November 16, 2012
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Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Constantine entered into the annals of Church History at a time when Christianity seemed to have undergone a bit of persecution. Well “a bit” may just be the understatement of the millennium. It has been calculated that between the first persecution under Nero in 64 to the Edict of Milan in 313, Christians experienced 129 years of persecution and 120 years of toleration and peace. The total number of Christians martyred in the early church is actually still unknown.
During the rule of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (reigned 306–337), Christianity became a dominant religion of the Roman Empire.So what do we learn from the triumphs and errors of this eccentric Emperor? This is an excerpt from a Church History lecture (transcript here) by Pastor Michael Phillips…
Having consolidated his civil power, Constantine was quick to legalize Christianity and began endowing the church with many royal favors, only a few of which I can presently mention:
1.Sunday was declared the “Christian Sabbath”, as a result of which work was forbidden and church attendance encouraged.
2.Pagans were generally removed from their government posts and replaced with Christians.
3.Pastors were relieved of military obligation and given a tax-exempt status.
4.Pastors became the salaried employees of the state, paid by the taxes levied on Christian and Pagan alike.
5.Church buildings were erected, enlarged, and richly furnished throughout the Empire.
As might be expected, the Church was deeply grateful to the Emperor. Indeed, too grateful. For in accepting his favors, they were inadvertantly submitting to his sovereignty. After all, “whoever pays the piper calls the tune”. The evils produced by this illicit union cannot be exaggerrated, no matter how well-intentioned Constantine or the church leaders of the time may have been. The latter in particular acted with inexcusable stupidity and pride. The immediate effects were disastrous.
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