Step 11 - The Church
Most of the early church story revolves around Jerusalem as the Apostles were mostly based there. Phillip, Stephen and others pushed the gospel through into Samaria but not much expansion happened outside of Palestine / Jerusalem to start with.
On the day of Pentecost the city was filled with many Jewish believers from many nations. Thy heard Peter preach the news of Jesus Christ, but no formal church growth is recorded as a result. The hearers would have remained Jews, with the extra news of Jesus – but no separation into a Christian church had happened at this point.
This changed when persecution forced believers out of Jerusalem and into the wider world.
- Creation / Birth : The believers wait in Jerusalem after Jesus is taken into heaven. God empowers them to share the message
- Growth : AS nujmbers grow some organisational structure is put in place to handle the numbers
- Persecution : Like Jesus, the churches message is not well recevied and persecution begins
- Transition : God chooses Saul (Paul) to take the messaage to non Jewish people
Creation / Birth
Birth of the church (Acts 1— 5)
The birthplace of the church is Jerusalem. After His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus instructs His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the power of the Holy Spirit and then to be witnesses to Him in Jerusalem (their city), Judea and Samaria (the surrounding provinces), and the remotest part of the earth (the rest of the world). Then Jesus ascends into heaven right before their eyes.
Shortly after that, on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus’ disciples. While they are gathered in a house, a sound like a violent rushing wind fills the place and flames of fire rest on each disciple, and they are filled with the Holy Spirit. They begin speaking in different foreign languages, with the result that many of the Jews from different parts of the world hear them speak in their own language.
This and other notable miracles associated with the birth of the church take place in the early days as the number of converts to Christianity increases rapidly in Jerusalem.
Organization of the church (Acts 6)
As the number of converts increases, some measures are taken for the organization of the church, giving structure to their activities and responsibilities.
- Peter organizes a relief effort for needy Christians.
- Those who have possessions can sell them and give money to the apostles, who distribute it according to the needs.
- Then deacons are chosen to look after the material needs of the church while the apostles attend to the spiritual needs.
The first Christian martyr (Acts 7)
Stephen, one of the early preachers, is arrested by the Jewish leaders for preaching about Jesus. When he does not recant his message but presses it further, the Jews stone him to death on the spot, making Stephen the first Christian martyr.
This incident kicks off a round of persecution against new Christians that is so severe many of them have to flee Jerusalem for their very lives.
As they do, they take the message of the gospel with them to the surrounding provinces of Judea and Samaria.
A missionary to the Gentiles (Acts 8— 12)
A zealous Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, looks after the cloaks of those who stone Stephen. Shortly afterward, he is journeying to Damascus to find and persecute other Christians when Jesus appears to him from heaven, and Saul is converted to Christianity.
Jesus changes Saul’s name to Paul, and he becomes known as the apostle Paul. Jesus expressly tells Paul that he will become a missionary to the Gentiles.
Shortly after that, the apostle Peter has a vision in which the Lord tells him that the message of the gospel is to be taken to the Gentiles also. This marks a transition in the nature of the Church because, up to this time, the message has been circulated exclusively to Jews.
And thus is the message of the church. The gospel is carried to imperfect people by imperfect people. Then those imperfect people are to band together to help one another grow to spiritual maturity. Salvation in Christ, and growth to Christian maturity— warts and all.
|The New Covenant Church||Acts 2:1-41; Matthew 16:13-20|
|Peter’s Homily before the Sanhedrin||Acts 4:1-31|
|The Church faces persecution||Acts 6:8 – 8:1|
|The Witness in Samaria||Acts 8:4-40|
|The Conversion of Saul||Acts 9:1-19|
|Peter’s Ministry in Judea||Acts 9:31-11:18|