Preparation for Worship: September 28, 2009
What did the early church really look like? I think that it is an appropriate question to ask because if we are going to be effective in honoring our Lord and fulfilling our purpose as a body of Christ we need to look at how God formatted the first century gathering of believers. There are obvious differences between now and 2,000 ago.
First, society is quite different, at least in the so called leading economic nations of the world. We have faster transportation, communication, education, socialization, recreation, and better accommodations. We have democracies instead of dictatorships (though not in all cases). We have an ongoing quest for freedom and the rights of every person no matter what their gender, race, culture or background may be. We have greater and better and more efficient mechanical and technical machines and equipment. We have science and discoveries that were never even thought of in the first century. We have ice-cream and hot dogs (lots of mustard and onions), and good rich flavorful coffee!
In some countries today there is not a lot of difference between the early church and the church they know today. In some ways the only difference is geographical because the conditions they live in, the struggles they face and the persecution they endure is the same, only the face of the oppressors have changed.
At no other time in the history of Christianity did love so characterize the entire church as it did in the first three centuries. And Roman society took note. Tertullian reported that the Romans would exclaim, “See how they love one another!”
Justin Martyr sketched Christian love this way: “We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.”
Clement, describing the person who has come to know God, wrote, “He impoverishes himself out of love, so that he is certain he may never overlook a brother in need, especially if he knows he can bear poverty better than his brother. He likewise considers the pain of another as his own pain. And if he suffers any hardship because of having given out of his own poverty, he does not complain.” (Early church.com)
We know and will see that there were problems and conflict in the early church but we will also see that they took to heart the exhortation to, “Abov3 all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
To love one another does not mean to never have conflict or crisis it means that in the conflict or crisis restoration and redemption ultimately win because God’s love is greater than our sin.
This Sunday we will focus on The Ministry of Fellowship and discover the joy and ministry of the early believers as they gathered together for encouragement, strengthening, worship, prayer and study. I hope you will join us as we acknowledge and celebrate our Lord Jesus Christ.
God bless – PJ