The great Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, once lamented that history is ‘nothing other than a collection of fables and useless trifles messed up with a mass of unnecessary dates and proper names’. Henry Ford put it more bluntly: ‘History is bunk’. Unfortunately it seems that many today agree with these sentiments, and sociology has become a more serious study than history. The jokes in 1066 And All That are not understood in the times in which we live!
The Christian must not yield to these trends. In the first place, the Bible itself is a work of history. It records actual events — of the creation of the world, the fall into sin, the flood of Noah’s day, the call of Abraham, the Exodus, the giving of the law, the conquest of Canaan, the turbulence of the period of the judges, the foundation of the monarchy, the division of the kingdom, the destruction of the ten northern tribes by the Assyrians, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, the return from the exile, the birth of the Messiah, His life and death and His resurrection. In fact, the apostle Paul declares that if Christ is not risen, then Christians are the most sorry people on earth (1 Corinthians. 15:12-19). The Christian faith is not founded on myths; it is established first and foremost on the hard rock of real history.
Christians recognize that God, as the Lord of history, continues to work through history. This brings the Christian great comfort. We knows that God works all things together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Even apparently insignificant events – like a sparrow falling to the ground – are the result of the Father’s will (Matthew 10:29). Such is God’s control of history that those who put His Son to death were unknowingly carrying out his will (Acts 2:23; 4:28). In fact, the Apostle Paul admonishes us when we do not learn from ancient Israel’s mistakes (1 Corinthians 10).
He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. – Ephesians 1:4
In the days when the Assyrian Empire ravaged the Middle East, God described that brutal kingdom as ‘the rod of my anger’ (Isaiah 10:5). By this, he meant that he was using ungodly Assyria to chasten Israel for her sins. Assyria was bent on plunder and pillage, but was unwittingly used by God for His own purposes. Two truths are maintained: Assyria was responsible for her sins, and God was achieving his sovereign purposes.
Hence, all history is God’s history. And church history is His special concern. The first book of church history is the book of Acts. To know the story as it unfolds is to be aware of how God has worked. From there on we see the high points as, for example, when God used Athanasius and Alexander of Alexandria, Martin Luther and John Calvin, George Whitefield, John Wesley and many others to minister to His people. And we also see the low points as the church repeats past errors by jumping on the latest theological bandwagon. We see the fulfillment of God’s plan of spreading the Gospel to every tribe, tongue and nation. As Philip Schaff put it, ‘History is, and must ever continue to be, next to God’s Word, the richest foundation of wisdom, and the surest guide to all successful practical activity’.
Christians should make every effort to learn from history. Even if you may not remember history, history will remember you.
FOR FURTHER STUDY:
Church History books I can recommend: Click here.
Did you know that the Muslims, the Mormons, and the Jehovah’s Witness cults have no ancient history? Hence these religions do not originate from the Lord of History. They are false religions and their gods are idols.