The Challenge of the Christian Theology and more …
/ Ewald Frank
32. The course of church history
- Does all happen by chance?
- The time is near
- The only valid measuring rod
- The old dispute
- The testimony of historians
- History confirms it
- God’s confession
- God manifests Himself
- In heaven and on earth
- The Lord visits His prophet
- The »I am«
- Was the Son born in heaven?
- Spirit and Truth
- Very peculiar
- Respect for the Great Mystery
- Everyone defends his or her own doctrine
- The rock
- The Great Commission
- Thou shalt have no other gods …
- Believe as the Scripture says
- An unbelievable tragedy
- The end-time
- A challenge to all
- No one can bypass Jesus Christ
- New creation
- The Son and the sons and daughters of God
- The two beginnings
- The course of church history
- No man’s influence
At the very beginning of the New Testament Church every doctrine and practice was God-ordained. But soon deviations and changes came. The developments over the centuries were tragic and reached such a dimension that original Christianity was no longer found to resemble its former self. We must find the original path which the Bible calls »the narrow way« and follow the same. If we remain on this broad way, we certainly will not reach our God-ordained destination.
Both, the right and wrong, run parallel through the church ages. Already in apostolic days men who had no divine call have introduced their personal opinions from which the strange doctrines originate. We now have to compare every teaching, testimony and practice with the original at the beginning to verify whether they agree. A true prophet, a real apostle, a teacher sent by God into the Church of Christ (1 Cor. 12: 28; Eph. 4: 11) must and will proclaim today exactly the same as the prophets, apostles and teachers who were sent by God previous to us in the Holy Scriptures. Revelation and inspiration always comes from the only true divine source.
Men of God have never presented their own knowledge, but were led and inspired by the Holy Spirit, speaking the words of God. This must be the criterion set forth in the Bible, and whoever preaches or teaches must be tried accordingly, regardless of faith or denomination. Many try to do God a service without knowing the will of God and not being found therein themselves. Honesty can be attributed to all those in the various religions. They sacrifice their time and themselves, living for their conviction with all sincerity. But there is apparently the possibility to be sincerely wrong. The so-called »church fathers« certainly meant well when they presented their own opinions which then became doctrines. The thoughts from heathenism were brought into Christianity. Their aim was to serve humanity as a whole, and therefore they did not wish to exclude the heathen worshippers. But as one looks upon the matter, they brought about a mixture of heathenism/christianity. Admittedly they had good intentions which already testify of the ecumenical spirit. But it was not in the will of God. They themselves departed from God’s way, as they tried to bring others into this way. Inasmuch as they compromised with the heathen traditions, they distanced themselves more and more from God and His Word.
With God all things remain the same way from the beginning to the end. He Himself and His Word will never submit to the changes of time, but remain unchanged for all eternity. God is bound to His Word and all that do believe Him have also the duty to be obedient to it. It is divine substance by which those who receive it have obtained the divine nature and are one with Him (2 Pt. 1: 3-4).
With the post-apostolic times and the dark ages, the original Bible teachings were almost drowned completely; we shall not deal with this at length. We need to jump from the very beginning to the Reformation and show the course of the New Testament Church from then right up to our time. After the one thousand years of rule by the Roman State church from the 6th to the 16th century, the breakthrough to the free proclamation of the Gospel was achieved. Many names from the Reformation time could be mentioned. Martin Luther is well known and esteemed Jan Hus was encouraged by John Wyclif and prepared the breakthrough of the Reformation by sacrificing his own life. He died on a stake in Konstanz where the Church Council at that time took place. Also Zwingli, Calvin, Schwenkfeld and others had their part in the Reformation.
People again experienced what grace really means. It was the first step out of total darkness into the direction towards a new beginning: the justification by faith. Everyone who does have this experience is led by the Holy Spirit to repent about all things, which were not right before God in his life and calls upon the Name of the Lord. In the Holy Scriptures the term for it is »repentance« and »conversion«. Thus one receives the assurance of salvation of the soul: through belief in the finished redemption work. Forgiveness and justification are experienced by faith (Rom. 1: 16-17; Rom. 5 a. o.). Everyone who truly believes receives peace with God (Rom. 5: 1).
Those who are converted also have further experiences. As known, after the breakthrough of the Reformation other spiritual revivals followed and those who believed were led deeper into the Word of God. Under John Wesley and many others who lived at the same time a new revival broke forth, wherein emphasis was placed upon sanctification, which means that the believers live according to the Word of God. In the same way as people got the assurance that their sins were forgiven, having received justification, so now they prayed to be sanctified and experienced it. Faith always came by the preaching of the Gospel. This second movement is known in church history as the »Methodist revival«, wherein the believers were led another step forward.
