For the first few centuries (until
well after The Edict of Milan, 313 AD, co-authored by the duel emperors
and brothers-in-law, Constantine I and Lucian) local church bodies met in
private homes. As church bodies, they owned no facilities, no properties. Sometimes they met in tombs or catacombs to avoid the relentless persecution
of the Roman government.
To signify where a
meeting was taking place they would often scratch the symbol of a fish in
the dirt or on a rock or wall. Because pagans used this pictogram to
symbolize the fertility of female organs, unlike other potential
symbols it could largely go unnoticed by their pursuers.
however, had a deeper meaning to Christians. The Greek term for fish,
ichthys (ΙΧΘΥΣ, transliterated, ichthys) formed an acrostic for the phrase
“Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior,” (Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ, transliterated, Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter).
Thus, it was also used to identify fellow believers; one person would
scratch an arch in the dirt and another would complete the symbol, thereby
revealing their shared faith in the Lord.
Although the Edict of Milan decriminalized
Christianity within the Roman Empire, so that now the Church could live in
peace, another evil was about to besiege them. In 380 AD, The Edict
of Thessalonica (or Cunctos populos) was issued. Signed by the
Theodosius I, Gratian,
II, it demanded that all nations subject to
Roman rule should profess the Christian faith of the Apostle Peter as
understood by the current Roman
Pontiff, Damasus I,
Peter II, Bishop
of Alexandria. Persecution was promised to all who did not comply.
The result was a mass infusion of non-believers
into the Church. With them, they brought their politics (which eventually
gave rise to the crusades and the dark ages), and their pagan temples
(which have been a thorn in the flesh of the Church ever since).
The Edict of Thessalonica had virtually invited the enemy into our camp.
Like the early churches, each
Oikia Ministries of Biblical Theology church cell meets in a member’s
home; thereby free of the financial burdens and material concerns of an
exclusive meeting facility.