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Where Are The First Century Churches?
Published On : April 8, 1998
Last Updated : May 9, 2011
Logan's Run Movie: An Artificial Society Ruled By Deception, We Must Choose Between Continuing To Live The Lie Or Else Follow The Truth And Be Free, The Jewish System Of Bondage, Jesus Was A Threat To Status Quo, An Alternative To Corrupt System Of Man, Persecuted For Our Faith By The Children Of Disobedience Who Follow The False God Of This World - Satan, Come Out From Among Them And Be Separate, Holy Saints Of God, Ekklesia Of God, Modern Spiritual Babylon The Great, Free To Free Others, Seek First The Kingdom Of God, Communal Living, Living The Life Of Faith, Backslidden Condition Of Ancient Israelites, First Century Church Financial Plan, Communism In The New Testament, The Selfish Nature Of Modern Christianity, Both Rich And Poor Chose To Forsake All And Join The First Century Church, Example Of Moses, Lying Ananias And Sapphira, God Has Not Changed, Dwindling Fire Of Faith, The Failures Of The Roman Catholic Church, Compromise In Our Personal Lives, Free Will And Personal Choice, Reasons For Our Failure: Lack Of Faith, Lack Of Love And Fear Of Persecution, Living Faith Or Dead Faith, Consumed By Affairs Of This Life, Importance Of Abiding In God's Word, Faith Comes Through The Word Of God
As I noted in part three, the rulers of this present world do not like it when someone demonstrates that it is possible to survive and live outside of their oppressive economic system. In thinking about how the ungodly system of man endeavors to keep all of us firmly clenched in its grips, I was reminded of a movie which I saw more than three decades ago entitled "Logan's Run". If you have not watched this movie yet, but intend to do so, then you may not want to read the next few paragraphs, as I do reveal a major part of the plot.
"Logan's Run" revolved around a futuristic society which was totally self-contained within a domed city. I believe that this city came about as the result of a nuclear war or some other catastrophe. Because of limited resources within the city, population growth control became necessary. Thus, the Controllers of the city passed a law, and through very strong deception, created a quasi-religious ritual whereby everyone who had reached the age of thirty had to undergo a process to rejuvenate themselves. This rebirth ceremony was referred to as Carousel. To create the startling effects in the movie, the producers used a ballet troupe suspended by wires, and a series of variously-colored laser beams. I was quite impressed at the time.
The gist of the movie was that the protagonist eventually uncovered the great deception; that is, that the so-called Carousel rebirth ceremony wasn't really rejuvenating anyone; rather, they were actually being destroyed. In this way, the city's population was maintained within the required limits. Upon discovering this horrible truth, he immediately began his quest to escape from the city.
The way that this movie relates to our current discussion is that when the group of rebels finally gained their freedom, contrary to their expectations, they discovered the natural world outside of the domed city had been totally rejuvenated. In other words, they realized that they had needlessly been living in a totally artificial environment for years, due to the deception which had been perpetrated by the Controllers. Once the rebels discovered this truth, they were confronted with a choice: either they could continue living the lie, or else they could follow the truth and be free. This is what Jesus told the Jews who had believed on Him as well. In the Gospel of John, the Lord says the following:
". . . If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free . . . If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
John 8:31b-32, 36, KJV
Please notice that in order to be the Lord's Disciples, to know the Truth, and to be truly free, we must first continue in His Word. We must believe in it, and live it, to the best of our ability. However, similar to the evil Controllers in "Logan's Run", the manipulative Jewish hierarchy of Jesus' time did not want the First Century Christians to be freed from their system of bondage under the Mosaic Law and Oral Tradition. Everything that Jesus and His followers said and did was a threat to the status quo which the Jewish leaders had cultivated with the government of Rome. As I explain in other articles, that is why those evil Jews sought to kill Jesus, and then continued to persecute His followers in the Book of Acts. Is it possible that there are forces in the world today which likewise wish to keep us in bondage to a similar corrupt system, whether it is secular or religious?