Those who began to baptise by immersion also date back to the reformation period. The various denominations came from it: the Mennonites, Baptists, Pentecostals and others who practise baptism of the believers by immersion. The ones who believed during that period did not stop with the experience of justification but also moved on with sanctification and now were obedient to the commission of the Lord, being baptised by immersion. In all these spiritual awakenings since the Reformation, the Spirit of God obviously brought back one Bible truth after the other. The final goal is that the New Testament Church at the end of the time of grace, when Jesus Christ will return is found in the same shape as at the very beginning in apostolic days. The Lord has promised in His Word times of refreshing to come from His presence, that He would restore and give unto us the latter rain before the Return of Christ (Acts 3: 19-21 a. o.).
Soon after the beginning of the New Testament Church in the centuries that followed the church in general distanced itself more and more from the Word, winding up in traditions. Again since the Reformation exactly the opposite takes place: in each of the revivals Bible believing Christians have come out of inherited traditions and are returning step by step back to the very beginning.
Around the turn of our century a mighty move of God began, world over. Every country in this revival of course has its own history. The Spirit of God was at work worldwide, but the event which occurred in Los Angeles at Azusa Street in 1906 is commonly called »the birth of the Pentecostal revival«. Trinitarian Pentecostals do not mention that this certain meeting at Azusa Street was a oneness fellowship, a group who believed in one God. In October 1900 a preacher, Charles F. Parham, started his Bethel College in Topeka, Kansas. In 1905 he began with a seminar in Houston, Texas, in which William J. Seymour also participated who later became renowned as the church leader in Azusa Street where this mighty move of the Spirit began which actually spread over the whole earth. Later this movement chose the designation »United Pentecostal Church International«.
It’s sad to say, but in Germany — as in no other country on earth — the majority of the spiritual leaders have condemned the Pentecostal movement. They did so because of some experiences ascribed to two »prophetesses« from Norway in the city of Kassel. They judged something they had not experienced themselves. On 15th September, 1908, these leaders signed a paper known as »The Berlin Declaration«. The names of those who signed are listed therein. On this declaration the Pentecostal movement along with their leaders were accused of being possessed and it was actually stated, that a demon spirit was at work. Did these men not know that the Spirit of God moves where He is pleased? With those who pronounced such a judgement, we can definitely say God’s Spirit was not at work in them. Without being aware of it, they became the prey of there own arguments and are guilty of the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost (Lk. 12: 10).
Some even believe that because of it the blessings of God were turned away from Germany and the curse of World War I and II has come upon our nation. Berlin was the headquarters of the destroyer, from where the most horrible holocaust of all times was initiated. In any case it remains true , »Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap« (Gal. 6: 7)! This also applies to spiritual leaders who do not recognise the merciful visitation of God. It is shameful when men who take the Bible into their hands and preach from it loose respect for those chapters, which deal with the working of the Spirit. They just do not want to receive it and thereby pronounce their own judgement.
In the early Church they searched in the Scriptures whether the things were so. Pious men stumble over their own piety. If they had compared their own ministries with the Scripture, they would have known that their preaching and practice did not agree with the apostles and that God had to give more than they had received. There are too many who got stuck in dead religious forms. God is not a God of the dead, but of the living. Wherever He is at work by His Spirit and Word, the spiritually dead experience revival and by faith in Jesus Christ are brought to life.
Right after World War II God made a new beginning. This time He used as a chosen vessel William M. Branham (1909-1965) who was ordained by Dr. Roy Davis in the »Southern Baptist Convention« in 1933. As Paul he could testify about a heavenly calling and say, »… and it came to pass!« (Acts 22: 6). It happened on May 7th, 1946, when the supernatural light like a very big spotlight shone into his room in which suddenly a heavenly visitor walked towards him. He could give the precise description of the one who stood before him saying, »Fear not! For I am sent from the presence of Almighty God to commission you …« As Paul testified so did William Branham about that extraordinary experience. It truly happened, and his commission is justified through the confirmed ministry itself. Millions have witnessed to this. As far as is known, he was the only one in our generation who could testify of such a direct heavenly call and commission.
