11.1 The Early Church
11.1 The Early Church
© 2016 Christ Revealed Bible Institute
The Early Church
Paul stated with all clarity that the “definition” of Christ is “a many-membered body.” What is Christ? Christ is a many-membered body. What is Christ as us? Christ as us is a many-membered body.
Christ as me cannot exist as me all by myself. Christ as every word God speaks must be personal and real in and as and through me. But Christ is not complete except He connects with Himself in you; He does that because He is a Spirit of power. It is the same Christ in you as is in me. Love one another is the deepest heart word of this Christ.
Living IN all salvation, that is living in Church, that is life together, is the topic of the final text of this series, Symmorphy V: Life. This session, “Christ as Community,” looks briefly at some of the topics inside of that course, and does so by placing those topics inside the context of the Kingdom of God arising on this earth.
We begin with the experience and testimony of the early church, a topic not typically considered polite in modern Christian circles. Christian community, though always varied in form and expression, is a constant topic of the New Testament.
Community Just Happened
For eight glorious years, from the Day of Pentecost until persecution scattered the church abroad, the entire experience of Christianity was one, big, happy Christian community. We are talking about thousands of people filled with intense excitement living life entirely together.
No one invented community; no one suggested that this might be a good idea to consider. No instructions were given; no order was laid down. Christian community just happened out from hearts overflowing with love and out from the spontaneous operation of the Holy Spirit doing what the Holy Spirit IS. Life together.
I Know Church Life
I have spent eighteen years of my life, from age 20 to age 41, living inside this same glorious context of an outpoured Holy Spirit inside of Church life, inside the glory and the pain of walking together in love. You can call that a “cult” all you want; God calls it Christ.
And so, when I look at the first chapters of Acts, at a church moving in such holy liberty, I know exactly what those things are, from the inside out. I know Church life. And I testify to you that Christian community is the Lord Jesus Christ and the only true witness that Jesus is faithful and true, that is, Christians who love one another.
A Greater Glory
For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts… ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:6-9).
Haggai was NOT speaking about the temple built by Nehemiah, a temple long gone by Jesus’ day. Haggai was speaking of the living temple of God, His living body. The “former glory” is the early church; the “latter” and “greater glory” refers directly to Church today.
‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts. “This place” is Christian community.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore (Psalm 133). Life forevermore (age-abiding life) is Christian community, brethren dwelling together in love and unity. Psalm 133 is part of the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.
All Things Common
Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
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, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:41-47).
A Picture of Church Life
This account at the end of Acts 2 is the immediate and natural response to the reality of being born again and filled with the Holy Ghost. The assignment for this session is to purchase a copy of Gene Edward’s Revolution: The Story of the Early Church and to read it. You can obtain a used copy from Amazon for very little. Amazon suggests that you buy A Tale of Three Kings at the same time; I agree. These two texts will be the majority of a course I am developing for Christ Revealed Bible Institute.
Gene Edwards will give you a picture of early Church life.
The Gospel Fulfilled
I have asserted that we are saved into church, that church life is the full experience called salvation. The priests, ascending the temple steps, on the second to the last step, sang Psalm 133, that brethren dwelling together in unity IS life forevermore.
Thus we see that the entirety of the gospel was fulfilled immediately in the early church, including the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles. Christians were born again, immersed into the Holy Spirit, and entered into life forevermore immediately, on this earth. Yet this full salvation continued only for eight years.
But Haggai said that Church life will be more glorious today.
The Testimony of the Entire Bible
In other words, Haggai said that the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles in the life of the church at the end of the in-part church age will be far more glorious than the experience of full salvation in the early church. It will be so glorious that God will seal that full salvation into incorruptibility.
Why do I keep insisting that you and I will be walking in the full expression of Christian community, life together in whatever outward form it might take, before this age is over? Because that is the testimony of the entire Bible. And it has taken more than 1900 years of Christian darkness to cause anyone who reads the Bible not to see that outcome.
Everything written about the experience of Church life in Acts 2-7 is there, not as a “rule,” but as an incubation. The very essence of Church is spontaneity from the heart. People try to draw “rules” and “structures of order” out from the many descriptions and teachings regarding church in the New Testament. Gene Edwards will show you why that is false.
