a. What is the early church like?
b. What are the main teachings in the early church?
c. What kind of churches did Paul found in his missionary journeys? How did the Jews accept the fact of Gentile Christians?
1. What is the early church
a. Beginning:(1) Pentecost: visible and audible manifestations of the Holy Spirit poured upon the disciplesb. Holy Spirit:
(2) Joel 2:28-29 Gift of God's spirit in a revival of prophesy and revelation (Jews believed this to happen in the eventual messianic era)Ac 2:16 Peter quotes Joel but uses the term "the last days" (Peter believed the eschatological salvation is present, "the last days" meaning the days of the Spirit, not the Day of the Lord)(3) 4 distinct occasions with baptism of the Spirit:(a) Ac 2:1-3 (Jewish Pentecost)
(b) Ac 8:12,16-17 Samaritans only baptized in the name of Jesus, baptized with the Spirit when John and Peter came (Samaritan Pentecost)
(c) Ac 10:44-47 Baptism with the Spirit when Cornelius was converted (Gentile Pentecost)
(d) Ac 19:2-6 Paul laid hands on the disciples of John the Baptist at Ephesus(1) Baptism of the Spirit (Ac 1:5) or gift of the Holy Spirit (Ac 2:38): promised to all who will repent and be baptized. The Bible never mentions baptized with the Spirit a second time.c. Life:
(2) 1Co 12:13 an act of the Holy Spirit joining together people of diverse racial and social backgrounds so that they form into a spiritual unity in the body of Christ (church, Gr."ekklesia")
(3) The normal pattern is the baptism of the Spirit at the moment of saving faith. In NT times, it was practically simultaneous with water baptism, incorporating believers into the church. The "Samaritan Pentecost", being an anomaly, is perhaps intended as a clear demonstration of God's work outside the Jewish circle.
(4) Ac 2:4 Filling of the Holy Spirit: individual experience that can be repeated and has to do with Christian devotion (Eph 5:18-20) and ministry (Ac 4:8, 13:9). Paul commands believers to be filled with the Spirit.(1) The primitive church was like a new Jewish synagogue added with Christian faith: consistent with Jewish practices (see accommodating attitude of the populace, Ac 2:47, 5:13, and claim by Peter, Ac 10:14), had Jewish worship in the temple (Ac 2:46)d. Organization:
(2) Some distinctive Christian elements:(a) apostles' teaching (Gr. "didache" as opposed to "kerygma"): on the life, death and exaltation of Jesus, as messianic King and Lord inaugurating the messianic age of blessing and the future eschatological consummation(3) "Ekklesia" is used for the whole church and sometimes for local congregations (Ac 11:26, 13:1, 14:23). The implication is that the church is not the total number of all local churches. Rather, the local congregation is the church in a local expression.
(b) worship of great simplicity: gatherings in Christian homes (Ac 2:46, 5:42) as smaller "house-churches", with the twofold meal: breaking of bread (the Lord's Supper) and taking of food (fellowship meal or "agape")
(c) believers were welcome into the fellowship and received water baptism (Ac 2:38)
(d) fellowship (Ac 2:42): bound together in Christ, a foretaste of fellowship in eschatological kingdom, voluntary sharing of possessions (Ac 2:44-45, 5:4)(1) At first, only the apostles were leaders, with spiritual authority, not legal authority.e. Offices:
(2) Then, 7 deacons were selected and given financial responsibility, only because of internal problem (Ac 6:1-2).
(3) Later, elders appeared as leaders of the Jerusalem church (Ac 11:30), and shared with the apostles in the role of leadership (Ac 15:2,22, 16:4).
(4) Paul appointed elders in churches he founded (Ac 14:23).
(5) Voice of entire congregation entered into decision in most cases (Ac 6:3, 15:12,22)
(6) no uniform pattern of government, no single legitimate system(1) Apostles:(a) only the 12 selected by Jesus and Matthias (substituting Judas, Ac 1:21-23)(2) Prophets (Eph 2:20, 3:5):
(b) some others with apostolic work recognized by churches as resting on their charismatic (Spirit-imparted) gifts, not human authorization: Barnabas, Paul (Ac 14:14), James (the Lord's brother, Gal 1:19), Adronicus, Junias (Ro 16:7)
(c) Qualification and work:(i) raised up by God to provide the foundation for the church (Eph 2:20)(d) Once the church was successfully founded, and the apostolic word of interpretation of the salvation was written (NT), there was no further need for the continuation of the apostolic office.
(ii) to be vehicles of divine revelation (Eph 3:5) of the meaning of the person and work of Christ
(iii) custodians of the teaching of the early church (Ac 2:42)
(iv) NT writings as the end product of apostolic witness(a) endowed by the Holy Spirit to prophesy future events (Ac 11:28, 21:10-11)(3) Elders (Gr. presbyteros):
(b) speak words of revelation for the edification of the church (1Co 14:4-6,29-30)
(c) Both apostles and prophets are given by the Holy Spirit (1Co 14:1, Eph 4:11), never elected(a) or bishops (Gr. episkopoi) (Ac 20:17,28, terms used interchangeably in Tit 1:5,7)
(b) function of overseeing the church
2. Why did the resurrection
become the main teachings in the early church?
a. Historical significance:(1) The death of Jesus shattered the disciples' hope. But suddenly everything changed because of the resurrection. The disciples again proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah (Ac 2:36) and the author of life (Ac 3:15), that Jesus' death was the will and plan of God (Ac 2:23, that Jesus fulfilled the promise in the OT (Ac 3:21)
(2) The first recorded Christian sermon (Ac 2:14-36) was not on the life and career of Jesus, not on His ethical teachings but a proclamation of the fact and significance of the resurrection
(3) Ac 3:14-15 resurrection as the central theme
(4) Ac 4:10 apostles able to do mighty works because of resurrection
(5) Ac 4:1-2 official opposition of the Jews because of resurrection
b. Importance:(1) 1Co 15:14 Our faith is futile if Christ had not risen because then His redemptive acts would end in a tomb.
(2) Because of resurrection, our faith is not only a spiritual reality but also a physical reality.
(3) The creation of the church was founded on the faith of resurrection.
3. How did the early church solve the problem of differences in practice between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians?
a. Problem:(1) Early church was similar to Judaism. After Paul's first missionary journey, churches were established in the Gentile world completely free from Jewish observances.b. Method:
(2) Christian brothers came from Jerusalem to Antioch insisting that all Christians must follow the Law of Moses to be saved (Ac 15:1-2)(1) Council of Jerusalem to decide on the role of Jewish Law in Christian communitiesc. Solution:
(2) converted Pharisees insisted on the permanence of the Law (Ac 15:5)
(3) decision by the speech of James who recalled Peter's experience at Caesarea where Gentiles believed (Ac 15:14-17). Since God had brought Gentiles to faith without the Law, there was no need to insist that Gentiles become Jews to be saved.(1) Jewish Christians might continue to observe the Law as Jews while Gentile Christians had no obligation to keep the Law.
(2) Ac 15:20 Gentile Christians were requested, in the interests of Christian charity, to abstain from certain practices that were particularly odious to the Jews:(a) from eating food that had idolatrous associations
(b) from eating meat of strangled animals from which the blood had not been properly drained
(c) from mixing blood with their drink
(d) from immorality (Daphne, close to Antioch, had Greek temples with much prostitution as an element of religious worship.)