Online Bible College
Carelinks Home
FREE Literature
'Bible Lives' Home
Bible Books Home
Buy this Book!
Bible Lives  

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

16-6-6 Worldliness In The Church

Although the boundaries between the believer and the world were very sharply drawn, and this was one of the strengths of the early community, things went wrong when those within the community started to despise those without, and to withdraw from the world to the extent that they failed to be a witness to them, and started to argue internally. Despite the clear teaching of mental separation from the world, there is ample evidence within the NT that the believers were expected to mix with the world in order to be a witness to it. Thus the Lord implied that His followers should remain within the synagogue system [with all its false doctrine and practice] until such time as their witness for Him led to their being expelled from it. Christians in Corinth were free to use the pagan meat markets, and to accept invitations for meals in pagan homes. Paul doesn’t say ‘Reject the invitation and stay at home…’. He tells them to go out into this world but make their point for Christ in doing so, and not let Him down.  He tells those married to unbelievers not to leave them, but, again, to remain with them and seek to make a witness in daily life. The missionary drive of Paul was such that he saw in every outsider a potential insider, rather than merely a person to be separate from. Thus 1 Cor. 14:23 implies that the early ecclesial meetings were open for passers by to casually attend; indeed, the breaking of bread seems to have been used as a means of public witness “to shew [proclaim / preach] the Lord’s death” and His coming again. In 1 Cor. 5:9-13 Paul says that he doesn’t intend the converts “to get out of the world” but rather to mix with the greedy, robbers and idolaters who are in the world. The Corinthians seemed to think that because they were self-consciously separate from the world, therefore it didn’t matter how they lived within the community. It seems they had misunderstood Paul’s previous letter about separation from sinful people as meaning they must be separate from the world. But Paul is saying that no, one must mix with the world, but separate from sin within our own lives. However, by the end of the 1st century, ‘going out of the world’ became the main preoccupation with some Christians, even though they themselves often developed low moral standards as a result of this. It was these ascetic groups who so over analysed some aspects of doctrine- for they had nothing better to do with their time- that they ended up with false doctrine. They converted only from within their groups, so the world was not witnessed to, the fire of love and compassion for humanity that was the hallmark of true Christianity was lost, and thus by the 2nd century the Truth both doctrinally and in practice had been lost.

There is no doubt at all that this tendency to ‘get out of the world’ has affected our Christian community. We have without doubt become inward looking, and in some areas of the world there are large numbers of us who convert virtually nobody from the outside world. The result of so much energy focused  within can only be fision and disruption. In some places this really does need to be replaced by hearts that bleed for the world of the lost which surround us. It can be that 2nd and 3rd generation converts can no longer relate to the world, they no longer can communicate with other human beings and therefore have no chance of converting them; and thus the true church can no longer be the light of the world, seeing it has put its collective light under the bucket of co-dependency and self interest. And it is from this same group of insular thinkers that over analysis of our faith has brought so much strife about doctrine. And there is also no question that it is often those who decry the evil of the world outside so much who often later have to admit to the most serious moral failures within their own lives, just as happened in Corinth.  What happened in the 2nd century really does need to be taken on board as a serious warning to our Western community.