After Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the group of believers grew rapidly and created the early church, a new kind of community among the followers of Jesus, and initially led by His original disciples. However, this new community was not just something that they made up among themselves; rather, it was built on the teachings and ministry of Jesus and drew on the long history of the Hebrew Scriptures and their prophets.
Read Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37. What do you identify as the key elements in these descriptions of the early church community?
While it seems the Israelites had failed to ever fully live out the blueprint for a just and generous society, the early church community took seriously the instruction that “there need be no poor people among you” (Deut. 15:4, NIV). One of the practical expressions of their faith was sharing their material resources—even selling land and contributing the funds raised (see Acts 4:34-5:2)—to meet the needs of their fellow believers, as well as to be a blessing to those outside the fledgling community, particularly through the ministry of healing (see Acts 3:1-11, Acts 5:12-16).
Yet, this community was not a utopian society by any stretch of the imagination. As the number of believers increased, tensions grew about the administration of these resources, particularly in relation to the daily distribution of food to widows (see Acts 6:1). The disciples, who were the natural leaders of the group, wanted to focus on preaching the gospel. In order to deal with the situation at hand, they needed to do some re-organizing.
Thus, seven people were appointed to focus on the practical matters of the church community. This was perhaps the first recognition of the different ministries and abilities to be exercised in the church; at the same time, it demonstrated the importance of practical ministry for the church’s life and witness. “The same principles of piety and justice that were to guide the rulers among God’s people in the time of Moses and of David, were also to be followed by those given the oversight of the newly organized church of God in the gospel dispensation”. – Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 95.
|Try to envision what it must have been like in that early community. How can we reflect those same principles today?|