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Where Are The First Century Churches?
Published On : April 8, 1998
Last Updated : May 9, 2011
Put Your Faith Into Action, Abraham's Example Of Faith And Obedience, A Living Sacrifice, Jesus Was Obedient Unto Death, Jacob Bargains With God And Is Blessed, Real Faith Of Gold, Meet God's Conditions And He Will Meet Your Needs, Requirements Of Discipleship, You Must Count The Cost First, The Rewards Of Discipleship, Paul Works As A Tentmaker, Was Apostle Paul Backslidden While In Corinth?, Arguments Used By Some Secular Christians To Justify Their Selfish Materialistic Lifestyles, The Thing Which Is Good, Defining The True Christian Church, Beginning Of Roman Catholic Church, Christ Is The Head Of The Body His Church, Temple Destroyed, Christ And His Disciples Were Kicked Out Of The Temple And Synagogues, God's Original Pattern And Blueprint For The Church, Paul Persecutes Early Christians In Their Homes, First Century Churches In Homes Of Christian Believers, A New And Better Way?, Learning From Jesus
From the Scriptures that I have now presented here, it should be evident that in order for you personally to receive these blessings of provision from the Lord, you must first meet His conditions, and show your worth as a true Disciple of Jesus Christ by expressing your faith in, and your obedience to His Word. You must put your faith into action; for as the Apostle James wrote in his Epistle:
"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
James 2:26, KJV
In order to receive the Lord's blessings of provision in your life, you must do as Abraham did, and first be willing to give up everything, and place it upon the altar of God's service; and that includes your own life and will as well. Consider the following verses:
"By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,"
Hebrews 11:17, KJV
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Romans 12:1-2, KJV
In other words, you shouldn't say, "Okay Lord, I'll do this and obey You, if You do this for me first". As I more amply explain in articles such as "Are You Crucified With Christ?" and the series "So You Really Think You Are So Humble?", we are not to present God with our demands; rather, what we are supposed to do is simply submit our will to Him in humble service, exactly as Jesus did; and as the Scriptures inform us, Jesus did it unto death, as we see here:
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Philippians 2:5-11, KJV
Of course, this isn't necessarily a hard and fast rule. God may possibly honor that kind of arrangement, as we do find examples of it in the Old Testament. Such was the case with untrusting Jacob in the Book of Genesis. Believe it or not, the Lord actually had to prove Himself to Jacob first before Jacob would declare Him to be his God, as we see here:
"And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:"
Genesis 28:20-21, KJV
In other words, it seems that Jacob bargained with God. But once the Lord had proven Himself to Jacob, He held Jacob to his word. As I point out in my article "The Children of God And Politics", twenty years later, Jacob had become a very rich man with two wives, two handmaidens, twelve children, servants and flocks, etc. In short, he had gone from having absolutely nothing, to being extremely wealthy; and thus it was impossible for him to deny the Lord's Hand in his life.
However, the kind of faith that really pleases the Lord is blind faith; that is, when you take a step out over the edge of that cliff without really knowing what is going to happen to you. You simply have to believe that God's Hand will be there to catch you when you fall. It is very much like when Jesus called Peter to walk out to Him on the choppy waves of the Sea of Galilee, as we see by these verses:
"And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"
Matthew 14:28-31, KJV
If you would like to learn more about God's making of the Apostle Peter, please consider reading the article entitled "Peter: Faith Tried In The Fire".
As the Apostle Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Hebrews, it takes real faith of gold to please the Lord. We must believe that He is who He says He is, and that He will reward us for our utter trust in Him and in His Word. If people can make agreements and worldly business transactions with worldly men, then why do they have such a hard time trusting in the Word of our Heavenly Father whom we know will never cheat or betray us? As I noted at the beginning of this series, it is because most people can only trust in the temporal, physical world of the here and now. They do not have the faith to believe in what they cannot see or detect with their five senses. Paul wrote as follows:
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Hebrews 11:6, KJV
If you are willing to take that kind of a step of faith and say, "Okay Lord, I really want to serve You as a fulltime Disciple living by faith", and if you put your faith into action by leaving your job, or by leaving your family, or by doing whatever it takes to free you to do the Lord's Work, that is when the Lord can really begin to amaze you with His miracles of Divine Provision. If you meet God's conditions, He will meet your needs. I have no doubt of this.
