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


16-4-7 Other First Century Objections To Christianity

To both Jew and Gentile in the first century, nothing new could be true. Tradition and received wisdom were the order of the day; just as in many societies today where the Truth is beginning to spread. The concept of ‘truth’ was mocked by the Greek intellectual tradition which underpinned the first century world. It was felt to be simplistic and even repulsive to suggest that ‘truth’ resided in any one individual. When Jesus defined Himself as “the Truth”, and when Paul in Colossians states that all wisdom dwells in one individual, Jesus, they were going right against what all thinking people accepted. And so it is with us today. None of the other religions demanded any ethics of their members; and thus the Roman world of that time was highly immoral, living only for “bread and circuses”. In the first century, the first signs of breakdown of society / empire were evident- largely brought on by the way society had become so disfigured by lust, selfishness and cruelty. The 1st century world and that of the 21st century are remarkably similar. There was wealth in the 1st century- but it existed side by side with abject poverty. Betting shops and plush restaurants were everywhere; the theatre deteriorated until most of the shows were sexual, bawdy and depraved. Chariot racing in Rome and big time sport today bare a close resemblance. The financial rewards of the sport made a nonsense of real values, then just as much as today. Charioteers sold themselves just as football players do today.  

The message and demand of Christ in moral terms would have stood out starkly and attractively, despite all the first century objections to Christianity; and so it should be with us, living in identical circumstances. In the Graeco-Roman world, sexual immorality was just the done thing. The feeling was that the body is essentially evil, therefore what was done with the body wasn’t that great a deal. The call of the Gospel was that the body is for the Lord (1 Cor. 6:13)- something totally unheard of. And Paul places sexual sins at the beginning of his list of works of the flesh in Gal. 5, labouring the point to the Corinthians that sin involving the body was in fact especially bad. This was radical stuff in a culture where prostitution and sexual immorality were seen as an almost necessary part of religion. Yet the Christian teaching of chastity was actually attractive to people precisely because of its radical difference. And yet we can be sure that this was also a barrier to the general mass of humanity at the time. This is just one of many examples where Christianity consciously broke through deeply held boundaries and worldviews. The self-consciousness of how the Gospel did this was bound to make it obnoxious to the majority. Consider how Gal. 3:27-29 teaches that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male nor female… consciously alluding to the Jewish morning prayer of the male Jew, which thanked God that he was nor born a Gentile, a slave nor a woman.

‘Offence’against a deity was only in ritual impurity, whereas Christianity preached that sin was a real and felt offence against God Himself. Self-surrender, faith…these were totally new concepts. And the working classes too were not exactly open to conversion. Their social and economic life depended upon trade guilds and clubs, which usually met in an idol temple. To leave these idol-dominated guilds was to lose any chance of a stable income. And yet the early brethren taught unashamedly the need to quit idol worship. At whatever cost. And yet men and women lined up for baptism in response to this. The harder, demanding side of God attracted.