Welcome to Episode #126 of Way of the Bible podcast. This is our sixth of eight episodes in our sixteenth mini-series, The Obedience of Faith. On this episode we’re going to look at an example from scripture of The Normal Christian Life.
We’ve been exploring on this mini-series what the obedience of faith involves. Jesus made it very clear to his disciples the expectations of one choosing to follow him included discipleship for sanctification into maturity in-Christ. We’ve been using Ephesians 4:11-16 as our guide for what this discipleship and sanctification looks like.
The gospels indicate Jesus called his disciples into service with him and they followed. The epistles and letters allude that many if not most of those who came to faith by the preaching of the apostles and disciples did not go beyond salvation in pursuit of discipleship for sanctification. They kept doing what they’d been doing if possible. The epistles and letters seem to be trying to correct the disconnect between salvation and continuing as a member of the body of Christ into good works of salvation.
Fast forward to 2023. If an onlooker or someone within Christianity today tried to discern what The Normal Christian Life should look like where would one start looking? Perhaps they would look toward the two oldest Christian denominations: The Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church.
Both of these churches are global and trace their lineage back to Jesus Christ and the apostolic empowerment that was given by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The Roman Catholic Church was founded in Rome with Latin as the common language. It is called the Western church. The Eastern church is Greek Orthodox, founded in Constantinople with Greek as the common language. These two churches held the monopoly on Christianity until the 16th century.
In the 16th Century at the height of the Renaissance the Protestant Reformation was initiated in northern Europe. Five major denominations came out of the Protestant Reformation: Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Anabaptist (i.e. Mennonite, Quaker, Amish). Concurrent with the European Reformation was the English Reformation that birthed the Episcopalian/Anglican Church.
What started out as large group reformations in the 16th Century resulted in exponential splintering of the church during and after the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th Centuries. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity about 31% of the world's population (2.5 billion people) identify as Christian. There are now over 45,000 denominations globally, 200 of which are in the United States.
Trying to tie down the similarities and differences in the 200 denominations in the United States could be difficult. But, at least six categories or buckets have been identified that generalize these churches as Contemplative, Charismatic, Evangelical, Holiness, Incarnational, and Social Justice. The basis of Christian faith and doctrinal differences within these buckets are most commonly associated with varied reliance upon Scripture, traditions of the church, and human reason.
With over 45,000 denominations worldwide there are likely many more buckets globally than the six just listed. Trying to tie down The Normal Christian Life in 2023 from the witness of members of any of these denominations would be difficult if not impossible.
Fortunately we don’t have to accept impossible, we can simply look at what the Bible says. What would the Bible have to say regarding The Normal Christian Life that would be relevant in anyway in 2023. Listen and Find Out!!