While Jesus was still on Earth, these are the requirements that He set down for those people who desired to follow Him as fulltime Disciples. He did not make these requirements easy. In fact, my impression is that the Lord purposely made the requirements difficult so that only those men and women of the highest calibre, and of the greatest faith, would choose the rugged, uncertain road of Discipleship. Some of the rigid requirements which Jesus established can be found in the following verses:
"And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me."
Matthew 10:36-38, KJV
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."
Luke 9:23-24, KJV
"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple."
Luke 14:26-27, KJV
"So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."
Luke 14:33, KJV
As you can see, Jesus set the standard very high. As I point out in articles such as "The Parable Of The Sower: Salvation And Service", not everyone was able to make the grade in Jesus' day. Some people -- such as the rich young ruler -- thought that they had sufficient faith; but in the case of the young ruler, in the end, through Jesus' careful leading, that young man discovered that it was all a proud pretense on his part. It is for this reason that the Lord also admonishes us to count the cost before we make such a major decision in our lives. Consider what the Lord said in the Gospel of Luke:
"For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace."
Luke 14:28-32, KJV
For those people who are willing to take the leap of faith, and embark on a life of Christian Discipleship, the Lord promises to not only provide their every need, but even in excess of their needs, as can be seen by the following verses:
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Matthew 6:33, KJV
"And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life."
Matthew 19:29, KJV
"And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."
Mark 10:29-30, KJV
"If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Luke 12:28-31, KJV
The Apostle Paul reaffirmed Jesus' teachings when he wrote the following in his Epistle to the Church at Philippi:
"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19, KJV
Notice that Paul states that God will provide our needs, and not that we will provide our own needs. It seems that some Christians within organized religion perpetuate the myth that Paul continued working as a tentmaker after he began his Life of Faith. However, as all of the Scriptures in this series have demonstrated, this is not the case whatsoever. The Lord made it very clear that we must be willing to forsake the old life; and that most certainly includes our old secular jobs.
A close reading of Acts chapter eighteen reveals that Paul may have been in a somewhat backslidden state while he was living with Aquila and Priscilla. You will notice in the following verses that we are told that Paul "was pressed in the spirit" once Silas and Timotheus arrived from Macedonia. In other words, my impression is that he was convicted in his heart, and that he once again became more active for the Lord, due to the presence of Silas and Timotheus:
"After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ."
Acts 18:1-5, KJV
Furthermore, it seems rather contradictory to me that Paul would say that God will provide all of our needs, and then turn around and spend so much time making tents instead of preaching the Gospel and living the Life of Faith; which is specifically what the Lord had called him to do. In my view, it does not seem reasonable or fair that the Lord would lay down all of the above rules for Discipleship, and then not expect Paul to adhere to them.
Some people might argue, "But didn't Paul just preach in the synagogue on the Sabbath? Doesn't that mean that he worked the rest of the week at his secular job as a tentmaker?" The answer to this question is so simple that it is almost silly. The reason why Paul only went to the synagogue every Sabbath, is because that is the only day that the Jewish people would gather there. Being as they were of the world, yes, they did work the other six days of the week. However, in light of the Scriptural evidence I have already presented in this series, I do not believe that this is what Paul or any of the other Disciples were doing on an extended basis.
To clarify, my impression is this: Being as they were of the same profession -- that is, tentmakers -- when Paul arrived in Corinth, he stayed with Aquila and Priscilla, who had just recently arrived from Rome. We are told that Paul "wrought" with them. This word "wrought" is derived from the Greek word "ergazomai", which according to Thayer's Greek English Lexicon means to work, labour, to trade, to make gains by trading, or to do business. In other words, yes, when he first arrived in Corinth, it appears that he was indeed working as a tentmaker along side of Aquila and Priscilla. We are also told that Paul would "reason" -- that is, hold discourses -- in the synagogue on the Sabbath.
In other words, just like so many secular Christians today, it seems that, for a time at least, Paul was basically being a "weekend Christian". Despite the fact that Jesus Christ had died for his sins, knocked him off of his horse on the road to Damascus, blinded him for three days, and then extended Mercy to him through the act of healing his blindness by the hands of the Disciple Ananias, my impression is that once Paul arrived in Corinth -- which was a very carnal town, by the way -- he decided to settle down into the safe life of just being a "weekend Christian".
But then what happened next?
