With the Word of God as our foundation, we begin a study of church history with the "first church" Primoris Templum. Contrary to even a prevalent opinion, the church did NOT start at Pentecost. For one reason, if the church began at Pentecost, it then would deny what the Lord said He would do. In Matt. 16:18, the Lord said "I will build my church." If one believes in a Pentecost Birthday of the church, then it was the Holy Spirit that built the church. We know this is not so. The reason the Pentecost birthday theory is so prevalent is because it goes hand in hand with the universal church theory.
Rather, the first church was that church which our Lord Jesus Christ began during His ministry here on earth. The very first mention of church is found in Matthew 16:18
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.The Lord Jesus took the materials prepared by John the Baptist (baptized believers) to build His church. He trained them for the missionary work, the commission of the church-the Evangelizing, Baptizing, and Discipling of others (Matt. 28:19-20, Mark 16:15).
That first church was a visible, organized assembly of baptized believers doing the work of God-a true church. That first church had a Head (Matt. 23:8 "...for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren."), it had a Pastor (John 10:11, 14 the word pastor means shepherd), it had discipline (Matt. 18:15-20), it conducted business meetings (Acts 1:15-26), it had a treasurer (John 13:29), it was commissioned (Matt. 28:18-20), it did missionary work (Matt. 10:1-11:1), it baptized believers (John 4:1-2), it had a membership roll (Acts 1:13-15), it observed the Lord's Supper (Matt. 26:26-28), it had singing (Matt. 26:30, Heb. 2:12), it met for prayer (Luke 11:1-9, Acts 1:14), and those saved at Pentecost were "added unto" (you can not add to what does not already exist). We thus see that the church the Lord began, pre-pentecost was the first church.
That church and all churches it would eventually produce, were to continue this work until He comes again. Thus, with Christ as the Head of each church, the work of the church continues. This is why a church is referred to as "the body of Christ." The body refers to service. Many mistakenly believe that 'the body of Christ' is all believers here on earth. This is false teaching. The body of Christ is applied to every local, visible church. Each church is the body of Christ with Christ as its Head. How is this so?
Our Lord illustrated this in the instituting of the Lord's Supper in Matthew 26
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body."Now which piece each disciple held was 'the body.' When our churches observe the Lord's supper, does any church use that same bread He used that evening? No, of course not. So today, every true New Testament church is the body of Christ. He is the Head of every true New Testament church.
That first body, the Lord and His disciples from whom He chose 12 as Apostles (Matthew 10:1,2; 1 Cor. 12:28) constituted the first church. That church would go on fulfilling the work the Lord trained it to do, and as a result other like churches were started which with His Authority started other like churches and thus begins our study of church history.