Rules and structures of order MUST always eliminate Church. Jesus gave us the one and only order for His Church – the order of the wineskin. Any external structure is meant only for present usefulness. The moment a new season begins, the old structure MUST BE thrown out. This order is forever.
Now, someone might ask, “Isn’t this description of the early church a form of communism, of collectivism? Weren’t they practicing socialism?” No it was NOT! No they were NOT!! Absolutely NOT!!!
Here is what I find, something that always distresses me deeply. People have and use very wrong definitions of so many things. And the most wrong definition people hold in their skulls is their definition of God. I am speaking of Christians and non-Christians alike.
The Non-Aggression Principle
The essence of liberty is the non-aggression principle. This principle, called the NAP, is regarding one thing only, the legitimate use of force or violence in society. According to the NAP, the only legitimate use of force is self-defense and that only sufficient to counter an immediate action of illegitimate force.
As far as God is concerned, He defines the NAP much more narrowly regarding His own Person. God does not defend Himself. God cannot use force, even in self-defense, because God cannot sin. He does not know any such thing. Yet God most certainly extends to every created being the right to a measured self-defense.
An Intertwined Positive
The NAP is a negative only, however. In a fully free society there is never any need for self-defense, because there is no illegitimate use of force.
A free society, however, cannot actually work with only the negative of the NAP. That negative must always be accompanied by it’s one positive, the only positive that can be completely intertwined with the negative of the NAP. That positive force is respect. A free society is a society in which every individual member gives full honor and respect to every other person in that society, to their person, to their property, and to their decisions.
Ananias and Saphira died because they violated the principle of respect by lying regarding their personal property. They were trying to use their property to gain a deceitful (and thus violent) edge in the Church.
Here is Peter’s response. “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” You see, Ananias and Saphira were treating Christian community as if it were communist. Their property was always entirely their own and entirely under their own control.
And this is the problem with word definitions, even among those who teach regarding the non-aggression principle in a free society. They define God as if He were the devil, a controlling entity who requires instant obedience to outward command. Such is NOT God – in fact, God told Adam that if he wanted to live like that, it would definitely kill him.
Living under command and control, obey, do not disobey, is the most violent way of life in the universe – it murders everyone. Communism is total violence; socialism is restrained violence, having discovered that giving slaves lots of goodies keeps them more compliant than the total fear engendered by communism.
Here is the Kingdom inside the Covenant. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them (Hebrews 8:11).
And here is the Kingdom arising out of that Covenant now upon the earth. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
Let me define theocracy, that is, the rule of God, God’s will being done throughout the entire earth. Theocracy: a free society so filled with respect for each individual person that it’s necessary negative, the NAP, is never actually utilized.
Defining a Free Society
Let me define a free society. Free society: the unlimited rule of God arising from within each individual person as their own heart and will, Christ as us, otherwise known as symmorphy.
Now, in the world “theocracy” is given a satanic definition, that is, lust-filled and power-hungry humans, singly or as a group, ruling over other humans by violence, except the source of their violence is “God” in their hands as a whip. That form of “government” could be called satanocracy or evilocracy or deathocracy; it has nothing to do with Theos.
If I love you I will always be setting you free of me. And my respect for you in your person, in your property, and in your decisions, will be so great that the thought of imposing my own desires or interests upon you would make me sick. And in the resurrection, such a sick thought will never enter my mind.
Only Eight Years
Let’s bring this thinking back into the life of the early church. Why did God give this first expression of the Feast of Tabernacles, of living inside of what salvation is and means, only eight years of time? For a very similar reason to the reason that leading the children of Israel into the promised land did not work out the way God had said it should. Group think (we want a king to tell us what to do). Too many of those precious saints were running with the group, doing what everyone else was doing. That is the importance of the story of Ananias and Saphira.
The Heart of the Kingdom
You see, Jesus had prepared his disciples to be evangelists, because that is what was needed at the beginning of the church age. And because the disciples were evangelists and had NO knowledge of Paul’s gospel, of Christ our only life, they had not been prepared by Jesus to be the heart of the Church (except for a short time).
With brokenness of heart, with no sufficiency in myself, with tears on my face, I would suggest that God is, in fact, offering to you and me His very heart. The heart of His Body.
And thus I intend to show you that the Kingdom of God arising on this earth is a FREE society. And I want to show you that a free society works only by the beating of a Heart.