The Early Church. When Jesus was so suddenly seized and crucified between two thieves, his apostles and disciples were completely demoralized. They forgot his teachings and his warnings. He might have been a prophet mighty in word and deed before God and all the people, but he was hardly the Messiah who was going to restore the kingdom of Israel. Then comes the resurrection with its deliverance from despair and the return of their faith in the Master’s divinity. And on the day of Pentecost this new teacher comes, and they go out at once to teach the gospel with new power. They are the bold and courageous followers of a living Lord, not a dead and defeated leader. The Master lives in the hearts of these Evangelists; God is not a doctrine in their minds; he has become a living presence in their souls. Day by day they continued steadfastly and with one accord in the temple and breaking bread at home. They took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. They were all filled with the Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. And the multitudes who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them said aught of the things which he possessed was his own, and they had all things in common…..What has happened to these men whom Jesus had ordained to go forth preaching the gospel of the kingdom, the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man? They have a new gospel; they are on fire with a new experience; they are filled with a new spiritual energy. Their message has suddenly shifted to the proclamation of the risen Christ. The gospel of the kingdom, the message of Jesus, had suddenly been changed into the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They now proclaimed the facts of his life, death and resurrection and preached the hope of his speedy return to this world to finish the work he began. They taught the hope of his second coming, an event which they deemed to be very near at hand…. Christ was to become the creed of the rapidly forming church. Jesus lives; he died for men; he gave the spirit; he is coming again. Jesus filled all their thoughts and determined all their new concept of God and everything else. “God is the Father of the Lord Jesus” replaced “God is the loving Father of all mortals.” It’s true that marvelous good will did spring up among those early believers. But it was a fellowship of believers in Jesus, not a fellowship of brothers in the family kingdom of the Father in heaven…..Unmistakably, a new fellowship was arising in the world. They shared everything and cared for the poor. They confidently expected that Jesus would come back to finish the establishment of his Father’s kingdom. The spontaneous sharing of earthly possessions come about because these men and women confidently believed that Jesus would be back any day to finish his work and consummate the kingdom. But the final results of this well-meant experiment in thoughtless brotherly love were disastrous and sorrow-breeding. Thousands of earnest believers sold their property and disposed of their capital goods and other productive assets. With the passing of time the dwindling resources of Christian sharing came to an end–but the world did not. Very soon the believers at Antioch were taking up a collection to keep their fellow believers at Jerusalem from starving…..Early on they celebrated the Lord’s Supper as Jesus has established it. They partook of the Sacrament after they had a social meal of good fellowship. At first they baptized in the name of Jesus; it was almost 20 years before they baptized “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”….The Jewish leaders noticed this popular sect and started persecuting it, but the great rabbi Gamaliel told them if God was involved there was no sense in harassing them. So there was peace for awhile in Jerusalem. And then the Greeks showed up from Alexandria. An early convert was Stephan, who preached the same massage as Jesus and was promptly stoned to death. He was the first martyr. After that the church was organized under the leadership of Peter, and James, the brother of Jesus, was installed as its titular head. The name of the movement, Christianity, was given to the world by the church in Antioch.

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