What did the early Church do with converts?
The apostles and early disciples were pioneers of a new tradition, teachings direct from God Himself. They went by the name of "the Way" and we read of their activities in this much-quoted passage right at the start of the story of the Church, in Acts 2:
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
Is this not one of the most exciting passages in the Bible? A people transformed from an uncertain rabble to those devoted to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and eating together in their homes and to prayer.
And they also had time to meet every day in the temple courts, in full view of the people in the most provocative way, in the holiest place, the Temple area. In today's terms it would be like having our prayer meetings and services in our shopping malls, museums, or council chambers - our "holy places".
What else did they do?
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 4:32-37)
Is there a church today that can truly say that it is fully duplicating all of these activities listed, in an atmosphere of freedom, liberty and openness?
We read later in Acts what affect the Way had in the world around them.
... if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:2)
But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way ... (Acts 19:9)
About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. (Acts 19:23)
So the Way was causing a disturbance, being publicly maligned, and some were even thrown into prison. They were also a church of great power.
The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. (Acts 5:12-16)
Miraculous signs and wonders in public! The sick being laid in the streets for healing and deliverances. All of them were healed! Is this not real revival? Give me some of this old-time religion!
But they were starting to cause a disturbance. The religious leaders were not happy. We read of this in the very next verses in Acts:
Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. "Go, stand in the temple courts," he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life." At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. (Acts 5:17-21)
When you have God's favour, nothing can hold you back! More became believers - even priests became Christians - the equivalent of today's scientists or radical politicians becoming believers.
It wasn't to last. The enemy was most unhappy.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. (Acts 8:1)
The Church began its journey ... into the nations, forced out by persecution - rather than by missionary zeal. Isn't that interesting?
And this is where the real problems began.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Truth)