Monday, October 11, 2010

Ecclesia Explosion

When the Lord ascended into Heaven, He left behind an assembly of baptized believers ready to carry on the work of Christ (a church). He told that church when He ascended in Acts 1:8 "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." He then ascended up to Heaven as the church stood gazing. They then went to an upper room and continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the church. Following a business meeting of the church in Acts 1, the church continued in one accord until that day of Pentecost when the church experienced something wonderful.
On that day of Pentecost and the days to follow soon after, the church there at Jerusalem grew rapidly. From that small group listed in Acts 1:14-15 which we know total there was nearly 500 (1 Cor. 15:6), to soon an estimated membership of over 25,000! Quite the explosion!
That church would meet at Solomon's Porch at the Temple (Acts 5:12), private homes (Acts 12:12-NOT THE SAME AS THE MODERN DAY HOUSE CHURCH MOVEMENT WHICH IS UNSCRIPTURAL), and was pastored by the apostles with Peter seemingly taking the leadership (Acts 1:15). That church grew so much that soon the pastors could not meet the needs of the widows and such, and so that church elected deacons (Acts 6) who served the church.
The membership of this church at this time was Jewish and consisted of three types of Jews:
1. Hebrews-Jews from Palestine that maintained a Jewish lifestyle
2. Grecians-Hellenistic Jews of the Dispersion who were Greek speaking and had adopted the world's culture
3. Proselytes-Gentiles who had embraced Judaism and received circumcision
(**Sadly even then there was the beginnings of a 'church split' amongst these different groups within the church-Acts 6-and that is why deacons were chosen).
It is true that God's plan for missions was to take the Gospel to the Jew first and then the Gentiles (Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8). Beginning at Jerusalem and then according to Acts 1:8 to Judaea, Samaria, and to the rest of the world.
The Lord would show in this pattern the authority of His church and then other churches would be started with that Authority of that Authority. Let us examine the Acts 1:8 pattern in action:
1. The receiving of power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you.
We see this take place in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost. On that day the Holy Ghost (as promised by the Saviour) came and was received by that early church. There were many 'devout men' in Jerusalem at that time who came and visited the church and heard Peter deliver a powerful message and as a result repented, were saved, and then also received the Holy Ghost (upon salvation) and were baptized.
2.Witnesses unto me in Jerusalem. That day 3,000 in Jerusalem were saved, baptized, and added unto the church. They "continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship...and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."
3. Witness in all Judaea In Acts 10 we see Peter with a group of believers from the church at Jerusalem going to Caesarea (the capital city of Judaea), and visiting with Cornelius. After preaching there, many were saved, received the Holy Ghost (upon salvation-it is important to note here that Peter did not have to lay his hands upon them in order to received the Holy Ghost; our Lord was teaching Peter and the Jews that the same Gospel, same God, same Holy Ghost was for the Gentiles as it was for them) and were baptized under the authority of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 10:47-48). Now the Jews and Gentiles in Jerusalem and Judeae had had received the Gospel. (Acts 11:1)
4. Witness in Samaria. In Acts 8, Philip was sent from the church at Jerusalem to Samaria (vs. 5). Here the people of Samaria heard the Truth and "believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women" under that authority there at Jerusalem. (Important to note, here Peter and John came to see the believers and laid their hands on them in order form them to receive the Holy Ghost-this is because the Samaritans had a different place of worship in Mt. Gerizim than the Jewish Temple-John 4:21-22, but as our Lord told the woman of Samaria "the hour cometh when ye shall neither in the mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father...for salvation is of the Jews." It was not God's will that the Samaritan's have a separate worship than the Jews any longer; thus the Samaritans had to recognize the authority of the church that Jesus began by the laying on of hands by Peter and John in order to receive the Holy Ghost.) Now the Gospel was preached in Jerusalem, Judaea, and Samaria and all recognized the authority of the church Jesus started and the importance of having proper authority.
5. Witness unto the uttermost part of the earth.The Lord permitted persecution to come upon the church at Jerusalem to accomplish His purpose (Acts 8:14) and soon the Gospel was being preached unto the world through men such as Paul. In Acts 19 Paul met some disciples of John in Corinth who had obviously missed the preaching of John. Paul corrected their thinking and they too believed and were baptized Scripturally. Here Paul lays his hands upon them and they receive the Holy Ghost (again a recognition of proper authority). Now in Jerusalem, Judeae, Samaria, and the world was the Gospel being preached, souls were being saved, and people were getting baptized. The Holy Ghost from this point on will only be seen being received upon salvation-just as we received the Holy Ghost. God's purpose in that was to establish to all regions the Truth of God's Word and proper Authority.
The church had gone from the Lord and His disciples to 100's of thousands of believers across the world, just as the Lord said it would. What growth-what Ecclesia explosion! Now, with the Gospel and proper authority, churches would be established and our Lord uses a man named Paul to continue this great work.

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