Hello everyone, and thanks for coming back. We are going to chart now the “falling away”of the early congregation. What I will be doing is going from the Jews first, and then the Gentiles, and then just going back and forth, until we hit that date the “church” was really established.
Let’s go to the book of Acts and start there, turning to Acts 1: 4-5
The Promise Of The Holy Spirit
Acts 1:4-5 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. V5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
So before Jesus leaves and ascends to the Father in heaven, He promises his disciples of the coming Holy Spirit, and this is what they will now be baptized with, to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, so they may go out and become witnesses of Jesus, and the start of his congregation, the Congregation of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit Comes
Acts 2:1-4 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. V2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. V3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. V4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
So the Congregation of Jesus is born, its first members are the original 11 disciples plus Matthias, who was picked to take the place of Judas, the one who betrayed the Lord Jesus. By the coming of the Holy Spirit, a new Congregation was born, under the New Blood Covenant of our Lord.
The Congregation grows in one day
Acts 2:5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven
Let’s look at this verse a little deeper. If you are wondering how these Jews, were dwelling in Jerusalem but out of every nation under heaven, and not just from the land of Palestine, and speaking different languages, this is the reason why. It’s called the Jewish Diaspora. I will be covering this later in my study, however to avoid any confusion this is a quick run down of the Diaspora ( Greek: Dispersion). The first significant Jewish Diaspora was the result of the Babylonian Exile of 586 BC. After the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah, part of the Jewish population was deported into slavery. Although Cyrus the Great, the Persian conqueror of Babylonia, permitted the Jews to return to their homeland in 538 BC, part of the Jewish community voluntarily remained behind. However the largest, and most significant Jewish Diaspora in early Jewish history flourished in Alexandria, where in the first century BC, 40 percent of the population was Jewish. Alexandria was the capital of Egypt, and was founded by Alexander the Great; again I will be going over this in more detail later. Around the 1st century AD, an estimated 5,000,000 Jews lived outside Palestine, about four-fifths of them within the Roman Empire, but they looked to Palestine as the center of their religious and cultural life. Diaspora Jews far outnumbered the Jews in Palestine even before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. “Pentecost” is actually the Greek name for a festival known in the Old Testament as the Feast of Weeks. The Greek word means “fifty” and refers to the fifty days that have elapsed since the wave offering of Passover. The Feast of Weeks celebrated the end of the grain harvest. So now we can see why there were so many Jews from all around Palestine, that were in Jerusalem that day, and that was to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. Isn’t that exactly how our Lord works, He picked a time where there would be thousands of Jews from all over, that would be able to hear the words of Peter, and add to the Congregation, in just one day.
Acts 2:41-42 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. V42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
In one day the Congregation went from 0 to about 3012 souls, isn’t that cool, and I also want to point out this, notice in verse 42, where it says “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.” This is the true form of the Congregation, they remained steadfast in the truth of the apostles’ doctrine. Any “church” today that has strayed from the truth of the apostles’ doctrine, is in error, and is not, I repeat, is not of the Congregation. There may be members in that church that are, but if they go along also with the doctrines that are false, and teach others the same, and to do the same, they are not of the Congregation either. Troy does this mean salvation? Well remember when I talk about the church, I’m talking about it, in its most broadest sense. Example: Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, all Protestant churches etc. so yes, in some cases I’m talking about their eternal salvation, or I should say lack thereof. Some doctrines, are so distorted by man, that anyone who believes in it, will perish. But that my friends are not for us to judge, that is for the Lord God, and Him only, our job is to go in search for the truth, and once it is found, hold on to it with all our might, and all our heart, and then tell others as the Lord leads us to do.
This day in history, the day our Congregation came to be was June 17, 31 AD. Notice as the Gospel is to the Jew first, the very first believers, the first members of our Congregation of Jesus, were in fact Jewish, isn’t that cool? Why today is there a separation? In fact Jews and Gentiles are brothers and sisters if they have believed in Jesus for their salvation, and no other way. We are not separated like they want us to think. Who are they? They are the Jews today, and the churches. Stay tuned to this study and you will understand fully, what I’m talking about.
The Apostles began their active ministry, right there in Jerusalem, the Gospel went out. In addition to the first 3,000 who were baptized on the day of Pentecost, there were 5,000 men who believed.
Acts 4:4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
With women also being added, the Congregation in Jerusalem must have grown rapidly to over 10,000.
Acts 5:15 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.
Through the Apostles, Christ performed miraculous healings, gave His ministers gifts to speak in foreign languages, and empowered them with the gifts of prophecy. “And the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of priests were obedient to the faith.”
Acts 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Within the first year or two the Congregation must have been well over thirty or forty thousand in Jerusalem alone.
The Gospel Spreads Outside Of Jerusalem
Jesus had told His disciples, that they through the power of the Holy Spirit that was upon them, that they would be witnesses, unto the uttermost part of the earth.
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.
Jerusalem being the city, Judaea being the surrounding cities, which Jesus ministered in which was part of Palestine. It was not considered Israel at that time, because of the Roman occupation. But what about Samaria, let’s take a look at that.
Samaria- Was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Israel. Human habitation in Samaria dates back to the fourth millennium BC, but the town was formally founded as Israel’s capital city by King Omri in the early ninth century BC. Many of the northern kings were entombed there. Between 884-722 BC. Samaria endured several attacks and remained Israel’s capital until it was captured by the Assyrian Empire and its leading residents were deported. (www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Samaria)
When we move through the history of Israel, before we look at the various different theologies, such as replacement, separation etc. I will be covering the Hebrew history, from the United Kingdom of Israel, all the way to the fall of, first, the Northern Kingdom, and then the fall and deportation of the Southern Kingdom to Babylon.
