By Cody Watson
Why is church history important? This is a question if neglected can be detrimental to the church today. We see that Church history is the story of the bride of Christ of which we take part. We need to know our history and not neglect to see the importance of it.
We see that there is encouragement that can be found in looking to the saints of old. The Bible is clear on the benefit of looking at saints from the past. In Hebrews 12:1 we see the author describing to the reader “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” (Hebrew 12:1a). In Chapter 11 the passage known as the hall of faith is where the author of Hebrews describes briefly the life of several Old Testament saints. He shows his reader the faith of others to encourage them to be able to “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”. We have a cloud of witnesses with these Old Testament saints that have encouraged us to lay aside every weight and sin. By understanding the struggles of those who have loved God we can see the faithfulness of God and this will encourage us in our faith.
II. Exegetical Help
This so often neglected aspect of church history has an ability to aid us in bible study. Contrary to the popular opinion there is much to be learned from theologians of the past. Looking back to those who dealt with ancient heresies can help us deal with modern day cults and proponents of false doctrine. The most important factor when studying the bible is that if you come to a conclusion that no Christian has ever thought of before there is most likely something wrong with your interpretation. This is not to say that church history is our final authority, but it is a tool that we should be fearful to neglect. We need to look at what the ancient churches as well as saints throughout history have thought about the text.
III. Practical Christian living.
We can see through the lives of the saints throughout history how the Christian life could be lived out practically in any time and setting. For example we can see through the life of Jonathan Edwards and his wife how the Christian marriage should look. We see the lives of those who lived before us and the resolutions that they made, the way they handled persecution, the way they preached, how they dealt with heresy. Even the mistakes they made can give us examples of what not to do.
I want to encourage all the saints who are reading this blog to read the books of old. Read the books by and about dead saints. Read biographies of missionaries like William Carey. Read from the Reformers. Read about the Huguenots and those who died in and for the reformation. Read of the early church fathers and the counsels that fought against early heresy. Read about those who died in the early church for their faith. Read about those who have died in recent church history.
Read and be encouraged Saints as we see God’s wonderful plan being unfolded in front of your own eyes.
Some book recommendations to start you off
• Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (Pure Gold Classics) by John Foxe and Harold J. Chadwick
• Foundations of Grace (Long Line of Godly Men) (Long Line of Godly Men Profiles) by Steven J. Lawson
• Pillars of Grace (A Long Line of Godly Men, Volume Two) by Steven J. Lawson and Greg Bailey
• Ten Who Changed the World by Daniel L. Akin and David Platt
• These are biographies are available via PDF for free http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/books/by-topic/christian-biography