The New Testament did indeed begin with supernatural events: an angel came to Zacharias to announce the birth of John the Baptist. The angel came to Mary to tell her about the birth of Jesus Christ. All the heavenly hosts — the angels came down over Bethlehem at the birth of Christ. One angel gave the announcement, »For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.« (Lk. 2: 11). Like a red thread it is seen throughout the New Testament that angels gave advice right to the last book of the Bible, when the angel appeared to John on the isle of Patmos. Wherever God truly is at work, even today the supernatural occurs.
It pleased God to start this salvation and healing revival in our time through His humble servant. All other evangelists — Oral Roberts, T. L. Osborn, Tommy Hicks and many others — who later became renowned in the healing revival, started years later. If they are honest, they will confirm that it was in a Branham meeting, where they received their inspiration and faith and then started their ministry. The only exception is Billy Graham, who was chosen to be »an evangelist« by the »Southern Baptist Convention« in 1950, but has no healing ministry. The spiritual movements existing today, as well as the healing ministries in the various revivals go back to the ministry of William Branham, who started in 1946 and actually spearheaded this revival. Even the Full Gospel Businessmen and also the various charismatic movements, how ever they may be formed, actually result from that ministry.
Since the days of our Lord and the apostles there was not given such a direct commission which could be compared with his. After the preaching the call to repent was given and people surrendered their life to Christ as they were prayed for. After this he started praying for the sick. No one was turned away, he prayed for each one, regardless of what type of illness they had. He took God at His Word, emphasising Heb. 13: 8 , »Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.« and also Jn. 14: 12, »Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do …« He believed what the Lord said. Great healing miracles, true signs and wonders took place, which millions can testify of.
The meetings quickly gathered attention, for the blind were made to see, deaf could hear, the dumb could speak and cripples were healed on the spot while being prayed for on the platform before the whole congregation. All illnesses were healed, especially cancer cases, for when W. Branham was given the commission he was told that a gift of divine healing is given to him and that nothing would withstand his prayer, not even cancer, if he only remained sincere and the people would believe him. As in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, the same signs and wonders have happened in this generation. Over and over again from the congregation the statement was heard, »No man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.« (Jn. 3: 2).
The man sent from God did not belong to any of the Trinity or Oneness denominations. His special ministry, sad to say, was misunderstood and internationally defamed by religious leaders, as was the case with Jesus Christ Himself. And again it was a German, Dr. So-and-so, who in his book was criticising especially William Branham, but also other healing evangelists, which he put under the category of the evil one. It is peculiar that such critics have no proof and confirmation of their own ministry, all they have is a theoretical pile of words. They can not testify of a divine calling. As the scribes were convinced of themselves and called the Lord Jesus »Beelzebub«, because of His extraordinary ministry, so there colleagues have done in our time.
All the evangelists who had their healing ministries since the late forties up to the middle of the sixties have first-hand knowledge of what God has done. Because William Branham was preaching the Full Gospel, the two main Pentecostal denominations, the Assemblies of God and the United Pentecostal Church, profited very much from it. When a day was set that he should speak with the representatives of these two fellowships and decide for one of them, because everyone wanted him to be only with them, God showed him a vision. He saw two trees full of ripe fruit. One had the label »Trinity« and the other »Oneness«. In this vision he saw himself standing between the two trees, one on his left hand, the other on his right. As he was shaking these two trees mightily, behold, all the fruit from these trees fell upon him. This experience he related to the brethren who would not even speak to one another before. He said, »Brethren, you see, God does not permit me to take sides with one of you. He is sending me to His people who are scattered in the two Pentecostal camps and in all the others, everywhere.« Then the two shook hands and Brother Branham prayed for them. The result was a co-operation throughout years wherein a rich harvest of souls through the proclamation of the Gospel was brought into the Kingdom of God.
The Pentecostal churches gladly received the multitudes, which came to them through that ministry. Later they started to reject him, because he had taken his stand firmly on God’s Word and taught Bible doctrine. David DuPlessis was mainly responsible to discredit W. Branham, whom he had met in the historic meetings in South Africa in 1951. Later he followed him into the USA and became known worldwide as »Mr. Pentecost«, but apparently had more of the ecumenical spirit than the Holy Spirit. He propagated the paradox statement, »Branham is a great and true prophet of God whom the Lord reveals everything; but do not listen to his teachings!« How does that fit together? Can one source give sweet and bitter? Gordon Lindsay, Kenneth Hagin and others made similar statements. Should it not have been the duty of these men to search God’s Word and acknowledge what the Scripture said about the doctrines in question? But instead they have judged from their own point of view. This is going on up till now, as ridiculous statements are still being published.