“We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old” (Psa, 44:1).
There are several important reasons why Christians should study the past in general, and Church history in particular.
First, the past is a great stimulus to faith. When David faced Goliath, he did so because he had already seen God’s faithfulness and power. David carried in his soul the memories of some dramatic moments when the Lord delivered his life from the mouth of a ferocious hungry lion, and the jaws of a ravenous bear. When the lion carried away a lamb that was entrusted to David, the Sweet Singer of Israel went after that lion. And when the lion dropped the lamb and turned to devour David, the Shepherd fought back and slew him (1 Sam. 17:32-36). In like manner Christ protects His own by dealing with the Great Lion who spiritually seeks to destroy the sheep. Time passed, and another enemy came forth. The enemy was an uncircumcised Philistine named Goliath (1 Sam. 17:38-51). Standing over 9 feet tall, Goliath had been trained in fleshly warfare since childhood. But he was no match for David, because this soldier of God had been trained in spiritual warfare since childhood. Goliath might trust the strength of the carnal weapons he possessed, but David would rely on the mighty arm of the living Lord. God had always been faithful. And so David remembered the past in order to face a present ordeal.
Not only is the study of the past a stimuli to faith, but the study of history pleases God. Many times in Scripture God reminds His people of His great exploits on their behalf, and bids them to remember. Isaiah 46:9 “Remember the former things of old: For I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me.” 1 Chronicles 16:11, 12 “Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face continually. Remember His marvelous works that He hath done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth…”
There are particular truths God wants His people to remember.
Christians are to remember the works of creation for “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.” (Psa. 19:1)
Christians are to remember the Sabbath day. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20: 8).
Christians are to remember the commandments of God. The Law was given “That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God” (Num. 15:40).
The church is to remember the general mercies of Divine favor in being delivered from the land of bondage. “And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes” (Deut. 16:12).
Christians are to remember the Lord’s death until He comes. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Cor. 11:26).
It is in the study of history that the greatest story ever told is reviewed. The heart remembers the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And the world is invited to authenticate or discredit Christianity on a simple historical question, “Who moved the stone?”
If the Disciples of Christ moved the stone to steal the body of Jesus, then Christianity is a lie, and the most monstrous of all religions because it sets itself up to be the most moral. However, if an angel rolled the stone away from the tomb, not to let Christ out, but to let the world in, then Christianity is vindicated, and we serve a risen Savior. There is a Man in the heavens, and His name is Jesus.
As the study of history stimulates faith, pleases God, and validates the Christian message, it also encourages the Church to contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. And there is such a faith as per Jude 3. “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”