By Johnie Edwards
Many have never been taught about The First Church. All that we can known about The First Church has been revealed in the Word of God. So, to the Bible we make our appeal to some needed teaching about The First Church.
The First Church Was Not
By knowing some things The First Church was not, we will be in better position to understand what The First Church Was. So, The First Church Was Not:
1. The Roman Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church is never mentioned in the Word of God. In fact, it was not until A.D. 606 that the first Roman Pope was named. Yet, many think that all churches have their origin in the Roman Catholic Church. Most do, but not The First Church!
2. A Human Denomination. The word denomination means a division of. The First Church is not a division of anything. When we think of a denomination, we think of a Mother Church, and from the Mother Church, others spring out of that Mother Church. This may be true of most religious bodies today, but The First Church is not a denomination.
3. A Political Organization. God has ordained government. Paul told the Romans, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1-7). We might not always like the men in power, but we need to respect the office and “pray for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Yet at the same time, the church is not a political body and must stay separate from such.
4. A Social Club. To many, the church is a glorified country club, with fun and frolic as their main agenda. You never read of the Lord’s church providing for, or engaging in, social activities. In fact, Paul, in trying to get the Roman Christians to see where things belonged, said, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).
The First Church Was
Having seen some things The First Church was not, we should be in better position to see some things The First Church was.
1. The Church of Christ. Some seem to be timid about calling the Lord’s church the Church of Christ. The Apostle Paul said, “. . . The churches of Christ salute you” (Rom. 16:16). The church belongs to the Lord because he built it (Matt.
16:18), is its head (Col. 1:18), is the savior of it (Eph. 5:23), and is its foundation (1 Cor. 3:11). Paul said it is the Lord’s church. And that is good enough for me. How about you?
2. One In Number. Paul taught the Ephesians, “there is one body” (Eph. 4:4); and he wrote the Colossians, “for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). The God of heaven never intended for there to be all of the religious bodies we now have, teaching all kinds of conflicting doctrines. In fact, the Lord expects us to be “one as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21). We need to learn that whatever the Bible says to you, it says to me, and whatever it says to me, it says to you!
3. In The Mind Of God From Eternity. To many, the church is a substitute for the Kingdom of Christ due to Jewish rejection of Christ. There is just one thing wrong with such thinking. It is just not so! The Holy Spirit said, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:10- 11). The New Testament Church first existed in the mind of God, from eternity. The church has been made know by the wisdom of God.
The First Church Did Not Have
By studying some things The First Church did not have, we can better see what it does have. Some things The First Church did not have:
1. Any Reverends. Most preachers are not content to just be called by their name. They want to be called reverend, right reverend, father, rabbi, and the like. The word “reverend” is found only one time in the Bible and then it refers to God. “Holy and reverend is his name” (Ps. 111:9). Jesus said, “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Matt. 23:8-9). None of the apostles was ever called reverend — just Peter, James, and John. Job got it right when he said, “Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away” (Job 32:21-22).
2. Mechanical Instruments Of Music. Mechanical instruments of music were used in the Old Testament, as commanded by God (2 Chron. 29:25; Ps. 81:1-4; 150). Since there has been a change in the law (Heb. 7:12) and we live under the New Testament (Gal. 6:2), we are commanded, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12). The instrument, the music is to be made in, is the heart. To use instrumental music in the worship today, is to add a kind of music the Lord never authorized. The only reason The First Church did not use instrumental music in their worship was because the Lord never told them to and they respected the silence of the Scriptures on the subject!
3. Human Institutions Through Which To Work. Many churches today think they cannot do the Lord’s work of evangelism, benevolence, and edification without building and maintaining institutions of men or sponsoring church arrangements. Ever wonder how The First Church got along without such? In benevolence, the local church just did its own work (Acts 6:1-7). And if there were saints in other places which were in need, “. . . the disciples deter- mined to send relief . . . and sent it to the elders” (Acts 11:27-30). Their relief was sent to the elders of the needy churches. The local church was capable of “. . . edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16). They did not build and maintain a school to edify the church. The First Church did evangelism as they sent “wages” (2 Cor. 11:8). Or, like the church at Philippi, “. . . sent once and again unto my necessity” (Phil. 4:15-16).
The First Church Had
Now we can learn some things The First Church had:
1. Elders in Every Church. I am amazed at the number of churches today who are without elders. In New Testament days, “they ordained them elders in every church” (Acts 14:23). For a church to be fully organized as God desires, they must be as the church at Philippi, “. . . the saints in Christ Jesus with the bishops and deacons” (Phil. 1:1). You will notice that there was a plurality of men serving as elders and deacons. Many of the problems facing the church are due to unqualified men trying to run the church in business meetings. We need some good training programs for elders.
2. Christ As the Head. Many churches have so little respect for the head that about anything goes. The church is the body of Christ and Christ is to be its head (Eph. 1:22-23). When we get back to having respect for the head, the church will only do and be as the head directs. The church being in subjection to Christ is absolutely necessary (Eph. 5:24).
3. One Means Of Raising Funds. Today, we find churches raising money by every means except the Lord’s way. New Testament churches were taught, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay be in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Cor. 16:2). Each child of God is to give “bountifully as he purposeth in his heart” (2 Cor. 9:6-7), realizing that, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), “for the Lord loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Tithing belongs to the Old Testament system of giving, sales and car washes belong to the denominations, selling alcohol belongs to the Catholics, and we need to get back to giving the Lord’s way.
4. Gospel Preaching As Its Primary Mission. “Preach the word . . . in season and out, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2), is the divine charge to every gospel preacher. “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord . . .” (1 Thess. 1:8). This must be the primary mission of every New Testament church. Most churches put gospel preaching on the back burner with funny stories, making folks feel good, whitewashing sin; little gospel preaching is being done today!
5. The Lord’s Supper Every First Day of the Week. The First Church met “upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7). Churches observe the Communion, once a year, every six months, quarterly, monthly, or every other week under the guise that it doesn’t say every first day of the week. I saw a sign that says, “Lions meet here Tuesday, 6:00 P.M.” The sign does not say that the Lions meet here every Tuesday. It doesn’t have to. Lions know that every week has a Tuesday! Need I say more?
6. The Lord’s Plan Of Salvation. “Salvation belongeth unto the Lord” (Ps. 3:8). Since salvation is of the Lord, maybe we ought to let him tell us what he wants us to do to be saved. New Testament conversion was brought about by men hearing, believing, and being baptized (Acts 8:12; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:28). After primary obedience, men were taught to, “live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world” (Tit. 2:12).
May the Lord hasten the day when we get back to simple gospel preaching and just let the church be the church as God intended.