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 Sermon on

In Chains

By Brian Pepper

When I was a lad I remember there was a film that caused quite a sensation. It was entitled “I am a fugitive from the chain gang” starring one of America’s most famous actors, Paul Muni. It was a dramatic exposure of conditions in Sing Sing prison. Few films made such an impact as this one did. 

Today I am going to speak about chains. As a matter of fact the title is “In Chains”. Not so much chains of iron although that would be quite true, or chains of ignorance, or chains of immorality; but chains of human corruption. 
 

Chains of Darkness

Millions of human beings, from the time of CHRIST to the present have been bound and shackled in chains of wretchedness.

Today we are going to picture the great struggle that has taken place through the centuries; in presenting the Gospel, and the hardships, persecutions, and suffering of those who have carried aloft the banner of truth.

In Matthew 24:9 Jesus says, "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shalt kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my names sake."

Christians were to have a hard time, and those early years were far from easy.

In Matthew 24:22 Jesus added this warning, "And except those days should be shortened there should no flesh be saved…”        

It was Satan who forged the chains of darkness that bound the inhabitants of the earth.

The early church was attacked by Satan on three major sides. He attacked the persons, properties and doctrines of the early church.


Threefold Attack on the Church

At first there was a direct attack against the persons of the church, such as the apostles, ministers, laymen, and the sympathizers of Christ.

Then there followed a clever attack against the doctrines and practices of the church. Next a destructive attack against buildings and properties of the church.

All three of these approaches: attacking the persons, properties and doctrines of the church proved disastrous for the purity of the apostolic faith. But God still preserved a remnant who were faithful to Him.


Chains of Superstition

The chains of superstition and ignorance held the masses in cruel bondage, in darkest heathenism.

The pagan world of Jesus’ time was an age of magnificent buildings and architectural splendor. Many of these temples can still be seen today beautifully adorned with ornate carvings and skilful sculpture work depicting their various gods and goddesses.

On the hillsides, in the valleys, in the city squares; everywhere paganism displayed idols and images in honour of their favourite deities. Many of these pagan Roman temples were later taken over by the Christian Church.

The worship of images was even continued in them, and many so called Christians merely carried on where the pagans left off.


The Pantheon

One of the beat known temples was the Parthenon, a magnificent Greek temple dedicated to the Goddess Parthenos. Even though it is in ruins today, the beautiful pillars and distinctive lines are the finest examples of Doric architecture, and have been copied in thousands of buildings all over the world since the days of Grecian supremacy.

The Pantheon, a magnificent pagan temple built in the city of Rome by Agrippa about 25 B.C. to commemorate the many gods of the Roman Empire. 

We must remember that paganism was not a dull witless world bordering on the primitive but it was a world of intellectual brilliance which recognized beauty and culture, but used it in the glorification of paganism.


Chains of Immorality, Custom and Tradition

The tragedy was that amidst all these splendors lived a civilization as corrupt as any ever known. In these temples licentiousness was not only allowed but commanded as an act of religion. Thus heathenism had turned lust into religion and so the followers were bound in chains of immorality, chains of custom, and chains of tradition.

Christ came to set men free from these chains which bound them so effectively.

Athens and Rome were two heathen capitals that were the very centre of incest, sodomy, adultery, and fornication. And this unfortunately proved to be a problem in the early Christian church.

St Paul’s writings are full of warnings and admonitions to those who would corrupt the church with their evil behavior.


Infanticide

Infanticide was another widespread evil of the early centuries. This cruel practice of putting to death weak and unwanted children was done either by simple exposure or direct murder. Countless thousands of infants were born and disposed of in the most heartless manner. Only God has a full record of the deaths of these innocents.

These pagan people were truly in chains of bondage, chains of pleasure seeking, chains of superstition.


Epicureanism 

Epicureanism was the outgrowth of heathen philosophy. Their motto is found in 1 Corinthians 15:32. "…let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die."

You see many believed in no future life, unlike the Christians. So the pagans meant to live this life to the fullest without a twinge of conscience.

As the pagans looked forward to neither heaven nor hell after death, they just gorged themselves and dissipated their energies in sensual excesses.

Inhuman gladiatorial combats were held before thousands of gleeful spectators in the great Roman Colosseum, before large and distinguished audiences men dueled with spears until one fell mortally wounded while the other received adulation and honor. So cruel were these exhibitions that only a hardened populace could have enjoyed then.

