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Within its first four centuries Christianity became the official religion of the entire Mediterranean community. Describe the factors that enabled the church to grow so quickly, both in numbers and in geographical extent. Describe particularly the influences from Judaism, Greek culture, and the Roman empire.

Nick Lica

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From the first Christianity aimed at being a world-conquering principle. The task it set before itself was stupendous. Jesus himself set the boundaires of preaching the gospel “to the end of the world (Mat 28:18-20, Acts 1:8). Its message was not one likely to commend it to either Jew or Greek (1 Cor 1:23). It renounced temporal weapons (in this a contrast with Mohammedanism); had nothing to rely on but the naked truth. Yet from the beginning (Acts 2) it had a remarkable reception. Its universal principle was still partially veiled in the Jewish-Christian communities, but with Paul it freed itself from all limitations, and entered on a period of rapid and wide diffusion.

The Book of Acts and the Epistles show how striking were the results. Churches were planted in all the great cities of Asia Minor and Macedonia. The spiritual factos of the rapid growth od the church in the book of Acts were the five pusposes of the church from Acts 2: worship, teaching, discipleship, ministry, evangelism and mission. On the top of these was the Holy spirti who helped the church to grow in spite of presecution and hard times. Beside of these spiritual factors, there was other factors like:

I. Influence of Judaism

As the professor M. C. Tenney says “Christianity is the child of Judasim. The Christians we first known as “ The sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5,14), which was regarded as a rivulet from the mainstream of Judasim.”1

Christianity spread among the Jews because they were the first target in Jerusalem, Judea and diaspora. Synagogue was often the place were Paul and others started preching the good news. M y opinion from reading the Tenney’s book and Justo L. Gonzales book: “A Hisktory of Christian thought” is that Judaism had not a big influence on church growth in itself. Judaism made a social clima for the church to grow from the Jews in diaspora. Because of their religion, they were the first to be challenge with the gospelby the apostle Paul and others who then belived and spread the Gospel, like for example the church from Rome was formed by Jews and gentiles who who believed. The first doctrinal problem that confronted the primitive church was that of its relationship with Judasim. This problem is known as “Judaizing Christianity”. Judaism had a big impact on theology, Christain thought and doctrinal issues of Christianity like one who is the most discussed in the Romans, Galatians nad Acts –Christian and the Law. The big issue of the new born church was: shloud a Christian follow the Law of the Old Testament or not? The progressive solution of this problem may be seen in Acts as well as in the Epistles of Paul. Judaism

II. Greek culture

Greek culture had influenced the church growth a lot. Even if is not a spiritual factor, greek culture contributed a lot on spreading the gospel. The gospel in order to become a world-evangel was translated into Greek. The early Christian missionaries did not learn the languages or patois of the Roman empire, but confined themselves to centers of Greek culture. Paul wrote in Greek to the church in Rome itself, of which Greek was the language.

III. The Roman empire

The founding of the Roman empire was the grandest political achievement ever accomplished. The conquests of Alexander the Great, Charlemagne and Napoleon seem small compared with the durable structure reared by Julius and his successor, Augustus. About the middle of the reign of Augustus a Jewish child was born who was destined to rule an empire more extensive and lasting than that of the Caesars. It is a striking fact that almost synchronous with the planting of the Roman empire Christianity appeared in the world. Although on a superficial glance the Roman empire may seem the greatest enemy of early Christianity, and at times a bitter persecutor, yet it was in many ways the grandest preparation and in some ways the best ally of Christianity. The Caesars--whatever they may have been or done--prepared the way of the Lord. Here is a brief account of some of the services which the Roman empire rendered to humanity and especially to the kingdom of God.

1. Pax Romana and the Unification of the World:

The first universal blessing conferred by the empire was the famous pax Romana ("Roman peace"). The world had not been at peace since the days of Alexander the Great. The empire united Greeks, Romans and Jews all under one government. Rome thus blended the nations and prepared them for Christianity. Now for the first time we may speak of the world as universal humanity. These terms represented humanity as living under a uniform system of government. All were members of one earthly state; the Roman empire was their communis omnium patria.

2. The mixt of nations, roads and universal language

Nothing could have been more favorable to Christianity than this intermixture of all races and mutual exchange of thought. Each people discovered how much it had in common with its neighbors. Men exchanged not only material things, but also spiritual things. Many of these early traders and artisans were Christians, and while they bought and sold the things that perish, they did not lose an opportunity of spreading the gospel. The state of the Roman empire linguistically was in the highest degree favorable to the spread of Christianity.

In material ways too Rome opened the way for Christianity by building the great highways for the gospel. The great system of roads that knit then civilized world together served not only the legions and the imperial escorts, but were of equal service to the early missionaries, and when churches began to spring up over the empire, these roads greatly facilitated that church organization and brotherhood which strengthened the church to overcome the empire.

3. Tolerance

The large measure of freedom permitted by Roman authorities to the religions of all nations greatly favored the growth of infant Christianity. The Roman empire was never in principle a persecutor with a permanent court of inquisition. Strange cults from the East and Egypt flourished in the capital, and except when they became a danger to public morality or to the peace of society they were allowed to spread unchecked under the eyes of the police.

So long as Christianity was regarded by the Romans as a mere sect of Judaism, it shared the legal protection bestowed on that ancient national religion. Paul used his rights of being under the protection of his Roman citizenship. This tolerance of the Jewish religion was of incalculable importance to infant Christianity which at first professed to be no more than a reformed and expanded Judaism.

4. Persecution

The philosophy of persecution is best expressed by the terse word of Tertullian, who lived in the midst of them, but did not see the end: "The blood of the Christians is the seed of the Church."

“So soon as Christianity it was understood as a new religion, and as, in fact, claiming universal validity and acceptance, it was set down as unlawful and treasonable, a religio illicita; and it was the constant reproach of the Christians: "You have no right to exist."2

When the apostolic period is left, persecution becomes almost the normal state in which the church is found. And persecution, instead of abolishing the name of Christ, as the persecutors vainly imagined they had succeeded in doing, became the means of the growth of the Christian church and of its purity. Both of these important ends, were secured by the severity of the means employed by the persecuting power of the Roman empire.

1 New Testament Survey, M.C. Tenney, page 80