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Wisdom and the Early Church

What is godly wisdom?

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The very first Church of Acts was a Jewish Church. If there was one thing about the Jews of that day, it was that God was a given. There was too much history (chronicled warts-and-all in the pages of the Old Testament) between the people and their Deity for the lack of faith to be an issue. God and His people were very much an item, although these particular people were blinkered, as a whole, when it came to the earthly visitation of the Son of God and all that entailed. So it stood to reason that those Jews who had accepted Jesus as the Son of God and who had arranged themselves in those first churches, were wise in the ways of God.

So what evidence do we have that these Jewish Christians were walking and acting with godly wisdom? First we look at how James described this state of being:

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

And the wisdom that is unacceptable?

But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3:14-16)

He summarises it so:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13)

So we look through the early chapters of the Book of Acts and decide whether those Christians generally acted in a peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial and sincere way or whether they were motivated by envy and selfish ambition.

We do not have reams of information in the Biblical account, but what we have tends to tell a story that these people were acting out of godly wisdom, as imparted by the apostles and teachers:

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 favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

Of course nobody’s perfect and the apostles Paul, Peter and John wouldn’t have felt it necessary to add a few rebukes and corrections in their letters if everyone had got it right. John felt it necessary to say a few words about specific churches and their shortcoming before getting into the nitty-gritty of the Revelation.

When we move forwards to the next chapter of Church history we encounter a significant development. Other ideas were seeping into the Church, through the writings and teachings of the Church Fathers, pagan ideas from the Greek philosophers. Paul saw it coming:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

More next week …

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