Sadly, the answer seems to be "yes", and we currently find ourselves in a very similar situation today. There is in fact another reality which exists outside of the artificial world of money and materialism. However, in order to survive in it, we must be willing to forsake our faith in money, and place it in the one true God. Likewise, as I have already pointed out, we must be willing to suffer persecution, both verbal and physical, for choosing to take a stand against the false system of man which has enslaved us for so many years. In particular, it is when we begin to tell others that such an alternative exists, that we will begin to feel the wrath of the Controllers of this world, who themselves are influenced by the false god of this world; Satan himself. Consider the following verses which were written two thousand years ago by the original Christian rebels who escaped from the corrupt system of man:
"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."
Matthew 5:11, KJV
"But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come."
Matthew 10:23, KJV
"But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake."
Luke 21:12, KJV
"Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also."
John 15:20, KJV
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
2 Timothy 3:12, KJV
"Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:"
Ephesians 2:2, KJV
"In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
2 Corinthians 4:4, KJV
Clearly then, being a full-time Disciple of Jesus Christ does have its price. We will be persecuted in one form or another by the children of disobedience; that is, the blind rulers of this world who follow in the steps of their false god, Satan. However, the rewards far exceed the persecutions which we may suffer in this life. When Paul was discussing the sins of the Corinthian brethren, he wrote something which could easily apply to many Christians today, who are still trapped within the false system of worldwide Babylon the Great. Paul wrote:
"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,"
2 Corinthians 6:17, KJV
Please notice the Lord's specific promise in that verse. If we obey His command to come out from among them, that is, if we separate ourselves from the filth and spiritual pollution of the world, He will receive us. He will care for us. He will provide for us. He will protect us. He will prosper us. This idea of being separated, or sanctified, from the world is exactly what being a Saint of God is all about. The word "saint" is derived from the Greek word "hagios" which means a holy thing, or a holy one. The word "holy" is also derived from the Greek word "hagiazo" which means to be separated, purified and dedicated to God.
Thus, the "ekklesia" -- that is, the true assembly of God -- is comprised of His Saints; that is, those people who have been called out from the world and the corrupt system of man, in order to serve the one true God. As we saw in part two of this series, being separated from the world is a requirement which Jesus placed upon His first Disciples, and it is still a requirement today for those who wish to call themselves by His Name. Consider the following verses which further reveal God's plan for His children to be separated from the false plastic world of modern physical and spiritual Babylon the Great:
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful."
Psalms 1:1, KJV
"Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD."
Isaiah 52:11, KJV
"Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD'S vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence."
Jeremiah 51:6, KJV
"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
John 15:19, KJV
"I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word . . . I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
John 17:6, 14-17, KJV
"And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation."
Acts 2:40, KJV
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."
1 Corinthians 2:12, KJV
"Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate."
Hebrews 13:12, KJV
"For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."
2 Peter 2:20-22, KJV
"And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."
Revelation 18:4, KJV
What we are basically being told by the previous verses, is that in order to free others from the clutches of Satan and his evil, filthy world of corruption and confusion -- that is, spiritual Babylon the Great -- we must first be free ourselves. In other words, while we are indeed in the world because we live on this Earth and are a part of society, we are not truly a part of it in a spiritual sense. Therefore, we should not take pleasure in the same things as the people of the world. Neither should we think or behave like them. Instead, as I explain in such articles as "Seek Ye First The Kingdom Of God", we should put the Lord, His Word and His Kingdom first in our lives, and do what we can in order to bring others into His Holy Kingdom.
At this point, perhaps you might be wondering to yourself, "Well, suppose that I really do want to live in this manner. Suppose I want to really try to completely obey the Lord and lead a Life of Faith. Exactly how would I go about doing it? Where do I start?"
As I have already shown, within the Book of Acts we find the blueprint for the Early Church which was founded by Jesus and His Apostles. We have plainly seen through many verses that the True Church of Christ consists of the Body of Believers who have physically and spiritually separated themselves from the world by forsaking their secular jobs, family members who oppose their Christian beliefs, and any other obligation that may keep them from serving the Lord full-time. To reiterate, the First Century Disciples weren't just "weekend Christians". They did not just serve the Lord in their spare time. We have seen that the First Century Church met and lived in their own homes, and that they in fact live communally when and where possible. One clear example of this can be found in the very first chapter of the Book of Acts, as we see here:
"Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)"
Acts 1:12-15, KJV
The previous verses are a clear example of First Century Christian communal living. These verses appear to be saying that at the very least, the eleven remaining Apostles lived together, as well as Jesus' flesh family -- which included Mary and His siblings -- plus the other women who followed Jesus. These verses may even be saying that all one hundred and twenty of them were living together; although I think that such a large number of people living together would no doubt have been viewed as a threat by both the Romans and the Jewish hierarchy, and thus would not be permitted. It would have also required a very large home to accommodate so many people. Of course, if these people had been forced to live together in hiding due to persecution, then the size of the upper room may have been a secondary issue.