Once Silas and Timotheus arrived from Macedonia, we are told that Paul was "pressed in the Spirit". Exactly what does this phrase mean? Turning again to Thayer's Greek English Lexicon, we learn that the word "pressed" is translated from the Greek word "sunecho". This word is sometimes used in a metaphorical sense to mean to constrain, oppress, of ills laying hold of one and distressing him, to be held with, afflicted with, suffering from, to urge, or to impel. Personally, as I noted earlier, I understand this to mean that Paul was cut to the heart by the presence of Silas and Timotheus, because he knew that he was being slothful in the Lord's Business. In other words, Paul was convicted by the Spirit to get busy again for the Lord, and not just on the weekends.
Another favorite verse which is sometimes used by Christians who attempt to justify their selfish living one hundred and sixty-seven hours a week -- they give God one hour a week -- while still claiming to be Disciples of Jesus Christ, is the following, which was also written by Paul, and addressed to the brethren at Corinth no less:
"And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:"
1 Corinthians 4:12, KJV
Certain Christians will look at that verse and claim, "You see! Paul continued to hold a secular job as a tentmaker in order to earn his living, even after he dedicated himself to the Lord! It clearly says he worked with his hands!" As I point out many times in my articles, to truly understand the Bible requires that we diligently compare one Scripture with another. Earlier, I quoted Jesus' own words where He said to labour not for the meat which perishes. Are we to assume then that Paul is contradicting Jesus' words? I think not. Thus, it is my view that Paul is actually talking about laboring in the ministry of the Lord, to provide the spiritual needs of the flock. In further support of my argument, let us take a look at the verse which precedes the one above. In it Paul states:
"Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;"
1 Corinthians 4:11, KJV
Now, if Paul was earning his keep by working as a tentmaker, how could he possibly be hungry, thirsty, naked, or not have any certain dwelling place? It doesn't seem to make any sense whatsoever, does it? If Paul was making and selling tents on the weekdays, surely he would at least have had sufficient food to eat and something to drink, not to mention clothes to wear. Let's not forget that in those days, a lot of people still lived in tents; so I would imagine that tentmaking must have been a rather lucrative business. Yet look again at what Paul wrote. Everything that Paul says portrays a picture of one who is not engaged in the tentmaking business; unless we choose to believe that Paul was just one lousy tentmaker. If Paul actually did this six days a week, as some Christians claim, then he was clearly in the wrong business; because no one in their right mind is going to remain in a business where they can't even feed and clothe themselves.
Let us also not forget that Paul was a well-educated Pharisee who had sat at the feet of Gamaliel, and a citizen of Rome as well. Given his background, his education, and his status as a citizen of Rome, it is difficult to understand how he could suffer so much want, unless he had purposely chosen to leave behind all of those things which pertained to his former privileged life, including his lucrative job as a tentmaker.
I can only conclude then that if we put all of these verses in their proper context, and accept all of the requirements which were set down by Jesus Christ Himself, which included forsaking all and leaving everything behind, then "working with our own hands" must have absolutely nothing to do with holding a secular job, despite the claims of certain secular Christians who wish to justify their selfish lifestyle. When Jesus called His First Disciples, we are told that there was no hesitation on their part, and that they immediately left their former lives behind, just as Paul would do sometime later. Surely Paul followed his own advice when he said that we become new creatures in Christ Jesus; and that old things are passed away.
In addition, Jesus made it very clear that we simply cannot serve two masters. In saying this, the Lord contrasted God with mammon. Exactly what is mammon? Derived from the Greek word "mammonas", it refers to treasure, riches or personal wealth, plain and simple. Following are some additional verses which support these various points:
"And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him."
Matthew 4:19-20, KJV
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
Matthew 6:24, KJV
There is yet another verse -- which was likewise written by the Apostle Paul -- which is sometimes used by Christians who compromise their faith, and who insist that they can serve the Lord as so-called modern-age Disciples, while at the same time continuing to serve the worldly system of man. This verse is the following:
"Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth."
Ephesians 4:28, KJV
In my view, everything that I have stated previously can be applied to this verse as well. When Paul says ". . . labour, working with his hands the thing which is good", I believe that he is talking about preaching the Good News; that is, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What better thing could there possibly be than that? That entire phrase, "the thing which is good", is derived from one Greek word -- "agathos" -- and it is an exact translation. If there is one good thing which everyone in the world needs, surely it is the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that they might obtain Eternal Salvation.
In light of the preponderance of Scriptural evidence I have provided, this clearly seems to be the best interpretation of these verses to me. However, let me also add that this does not mean that the First Disciples did not use some of their God-given talents for the benefit of the Church.
