Union of Church and State

page l 1 l 2 l
- 1 -


What was already at work in the church in Paul’s day?


For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.” 2 Thessalonians 2:7.


What class of men did he say would arise in the church?


“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:29,30.


What was to develop in the church before Christ’s Second Coming?


“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for the day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.”

2 Thessalonians 2:3.


How was this “falling away” from the truth shown?


By the adoption of heathen rites and customs in the church.


Note – Tertullian, about 200 A.D. 200, mentions many admittedly no scriptural practices as already traditional in his day, such as immersing three times in baptism, thus, “making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the Gospel;” offerings for the dead as birthday honors; the prohibition of “fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord’s day, … also from Easter to Whitsunday;” a special reverence for bread and wine; and the tracing of the sign of the cross on the forehead “at every forward step and movement, and every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we set at the table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life.” – De Corona, chaps. 3,4 in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3 (1918 ed.), pp. 94, 95. 


Union of Church and State Begins


What came to be the character and work of many bishops?


“Worldly-minded bishops, instead of caring for the salvation of their flocks, were often but too much inclined to travel about, and entangle themselves in worldly concerns.”    

- Neander, General History of the Christian Religion and Church (Torrey’s translation), Vol, 2, p. 16.


What did the bishops determine to do?


“This theocratical theory was already the prevailing one in the time of Constantine; and the bishops voluntarily made themselves dependent on him by their disputes, and by their determination to make use of the power of the state for the furtherance of their aims.”

- Ibid., p. 132. 


Note – The “theocratical theory,” that of a government administered by God through the bishops, was confronted by the actuality of the pagan system under which the emperor had been Pontifex Maximus, or chief priest, of the pagan state religion, in consequence of which Constantine, after his recognition of Christianity, regarded himself as a sort of bishop of external affairs of the church, and the church as a sort of department of the government. The ideal of the bishops that of a government guided by God through the church was pursued with variable but increasing success in Western Europe in the development of the bishop of Rome as the pope.


What has been one great characteristic of the papacy?


A union of church and state, or the religious power dominating the civil power to further its ends.   


When was the union of church and state formed from which the papacy grew?  


The foundation was laid for it during the reign of Constantine, A.D. 313-337, and it developed under his successors.


Note – Constantine’s granting first liberty and then preference to the recently persecuted Christians “opened the door to the elevation of Christianity, and specifically of Catholic hierarchical Christianity, with its exclusiveness towards heretical and schismatic sects, to be the religion of the state. For, once put on an equal footing with heathenism, it must soon, in spite of numerical minority, bear away the victory from a religion that had already inwardly outlived itself. From the time Constantine decidedly favored the church, though without persecuting or forbidding the pagan religions.” –Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Scribners, 1902 ed.), Vol. 3, pp. 30,31. Under Constantine’s successors official paganism was abolished, and Christianity made the only legal religion of the state.


State Support


How did the elevation of the church begin?     


Through the patronage and religious legislation of Constantine.


Note – Authorities differ as to when – or whether Constantine was converted to Christianity, and whether he favored the church more from religious or political motives. The outline of events follows:


A.D. 306 – Constantine’s accession as one of the four rulers of the empire, with jurisdiction over the Prefecture of Gaul.

A.D. 312 – His victory over Maxentius, which made him sole ruler of the West, and which he attributed to the aid of the God of the Christians, whom he had invoked after a supposed vision of a cross in the sky.

A.D. 313 – The so-called Edict of Milan, issued jointly with his colleague Licenius, granting liberty to all, of whatever religious belief, and particularly mentioning the Christians. Hereafter Constantine surrounded himself with bishops, gave preference to the Christians, and issued legislation in their favor, without renouncing or persecuting paganism.

A.D. 321 – His famous Sunday law, which served to unite his Christian and pagan subjects in the observance of “the venerable day of the Sun.” 

A.D. 323 or 324 – His attainment of sole rule of the whole empire by the defeat of his last rival, the pagan Licinius, who had resumed persecution of Christians in the East; his open espousal and promotion of Christianity about this time, and the subsequent disappearance of the sun-god and other pagan symbols from his coinage.

A.D. 325 – His convening of the Council of Nicaca, which he dominated, in order to secure unity in the church; subsequently, his enforcement of that unity against heretical Christians in favor of the Catholic Church.

A.D. 337 – His long deferred baptism during his last illness.

For principle facts about Constantine, see Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, pp. 12-36; for shorter treatment see A.F. Flick, The Rise of the Medieval Church, pp. 115-122; A.E.R. Boak, A History of Rome to 565 A.D. ,pp. 347-350.  



page l 1 l 2 l
- 1 -



Copyright Daniel Revelation Bible Studies. All Rights Reserved...............................................................Gabriel Web Designs..

The Christian Counter