time, there were no precisely delineated functions for bishops, elders, and deacons. A Church hierarchy, however, seems to have developed by the early 2nd century (see Pastoral Epistles, c 90 - 140). These structures were certainly formalized well before the end of the Early Christian period, which concluded with the legalization of Christianity by Constantine's Edict of Milan in 313 and the holding of the First Council of Nicaea in 325, when the title of Metropolitan bishop first appears.

Some 1st-century Christian writings include reference to overseers ("bishops") and deacons, though these may have been informal leadership roles rather than formal positions. The Didache (dated by most scholars to the early 2nd century), speaks of "appointing for yourself bishops and deacons" and also speaks about teachers and prophets and false prophets. Bishops were defined as spiritual authorities over geographical areas.

By the end of the early Christian period, the church within the Roman Empire had hundreds of bishops, some of them (Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, "other provinces") holding some form of jurisdiction over others. Jerusalem was the first church and an important church center up to 135.

Therefore, in a choice between citizenship of the Kingdom of God, brought about by faith and an obedience to Christ, and, citizenship of the kingdom of Rome, brought about by (faith and) an obedience to Caesar, the early Christians chose the former. The associated mostly informally whilst appointing overseers and deacons to conduct church affairs and provide direction.

But, this all changed when the Roman Emperor, following ‘a vision from the gods’, changed his mind about the value of Christianity. The dramatic vision of Caesar Constantine I prior to the Battle of Milvian Bridge, which he won on the basis of what he perceived to have been his acceptance of Christian symbolism, was seen as a spectacular turnabout initiated directly from God. And so, the Church, convinced of God’s own intervention in the socio-political and social-economic plight of Christians, welcomed the advances initiated by him who had insisted on being revered as a god himself: Early Christians suffered sporadic persecution because they refused to worship the Roman gods or to pay homage to the emperor as divine. Top

The Church seen as the Israel of old

Part of believers’ thinking at the time most likely would have been the Old Testament’s account of the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt following generations of slavery and persecution by the Pharaoh. To these men and women in Christ, deliverance from the oppressor had come by the hands of the oppressor – the work of God, no doubt.

And so, unlike the story of the Jews’ freedom from slavery under Pharaoh, Caesar Constantine I, who once killed, maimed and enslaved believers in the Body of Christ now had become the protector and benefactor of the Christian faith.

It is a concept that is easily accepted on the basis of God’s deliverance of Israel at the hands of Pharaoh. Moreover, it is an idea or belief that has since then often been put forward as the reason for dramatic changes in socio-political and socio-economic structures. Pharaoh’s defeat and the Israelites walking away with the wealth of the Egyptians is an image that few do not find attractive (refer Exodus 3:22).

Today, pulpit stories of hope and a sense of unity with the Israelites of Egypt have Christians believe that their mission is sacred and their deliverance is by the hands of God. It is a pattern that has repeated itself over many centuries.

But, if indeed the early Christians were correct that God had delivered them from the hands of the oppressor (Emperor Constantine I) by the hands of the oppressor, in the same way as He delivered the Israelites from Egypt, then we have an opportunity today to judge the fruit of such a deliverance. Top

Constantine’s vision – a work of God?

Indeed, so it might have been: Christians’ deliverance from oppression by the hands of God so as to liberate people in order to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14). That sounds right, doesn't it?

On the other hand, can one really take comfort that this was indeed the working of God? I think not, and the reasons are in plain sight for all to see.

Let us look at the fruit of Constantine’s conversion to the ways and beliefs of the Christian faith.

1) Not only was Christianity legalized, Christians received increasing civil popularity and political power.

Where once the focus had been ‘giving all diligence, adding to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love’ (2 Peter 1:5-7), things had changed virtually overnight.

No longer was faith in Christ the great social, physical and economic sacrifice that it had been before. On the contrary, it had become a norm and the de facto standard of religious worship in the most powerful political mechanism of the time – the Roman Empire. Christianity, unlike before, had become fashionable on the basis of Caesar’s own conversion and, perhaps, his personal ‘encouragement’ to be of the Christian faith as well.

