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Early Christian Church

QUESTION: What was the early Christian church like?


The early Christian church of the New Testament was a mobile church (Acts 18:1-3, 27:37, Romans 16:1-24). Brisk commercial, political, religious, and tourist travel occurred throughout the Empire. The early Christian Church was identified in ninety-five percent of the references as local bodies of believers (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Philippians 1:1). It had a simple organization of local elders, deacons, and pastors (Acts 14:23, 20:17-35, 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9). The autonomous -- self governing -- congregations had no external religious body or hierarchy overseeing them. The early Christian Church of the New Testament often met as small groups of believers in homes for worship and fellowship (Acts 16:15, 18:7, 21:8, Romans 16:5, Colossians 4:15). Where homes were insufficient to hold the crowds, Christians rented facilities (Acts 19:9, 20:8-12).

Evangelism: The early Christian church of the New Testament had a passionate concern for and involvement in evangelism (Romans 1:8, 15:19, 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8, Acts 13:1-26:32). This was first commanded by Jesus in Acts 1:8 and expedited by persecution (Acts 8:1, 4-40, 11:19-26). Until the persecution generated by Saul's attacks, the church in Jerusalem and in Judea remained largely Jewish in membership and content with its growth and communal life. Who wouldn't have been happy in a church led by the Twelve Apostles? God used persecution to scatter Christians everywhere in the Empire. The Holy Spirit commanded the first organized missionary outreach, choosing Barnabas and Saul as leaders in Acts 13:2.

Baptism: The early Christian church of the New Testament baptized only those who could hear, believe, repent, and be baptized by immersion (Acts 2:38, 41, 8:9-13, 10:44-48, 16:13-15). In every case people who were baptized had first heard and understood the message. The early Christian Church also immersed for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38, 8:34-39, 22:16, Romans 6:1-4).

Authority: The early Christian church of the New Testament was under direct authority of apostles who had been with Jesus from His baptism to His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:21-22). Peter in 1 Peter 1:1, 2 Peter 1:1 and Paul in Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:1 and Colossians 1:1 repeatedly emphasized their apostolic calling as the basis of their right to teach Christian doctrine.

Lifestyle: The early Christian church of the New Testament practiced, in the Jerusalem church, a communal lifestyle (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-36). This obviously reflected the apostles' early experience with Jesus. They lived from a common purse, shown in John 12:6, that, among others, interested women helped replenish as needed (Luke 8:1-3). What worked in the smaller couldn't function in the larger group, however. The growth to 5,000 men in Acts 4:4, not counting women and children, may have irretrievably broken the system. Joseph's sale of a field may have come at a time of crisis, for the apostles called him Barnabas -- Son of Encouragement. The Grecian widows soon complained of neglect in daily supplies (Acts 6:1). The need in Jerusalem became so great that the church in Antioch, Syria, sent financial help through Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:27-30). The Jerusalem paradigm couldn't permanently exist. It was nowhere followed in the churches of the Empire (Acts 11:27-30, 1 Corinthians 16:2, 2 Corinthians 8:11, 9:6-11, 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

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