Thursday, May 29, 2008

The New Testament Church

In order to have an understanding of one's place in the church it might be good to take a look at what the early church looked like. The book of Acts gives us some insights into the development of the church: what people did administratively, and then what God did to keep His purposes in place. Paul also wrote in three epistles about the gifts that God employs in His people for the encouragement and building up of His church.

What the People Did:

  • They prayed until they were endued with the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1 and 2)
  • They devoted themselves to: the apostles' teaching, to breaking bread together, to fellowship, and to prayer (Acts 2:42)
  • They met from house to house
  • They appointed deacons to deal with practical and administrative needs (Acts 6)
What God Did:
  • He allowed the first church split - not because of differences and hurts! (Acts 8) Did the church become too comfortable? The result was people spreading the gospel beyond Jerusalem.
  • He told the prophets and teachers in Antioch to set apart Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13) for evangelism & missions, expanding to the Gentiles. They also were led to encourage the disciples in different places.
  • Paul worked for two years daily in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19).
  • They also established elders in the churches (Acts 19, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1).
All of this happened against the backdrop of the apostles, deacons, prophets and teachers, etc. sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Gifts in the Body
God's Gifts. In Roman's 12 Paul mentions gifts that God gives and their accordant faith levels: Prophecy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Giving, Leading and Mercy.

Christ's Gifts. In Ephesians 4 Paul mentions gifts that Christ gave in order to equip the saints for the work of the ministry: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

The Holy Spirit's Gifts. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12 about the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives for the common good: words of wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, the effecting of miracles, prophecy, the distinguishing of spirits, various kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.

In each member of the church there is overlap from these three groupings of gifts that Paul writes about. And God's design is to use these gifts in us for "the work of the ministry" and for the building up of the body of Christ. And Paul says He distributes these as He wills.

An interesting note to me is that many people will readily agree that the gifts in Romans 12 exist in the church today, while they might pick and choose gifts they think exist today from Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12. However, I have never seen any scriptural grounds that suggest that some of these gifts are not for His church today.


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