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Christianity is possibly the most influential religion in the world. It has influenced everything from laws, politics, and morals, to holidays, customs and cultures. The influence Christianity has had throughout history is truly incredible. The world would be very different had Christianity died out and not succeeded in spreading. There are many factors which contributed to the success of Christianity. Ultimately, however, Christianity’s success is due to God, Who worked things according to His plan and in His timing. God had been preparing the world for Christianity.
First, the spread of Christianity was able to occur thanks to the Hellenistic culture. This culture was a blending of many cultures, including Greek, Roman, and Jewish, due to the enormous Roman Empire. Customs, practices, and ideas from different cultures were absorbed together to create a new culture. Syncretism is occurring through this process as cultures blend together (Perry, 2015). Because of the size of the Empire and the fact that it encompassed so many different people groups, more people were able to be reached with the Gospel. The entire known world was the Roman Empire thus the Apostles were able to spread Christianity throughout it all.
In the Roman Empire, there was an international language which was spoken by all people regardless of background and race. This language was koine Greek or common Greek (Perry, 2015). Wherever one went, one could find someone who spoke common Greek. This fact greatly helped the Apostles as they did not have to worry about any language barriers. They knew that they would be able to find people who spoke the international language wherever they went.
After Rome had conquered all of the known world, there was a time of peace. All of the enemies of Rome had been conquered. This period is referred to as the Pax Romana (Perry, 2015). During this time, Jesus was born. Because of the Pax Romana, people did not have to worry about wars, fighting, and safety. Time did not need to be spent preparing for war. People had time pay attention to other things. Life was more than just survival. People were able to spend time reading, writing, and learning. Because of this peace, it was safe for travel and commerce to occur (Perry, 2015). The Apostles took advantage of this fact and traveled all around the Roman Empire.
In order for lots of traveling to occur, there must be good roads. The Romans were ingenious, developing strong and durable roads. These roads were built throughout the Empire with more than 50,000 miles of roads (Perry, 2015). All of these roads led to Rome, the heart of the Empire (Perry, 2015). Because the roads were spread out throughout the Empire, the Apostles were able to travel to faraway places quickly and safely. Distant lands were no longer so distant.
While there may have been a time of peace and a lack of warfare, the people were personally experiencing anxiety. The Roman’s central place to interact and discuss with each other was the agora or the marketplace (Perry, 2015). At the agora, people would discuss different ideas. The people began to realize that there is no philosophy or religion that truly satisfies one’s soul. Something is still lacking. There is longing left inside one’s self. People sought to find what would satisfy this hole everywhere, but to no avail. Nothing could be found, leaving the people in despair and full of anxiety. When the Apostles came along preaching the Good News of hope and salvation, the attention of the people was caught (Perry, 2015). They saw and heard something different about Christianity. The people were curious and attracted to what Christianity had to offer. Christianity was offering a relationship with the Creator of the heavens and the earth. This God sent His Son to die on a Cross for the sins of the world. Jesus did this in order to redeem humanity and God’s relationship with them. By accepting this free and gracious gift, one would be able to spend eternity with God. Christianity brought a message of hope and joy as well as bringing meaning and purpose to life. The sense of despair and anxiety the people were feeling was answered with the hope and promise found in Christianity, drawing people to it.
Another factor contributing to the success of Christianity is the ten percent rule. Throughout the Roman Empire, about ten percent of the people were both Greek and Jewish (Perry, 2015). The spread of Jews in the Empire was the result of the Dispersion, hundreds of years before. The Jewish Greeks brought the Old Testament with them (Perry, 2015). The Old Testament provided the people with a background and a solid foundation. When the Apostles came preaching the Gospel, the minds of the people were prepared as they already had a comprehension of God. The Apostles did not have to start their teaching from scratch but could build off of the solid foundation already laid by the Old Testament. In addition, the Old Testament had a strong influence on the culture around the Jewish Greeks. Non-Jews were exposed and influenced to the ideas and thoughts found within the Old Testament. There were quite a few Gentiles who were god-fearing. They accepted the God of the Old Testament, believing in Him and in His Word. The hearts of these people were ready and prepared for the news that the Apostles would bring. The Gospel was the crowning touch and fulfillment of the Old Testament beliefs.
During the beginnings of Christianity, new philosophies were developing. Some of these philosophies were Stoicism and Neo-Platonism (Perry, 2015). These philosophies asked difficult questions about life. People began to wonder and to seek the answers to these questions (Perry, 2015). Christianity, when it came along, claimed that it had the answers to these questions. As the answers could not be found elsewhere, people were drawn into Christianity as it provided real and true answers to life’s most difficult questions (Perry, 2015).
Citizenship greatly helped the Apostle Paul in his ministry of spreading the Gospel (Perry, 2015). Because Paul was a Roman citizen, he was able to travel around safely and preach freely. Roman citizenship granted one certain rights. Paul was born both a Jew and a Roman. There are multiple times that Paul used his citizenship to his and Christianity’s advantage. Near the end of the book of Acts, when the Jews want Paul arrested and beaten, Paul tells the Roman official of his Roman citizenship. Because Paul has this citizenship, he cannot be flogged. The Roman official then takes Paul under his care, protecting him from the angry crowd. Paul appeals to the highest authority, Caesar, using his Roman rights. Paul is able to give testimony to the Lord before many Roman figures of authority, spreading and planting Christianity even into places of authority.
The feeling and idea of universalism was felt throughout the world at this time. There was a united feeling with there being one empire, one emperor, and one common language (Perry, 2015). Christianity brought a similar idea and feeling of universalism with one God, one faith, and one church. The people recognized this concept as it was familiar to them (Perry, 2015). The God that Christianity brought was God over all humanity, uniting humans under one faith. The church, though made of people from many different backgrounds and cultures, was unified and brought together as one in Christ.
Rome’s policy of allowing all religions allowed Christianity to blossom and to spread quickly. It tried not to interfere with the local customs and beliefs of the people. Christianity was legal (Perry, 2015). Because it was legal, Christians were able to speak openly and freely about their faith. People were able to travel unhindered in order to spread the Gospel.
As Christianity developed and spread, the Romans became fearful of Christians. The Romans worried that the Christians might stir up feelings of unrest and cause an uprising (Perry, 2015). Christians were also looked down on because they did not worship the emperor. To the Romans, religions were fine as long as the people also worshipped the emperor. Christians refused to offer incense and worship to the emperor as it went against their beliefs. Christians believe that there is only One God, to be worshipped. He is the Lord Almighty, Who made heaven and earth. To worship any other being or thing directly defies God’s Law. Because of the Christian’s refusal to worship the emperor and the fear of an uprising, Christianity was made illegal (Perry, 2015). Persecution of Christians began to develop. Christians were tortured, imprisoned, and killed for their faith. Yet, the making of Christianity illegal was counterintuitive to what the Romans had hoped, as it actually strengthened the faith (Perry, 2015). People saw that Christians were willing to suffer and die for their faith. People were amazed at such belief and were drawn to Christianity. The testimony of the suffering Christians brought more believers who were inspired by the faithfulness of Christians. Outsiders saw that Christianity must be real if Christians were willing to suffer and die for their faith.
Overall, there are numerous factors which contributed to Christianity’s success. The people’s minds and hearts were readied. They were eager and willing to hear and accept the hope of salvation. People were already searching for answers and the truth. Christianity brought the ultimate truth and fulfillment to the questions. A time of peace allowed people to be able to think about and focus on religion and spiritual matters. If there had been a time of war, people would just be thinking about survival. Because of the Pax Romana, travel was quick, safe, and easy. Christianity was able to spread swiftly throughout the known world. God’s timing and planning was perfect, allowing Christianity to succeed.
- Perry, M. (2015). Western Civilization: A Brief History (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth,
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