In February 313, Constantine met with Licinius in Milan where they developed the Edict of Milan. The edict stated that Christians should be allowed to follow the faith of their choosing. This removed penalties for professing Christianity (under which many had been martyred in previous persecutions of Christians) and returned confiscated Church property. The edict did not only protect Christians from religious persecution, but all religions, allowing anyone to worship whichever deity they chose. 

Was this a matter of divine intervention or did Constantine simply capitalize on Christianity’s captivity? Perhaps cynicism would dictate a belief that Constantine simply staged a coup, I agree.

But, that is not the question. I don't believe Constantine was 'the brains’ behind what had transpired up to that point anyway. Someone else was. Someone whom Paul talks about as having the ability to transform himself as “an angel of light” - Satan. Few would object to the notion that it was Satan who was behind the brutal killing of Christians since the days of Nero.

The first documented case of imperially supervised persecution of the Christians in the Roman Empire begins with Nero (37–68). In 64 AD, a great fire broke out in Rome, destroying portions of the city and economically devastating the Roman population. Nero himself was suspected as the arsonist by Suetonius, claiming he played the lyre and sang the 'Sack of Ilium' during the fires. In his Annals, Tacitus (who claimed Nero was in Antium at the time of the fire's outbreak), stated that "to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians [or Chrestians] by the populace" (Tacit. Annals XV, see Tacitus on Jesus).

Suetonius, later to the period, does not mention any persecution after the fire, but in a previous paragraph unrelated to the fire, mentions punishments inflicted on Christians, defined as men following a new and malefic superstition. Suetonius however does not specify the reasons for the punishment, he just listed the fact together with other abuses put down by Nero.

By the mid-2nd century, mobs could be found willing to throw stones at Christians, and they might be mobilized by rival sects. The Persecution in Lyon was preceded by mob violence, including assaults, robberies and stonings (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5.1.7).

For their faith Christians were the outcast of society. To be a Christian meant to have genuine faith in the resurrected Christ, and the life that He promised hereafter while living in the "righteousness, peace and joy of the Holy Spirit", which the Apostle Paul described as the Kingdom of God (Romans 14:17).

A decision to live a life in Christ was more than simply being raised in a Christian culture or saying a sinner’s prayer in front of a stage or a school hall. It meant a life committed to faith even if it meant personal injury or death. The type of circumstances Christians today are experiencing in China, India, Iran, Afghanistan and other places.

These early Christians lived James 1:3 - “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”.

The confession of their faith was done in deed, not in word only.

Nonetheless, they believed that God ‘turned everything together for the good to those who loved Him, to those who were the called according to his purpose’ (refer Romans 8:28). For these, 'turning everything for good' did not necessarily mean anything good in a natural sense. Their persecution persisted.

They lived a life committed to a greater cause than that which was offered by this natural world. They believed that “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later” (Romans 8:18).

According to the scriptures, Christians were from the beginning subject to persecution by some Jewish religious authorities, who disagreed with the apostles' teachings (See Split of early Christianity and Judaism). This involved punishments, including death, for Christians such as Stephen[Acts 7:59] and James, son of Zebedee.[Acts 12:2] Larger-scale persecutions followed at the hands of the authorities of the Roman Empire, first in the year 64, when Emperor Nero blamed them for the Great Fire of Rome. According to Church tradition, it was under Nero's persecution that early Church leaders Peter and Paul of Tarsus were each martyred in Rome. Further widespread persecutions of the Church occurred under nine subsequent Roman emperors, most intensely under Decius and Diocletian. From the year 150, Christian teachers began to produce theological and apologetic works aimed at defending the faith. Top

2) Constantine’s version of the Church meant that Christians enjoyed the fruit of this world – property, financial power and position.

The Edict of Milan included several clauses which stated that all confiscated churches would be returned as well as other provisions for previously persecuted Christians.

Throughout his rule, Constantine supported the Church financially, built basilicas, granted privileges to clergy (e.g. exemption from certain taxes), promoted Christians to high office, and returned property confiscated during the Diocletianic persecution.[204] His most famous building projects include the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Old Saint Peter's Basilica.

