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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


16-5-2 The Example Of The Community

Contemporary accounts emphasise the impressive love of the early believers; how they were prepared to raise money for their poorer brethren both near and also far away, even to the point of selling their homes and land to provide for them. The prayer meetings for a brother in prison, the genuine care for each other…this must have stood out as something altogether different from what had previously passed as ‘religion’ in the experience of first century humanity. This was all in fulfilment of the Lord’s prayer / reflections in John 17, that His death would lead to a love and unity between those who benefit from it, that could convert the world. And we simply  must ask ourselves, whether our love for each other is perceived by this world? When a brother in Trinidad was handed the death sentence, believers world-wide wrote to the authorities appealing for mercy. This, to my mind, was a living example of the power of the Truth. Another one was where a postal worker was converted, having been impressed at how a poor old sister in Kazakhstan received letters from all over the world. Visitors to Bible Schools have sometimes remarked that they saw a love and true sense of family amongst us that proved that whatever is our doctrinal basis, it must be the Truth. But there ought to be far more examples of this sort. Instead, I fear that our disunity, the way some of us sometimes behave like any other mixed up little Protestant group that has gotten bitter and twisted over the years…I fear that this turns so many away from us. And yet we who hold God’s Truth ought to be using that purity of doctrine to elicit a purity of love and caring and unity which will be immediately arresting to all who come into contact with it. In a world of quasi-love and pseudo-care, true Christians ought to be an arresting reality to those who meet us. The example of the community should be powerful. Our difference as people will reflect our fundamental doctrinal difference with other groups. There are times when our community achieves this wonderfully. And yet is it not so that at some times and in a few places we are little more than a society for mutual admiration, a social club, co-dependent on sub-groups within the community, rather than genuinely functional for all members of our community, and reaching out thereby into the world…?