It requires only the touch of inspiration to complete this picture of the early centuries. Let the Apostle Paul tell it as he saw it in the city of Rome.

Romans 1:21-23 says, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Verse 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Verse 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” 

Then in Romans 1:24-28 Paul continues to paint this picture of Rome. "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness…
Verse 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator…
Verse 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections…
Verse 28 …God gave them over to a reprobate mind…” 


Persecution Against the Christian Church

Into such an age stepped the leaders of the early Christian church. It is little wonder that the power of Satan and the jaws of hell should be unloosed against any who should try to reform from such habits and vices.

The hatred that burst upon the early Christians is almost unbelievable. Paganism foresaw that should the gospel triumph, her temples and altars would be swept away.

Summoning all her forces to try and destroy Christianity the fires of persecution were kindled and mass carnage ensued. Multitudes were executed without trial.

It was at this time that Nero fiddled while human torches lighted the city. Thousands of men, women and children, aged and feeble, strong and robust, fled to the rocks and caves for shelter. More were nightly fed to the wild beasts in the great Colosseum of Rome. Thousands were burned alive to the delight and applause of the heathen society. Countless others suffered every form of abuse and torture conceived or devised by Satan.

It was to those who suffered for the Gospel that JESUS made the promise found in Revelation 2:10, “…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” 

This was a living hope to the thousands upon thousands who found shelter and refuge under ground in the massive catacombs near the city of Rome and in the hills off Italy. But even here many were discovered and chained to the walls until death in mercy ended their frightful existence. 

From the time of Christ to the reign of Constantine in the year 325 AD more than ten major waves of persecution rolled over the world, each intended to end, once and for all, the religion of Jesus. Each wave of persecution was more violent than the preceding, until it seemed as if all Christians would be wiped from off the face of the earth.


Failure of the Persecutors

Through tears and bloodshed came forth a strong and virile church. In vain had heathenism attempted to corrupt and destroy the church of God. Satan realized that his persecuting of the Christians had failed miserably.

He knew that he must devise a more effective way to make null and void the Gospel of Christ. He had already laid the groundwork for another method of attack.


Attack Against Church Doctrines

His second step in eradicating the Christian faith was a massive attack against the practices and doctrines of the Church.

In The Great Controversy pg. 42, I read these two brief statements. "The great adversary now endeavoured to gain by artifice what he had failed to secure by force. Persecution ceased, and in its stead were substituted the dangerous allurements of temporal prosperity and worldly honor. Idolaters were led to receive a part of the Christian faith, while they rejected other, essential truths... but they had no conviction of sin, and felt no need of repentance or of a change of heart.... Now the church was in fearful peril. Prison, torture, fire and sword were blessings in comparison with this.” 

Many of the Christians lowered their standards and formed a union with paganism, and so compromise was the outcome of a clash of pagan concepts with Christian doctrine.

It was at this time that the real chains were forged from which millions are not yet free. Yes it was many of the early fathers of the church that brought into the church a compromise of faith, for many of them were unconverted men.

Idolatry now came into the church as a form of worship and beauty. Mysterious pagan rites were given a Christian tint, and pagan ceremonies were reshaped and placed in the church ritual.


Chained to Pagan Idolatry and Customs

Many Biblical doctrines were revamped to make them more acceptable to the heathen. Certain vestments and sacraments of paganism were adopted by this new church of compromise.

God tells us in Jeremiah 2:21, "Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto men."

God through Jesus, having planted a pure doctrine, a pure gospel, a pure church; the question is "HOW ART THOU TURNED INTO A DEGENERATE PLANT?”

How could God’s chosen people, the inhabitants of the world Christ came to save, became chained to pagan idolatry and customs? How could the church of Jesus Christ fall into such a state of licentiousness, immorality, Biblical illiteracy, idolatry and barbarian cruelty as to cause hundreds of Reformers to choose death rather that to continue any longer in such paths of sin and evil?

The answer stands out clearly. It is found in one word “compromise”. Webster says that COMPROMISE is blending qualities of two different things." And so we find there was a blending of pagan concepts with Christian doctrines.

As persecution ceased, and Christianity entered the courts and palaces of Kings, she laid aside the humble simplicity of Christ, for the pomp and pride of pagan priests and rulers.