Unencumbered by the overhead expense of maintaining church buildings and paying church officials, the Christians living before the "Constantine Shift" spent their offerings on the needs of believers who glorified God for His provision in their time of need (2 Corinthians 9:12-15). This is where much of Christianity’s calamity commenced. Constantine’s conversion to Christ in one brilliant stroke co-opted conventional Christ-likeness in return for pagan political power and prominent positioning. Top

3) Under Constantine, conformity to dualistic belief systems were introduced and/or reinforced.

Scholars debate whether Constantine adopted his mother St. Helena's Christianity in his youth, or whether he adopted it gradually over the course of his life. Constantine would retain the title of pontifex maximus until his death, a title emperors bore as heads of the pagan priesthood, as would his Christian successors on to Gratian (r. 375–83). According to Christian writers, Constantine was over 40 when he finally declared himself a Christian, writing to Christians to make clear that he believed he owed his successes to the protection of the Christian High God alone. 

Constantine did not patronize Christianity alone, however. After gaining victory in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312), a triumphal arch—the Arch of Constantine—was built (315) to celebrate it; the arch is decorated with images of Victoria and sacrifices to gods like Apollo, Diana, or Hercules, but contains no Christian symbolism. In 321, Constantine instructed that Christians and non-Christians should be united in observing the venerable day of the sun, referencing the esoteric eastern sun-worship which Aurelian had helped introduce, and his coinage still carried the symbols of the sun cult until 324. Even after the pagan gods had disappeared from the coinage, Christian symbols appeared only as Constantine's personal attributes: the chi rho between his hands or on his labarum, but never on the coin itself. Even when Constantine dedicated the new capital of Constantinople, which became the seat of Byzantine Christianity for a millennium, he did so wearing the Apollonian sun-rayed Diadem. Top

Constantine is venerated as a Saint. Yet, clearly, for Emperor Constantine I, the message of Christ did not ring home entirely by the time he adopted the faith as the Empire’s de facto standard for worship, or when he convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.

To him, Christianity merely represented a good option (in combination with other good options). He simply ‘did not get it’ - he didn't understand that Christ is the only way (refer John 14:6) and is the only one worthy of worship. Yet, this was a man who sent bishops into exile because of what they believed. Was he really an authority on the issue of faith?

Incidentally, since the late 60's there has been a strong resurgence of the notion that there is more than one way to the Father. It is suggested that Christ is not the only way. This is hard to understand in view of what Jesus said of himself: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).

Some church groupings have had a greater role to play in spreading this particular message than others. As if to reiterate what Jesus said, John says the following: "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (2 John 1:9-11).

John knew long in advance that people - well meaning people, perhaps - would spread falsehoods about 'the Way'.

4) The Church and the Government became virtually inseparable.

The state church of the Roman Empire was a Christian institution organized within the Roman Empire during the 4th century that came to represent the Empire's sole authorized religion.[1] This church emerged as Roman Emperor Constantine established tolerance for Christianity during his reign and established a precedent of imperial involvement in matters of the Christian faith.[2] By the end of the 4th century Emperor Theodosius had established a single Christian doctrine (the details would be formalized by the first seven Ecumenical Councils) as the state's official religion. The officially sanctioned church would go on to become a key part of the empire and its identity throughout the Middle Ages. The emperor himself came to be seen as the church's defender and leader, along with the bishops. Top

5) The state became a major player in Church management – what was to believed and what not?

As a result of the Donatist controversy Constantine convened councils of Christian bishops to define an orthodox, or correct, Christian faith, expanding on earlier Christian councils. Numerous councils were held during the 4th and 5th centuries leading to rifts and schisms including the Arian schism, the Nestorian schism, and the Miaphysite schism.

Throughout this process emperors became increasingly involved in the church, funding construction of church buildings, presiding over church councils, and even becoming involved in the appointment of bishops. In 380 Emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica, which formally established the Christian doctrine established at the First Council of Nicaea as the Empire's sole recognized religion. The church hierarchy in the Empire would continue to evolve throughout its history. In the 6th century Emperor Justinian established the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem as the leadership of the imperial church, referred to as the Pentarchy. Top

6) Whilst recognizing the need to rid itself from political influence, the Church continued to organize itself according to secular commercial and political structures.