Regardless of the specific number of people, it seems clear to me that they were living together communally. This leads us to another question: If all of these people dropped out of the secular system of their day and forsook their former lives and jobs, how did they manage to survive? Earlier in this series we learned that the Disciples went out on "faith trips", and that they relied upon the goodness of the people to whom they ministered to provide their needs. This is what living the Life of Faith is all about. Living such a life is not easy. It requires that we have total faith and trust in God's ability to provide our needs. It requires dependence upon God. This kind of faith is only born when we know that we are pleasing Him, and fulfilling His Will for our lives. I am reminded of the following verse:
"Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."
Psalms 37:4, KJV
This concept can also be applied to situations that I discuss in other articles which deal with the wayward condition of the ancient Israelites, such as "The Fruits Of Disobedience". As long as they obeyed the Lord, they had peace with their enemies round about; however, the minute that they began to disobey the Lord, He would set the heathen loose upon them in order to chastise them for their rebellion and sins. In short, if you really want to learn the fear of the Lord, as well as obedience to the Lord, just begin living the Life of Faith, and you will quickly find yourself on your knees in desperate prayer a lot more often than you probably do right now. Of course, you will also learn to recognize the Lord's wonderful provision as well, and be much more grateful for everything that He chooses to provide for you.
However, there is more to the First Century Church blueprint than what we have examined thus far. When these First Century new converts to the Faith forsook their previous lifestyles and secular jobs, exactly what did they do with their money, their properties, their possessions, etc.? The financial plan of the New Testament Church is clearly explained to us in the following verses:
"And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need."
Acts 2:44-45, KJV
"Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."
Acts 4:34-35, KJV
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
Philippians 4:11, KJV
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Hebrews 13:5, KJV
While this may shock a few of my readers, the truth of the matter -- according to the previous verses -- is that the First Century Church consisted of Christian Communists. Now, please don't become alarmed. I am not referring to Soviet Communists or Chinese Communists. The primary difference between the First Century Disciples and Russian or Chinese communists -- aside from the atheist nature of the latter -- is that the Early Christians were motivated to share their possessions by Divine Love, whereas modern communism is the result of an oppressive regime of human origin.
While communism today is obviously fueled by fear, oppression and suppression, the First Century Christians freely chose to share their lives -- and their possessions -- due to a common goal of furthering the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and because of the God-inspired Love which bound them together. They shared everything according to each person's need. They didn't live selfishly in their own homes with their own possessions. They didn't say "This is mine because I worked hard for it, and you can't have it!".
In light of these Biblical truths, it becomes obvious what a reproach some modern Christians are to the Original Pattern that was established by Jesus Christ and His First Century followers. Please notice that the previous verses state that the new converts to the Faith sold everything. This included their very houses. These people were extremely serious about serving the Lord with all of their hearts, souls and minds; exactly as Jesus had required of them. Let me emphasize again that the Disciples weren't namby-pamby go-to-church-on-Sunday Christians. They did not compromise their faith by working a forty-hour week and then just attend fellowships on weekends when they had the time; or after the weekend football game was over. They fellowshipped every single day, because they were living and working together for the Lord all of the time in true Christian unity and love.
Oh that more of us would be willing to forsake our selfish lives and live like that today! What a divided, secular lot we have become during the past two thousand years!
What is also interesting to note regarding the First Century Church blueprint is that poor people were not the only ones who embraced the fledgling Christian Faith. If some of these people possessed homes and lands to sell, then they must have been rather affluent. We also know that some of them -- such as the Apostle Paul, for example -- must have also been very well-educated. I am reminded of how Moses was forced to leave his comfortable life of wealth and fame in Egypt, in order to become a flaming Prophet of the Lord. As you may recall, this came about as a result of Moses being forced to flee for his life after Pharaoh discovered that he had killed an Egyptian. These events in the life of Moses are briefly described in the verses below:
"Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well."