In Great Controversy pg. 49 it says, "Almost imperceptivity the customs of heathenism found their way into the Christian Church."

Doctrines, ceremonies, and superstitions of pagan origin were incorporated into the worship of the professed Christians.


Fathers of the Church

The writings of Greek and Latin apologists are highly honored and quoted by clergy, and accepted as the source and authority for certain rituals and ceremonies practiced today, ceremonies which the Bible not only does not authorize but even forbids. These men, living through the first few centuries after Christ are called THE FATHERS OF THE CHURCH, but they were among the first to compromise the Gospel of Jesus with the pagan religion.

These famous men repeatedly disagreed among themselves as to what was the right thing to do, and sometimes the writings of the same men disagreed from book to book.

Dr Adam Clarke, famous Methodist expositor of the Bible, says of these church Fathers, "There is not a truth in the most orthodox creed, that cannot be proved by their authority, not a heresy that has disgraced the Romish Church, that may not challenge them as its abettors. In points of doctrine, their authority is, with me, nothing. The Word of God alone contains my creed."

I agree with Dr Clarke. Let us throw off the chains of tradition and accept the Bible as our rule of faith.


Ignatius

Ignatius, born about 50 A.D. was one of the first of these often quoted church fathers.

Sir W. Domville says, "Everyone at all conversant with such matters is aware that the works of Ignatius have been more interpolated and corrupted than any other of the ancient Fathers."

Besides introducing much error into the doctrines of the church, the writings of Ignatius have since been twisted and changed so as to establish even more error. The reformer Calvin, more than 300 years ago passed a sweeping condemnation of these writings.

The oldest Book in existence, the most precious Book in your library, is the Holy Bible, God’s Word to man. Just as a safeguard to this Book, God has added a frightful penalty to any one tampering with its words.

Revelation 22:19 says, "And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life…”

This is a serious injunction. One could well add the words of Jesus, found in Matthew 15:3, "Why do ye also transgress the commandments of God by your tradition."

But listen to what is taught in the Catholic Church today: "Of the dogmas and teachings preserved in the church, we have some... transmitted to us in a secret manner from the traditions of the apostles; both these (Bible and Traditions) have the same force in forming sound doctrine." Catholic Belief pgs. 40, 41.


Iranaeus

It was the well known church Father Iranaeus, born about 114 A.D., who ardently advocated the philosophy that the Holy Scriptures were no more sound than the traditions supposedly handed down from the Apostles.

It was the extensive influence of Iranaeus in those early centuries that helped to open the flood gates of error, and keep the multitudes bound by the chains of tradition.

The Catholic Church even claims that many parts of the Bible are not truly inspired of God. On the flyleaf of the Douay Version, the official Roman Catholic Bible, appears this amazing comment on the Books of Mark and St Luke. These quotas, remain uninspired; their authors not being Apostles. So according to this; Mark, Luke and Acts are supposedly uninspired Books.


Justin Martyr 

JUSTIN MARTYR was born about 115 AD and his writings are frequently quoted by both Protestant and Roman Catholic scholars. It is well known that this man’s religious outlook was so deeply tinged with paganism as to be astonishing.

This man's major contribution to the mounting number of false doctrines introduced into the church was the anti Biblical teaching, “THERE SHALL BE NO MORE LAW. NO COMMANDMENTS.”


Tertullian

Tertullian, born about 160 AD and still regarded as an early Church father, came into Christianity from rank heathenism.

The historian Wharey says, "Tertullian, certainly brought opinions into the church that are a blight to Christianity to this day. Tertullian...possessed great genius, but it was wild and unchastened. His piety was active and fervent, but also gloomy and austere. It is difficult to say which were greater, his excellence or defects.” Church History Century 2, pg. 34.

Tertullian certainly brought opinions into the church that are a blight to Christianity to this, day: Salvation by works, fasting, virginity, self-depreciation, and abuse of the body through hunger and painful afflictions were a part of this man's gloomy understanding of religion.


Origen 

Origen was born about 135 AD and is known as the Father of Roman Catholic Theology. This man, possibly more than any other was responsible for working out a compromise between the early church and rank paganism.

Origen especially held the common view that men’s souls must pass through purgatorial fires to burn away the sins of mankind.

This concept was very widespread among the heathen in the days of the early church, and this pagan concept of a hereafter was early introduced into the teachings of the church.

