Characteristics within the Early Church

There are some passages in the book of Acts that describe the conduct of the early disciples immediately after they had had God’s truth revealed to them. They are very positive examples, and we know that these examples were written for our instruction, and it is good to be reminded of them from time to time.

One I would like to consider is the time immediately after the Day of Pentecost when the Church was just beginning. Many Jews were dwelling in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5). The apostle Peter had just presented a powerful sermon during which he quoted from the prophet Joel and king David. Many of these Jews and proselytes gladly received Peter’s preaching and were baptised. We read in Acts 2:46. “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”

It is interesting to note that before the Day of Pentecost, the eleven apostles, together with others who were with them, “were continually in the temple praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:53). The number given at that time was around one hundred and twenty, both men and women including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers (Acts 1:15-16). Since these were all Jews, including the “about three thousand” baptised on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41), the most obvious place to meet as a group after the Day of Pentecost would have been in the temple. However, they also met in smaller groups in one another’s houses to enjoy fellowship and having meals together with gladness.

The expression “simplicity of heart” in Acts 2:46 is very interesting. The Greek word for simplicity is only used here in the New Testament. It is also translated sincerity and singleness in other versions and comes from a Greek word meaning smoothness of a soil without stones. That is, not rough, metaphorically speaking simple or sincere. So, at this time, there was great gladness and peace, not roughness or troubles. In this state the Church continued to grow as we read in Acts 2:47: “And the Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved.”

However, this time of peace did not last for long. Satan was very angry, and he used the religious leaders and the political rulers to persecute the Church. Stephen and James were killed and there was great persecution against the Church, resulting in the scattering of many of the members (Acts 8:1). Also, false doctrines were brought into the Church at times to cause confusion, including subjects like the necessity for circumcision to be saved, and that there was no resurrection from the dead.

Unfortunately, Satan has been persecuting the Church of God down through the ages, both through false religious leaders and political rulers. The Church was forced to flee into the wilderness for over a thousand years due to this persecution. From what we are able to ascertain over the last around two hundred years, there has been some confusion over doctrines and administrations within the Church of God. Even during the time of Mr. Herbert Armstrong, there were sometimes divisions and departures over doctrinal differences. And today, there are hundreds of groups claiming to be the Church of God, but with many differences in doctrines and understandings. These differences, caused by the adherence to false doctrines, are like stones in soil to prevent unity. Of course, two cannot walk together unless they are agreed (Amos 3:3), and there cannot be “unity” among groups where false doctrines are being taught.

At this time, we do not see Ephesians 4:4-5 being completely fulfilled: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” but it will be fulfilled when Jesus Christ returns to bring one religion to this earth. Perhaps, to a certain extent, it might already be fulfilled, as a forerunner, for those who will be counted worthy to escape the Great Tribulation and be brought to the Place of Safety. But when Christ returns, then people will indeed be fully “with one accord and fellowship with gladness and simplicity of heart.” So, this is a very good reason to cry out, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Only then will a time like that of the early Church immediately after that Day of Pentecost be re-established. A time of unity, gladness and simplicity of heart.

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