A Church synod, or council, was called in Rome in 313 followed by another in Arles in 314. The latter was presided over by Constantine while he was still a junior emperor (see Tetrarchy). The councils ruled that the Donatist faith was heresy and, when the Donatists refused to recant, Constantine launched the first campaign of persecution by Christians against Christians. This was only the beginning of imperial involvement in the Christian theology. However, during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate, the Donatists, who formed the majority party in the Roman province of Africa for 30 years, were given official approval, a situation that has been described as making them a state church of the Roman Empire.

Constantine was also instrumental in the convocation of the First Council of Nicaea in 325, which sought to address the Arian heresy and formulated the Nicene Creed, which is still used by the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglican Communion, and many Protestant churches. Nicaea was the first of a series of Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils which formally defined critical elements of the theology of the Church, notably concerning Christology.

In the west, the obliteration of the empire's boundaries by Germanic peoples and an outburst of missionary activity among these peoples, who had no direct links with the Byzantine Empire, and among Celtic peoples, who had never been part of the Roman Empire, fostered the idea of a universal church free from association with a particular polity. With the 25 December 800 AD crowning of Charlemagne as Imperator Romanorum by his ally, Pope Leo III, the de facto political split between east and west became irrevocable and the church in the west was clearly no longer part of the state church of the Byzantine Empire. Spiritually, the Chalcedonian Church, as a communion broader than the imperial state church, continued to persist as a unified entity, at least in theory, until the Great Schism and its formal division with the mutual excommunication in 1054 of Rome and Constantinople.

Modern authors refer to this state church in a variety of ways: as the catholic church, the orthodox church, the imperial church, the imperial Roman church, or the Byzantine church, some of which terms they use also of wider communions extending outside the Roman Empire. Its legacy carries on, directly or indirectly, in today's Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and in others, such as the Anglican Communion.

Today we know that traditional churches and churches denominations alike are not only governed by centralized counsels of authority, or ‘presidents’ or high(er) priests, they are also governed by best practices in the world of commerce: financial management, organizational development principles, human resource development, marketing and advertising principles, remuneration structures, including ‘incentives’ based on member contributions, and the like. In the same way that the Church and Government became synonymous, what is called ‘the Church’ and Commerce have become inseparable as well.

Paul’s encouragement to not be conformed to this world has fallen on deaf ears (refer Romans 12:2).

But, is there anything wrong with having a church building and a governing council? Perhaps not in principle as much as there is in practice. For the most part, policy and internal politics dominate the observance of grace and personal servanthood. Top

7) Christians started persecuting people.

The persecution of Pagans by the Christian Roman Empire is the religious persecution of Pagans as a consequence of professing their faith. The first episodes started late in the reign of Constantine the Great, when he ordered the pillaging and the torning down of some pagan temples. The first anti-Pagan laws by the Christian state started with Constantine's son Constantius II, which was an unwavering opponent of paganism; he ordered the closing of all pagan temples, forbade Pagan sacrifices under pain of death, and removed the traditional Altar of Victory from the Senate. Under his reign ordinary Christians started vandalizing many of the ancient Pagan temples, tombs and monuments.

From 361 till 375, Paganism received a relative tolerance, until when three Emperors, Gratian, Valentinian II and Theodosius I, under bishop of Milan Saint Ambrose's major influence, reprized and escalated the persecution. Under Ambrose's zealous pressure, Theodosius issued the infamous 391 "Theodosian decrees," a declaration of war on paganism, the Altar of Victory was removed again by Gratian, Vestal Virgins disbanded, access to Pagan temples prohibited.

