The study of Christian History is one of the most satisfying and profitable studies that any Christian can undertake. And yet comparatively few of the Lord’s people really study the history of Christianity. There are probably two main reasons for this. Firstly, it is not generally considered to be a subject of any great value; and secondly, for many, the study of history – any history – is considered ‘dry’ and ‘boring’.
In answer to the first widely-held notion, it must be stated categorically that the study of Christian History, and such secular history as is intertwined with it, is of immense profit to Christians. And the believer who neglects it, if it is within his power to study it, is depriving himself of a source of great blessing.
“We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old” (Psalm 44:1).
Much of the Bible is history: the record of God’s dealings with men in past ages. What a large portion of the Bible would be missing if the historical sections were removed! In the pages of the divinely-inspired Word, we have the history, in the Old Testament, of the first man and first woman; of Noah, and the destruction of the earth by a flood; of Abraham, “the Friend of God”; of Moses, and how he was God’s instrument in leading the nation of Israel out of Egypt; of Joshua, and the coming of Israel into the promised land; of David the king, “a man after God’s own heart”; and of so many other men, and so many other wonderful events. And in the New Testament, we have the history of the Lord Jesus Christ, during the days he walked on earth; and the history of his first disciples, known as “the Acts of the Apostles”. Oh, what history this is!
In the passage from Psalm 44, quoted above, we see that the mighty works of the Lord “in the times of old” were passed on to later generations. And in the pages of the holy Scriptures, how often do we come across that word, “remember”! “Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place” (Exod. 13:3); “Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the LORD thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt” (Deut. 7:18); “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee” (Deut. 32:7); “Remember his [the Lord’s] marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgements of his mouth; O ye seed of Israel his servant, ye children of Jacob, his chosen ones” (1 Chron. 16:12); and even those words of the Lord Jesus, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Lk. 17:32). The Word of God exhorts us to keep in remembrance the history of God’s people, and his dealings with them: “that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).
But it may be objected that this is the history recorded in the inspired Word, and that the history of the Christian Church after the passing of the apostles is not part of the inspired Word.