How is Christianity Spread: by Violence or by Preaching?

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This is an article I will be publishing in the Sunday Times, a Pakistani-Canadian ethnic newspaper. I trust it will be beneficial and up-building here as well.

Christians believe that the Son of God became man, he became incarnate, and then He died on a cross, and rose again from the dead. But there is more to this story. We also believe that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, to rule in heaven. The name Christian means follower of Christ, and as followers of Christ, we serve our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who is seated in the heavens. He is ruling in heaven until all of His enemies are defeated, and the final enemy He will defeat is death.

That is the overview, but let us look at the details. Before Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, He told His 12 disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (The Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 28, vs. 19-20). We see a couple things here. Jesus has all authority in both heaven and earth. Christians are called to go out into the whole world, and make disciples of nations, we are to baptize them in the Name of the Triune God, and we are to teach them the words of the Holy Bible. So we see an act of going out, baptizing, and teaching.

But we don’t only have these words of Jesus before He ascended into heaven, we also have another great saying from Jesus: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). What do we see here? We see the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Trinity). We see that Christians are witnesses to Jesus throughout the world. What does it mean to be a witness of Jesus? 1. It means that I know that He has saved me from my sins; 2. It means that I submit to His leadership in my life.

So how is Christianity spread? For that, we can look at the Book of Acts in the Holy Bible. The Book of Acts follows the 4 gospels in the New Testament Canon: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Book of Acts is also written by Luke, the writer of the 3rd gospel. This Book tells the beginning of the history of the spread of Christianity, following the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus into heaven. In this history, we see that Christianity grows through men who faithfully teach the Word of God in the Holy Bible and speak out in public about the good news. This good news is that Jesus Christ has come to save men and women from their sins, and that He has come as Lord. We see men like Stephen who are willing to die for this truth, and we see Stephen’s persecutor, the Apostle Paul, forgiven of his sins and become a great man who defends this truth and spreads it throughout the world by boldly speaking in public of the good news.

We don’t see any examples in the Holy Bible of men spreading Christianity through violence. In many cases, they show that they are willing to suffer violence for the sake of the truth, but they do not return evil for evil. Instead, they get up after men beat them up and keep on speaking the truth.

Let us look at a potential modern day misunderstanding of the growth of Christianity. Some may think that Christians are violent because they think that the United States of America and Christianity are the same thing. But we must be clear that wars fought by the United States are not fought in the Name of Christ, but in their own interests and in the name of the United States. The empire of Jesus Christ looks far far different than the empires of this world. The empire of Jesus Christ looks far different than the United States of America. It is a fundamentally different kingdom. Jesus told us that His empire is not of this world.

The ordinary means for the growth of Christianity in the Holy Bible are the preaching of the gospel, the baptizing of new believers, and then the discipling of Christians. The preaching of the gospel means that missionaries and pastors speak about the good news that Jesus Christ has come to save you from your sins and that He is Lord over heaven and earth. Baptism is a practice of the Christian Church. When somebody comes to believe that Jesus Christ is the only Name in heaven and in earth by which they can be saved, then they are baptized into the Name of the Triune God. Baptism involves sprinkling, pouring, or dunking with water to represent the washing away of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. The discipling of Christians means that once a new believer is baptized, he or she sits underneath the teaching of leaders in the Church. Discipleship means a growing knowledge of the Holy Bible, but also a desire and ability to live in such a way that truly reflects the Holy Bible.

One Christian song writer described the growth of Christianity this way: “For not with swords’ loud clashing or roll of stirring drums with deeds of love and mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.” This means that pastors and missionaries preach the good news, Christians witness and testify to what Jesus Christ has done in their lives. But Christians also seek to build up the Church of Jesus Christ and serve their communities through acts of service and mercy to the poor, the widow, the orphan.

This is all done in service to King Jesus. What you will find fascinating about our Lord Jesus Christ is that He came as a king, but He also came as a servant. He conquered Satan by dying on a cross and rising from the dead. And so Jesus Christ has inverted the power of the kingdoms of this world. Christians find strength in service, victory in suffering, and life in death. As followers of Jesus, we rule by serving, and the Church grows through trial and suffering. Christianity does not grow by acts of violence. Instead, it grows through the preaching of the good news of forgiveness of sins and a new life under the Lordship of Christ.

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