Samaria later became the central city of the Samaritan nation and lent its name to the surrounding administrative district in Greek and Roman times. It was rebuilt as Sebaste by Herod the Great in 27 BC. In the New Testament, the territory of Samaria was where Jesus met the “woman at the well” to whom he revealed his identity as the Messiah. In the book of Acts, the city of Samaria was the location of the successful Christian evangelical effort outside Jerusalem. It is also believed to be the burial place of John the Baptist. (www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Samaria)
Let’s look at those verses the above article refers to. I love writing about these events. I hate having to write about the evil all the time, but as long as evil is present, we have to call it out for what it is. We will start with Jesus, and the “women at the well.”
John 4:3-4 He (Jesus) left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. V4 And he must needs go through Samaria.
Now I want to stop here and look at where Jesus commands his disciples not to go into Samaria.
Matthew 10:1 And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of disease.
Then verses 2-4 name off the twelve disciples, now on to verses 5-6
Matthew 10:5-6 These twelve Jesus sent fourth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. V6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
So you may be asking why? Why did Jesus command this? Let’s go back to the book of John, and look at what the women said to Jesus at the well, and then I will explain.
John 4:9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
The woman knowing that Jesus was a Jew, was shocked, not only because he asked of her for a drink of water, but probably was also shocked that he was even talking with her, here’s why. After the captivity of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians, because of the their disobedience, and their failure to heed the warnings of the prophets that were sent there, the ten tribes that fell under the Assyrians, were taken captive, some to Nineveh, and others were just scattered through out northern Judaea, and farther regions. They, the ten tribes, over time were scattered and became lost in history. Some will say they know exactly where the tribes migrated to, but in reality, they are lost. Because of their fall, they mixed their seed, with other nations and people’s, and from that point on, the Jews of the Southern Kingdom, looked at them as half breeds, not full Hebrews, therefore they were considered unclean, not as bad as a Gentile, but close, in their eyes.
look at what Jesus said to her, I love this part. Before this, there is a conversation going on between Jesus and the woman, and it leads to this.
John 4:19-20 The woman saith unto him, Sir I perceive that thou art a prophet. V20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
And what comes next is Jesus’s response to this statement.
John 4:21-24 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. V22 Ye worship Ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. V23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. V24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth.
That’s right friends, the Samaritans were so tied up in different pagan beliefs and rituals, that goes back to their rebellion, they didn’t really understand what was truth, just like the Gentiles. Jesus said of the Jews was salvation, and from the tribe of Judah came our Lord Jesus, a tribe of the Southern Kingdom. But what I want to emphasize is where true believers worship the Father, not in a temple, synagogue, or church building etc. we worship Him in Spirit. The Congregation of Jesus, His Ekklesia, (or Ecclesia, which most like to spell it, but it doesn’t matter), is not of this earth. You can’t walk in the doors of Jesus’ Congregation, it is a body of believers from all over the world now, Jews and Gentiles, who by the Spirit, worship the Father in Spirit and truth, and are obedient to Him, and His Word (the Bible). We don’t change it, to make it into something it is not, we don’t take away from it, or add to, we believe it for what it says, and do our best to follow it, and when we fall short, we repent, we get back up and we move on, following our Lord, where ever he goes. You cannot go to a building and think that is worshipping God. Some people really believe that if they go to church on Sunday, and attend a “worship service” your golden with the Father, all’s well. Nope, you see, you can’t attend The Lords Congregation, either your in Spiritually, or your not. The Ecclesia, is what was built upon this rock, with Jesus as its cornerstone; this is what Jesus was talking about to Peter, not a”church.” True believers, real followers, worship the Father in the spirit, everywhere, and anywhere, at any time. This is not some new thought up doctrine by man, this is the truth of scripture taught by the Apostles, it’s right there in scripture, spoken by our Lord Jesus Himself. And if we members of the Congregation come together and worship, it’s an Assembly, not a “church,” the word doesn’t belong anywhere.
Notice Jesus commanded his disciples not to go to the Samaritans or the Gentiles, because it was to the Jew first, but he, himself went and proclaimed that he was the Messiah. Do you know what this tells me? Jesus saw no one unclean, or not good enough. He saw no sin to great to forgive. Where man puts up walls and boundaries, Jesus tears them down. Where man carries his arrogance, and pride, and hate, his inability to forgive others, and looks down on someone or some group, Jesus through His humbleness, and holiness, and love, doesn’t look down at someone or some group, but looks at them eye to eye, so to speak, and by love offers forgiveness, and companionship, with Him, God Himself, and to be loved by Him. And all He asks from us, is to love Him back, be obedient to His commands, (His word, the Bible, and follow His will for our lives), that’s it. And if you really love someone, really, you automatically want to do that which pleases them, and not cause heartache. My salvation and relationship with Him, is everything to me now, I won’t lie, it wasn’t always, but my friends it sure is now.
So to conclude up to this point, and come to an end to this post. From the day of Pentecost and onward, the Congregation was first comprised of just Jews, and it grew quickly, and just has the Apostle Paul taught us, the Gospel is for the Jew first, and always will be. Then we see that the Congregation grew outside of the city of Jerusalem, and spread throughout Judaea, and now it will spread to the outer parts of Palestine, and Samaria, and with Saul coming on the scene, it will eventually spread to all the Gentiles in Asia. So next post we will be continuing right where we left off. Until next time, may the Lord bless your search for truth, leaving no stone unturned.