First Century ChurchQUESTION: How does the first century church compare to the church today?ANSWER:
In his letters to the first century church, the Apostle Paul commended each for excelling in the graces of God. Specifically, these first century churches were known for their faith, love, zeal, giving, knowledge, and intolerance for sin, as well as false doctrines. The first century church was united in spirit. Consequently, they were a conduit for the power of God as manifested in the miraculous signs and wonders performed through the apostles and for the apostles, in response to the prayers of the saints. The gospel of grace spread like wildfire, at tremendous cost to the early followers of Christ. The first century church was beset with persecution, torture, and martyrdom. In spite of this, Christian churches were being established throughout the Mediterranean region, Asia Minor, and into Europe.
Today's world is characterized by the last days events foretold by the Lord Jesus Christ in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Matthew's Gospel. Specifically, we are hearing of the "wars and rumors of wars," earthquakes, famines, and pestilences of which our Lord warned. It was foretold of the church in these last days, that (among many other things):
- The "love of many" would "grow cold."
- Many in the church would be "lovers of self" rather than lovers of God.
- Many in the faith would be "offended."
- The church would "have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof."
- Last day Christians would have "itching" ears, would not "endure sound doctrine" and would have "many teachers."
In other words, the end times church (the organization) will include those who profess belief in Christ but who are, in fact, children of disobedience. The Lord Jesus Christ foretold of this reality in His parable of the "wheat and the tares."
Certainly, the early church had its problems, just as the church today. However, the early church was more diligent to identify and eradicate false doctrines than today's multi-denominational church. It was easier for the early church to discipline, or rid itself of those engaged in immoral activity. This could be because the early church was not as fragmented, or divided as the church of today.
It is important to remember that, regardless of the times in which we live, every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit of God. Every true believer is God's "building." While unity of the spirit in the local church is to be desired, Christ's Church (the organism) is not a visible building. There is an unseen church, comprised of Christ's followers, who remain true to the teachings of Christ and to the leading of His Holy Spirit. The unseen or invisible church excels in the graces of God, just as the early church did, despite the physical location of its members.
Christ's Church is not a building with programs. Christ's church is comprised of those who have a vibrant relationship with our risen Lord and Savior. Though the world may not be witness to the miraculous signs and wonders, or other manifestations of the power of God that were apparent in the early church, Christ's church remains alive and well.