Post-Pentecostal Issues of the Early Church
by Bobby Bruno 3/19/2014 / Christian Apologetics
After the Holy Spirit arrived and gave the apostles the ability to speak in other languages things began to change in the lives of those who now belonged to the family of Christ. Now, instead of meeting at the Temple individually, the disciples of Jesus began to meet together in their homes or the Temple to hear the word of the Lord and to worship Him in truth and joy. In this paper, I will take a look at a few of these changes and then talk about what author John R. W. Stott has written about the new life of the church.
Let's first take a look at what these phrases to see what they meant to the new church. Now that Jesus was gone, it was up to the apostles to teach the Word that Jesus had taught to the original twelve. In Acts 2:42 it is called 'the teaching of the apostles." What were the apostles teaching these new converts? They were teaching everything they had been taught by Jesus Christ before His death on the cross. Jesus chose these men and women to take His teachings near and far for the salvation of those who would listen and respond to the message of freedom in Jesus Christ. By speaking these words, many came to salvation and were now also commissioned to spread the word about the truth of who Jesus really was.
Next, the new church began to fellowship with each other. For Christians, fellowshipping is more than just getting together and talking during a meal together. Fellowshipping means to share all you have with those in need, including money and possessions but not to bankrupt themselves in doing so. During times of fellowship, believers pray for each other's needs; read the scriptures; and are taught what they scriptures mean by someone the Spirit has given the gift to understand and teach the message; but, most of all, the believers got together to worship the risen Christ for what He did to set them free from their sins. This is found in Acts 2:44-47.
Next we have the issue of the breaking of bread. The breaking of bread meant more to the new believers (and us as well) than just eating together. The breaking of bread was instituted by Jesus Christ on the night of Pentecost just before He was taken to the cross. On that night, Jesus said to the disciples that they were to remember Jesus' sacrifice for them everytime they broke bread or drank together as a group. The breaking of bread was to symbolize that broken body of Jesus that was whipped and beaten before being raised up on the cross.
Lastly, there is the meaning of prayer in Acts 2:42. Prayer is the only way to communicate with God. It is through prayers that believers in Jesus ask for their needs to be met; to worship God by giving up a block of time in sacrifice so that we may hear the things He may want to tell us. For the first century church, prayer was the way to let the Holy Spirit speak to them so that they would know what God wanted them to do or who He wanted them to help. It isn't hard to believe that believers in the first century church spent most of their time in prayer each day praying for others to hear the message of Jesus and to accept Him as their own Lord and Savior as well.
But why should we pray each and every day? What are the benefits to praying at least once every twenty-four hours? E. M. Bounds in his book "The Weapon of Prayer" says that "Nothing is more important to God than prayer in dealing with mankind. But it is likewise all-important to man to pray. Failure to pray is failure along the whole line of life. It is failure of duty, service, and spiritual progress. God must help man by prayer. He who does not pray, therefore, robs himself of God's help and places God where He cannot help man. Man must pray to God if love for God is to exist." Praying to God is the same as breathing. It is the believer's life breath to a life kept secure in Christ and the only way for believer's to let Him guide them each and every day. When believer's pray as a group, the strength of that prayer grows exponentially more powerful. E. M. Bounds again says, "God has so far placed Himself subject to prayer that by reason of His own appointment, He is induced to work among men in a way in which He does not work if men do not pray. Prayer lays hold upon God and influences Him to work." The larger the group, the more God is moved to act and the more good that gets done in His Name for those we are praying for. When believers pray everyday, it moves God to act often. When believers fail to pray, as E. M. Bounds says above, God will not work which means that less people will give their lives to Jesus. Praying for the souls of lost people everyday helps God seek those who are searching for salvation.
Right after receiving the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues, the apostles all left the upper room and went outside and began to give the message of Jesus Christ to the masses that were near them. The people couldn't believe what they were hearing and three thousand lost souls found their way home to God that day. How did God convince three thousand men to accept His Son, Jesus as quickly as they did? As was referenced above the answer was prayer. Even before the Holy Spirit descended upon the one hundred and twenty disciples, they were all together in one place most likely praying to God to move on the behalf of those who did not yet know Him (Acts 2:1). The three thousand converts helped to prove that what Peter had been telling them was true the Jesus they had put to death was indeed the Son of the living God and the only Name by which they could be saved.
The only weakness I see with one of John Stott's (1990) conclusions in his book entitled "The Message of Acts" is about his words that say "Of course, the church did not begin that day, and it is incorrect to call the Day of Pentecost 'the birthday of the church'. For the church as the people of God goes back at least 4,000 to Abraham" (p. 81). The believers in Christ were not called a church until the New Testament era. Nowhere in the Old Testament is the nation of Israel called a church by any stretch of the imagination. The Israeli's were the people of God, but they were not yet a church as they continually went back and forth in following God throughout their early history. For him to call the Old Testament Israelites a church goes against anything the Bible tells us about these early people of God. By all accounts in Acts, the church did not begin to be called a church until after the Holy Spirit had descended on the disciples and they began to preach the word all over the world. Other than this one weakness, I agree with Stott in the rest of his conclusions on Acts 2:42-47.
Stott, J. (1990). The message of acts. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
Bounds, E. M. (2003). The complete works of e. m. bounds. Database 2003 WORDsearch
Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.