Jesus Christ and the Early Church

I AM THE DOOR,” said Christ. “By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” Christ is the Door to the Kingdom of Heaven, which we can find within us even during this life and which continues for eternity. But how do we find that Door amidst thousands of different sects and philosophies, all of which present a different image of Christ? If we look into the history of the Church He founded, we find one unbroken line in which His image has been kept pure and undistorted. That line is ancient Orthodoxy, the measuring-stick of true Christianity.

Come to the Door! Find it through the ancient, historic path….

AT A TIME IN HISTORY when mankind had fallen far away from Paradise and was in desperate need of God, the very God Who created man took flesh and became man. This was Jesus Christ, the One Whom the prophets had foretold and the One Whom the whole world was anticipating. Until then all religions were only man’s fragmented attempts to understand God. In Christ, for the first time in history, God Himself became man. To those who believed in Him, took up their crosses and followed Him, He opened the possibility of a personal relationship with God, spiritual transformation through the power of His grace, salvation from the consequences of sin, and eternal life in His Heavenly Kingdom. He brought those believers together in love for God and neighbor, against His Church (Matthew 16:18). This Church was founded first upon the sufferings of Christ, then upon the sufferings of His Apostles, and finally upon the sufferings of the martyrs throughout the ages. Thus began Christianity.

After Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven, His disciples were gathered together with thousands of people from all over the known world for the feast of Pentecost. Then, just as the Holy Scriptures had prophesied and just as Christ had promised, suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2-4). They began to preach the Way, the Truth and the Life to all those present at the feast in their native languages. Those who received this revelation and followed Jesus Christ began to be known as Christians.

From that day forward the Apostles were endowed with power and the Christian Faith began to spread to the ends of the earth. From Jerusalem the disciples of Christ traveled all over the known world: the Apostles Peter and Paul went to Greece and Rome, Andrew went to Russia, Mark went to Egypt, Simon went to England and Africa, Thomas went as far as India, and Matthew went to Ethiopia. Although they were in different parts of the world they were of one heart and one soul (Acts 4:32) and taught one Lord, one Faith, and one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). Everywhere they went they appointed bishops, priests and deacons and ordained them, by the laying on of hands, to be shepherds of Christ’s flock. In a short time the Apostles brought multitudes of pagans to Christ—simple people as well as philosophers, beggars as well as kings. Although the Apostles experienced persecution, torture and even death for their beliefs, nothing could stop the Faith from spreading like fire to the ends of the earth. Nearly every Apostle died a martyr s death, and many of their remains are preserved in Orthodox Churches to this day.

It was during these difficult martyric times that the early Church was formed and established, and where the worship, the arts, and the music of the Church found their beginning. These naturally sprang out of the Old Testament and flowed into the New. The form of worship began in the time of Moses, as it was revealed to him by God. The arts originated in the depictions of the cherubim which God appointed Moses to make for the Hebrew sanctuary (Exodus 25:18). This tradition of sacred art was continued by the Apostle Luke, who painted the first iconographic depictions of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child. The music (chant) had its beginning in the Psalms of David. Even the Liturgy (communion service) finds its beginning in the Old Testament, Christ’s Body and Blood being the New Testament sacrifice (John 6:48-58). The first communion service composed by the Apostle James, the brother of the Lord, was based on the Apostles’ experience at the Last Supper, and is still used in the Orthodox Church today.