The Crusades were a series of religiously sanctioned military campaigns, waged by much of Roman Catholic Europe, particularly the Franks of France and the Holy Roman Empire. The specific crusades to restore Christian control of the Holy Land were fought over a period of nearly 200 years, between 1095 and 1291. Other campaigns in Spain and Eastern Europe continued into the 15th century. The Crusades were fought mainly by Roman Catholic forces (taking place after the East–West Schism and mostly before the Protestant Reformation) against Muslims who had occupied the near east since the time of the Rashidun Caliphate, although campaigns were also waged against pagan Slavs, pagan Balts, Jews, Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians, Mongols, Cathars, Hussites, Waldensians, Old Prussians, and political enemies of the various popes. Orthodox Christians also took part in fighting against Islamic forces in some Crusades. Crusaders took vows and were granted a plenary indulgence.

The Inquisition was the "fight on heretics," with the use of torture, by several institutions within the justice-system of the Roman Catholic Church. It started in the 12th century, with the introduction of torture in the persecution of heresy. Inquisition practices were used also on offenses against canon law other than heresy.

Luther argued that the Jews were no longer the chosen people but "the devil's people": he referred to them with violent, vile language. Luther advocated setting synagogues on fire, destroying Jewish prayer books, forbidding rabbis from preaching, seizing Jews' property and money, and smashing up their homes, so that these "poisonous envenomed worms" would be forced into labour or expelled "for all time". In Robert Michael's view, Luther's words "We are at fault in not slaying them" amounted to a sanction for murder. Luther's "recommendations" for how to treat the Jews was a clear reference to the "sharp mercy" of Deuteronomy 13, the punishments prescribed by Moses for those who led others to "false gods".

If Satan was behind Nero's persecution of the Church, then who was behind the church's persecution of others? Did it suddenly become holy and righteous to kill and destroy even if others were of another persuasion? Where did this culture of conquering and killing come from? Whose pattern was it to kill those who opposed you - yes, the pattern of the Roman Emperor. Not the pattern of the Church of Christ.

Whilst Christ gave Christians an instruction to bring the Gospel to all the world, make disciples of people and "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit", while "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:18-20), He never sanctioned 'holy wars' or the killing of people based on their refusal to submit to Him.

In fact, the Bible says quite the contrary: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).

“a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

Does any of the above fruit which the ‘Church’ has delivered remind us of Paul’s instruction from the Bible? Clearly not. What is called ‘the Church’, whilst drunk in its zeal for self, has become the height of hypocrisy. Preaching the sanctity of life whilst taking it does not represent that which is the Kingdom of God. Preaching humility and servanthood whilst pursuing power and position does not represent the Kingdom of God. Preaching heavenly riches (refer Luke 12:32-34) and pursuing early wealth does not represent the Kingdom of God. Top

The fruit of Constantine’s vision and the co-opting of the Church:

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Conclusion

Is this what the Church of Christ does: Persecute people, strive for greater political power, affect change through writing new laws and implementing new regulations? Is this the Kingdom of God?

Is this how the Bible talks about conquering - a conquering of people and positions for power and prosperity? Or, does "conquering Christian" really mean a conquering of our dependency on the world and a conquering of the iniquity of our hearts? Is that not the primary thing we should be pursuing? Did Jesus not say that the Kingdom of God is within us (John 3:3-7)? And did Paul not say that the Kingdom of God is about "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:14-18)?

Is that which is organized according to an Emperor's ways and which commonly calls itself "the Kingdom of God" really the Kingdom of God? And is that which commonly calls itself the Church of Christ really the Church of Christ? I think not. Certainly not on the basis of the fruit it bears.

Jesus calls those who think of themselves as holy but who are displaying the opposite fruit a "brood of vipers" who will not "escape the condemnation of hell" (Matthew 23:33).

The Bride of Christ is that which is becoming more and more like Him, not less and less like Him: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:25-27). The Bride of Christ - the church - is where the conquering happens on the inside not on the outside.

The church is that which has less desire for worldly goods. Less passion for personal power. Spends less time in philosophy and foolishness. More time being tested in faith and more in doing the works of Christ among people.

Yet, how many people today spend more time in commentary about the Word or books reflecting on the Word than actually spending time in the Word? Many. And these men and women - are they those who are being washed "through the Word"? From Scripture the answer seems clear - no. Yet, these are the people who write about 'the principles of godly living' or 'the 10 steps to following Jesus' or 'the 5 truths to the Truth' or 'the message of the Messiah' (no reference to actual titles). This is because Christianity, since Constantine, has measured success like the rest of the world does - the bigger the better. The more popular the more people the more pious. The more prosperous! The church has prized achievement - be it achievement in size or achievement in nothingness ("humility", as some would call it).

Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it”
(Matthew 11:11-12). John the Baptist - a man who lived in the wilderness eating locusts and wild honey and wearing clothes made from camel's hair (Mark 1:6).

John was not so lowly that he never offended in the interest of Truth. Neither was he so conquering of the world around him that he could show anything he had 'achieved'. On the contrary, if there is anything John the Baptist achieved it was to show people to the Way - Jesus (Luke 3:16).

John the Baptist - not a man who would have fitted in nicely into the church of today, nor would he have fitted into Constantine's church either. There is something to learn from John: "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier" (2 Timothy 2:3-5).

The affairs of Christ do not concern power, position and influence - that which is of this life. And so, it is for that reason that I believe that Constantine's church with its hierarchies and ways of power, position and influence is not the Church of Christ. And, Christendom - that physical sphere of influence in the world that is modeled on the Kingdom of Constantine is not the Kingdom of God either.

Indeed, I have no choice but to conclude that Constantine’s coup co-opted Christianity into a contest for pagan personal power and profit. Constantine's church is not Christ's Church! And Christ's Church is not co-opted into any political paradigm either.

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Short version of this article

It cannot be said conclusively that Emperor Constantine I, became a reborn Christian when he adopted Christianity into the Roman Empire (refer to what Jesus said about the need to be born again John 3:3-7). Nevertheless, Emperor Constantine's intervention into the way Christians gathered and to some extent what they believed, over time, have had a significant bearing on 1) how the church sees itself, 2) how Christians define the Kingdom of God, and 3) what many Christians perceive to be their mission on earth, which, of course, determines the way they conduct themselves in everyday life.

The principles, and to some degree the set of processes according to which the church defined itself following his assimilation thereof into the Roman Empire permanently left its mark on the goals many Christians pursue for what they believe to be the Kingdom of God. This gave rise to what is known as "Christendom", a concept which is loosely defined as the presence of Christian principles, laws and practices over a geographic area or political domain - typically within a sovereign state - so as to preserve and promote the Christian faith, the Christian culture and/or the Christian way. Hence the idea of "building a Christian nation".

Whilst a Christendom may or may not be beneficial to Christians, it constitutes, as Scripture will argue, no resemblance whatsoever to what really is the Kingdom of God.

Like no other, Constantine introduced the notion of a Christian conqueror in the physical sense - something that appears in direct violation of the Kingdom of God, being "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). The question then being, was Constantine's intervention, and the vision that brought it about, that which was from God or that which came from the one who transforms himself into an "angel of light" - Satan?

Whilst I make no judgment of Constantine as a person it is incumbent upon us all to judge his vision in the light of the fruit that it has born through what we call "the church". In many places, on the basis of its internal and external practices, it is a place of corruption where a desire for power, a desire for money, a desire for political position reigns, where half-truths rule and cover-ups dominate personal agendas and power play.

Is this the Bride of Christ? I think not.

John the Baptist was a man of whom Jesus said, "among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater". He was not a man who would have fitted in nicely into the church of today, nor would he have fitted in nicely into Constantine's church either. There is something to be learnt from him: "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier" (2 Timothy 2:3-5). To John the Baptist, "church" meant something else altogether.

The affairs of Christ do not concern power, position and influence - that which is of this life (refer John 18:36). And so, it is for that reason that I believe that Constantine's church with its hierarchies and ways of power, position and influence is not the Church of Christ. And, Christendom - that physical sphere of influence in the world that is modeled on the Kingdom of Constantine is not the Kingdom of God either.

Indeed, I have no choice but to conclude that Constantine’s coup co-opted Christianity into a contest for pagan personal power and profit. Constantine's church is not Christ's Church! And Christ's Church is not co-opted into any political paradigm either.

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Remember: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (Jesus)

Please consult the Bible and test what is written here. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in this area. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not Scriptural. Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

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