Exodus 2:15, KJV
"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible."
Hebrews 11:24-27, KJV
Considering the preponderance of Scriptural evidence that we have now examined, how can anyone possibly doubt that this was -- and still remains -- the New Testament Blueprint for Christian living? As we have seen, our brethren of the First Century took serving the Lord quite seriously; just as the ancient Israelites also learned to take serving the Lord very seriously under the leadership of men such as Moses, Joshua and Caleb. Just as the Lord was quick to deal with murmurers and complainers in the camp of the Israelites, He also did not tolerate any nonsense or dishonesty within the ranks of the First Century Disciples. This becomes quite evident by the account of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, as found in Acts chapter five. Consider the following verses:
"But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things."
Acts 5:1-11, KJV
Now, obviously, the Scriptures that we have examined in this series present a very tall order, and a tremendous challenge, for anyone who claims to be a Christian, and who enjoys a comfortable, secure, materialistic life in the societies of the Westernized world. While some people may argue that this mode of Christian living and fellowship is not feasible in our modern day, allow me to again remind you of what Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Hebrews:
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
Hebrews 13:8, KJV
In a word, God has not changed, His plan has not changed, and His ability to provide our every need has most certainly not changed. It would seem then that if any change has taken place, it has occurred within our own hearts and lives. As I briefly mentioned in part two, and more amply explain in a number of other articles, it was only several hundred years after those first fiery events that are described for us in the four Gospels and in the Book of Acts, that Christianity cooled off, compromised, and basically solidified into the spiritual block of ice that it in large part remains today.
With the slow passage of time, and the weight and ways of the world continually bearing down upon them, the successors of the First Century Christians eventually lost the fire, they lost the love, and they lost the vision regarding what Christian evangelism is all about. They became one with an ungodly world which in previous centuries had rejected them, persecuted them, and killed them.
While I and a number of other Christian writers often expose the lies and sins of the Roman Catholic church -- please read "Lies And Deceptions Of The Roman Catholic Church", for one example -- none of us can use the failures of the so-called "holy mother church" since the Fourth Century, when it first compromised with the Roman Empire, and become one with the world, as an excuse, or as a red herring, to try to avoid the fact that we are each to blame. Compromise begins in the life of each one of us. We cannot blame the Roman Catholic Church, or even our own church, for our failure to serve the Lord as we know that we should, any more than we can blame Adam and Eve for our personal sins.
While it is true that we may have inherited our sinful nature from the First Pair, nevertheless, as I explain in articles such as "Free Will And Personal Choice", each of our lives is a direct result of our own personal choices and decisions. In fact, we can't even blame Satan, as much as many of us would like to do exactly that. If there is compromise in our lives, it is because we have knowingly allowed it to occur. As the old saying goes, "the buck stops here".
In my view, there are basically three main reasons why most Christians today do not follow the Biblical example of the Book of Acts. These reasons are a lack of faith, a lack of love, and a fear of persecution. Many Christians today claim to possess faith, but it is for the most part a false, dead, pretentious faith. As the Apostle James wrote in his Epistle:
"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
James 2:14-18, 26, KJV
If our faith is truly a living faith, then we should pattern our lives according to the First Century Blueprint that is laid out for us in the Gospels, in the Book of Acts, and in the Epistles. In describing the dismal condition of our faith at the time of His Return, the Lord stated the following in the Gospel of Luke:
". . . Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"
Luke 18:8b, KJV
One of the primary reasons why so many Christians today no longer have the faith to believe in God's promises to supply their needs, is simply because their lives are so taken up by the things of this world, and the affairs of this life, that they have sorely neglected God's Word and their time of daily communion with Him. As we saw in part three, the Apostle Paul tells us:
"No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."
2 Timothy 2:4, KJV
In fact, as you may know, many Christians no longer even do the one-hour ritual every week, although there are certain justifiable reasons for that particular trend. If we aren't willing to spend time in God's Word -- it requires effort on our part to make time for Bible study -- how can we possibly expect to have a living, thriving faith which will motivate us to obey what we find written within the pages of God's Word? As the Apostle Paul informs us in his Epistle to the Romans:
"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
Romans 10:17, KJV
I have written extensively regarding this very same issue in many other articles, so I won't belabor the point here.
Please go to part five for the continuation of this series.
⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .