Hello! I have several questions for you. I have been struggling recently on the subject of how to live as a follower of Jesus in this world, and am finding it very difficult....
The question is rather long but is essentially concerns defining what a Christian is and why the Church seems to be so far removed from the teachings of Master Y'shua.
First, I can absolutely relate with what you are saying here.
Understand that Nicean Christianity (ie Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant Christianity of all denominations and sects) is not based on the teachings of Jesus, but on Paul and on the decisions of the early Church counsels, especially those of the Nicean Council.
Why this is so is debated. Sensing your sincerity I will share one possible answer that much of the Church will not accept.
In the earliest years of the Church (around the mid 300's) what is known as the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes was accepted by the established Church. What this heresy is can be and is debated. I want to be VERY clear on this point. What follows is NOT the generally accepted history of the Church. It is however one that is completely defensible and fully plausible and that explains a great deal in my opinion.
According to the Catholic Church, when Jesus told Peter, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," he was appointing Peter as the first Catholic Pope and instituting the Church. If this view is accepted, the Catholic Church began around 32 CE. and its teachings are presumably those of Jesus (Master Y'shua) and his first followers.
It can be argued however that in 312 CE when Emperor Constantine proclaimed he had had a vision to unite the Roman Empire under a universal (i.e. "catholic") church (community), this began the Roman Catholic Church and what we today know of as Christianity in almost all its forms. Others point to earlier dates (to certain of the "Church fathers") or later dates (to Nicea or other councils).
In my opinion, the Catholic Church began on February 27, 380 when Emperor Theodosius issued his edict, De Fide Catolica, in Thessalonica, published in Constantinople, declaring Catholic Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire. The exact date doesn't matter though.
Following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE the followers of Master Y'shua (who were mainly Jews), like the other Jews, spread out through the known world in what is known as the Diaspora. These dispersed people studied and prayed and sought God's direction according to their ability and knowledge.
Some of these people supported merging their Y'shua-Reformed Jewish doctrines with the Roman Pagan doctrines in an attempt to lessen the persecutions and gain official recognition (and protection) from the Empire. This, in my opinion, is how the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes condemned in the first three chapters of John's Revelations (for instance 2:15: So have you also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate) entered into the Church of God.
As Gentiles gradually began to predominate within the various Way communities and congregations, the followers of Master Y'shua became increasingly diverse in their beliefs. The competing "Christianities" of the day were presented and defended, but there was a severe lack of knowledge of the Jewish roots of the Movement. Political expediency, sincere faith, diverse cultural, religious and social paradigms, mystic visions, etc. etc. all contributed to the various teachings and dogmas accepted as "the Way."
Constantine, if given the benefit of the doubt (which I don't) sought to unify the diverse doctrine of the Church under a single doctrine and authority. He succeeded and the Papacy became the official voice of the New Religion.
Under the authority (religious and political) of Constantine and the Roman Empire, the Nicolaitanes won these struggles and established the official Christian Church. These Roman Christians were acquainted with the Pagan world view and religions but were largely ignorant of Jewish scripture and doctrine. The alterations to Judaism made by Master Y'shua (rejecting the Oral Torah etc) meant nothing to these reformers. In order to unite the various Roman sects the Papacy carefully merged teachings, redefined doctrine, implemented orders, and established a new religion that had never before existed.
In the New Testament John, Paul and others warn that Paganism and other "heretical views" were being introduced into the Church. It can be effectively argued that these Romanized teachings (such as Christmas -- the birth of the Sun God worshiped by Constantine; Easter -- Creation Day of Goddess Eaostar; Hell -- abode of the God Hades and so on) were included in these warnings.
On February 27, 380 CE Emperor Theodosius established the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes as the official doctrine of the new Nicean Christian Faith and began a brutal campaign against the "Judaizers": those who sought the Jewish roots of the Way. This is why Christianity bears so few similarities to Master's Y'shua's religion.
Other would-be followers of Master Y'shua sought more mystical approaches (the Gnostics etc.). As time went by there were many "Christianities" not just one and these were incredibly diverse in their teachings and beliefs. Some Nazarenes believed one thing, others another. Some accepted the Roman Cannon (the New Testament) as Scripture, some accepted books (the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Barnabas, the Books of Enoch etc) that the official Church rejected.
Once the form of Christianity embraced by the pro-Roman factions gained political power and recognition the Catholic Church began a long process of distilling and canonizing its beliefs into a Roman hierarchically authorized form. This form is what we today refer to as Roman Catholicism.
Other forms of Christian religion continued as well, but these were largely forced underground by severe persecution and Papal Bulls, by the Holy Inquisition, and so on.
Sects like the Abegensians, Cathers, Arians, Anabaptists, various Gnostic sects, the Coptic Church, etc. maintained their teachings as the arguably true Christian faith but by this point it is impossible to identify any of these as being truly apostolic (as the preserved teachings of the Apostles). In time most of these sects were destroyed by the might of the Catholic Church or simply faded away and yet the Papacy never managed to completely destroy the other sects' teachings. These remained as officially condemned heresies.
Eventually the Roman Catholic Church split into the Eastern and Western (Orthodox and Roman) Catholic Church, each claiming to be the original. Later of course the Church of England (Anglican) left the Roman Church and still later came the Protestant Reformation happened and so on. Each group claiming to be the restoration of the One True Church revealed by Master Y'shua and yet each maintaining the essential doctrines of the Nicolaitanes which by this point was accepted as "biblical Christianity."
Which if any of these are the original is a matter of personal faith.
At my Noahide Nazarene web site (allfaith.com/Religions/No...) I present a few studies that I believe are most likely harmonious with the original teachings of Master Y'shua but again, no one can factually claim to know what the Master taught in detail.
For those wishing to rediscovered the Master's teachings a few points are important to bear in mind in my opinion:
The Master was Jewish and viewed the world from a Hebrew, first century paradigm.
The Master believed "the Jews" to be the eternally Chosen People but that they had compromised the faith by embracing the Oral Torah and its teachings, especially its legalism.
The Master was far more concerned with the heart than with the performance of ritual observance.
The Master did not teach Gentiles and he did not come to establish a new religion.
The Master believed HaShem ("the Name", i.e. the God of Israel) is God of the whole world and would accept everyone who comes to Him in faith.
As non-Jews we are not under the 613 Laws of Moses.
Seven Laws for all people can be discerned from the Book of Genesis and these are the Laws followers of Master Y'shua (and all other Noahides) are called to obey:
The Noahide Laws
1. Worship Only HaShem
2. Honor and Praise HaShem
3. Respect and Protect Human Life
4. Respect the Family
5. Respect the Rights and Properties of Others
6. Respect the Sanctity of all Life
7. Pursue Justice
(See my allfaith.com/Religions/No... for more on this)
If you look at the lack of faith and piety manifested by others you will ALWAYS be disappointed. ALL of us sinful. ALL of us err.
Concerning the Church of these Last Days Master Y'shua told John:
Rev 3:15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot.
16 So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.
17 Because you says, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18 I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint yours eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
This is why you find so few examples of true faith today.
What you (I and all others who are sincerely seeking God) need to do is found in the next verses:
20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
21 To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
Or as Prophet Micah has it:
6:6 Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
We are to invite the Spirit of HaShem into our consciousness and seek to live in harmony with
His Holy Will with Master Y'shua as our chief teacher and guide.
Hope this helps,
If you have further questions feel free to write back any time.
~ Ben Ruach haKodesh
~ John of AllFaith