Editors Note: In this past year or so, I’ve been lucky enough to have my earthly father email me some of the teachings he’s been preparing for his local church. A few weeks ago he shared this look at the Early 1st Century Church and how we can hopefully learn and be encouraged by their example. I thought I would adapt some of his notes so that we could all benefit from these reminders as we labor in the Harvest.
1. Expecting Great Things When We Gather
The early church meeting were characterized by the first day of the week gatherings of believers.1.
The first day of the week gatherings in the 1st Century were meetings in which anything could happen from the common expression of financial generosity to those in need, to the seeing of a miracle of the raising of a young man from the dead, not to mention listening to apostolic teaching. The question we should ask ourselves: Do we come to church with high expectations? Can anything happen, or are we trapped in ritual and habit? We should pray for God’s people that we have a high degree of expectation when we meet together. Sadly, we can often come to our meetings expecting little and that is precisely what we get. It would be better for us to go away disappointed having expected much than merely expecting little and receiving little.
2. Expectations For Growth
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 2
Do these verses above typify our meetings? Paul paints a beautiful picture of New Testament gatherings, Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you… There was a richness about the New Testament church that we often lack today. Do we think that we have all that is to be had from God?
‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich3.
We should stir ourselves with dissatisfaction. The thought “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” is a dangerous place to be. Spiritual self-satisfaction is a plague across the Western Church. More about this later.
3.Expectations for the Scared
The Lord’s Supper was a central feature in the Early Church assemblies .4 And as we see from 1 Corinthians 11, when the church met for the Lord’s supper it was a very solemn assembly. “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.”
Today we should consider the meal we partake of as spiritual and sacred and holy. To partake of it unworthily is to bring on God’s judgement. Paul would later say, For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep 5. When we talk about the Church being the temple of the Holy Spirit, it means that coming to a church meeting is sacred business. It is to attend a solemn assembly.
We should have joy in our hearts, but we do not come to church for a jolly good time. The lack of reverence for God is another plague that is pandemic among us.
4.Expectations for Everything
First century church meetings were lively gatherings exhibiting God’s presence working among the church body as a whole. As we see in 1 Corinthians 14.
What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification… And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment…For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted… But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner…But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.
The early Church did not seem to have a strong line that separated the clergy and the layman. Notice the phrase each one there 1 Corinthians 14 . Do you remember how the fire of God fell on each one of the gathered believers on the day of Pentecost? In America today churches, especially those that are liturgical in nature and those that stress scholarly and biblical exposition, end up being what I would call ‘clergy focused’. In other words, the layman is often reduced to being the audience of a production that is put on by the professionals.
This again is a plague among God’s people. Sometimes when we go to hear preachers, they in all actuality function as rock stars in the church. This is prevalent in the modern church. The very nature of mega churches has facilitated this. We need to focus on the fact that our meetings should focus on God Himself not on any special individual. The early church meetings were lively gatherings exhibiting God’s presence among each one. The fact that God is among us is the important thing. We should be asking ourselves and God “why He does not visit our meetings in power”. This should be a subject for prayer for us.
5.Expectations for Lordship
Last of all, early Christian assemblies were an expression of God’s kingdom and rule in the earth. For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power 6.
Today, we as God’s people should be the visible expression of Jesus’ kingship in the earth. It is a sobering question to ask ourselves, “Do our church meetings exhibit the rule and power of God?” The meetings of God’s people should be an expression of the Kingdom of God. Does He rule in our hearts? Does He rule among us in our relationships with one another?
The Kingdom of God is not about words. The Kingdom of God is about power, the power to change hearts. The Kingdom is the reversal of the rule of Satan in the earth. It is about the reversal of the effects of Original Sin. This is an expression of God’s power. When God communicates with us in our gatherings it should be to experience the very whisperings of God into our hearts. The Kingdom of God is about God’s creative power.