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EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 9)

Today’s theme is Christian Unity. For those of you who missed Lesson 8 posted Sunday morning, it contains an excellent typology and is a prerequisite for Lesson 9. I am using Acts 2:1 for both. 

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8

LESSON 9

Acts 2:1

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

A few years ago I made a comment to a friend of mine, a Christian book author, which he found quite amusing. He laughed out loud. We were discussing the Day of Pentecost and the Upper Room, as well as the apparent oxymoronic concept of Christian unity. I said the reason there were only 120 in the Upper Room was because it was the maximum amount of Christians the Lord Jesus could possibly gather together in one place that would remain in spiritual unity.

Since that time, of course, Christianity in general has split into roughly a million pieces with segments fighting segments. It long ago became an idiotic display of morons insisting they must adhere to their simplistic revelations of the moment and immediately build fortresses on the spot willing to defend them to the death against all comers.

The worst thing that ever happened in this regard was what the spiritual fruitcake Constantine did early in the fourth century. Some think he legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire. He actually did nothing of the sort. What he did was create a new syncretic form of Christianity based extremely loosely on Scripture that gave major precedent to human control which bypassed completely the sole authority of the Lord Jesus. This is the religion he legalized. It was the one he fully controlled. All other forms of Christianity were declared illegal, including real Christianity! Constantine and his minions certainly achieved unity in his new enterprise, of course, but it was based strictly on forced submission and authoritarian religious control. All Christian denominations and many churches have adopted the exact format ever since.

It was the very opposite in the beginning. The only central authority was the Lord Jesus and no other. He ruled from on high. He was the only King of real Christianity and remains that way. Below Him every real member in His Community is exactly equal. There is no clergy class. There is no laity. There are none who wrest control over others and set up their own fiefdoms. Whoever the Lord places in the forefront must be the greatest servant of the group. Such servant leaders, as the apostle Peter, must be extremely humble and very careful not to take the spotlight from the Lord. This is why the vast majority of those we refer to as “Christian leaders” are mere pretenders. Some are much worse than others.

The only way to gain actual Christian unity is for each individual believer to first gain 100% unity with the Lord. This demands total repentance and total surrender. When two or three who have done this decide to be in unity with each other, the Lord is there and confirms the spiritual union. From this point on, the individual members of the group increase. It is exactly the same as cell division. It starts with one, one becomes two, two become four, etc. Thus, there are only two necessary components:

1. Initial spiritual union with the Lord

2. Lateral spiritual union with each other

Both are based on serving. This is exactly as the Lord taught. But the big boys hate the very idea. How can they rule over others under such a scenario? How can they transform Christianity into a method to gain riches and a good living doing such serving? How can they create their own little domains or immense worldwide religious kingdoms without a ruling hierarchy and top of the pyramid figurehead? Such commandments of the Lord are utter nonsense to them. They don’t serve the Lord and never have. These are the destroyers of Christian unity. They even destroy the possibility.

The Lord Jesus, however, remains the King of His one and only kingdom. It consists only of those who honor Him only, bow the knee to Him only, and invoke only His holy Name above every name and no other. This is exactly what the 120 did on the Day of Pentecost. They set the example for what all Christian meetings should be.

May we all submit to the King.

“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” [John 17:22-23]   

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! [Psalm 133:1]

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. [Ephesians 4:1-6]  

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. [Colossians 3:12-17] [1]

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

You Will Know Them By Their Fruits: WOLVES IN WOOL (2)

        Real Christianity was originally written twenty years ago. Everything I said then has come true or is in the process of coming true. However, the book remains as fresh as if it was published yesterday.

         The reason real Christians still continue to struggle two decades later is not because the enemy has not been identified. It has been. I revealed in the book exactly who the enemy is and who continues to powerfully resist the truth and the consequent spiritual freedom and power the Lord Jesus is bringing forth.

         The enemy is not far. In fact, exactly as the Lord Jesus taught, the bad guys are right next to the good guys. The enemy is intermingled among us exactly as all those invisible fallen angels the Lord Jesus saw and outed. He revealed them. They could not hide from Him as they did from everyone else. And as we continue on toward the Great Awakening, both the invisible fallen angels of our time and their “invisible” human counterparts will be increasingly exposed.

         You will know them by their fruits.

         “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” [Matthew 7:15-20] [1]

         The following is an excerpt from Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church:

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         Jesus has always maintained a remnant of true believers within the earth. His Qahal has never ceased to exist.

         Though only a small minority compared to the vast collection of Christian adherents in the world, its members continue to honor their Messiah as did the upper-roomers. However, since the Lord’s community has never been concerned with geopolitics, the forced subjugation of people groups, or the writing of very subjective chronicles, it has faded from historical view. Even if this knowledge cannot be satisfactorily documented for the skeptics among us, the fact of the matter is that the characteristics of the first Christian community, the prototype, remain extremely different from most of the churches and church organizations throughout history and modern times, both in practice and doctrine. Christians continue to be tied to structures promoting dual class division and institutional formats which have little to do with real Christianity. Christians have largely rejected the work of their most distant ancestors, and have lost due respect for the truths they taught, and the One who taught them.

