On a Pentecost Celebration, 50 days after the resurrection of Christ, the church was birthed. The church started with a membership of about 3,120 brothers and sisters. The Apostle Peter had the honor of preaching the first anointed sermon that marked the inauguration of the Bride of Christ. The result of his preaching brought 3,000 new souls into the Kingdom.
At the time of the birth of the church we had the Old Testament, eyewitnesses who saw Jesus walking on this earth, they saw him dying on the cross, there were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection and, eyewitnesses who saw him ascending to heaven. The church started with 11 apostles and a substitute for Judas was identified in Acts 1:12-26; Mathias was his name. The New Testament was written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Jude and Paul. We do not know for sure who wrote Hebrews. It is widely accepted that the New Testament was completed by 70 A.D. with the death of the John. Also, even as the rest of the original apostles did not write any portion of Scripture, history tells us that they were very active in the spreading of the gospel and in planting churches. All of the them died horrible deaths for their commitment to their faith in Jesus. John was the only one who died of natural death.
Nothing written after the death of the Apostle John is part of Scripture.
It is important, as we develop this article and in our search for who we are as a church and where is our church family; that we place our focus on the Word itself. The Word is key; Jesus stated in John 8:31-32 “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (NASB)
It is important to remember these verses because, as we can see through Church history, it is very easy to identify who were not disciples of Jesus by their heretical approach to Scripture and by the twisting of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even as we know in part, the Scripture has made certain truths very obvious and non-negotiable. For example the Apostle Paul has no tolerance for folks who preach a different Gospel when he states, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Galatians 1:8 (NASB)
Obviously, after the death of John, folks continue to write books just like they do today. Some of those writings were great, but some were flat-out heresy. Let me make it clear that choosing the divine scriptures was not a complicated task; it required three simple qualifications:
“The process of canonization did not grant biblical books their authority. Rather, books that were recognized as authoritative were admitted to the canon.” Klein gives the following criteria for the New Testament Canonicity: 1) Apostolic connection, 2) Orthodoxy in the theology and ethics of the New Testament and 3) books passed the test of times in their effectiveness in helping a large number of churches since the early generations of Christianity.””
It is safe to say that for the first 140 years of church we had no denominations; no Catholic church, no Methodist, no Pentecostals, etc. The original apostles had disciples that were train and they kept the church in good theological shape. So far there was plenty of persecution, but no dealings with the government, no 501 © (3), no need for organizations and no need for an agency to recognize your credentials. In other words, there was no sense of exclusivity as it is today. You were born again; you were discipled, trained in your ministry and expected to walk in your divine calling.
This spirit of exclusivity has been around for a long time and is obviously not of God. For example, Moses finds himself tired, he is suicidal and ready to quit after 39 years of walking with the children of Israel in desert. God tells Moses:
The Lord therefore said to Moses, “Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. 17 Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone. Number 11: 16-17 (NASB)
Many years back Moses’ Father in law provided a man-made solution that proved to be a failure (Exodus 18). However, Moses is now receiving a Godly solution. It is here that we see the spirit of exclusivity showed up for the first time. In Numbers 11:26-29 the Bible tells us,
However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (NASB)
Jesus was faced with the same spirit of exclusivity in Luke 9:49 when they saw other folks casting out demons,
John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.” (NASB)
Finally, we see Paul addressing and explaining this spirit of exclusivity even further. In Philippians 1:15-18 Paul states,
Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. (NASB)
God does have a church government in place. His Government is simple; it includes Apostles, Elders and Deacons. The Apostle was sent and recognized massively by church leadership as a church planter, as leader of leaders and diverse churches. The Elders were the group of leaders of the local church and the Deacons were helpers or servants. Now, with the arrival of tens of thousands of denominations we may feel that if we are not connected with this or this other denomination we may be disconnected from the Body of Christ; but nothing can be further from the truth. The reality is that men has complicated the CHURCH way too much. I go as far as stating that, moving away from God’s Word and the spirit of exclusivity, have served as powerful destructive weapons against the orthodoxy of the church. As I continue developing these articles, I hope to prove my point.
To be continued…