The Apostles' Creed is tinged with this purgatorial doctrine. This amazing document written and rewritten by a host of different church Fathers contains this anti Biblical doctrine of hell, Hades, and fires of cleansing.

It reads thus: "I believe in God the Father Almighty; Maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ His only (begotten) Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into Hell.” 

Now the fact of the matter is this that CHRIST NEVER DESCENDED INTO HELL. He rested in the tomb.


Purgatory

Purgatory is an evil doctrine, doing away with the need of a resurrection at Christ’s second coming. For through this pagan doctrine all souls, sinner and righteous, apostles and even Christ Himself are consigned to hell or Hades.

The Bible tells us clearly that Christ came forth from the tomb on the third day and yet millions of poor unfortunate people because of this heresy, believed that their loved ones were suffering burning torture day and night for thousands of years. It is easy to see just what these celebrated Church Fathers have done for the church.


Purgatory and the Resurrection

No more wonderful teaching exists in the Holy Bible than the doctrine of the RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD as taught by Jesus Christ. Not only did Jesus teach this doctrine Himself, but He became a living example of it.

Jesus intended that not one righteous soul should be laid away without hope. Yet this marvelous teaching of the resurrection is today so shrouded with nebulous theories as to be amazing.

This question of purgatory was a most vexing one to all the Reformers.

Martin Luther believed in the resurrection of the dead for he says, "Almighty God, who by the death of thy Son hast destroyed sin and death, and by His resurrection hast restored innocence and everlasting life-- Grant that with our whole hearts we may be able to believe this and finally with all thy saints, share in the joyful resurrection of the just.”

It is impossible for a person to believe that Jesus is going to return and raise them from the dead, if they still believe that the dead are living in purgatory.

Martin Luther speaks of the Church Fathers, of what they did to the pure gospel truths. "When God’s Word is by the Fathers expounded, construed and glossed...it is even as when one strains milk through a coal sack.....God’s Word of itself is pure, clean, bright and clear, but, through the doctrines, books and writings of the Fathers it is darkened, falsified and spoiled."


Constantine

No doubt the most influential in affecting compromises, was Emperor Constantine, born in 283 AD.

In the "New Twentieth Century Dictionary" we read, CONSTANTINE ESTABLISHED OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION AS THE OFFICIAL RELIGION OF THE EMPIRE.” 

Constantine is often referred to as the FIRST CHRISTIAN EMPEROR and THE PROMOTER OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.

These are distinguished titles, but the real question is, "just how Christian was this man”?

Facts reveal that this conniving Emperor was more interested in consolidating his empire than in promoting the Gospel of Christ.

Constantine grew up in the pagan religion, and worshipped in pagan temples. He gave huge sums of money for the building of pagan shrines, which were adorned with pagan gods and goddesses. Apollo was his patron god, and he was also an ardent SUN WORSHIPPER bowing daily to the rising sun in his pagan devotions. But what about his personal life? Well Constantine murdered his own son, his own wife, his own brother-in-law, his nephew, and attempted to murder his own sister, but she fled and was able to escape. 

Many scholars openly deny that he was anything more than a rank pagan with a shrewd political bias to patch together a war-torn empire.

It was this semi-pagan, semi-Christian emperor who introduced Sunday, the day of the pagan SUN GOD into the church to replace God’s holy day. As Sir William Domville says, "History does not furnish us with a single proof… that it (Sunday) was at any time so observed previous to the Sabbatical edict of Constantine, AD 321."

And so we find the Christian Fathers bowing to paganism’s demand by celebrating the Lord’s resurrection on the first day of the week, while the pagans worshipped their gods on the same day; THE DAY OF THE SUN.


The Bible Teaches Jesus is the Head of the Church

The Bible teaches that JESUS CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH. Christ intended that no one should err on this simple matter. He is referred to as the KING OF KINGS
THE ROCK
THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH
TRUTH AND LIGHT
JUDGE, PRIEST, PROPHET AND SAVIOUR
plus many other titles.


Tradition Teaches Peter is the Head of the Church

But tradition challenges this doctrine and in Christ’s place has put Peter, then a long line of Roman bishops and Pontiffs, each officially claiming successorship to Christ, all this in spite of the fact that Jesus openly warned against false Christs arising and claiming to succeed him.