         Will we continue to be so blind and arrogant that we place the blame for this fact on them, rather than ourselves? They are the ones who built the foundation. They are the ones who paid in blood to set the example which all successive generations were to follow. If their very immature spiritual juniors of the present continue in this vein of quiet mockery and religious complacency, the Unreal Church of the Conformed will grow even larger with greater determination against truth. In fact, the bloody persecution of real Christians will expand from the present hell-holes of this world and will soon go international. Every nation will take part. The greatest enemies of the present day community of called-out ones, however, are not modern Herods and Neros, but modern religionists intent on protecting their turf. And who are these chief persecutors? Who are the new Christian Pharisees? In what form do they exist today? Who are the ones influenced by the same spirit that gave Saul of Tarsus his commission to fight the Church? Such deceived ones are much closer to all of us than we think. Through their resolute and unwavering stand for their chosen form of Christianity, they have allowed themselves to become the very image of the unreal.

         Our greatest enemy wears virgin wool. [2]

         © 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

[2] Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church © 2001 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

Divide and Conquer: THE CLERGY-LAITY SPLIT (1)

         I have written extensively on the subject of the Clergy-Laity Division. My book, Real Christianity, delves deeply into the issue. Though the following excerpt from the book is relatively brief, it presents the historical and Biblical essence of the Clergy-Laity Division in Christianity and helps every believer to discover how it negatively affects his or her Christian experience and discipleship.

         Speaking of which, I highly recommend buying the book. It has received excellent reviews. [Please see the above *AUTHOR / BOOK* tab for more information.] Its pages are loaded with truth that reveals this Divide and Conquer tactic and so many other methods of the enemy that strive to limit and even stop the progress of the Lord’s real community.

         Thank you and be blessed. From Real ChristianityThe Nature of the Church:

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         By the Middle Ages, the Christian upper class as a whole had grown much more stealthy and clandestine, gained access to greater monetary sources, and amassed more political power than it had probably ever imagined. Eventually, these classes developed titles. You know them today as the clergy and the laity.

            One must note that this split did not take place within the Lord’s Qahal. [1] Jesus never created rank among His children. Class division began in the unreal assembly, and we can trace its origin all the way back to the times of the apostles. As a matter of fact, Paul referred to its propagators as false apostles:

         “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.” [2 Corinthians 11:13-15]

         A few verses later, Paul wrote of their management practices, especially of the way they exalted themselves over their congregations:

         “For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face.” [2 Corinthians 11:20]

         Keeping in mind the fact that the real community of believers was woven together by love and that they comprised a body, those who submitted to the false apostles were obviously not loved by their leaders, nor were their congregations unified in the Spirit. The word “exalt” in the former verse is from the Greek word epairo (ep-ahee’-ro). It means “to lift up, raise up, or raise on high,” or in other words, to exalt oneself in pride. Jesus instructed His people that the greater leader must be the greater servant and must cloak himself in ever greater amounts of humility. These false apostles did just the opposite, being true to their actual nature.

         After many centuries, the clergy-laity division became standard practice even among those church bodies which gained greater access to truth. The division has remained in most churches to date due only to carried-over tradition and an apparent lack of knowledge regarding the Lord’s proper format. [2]

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         The Divide and Conquer tactic employed by Unreal Christianity was brilliant. As avowed enemies of the Lord Jesus, it put the Christian Pharisees in complete control and regulated 99% of the congregation to wasting away in the pews as ineffectual clergy supporters rather than real disciples of the Lord Jesus:

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         When the splitting of community became official, it easily did more to thwart God’s plan for evangelizing the world than anything else man has devised. The reason why is simple—ninety-something percent of the membership was removed from the process. The “laity” [3] was deemed unqualified for officially ordained Christian service and, consequently, unworthy of receiving God’s call. Yet, there was a time when all believers heard the call of God, and each person heard it from Jesus Himself.

         At the present, due to the entrenched tradition of the clergy-laity division, many Christians never consider the possibility of devoting their lives to God because they have been made to think that God only chooses certain rare holy ones for His work. If this is true, the Lord is breaking His own commandment by judging a good many people as unqualified before they ever get a chance to prove themselves. [See Matthew 7:1]

         The only thing which actually disqualifies a person from ministry is the same thing which disqualifies him from membership in the Church, and that is simply a lack of full commitment to the absolute Lordship of Jesus. There is nothing inherent within any sincere believer which disqualifies him or her from the Lord’s service—somebody else’s service yes, but not the Lord’s. Every Christian needs to know that all legitimate calls to ministry come only from the Lord, and each should be encouraged to find his or her place of service. There are abundant ministry needs to address, very few who feel worthy to address them, and many who were discouraged from entering the Lord’s service by inept ministers who were more than likely never called themselves, at least, not by God.