This leads us into our next topic of discussion. When the Apostles and Early Disciples weren't engaged in preaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, exactly what were they doing? From reading the four Gospels, the Book of Acts, and the Epistles, it becomes clear that they were either travelling, resting, or else they were preaching in other places. As I explain in other articles such as "Revelation's Babylon The Great Whore", the true Church is not a physical organization which oversees thousands of church buildings that are spread out all over the world, such as the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy. According to the Scriptures, in reality, the true Church is the universal Body of Believers in Jesus Christ. Jesus clarified the universal spiritual nature of His Church when He spoke the following words to the Samaritan woman at the well:
"Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
John 4:21-24, KJV
Our English word "church" is derived from the Greek word "ekklesia", which refers to an assembly of people. In fact, it refers to a public assembly of people. This word is in no way connected to a physical building. As you may know, while the Jews obviously had their Temple in Jerusalem, as well as their local synagogues, the Early Christians most certainly did not have church buildings during the First Century. Not only that, but they didn't even want them, and couldn't have had them, even if they did desire them. As I amply explain in several other articles, it was the Roman Catholic Church which started the whole business of building churches several hundred years later, when they began to establish a physical empire of power and wealth -- and with the encouragement and support of Rome, no less -- because they could not wait for the real Kingdom of God to arrive. As the Apostle Paul wrote, we Christians are the Body of Christ, and Jesus is our Head; and He is the only Head that we need. Consider these verses:
"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body."
Ephesians 5:23, KJV
"And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence."
Colossians 1:18, KJV
As I mentioned a moment ago -- and discuss in more detail in other articles -- during the First Century, the only major religious building that was erected in Israel was the Temple in Jerusalem; and God clearly showed His displeasure with it, by destroying it twice; first around 587 BC, and then a second time in 70 AD. While the Jews did have their village synagogues, due to their radical doctrine, it wasn't before long that the Lord and His Disciples were no longer able to preach inside of them. In fact, you may recall that Jesus was kicked out of the very synagogue in Nazareth where He had spent His boyhood, as we see by these verses:
"And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read . . . And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way,"
Luke 4:16, 28-30, KJV
In light of this fact, the questions which must now be asked -- and answered -- are the following: Exactly where is God's Church located? Where did the Early Disciples meet? Where did they preach besides in the Temple and in the synagogue on the weekends, when it was still permissible for them to do so? To discover the answers to these important questions, we must go directly to the Scriptures in order to determine what they reveal to us. When Saul persecuted the Early Church, did he go and drag Christians out of their Sunday church services? He most certainly did not! The Bible quite plainly informs us that Paul went directly to where the true Church was located, as we see here:
"As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison."
Acts 8:3, KJV
Where did Saul go to make havoc of the Church? We are told that he entered "into every house", because that is where the true Church was located in those days. Now, if that does not convince you, perhaps these following verses will. They will clearly show you that Christians who build church buildings, and who attend them on weekends, are actually disobeying the Lord, and are not really following the Blueprint or the Original Pattern which was established by the Lord and His Early Apostles in the Book of Acts:
"Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ."
Romans 16:5, KJV
"The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house."
1 Corinthians 16:19, KJV
"Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house."
Colossians 4:15, KJV
"And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:"
Philemon 1:2, KJV
Thus we see four more very clear examples which demonstrate exactly where the true Church was -- and is -- located; that is, in the homes of the Believers. As you will discover in a moment, it was not always just one little family living by themselves either. Undoubtedly, some people who resist this Biblical truth are going to try to justify their actions by saying something like the following: "Yes, but that was in those days! The situation has changed a lot since then. We know how to do it better today. We have simply improved on the original methods of Christ and His Apostles. Now that Christianity has become accepted in the eyes of the world, we build church buildings where it is easy for people to come together to fellowship and worship the Lord."
If this happens to be your attitude, I will simply have to disagree with you, because the Bible teaches me something very different. Furthermore, what gives any of you the right to change what God obviously ordained? The Original Apostles and Disciples lived in the very same century as Jesus Christ. They sat at the Lord's very feet and learned directly from Him. They received the Original Plan and the Original Vision from the Master. How can anyone possibly suggest that these men didn't know how to do it right? They were the very first people to receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit which -- among other things -- helped them to remember everything they had been taught by the Lord. In the Gospel of John we are told the following:
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."
John 14:26, KJV
Please go to part three for the continuation of this series.
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