Every year thousands of Petros Cultos worship and pay reverence to the huge bronze statue of Peter to be found in Rome. I am sure that if Peter were here today he would with thunderous denunciation rebuke this idolatrous act, just as he rebuked Cornelius 2000 years ago. Acts 10:25,26 tells us, " And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up: I myself also am a man. 

If Peter could only hear himself discussed as heading a long list of men who practiced celibacy, he would rend his clothes for he was a married man according to Matthew 8:14.

The real Peter of history and the Peter of tradition are two vastly different men. The Peter of the Bible was a simple fisherman, frank, quick, kindhearted, ardent, hopeful, impulsive, changeable, with a tendency to go from one extreme to another. He accepted Christ, praised Christ, cursed Christ, advised Christ and was rebuked by Christ.  


The Peter of Tradition

The Peter of tradition has been unjustly exalted and glorified. He is pictured as a proud man, rising above Christ, taking the leadership from Christ, dethroning Christ and becoming Christ's vicar, using force, grasping wealth, and accepting the worship from millions of mortals.

Up till very recently intense efforts have been under way to establish Peter’s Primacy as the first pope. Archaeological excavations have been going on at the Vatican searching in the deep, dark crypts under St Peters, hoping to find the bones of St Peter.

From the 1960 tour book of Rome, "The Eternal City” pg. 176 we read, “THE HIGH ALTAR RISES OVER THE TOMB OF ST PETER.”

For many centuries the Roman Church has hinted of the possibility of finding the remains of St Peter.

At the express wish of Pope Pius 12, many years of his reign were spent in extensively searching under the massive grounds of the Basilica. However, on December 23, 1950, even the Pope admitted that it was impossible to identify these remains with those of the apostle.

Recently Pope Paul announced that the bones of St Peter had been discovered and the scientists had no doubts that these were really and truly the bones of St Peter. This is an attempt at making Peter the head and foundation of the church.

Peter knew nothing of being the head of the church. According to the Bible James was the head of the church at that time.

Too often fiction becomes accepted as fact and there are a number of fictions about Peter that are not acceptable to unbiased Bible scholars.

1. It is not true that Peter was the first Pope.
2. Christ, not Peter was the Rock, the foundation of the church.
3. Peter did not have sole power to bind and unloose.
4. Peter was not the first disciple to perform miracles.
5. Peter was not the Chief Shepherd.
6. Peter was not the supreme adjuster in Church disputes.
7. Peter was not Christ’s successor on Earth.
8. Peter was not a single man.


Consequences of a Human Head of the Church

With a fallible human being at the head of the church, there came a staggering harvest of astonishing and offensive religious abuses. Men began to confess their sins to the human head of the church or to his servants the priests and to receive supposed forgiveness and absolution.

With the confessional, there came many abuses and immorality. The confessional became a powerful weapon in the hands of the Confessor, who could absolve or refuse to absolve sins at his own whim or fancy.

Unless we keep our eyes upon Jesus, and look to Him as our example, there is no way to overcome sin and selfishness in our lives. But with a human hand at the helm of the church was seen every evil, fraud, exploitation, political graspings, greed, lusts, and a thousand other evils.

Men simply compared themselves with men, peasants with priests, priests with bishops, bishops with cardinals, cardinals with Pontiffs, only to discover that flesh reigned supreme. 
 

Foundation of Protestantism

From the Protest of Spires we read, "There is no sure doctrine but such as is conformable to the Word of God... We are resolved with the grace of God to maintain the pure and exclusive preaching of His Word... without adding anything hereto that may be contrary to it. This Word is the only truth; it is the sure rule of all doctrine and of all life, and can never fail or deceive us. D Aubigne, Vol. 4 book 13, chap. 6. pg.75.

This is the foundation of Protestantism, even though many Protestants have drifted away from these standards, it is the only real stand that a true Christian can take, Christ says, "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house: and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rook." Matthew 7:24, 25.

Let us build upon the rock of God's Holy Word; prayerfully studying His Word each day so that when He returns for His faithful ones, we will be among that number who will return with Him to enjoy the ages of Eternity.

 

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Revelation Bible Commentary

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Thank you for posting some of (Brian Pepper's) sermons. It's like reading the very words Jesus has spoken to me and is a great encouragement. I cannot say that about many Pastors but I can say that about (Pr Pepper). Thank you. Robert @yeshuaskingdom.org (USA) ... more testimonials.
 

 

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