         Ironically, many headstrong individuals or those with improper motives feel all too worthy. Their self-willed attitude would suggest that they usually never hear God’s call at all, but one much more personal. Such high-minded ones see golden opportunities to use religious structures, systems, and especially people to pad their own nest or at least find a niche… [4]

         Sound familiar?

         © 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Qahal is the Hebrew equivalent for “Church,” and is the word most likely used by Jesus.

[2] Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church © 2001 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

[3] This word originates from the New Testament Greek word laos (lah-’os). It is defined as a people group, whether socio-political, socio-religious, or cultural-ethnic. It generally refers to the “common people,” as a crowd, a populace, or a nation. It is also used as the people of God. When used in the latter sense, it means all of the people collectively. It is easy to see how the meaning of this word was corrupted when class division entered Christianity.

[4] Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church © 2001 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

Acts of the Apostles [2:44-47]

         And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

         Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.

         And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. [1]

         [SEE COMMENTS]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Acts of the Apostles [2:40-43]

         And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”

         So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

         They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

         Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. [1]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

IRAN IN THE CROSSHAIRS! (Part 5)

         There are upwards of 100,000 Christian believers in the nation of Iran by conservative estimates. The number could be considerably higher. There is a solid Christian underground that meets primarily in private homes. Evangelistic activity is strong but very risky. Witnessing for Christ is illegal. 

         The state religion of Iran is Shia Islam. All other faiths are essentially against the law, though Christians are singled out for extreme prejudice and hostility. They  undergo discrimination in all areas, including housing, employment, and education.  The government engages in the arrest, imprisonment, and torture of Muslim converts to Christianity who sometimes pay the ultimate price for their faith and obedience to the Lord Jesus. Under the strict Islamist regime, forsaking Islam is a crime punishable by death. 

         As in many other hostile nations, Christians cannot meet openly and are forever subjected to suspicion and betrayal, even by family members. Since Iran is over 98% Muslim, almost all new Christian believers are former Muslims and are routinely hounded by those of their former religion. Secrecy is often a must for survival’s sake, yet house churches are often raided. Due to the strong faith of Iranian Christians in light of such strong persecution, the suffering and scattering of believers spreads the embers of Christian light to more Muslims hungry for truth. Iran is ripe for revival and there is in fact a strong awakening taking place in the country. Many of the people have access to Western media and it is only a matter of time until a strong Christian presence is established.

         This dynamic must be considered in light of the probable attack from Israel and Western forces that is currently in the making. Iran is a great restrictor of personal freedom, has a government-sponsored radical Muslim ideology, and makes no bones about its intentions. Iran is a powerful nation and has powerful allies who are pledged to varying degrees to supporting it against economic and military attack. These allies also share a general hatred of real Christianity though it be burgeoning in Communist China and India, as well as beginning to make an impact in other Muslim nations.

         Muslims are coming to Christ in very large numbers, though this fact is rarely revealed in the major media. It is an unprecedented movement throughout Islamic countries and among Muslim immigrant populations and the pioneers are paying the price. Yet the Lord teaches us to outlast the enemy through constant victorious faith regardless of harsh conditions, suffering, and an apparent lack of progress. We also know that persecution always results in greater numbers and deeper faith of believers. Islam is doing itself no favors by attempting to stomp out Christianity, as it is only making it grow.

         I remember being involved in the very early house church movement in America. I recall that the chief persecutors of the growing movement were not government authorities but established Christian churches, even those in the more “understanding” nondenominational sphere. Many churches co-opted the process by breaking their congregations down into home groups, but this is the opposite of true cell division. Some Christians went flat crazy against the movement much as radical Muslims do now. And it is for the same purpose maintaining strict religious control to protect the organization, even if the battle is against the Spirit of the Lord.

         Due to obvious circumstances in hostile environments, there is no other reasonable method for meeting to share the Gospel. The vastly expanding house church movement in America is indicative of God’s hand regarding our future. The community of the Lord was born in a house in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. The movement was illegal then also, both in Judea and throughout the Roman Empire. But the Gospel spread rapidly through small groups of dedicated believers and this very process is currently taking place in Iran.

         Christians should therefore be careful of getting sucked into anti-Iran and anti-Muslim war rhetoric and propaganda since Iranian Muslims are the seed bed of Christianity in that country.

         Though persecuted, our Iranian brothers and sisters are without doubt praying for their government leaders and those associated with fomenting the coming war, and are showing the love of God. They know war well in that the spiritual war has been raging in the region for decades. Iranian believers want to save fellow Iranians and their country for the Lord.

         Let us remember that “Iran in the Crosshairs” also means Iranian Christians in the crosshairs. Would God use His “chosen people” in Israel against His sons and daughters in Iran? Such things are always more complicated than they appear on the surface. The Word of God has the correct answer on how to approach the conflict and the various people groups involved. The Lord has Iran in His own crosshairs for His own purposes.

         Those who revoke and shoot down “Love Thy Neighbor” do so at their own expense.

         “All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” [Matthew 26:52][1]

         © 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [Part 5 of 5]        


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THANKS TO ALL FOR READING AND SPREADING THE WORD