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16. The early church

16-1 A Taste Of The First Century: The Positive : 16-1-1 " With one accord" || 16-1-2 The Early Church Our Example || 16-1-3 Prayer Meetings || 16-1-4 Christ-centredness || 16-1-5 Radical Preaching || 16-1-6 Women In The Early Church || 16-1-7 The Joy Of Faith || 16-2 A Taste Of The First Century: The Negative: 16-2-1 Division In The Church || 16-2-2 Politics In The Church || 16-3 Unity And Division In The First Century : 16-3-1 Unity And Division In The First Century Church || 16-3-2 Oikonomia And Household Fellowships || 16-3-3 Rich And Poor In The First Century || 16-3-4 Unity In The Church || 16-4 The Obstacles : 16-4-1 The Obstacles To The Growth Of Christianity || 16-4-2 The offence of the cross || 16-4-3 The rejection of Caesar || 16-4-4 Women And Slaves In The First Century || 16-4-5 The Roman Empire And Christianity || 16-4-6 The Attraction Of Judaism || 16-4-7 Other First Century Objections To Christianity || 16-5 How They Succeeded: 16-5-1 Why Christianity Spread In The First Century  || 16-5-2 The Example Of The Community || 16-5-3 House Meetings In The First Century || 16-5-4 Witness In The Workplace || 16-5-5 The Witness Of Christian Unity In The First Century || 16-5-6 The Role Of Women   In The First Century || 16-5-7 Style Of PreachingIn The First Century || 16-5-8 Christian Ethics In The First Century || 16-5-9 The Exclusivity Of Christianity || 16-5-10 Early Christian Doctrine || 16-6 Where Things Went Wrong: 16-6-1 Doctrinal Apostacy || 16-6-2 The Rise Of Traditions || 16-6-3 Legalism In The Church || 16-6-4 Social Tensions In The Church || 16-6-5 Wealth In The Church || 16-6-6 Worldliness In The Church || 16-6-7 Lost Emphasis Upon Grace || 16-6-8 Loss Of Faith In The Church || 16-6-9 Poor Church Leadership || 16-6-10 Dogmatism And Legalists


16-4 The Obstacles To The Growth Of Christianity

16-4-1 The Obstacles To The Growth Of Christianity

The achievement of the early brethren and sisters in the first century was simply remarkable. A group of 11 working men, without education or money, nobodies in their own society, living in a 2nd class province on the eastern extremity of the Roman empire, with no influential backers, succeeded in spreading a movement that soon claimed thousands of followers throughout the Roman empire. They faced up to their Lordís last wish- that they seek to win every man in the world for Christ. The vision of a world for Christ was clearly what motivated the early ecclesia. They saw this as their collective and individual aim. Primacy was given to preaching in the community; just as there is in any group comprised of fresh converts. In Acts 6, the apostles themselves couldnít leave off their preaching in order to deal with administrative matters, and so they set up a group of other brethren to handle this. The message was clear: the leaders of the community were themselves committed preachers. In seeking to find the extent to which our 21st Century faith is reflective of the 1st Century ecclesia, we do well to reflect on this. We seem by contrast to see administrators as our seniors, just as the world does.  

We have a tendency to hive off the first century ecclesia in our minds, to think that they were as they were, but we are as we are. They had the success which they did, but of course, we canít hope for the same. We can do this with any consideration of history; it can fail to touch us personally. We can feel so sorry for ourselves that the possibilities which Biblical history opens up fail to inspire us. We think that everything was easier for others than it is for us. This is especially so with the matter of preaching. The success of the first century brethren can be seen as mere history rather than a direct challenge to us to go out and do likewise. I want to develop a three point path of logic:

1. God wishes all men to be saved; the power of salvation is in the Gospel, which is the calling of God to Himself. Godís desire for human salvation and the ability of the Gospel to call men to it hasnít changed between the 1st and 21st centuries.

2. There were major obstacles to the spread of the Gospel in the 1st century. The nature of the religious and social world at that time made success impossible, humanly speaking. And yet the Gospel spread amazingly.

3. Whatever obstacles there are to our preaching in the 21st century can only be of a lesser magnitude. And we enjoy many advantages which the early brethren didnít. The early ecclesia is recorded in New Testament history for our inspiration, as a challenge to us, rather than as history written down for mere fascination value or background interest. 

And so the question must be faced: why arenít we succeeding in the spread of the Gospel to the same extent? To answer this question, we need to compare not only our methods with theirs, but seek for other reasons for their success. But firstly, we need to reinforce our acceptance of the fact that the odds were stacked against the success of those early brethren.