The Glory of the Early Church
Like a well-tended garden, the early church in Jerusalem took in an abundance of the light of the Son and produced abundant fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[fn]Galatians 5:22-23[/fn] It was the same way in the churches the apostles established throughout the Roman world.[fn]1 Thessalonians 2:14[/fn] Like a healthy plant, they produced this fruit through responding to the light, as the Apostle John spoke of repeatedly in his first epistle:
He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause of stumbling in him. He who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness… (1 John 2:10-11)
It was the light of revelation that John was talking about, the revelation that comes to those who love Messiah enough to obey Him.[fn]John 14:21,23[/fn] It was the same light from heaven that the Master confirmed in Peter when he proclaimed Him the Messiah.[fn]Matthew 16:17-18[/fn] The light of the Messiah’s life in His disciples, emanating from His love poured out in their hearts,[fn]John 1:4; Romans 5:5[/fn] produced the predictable response of love for the brothers. This was not a mystical love expressed in words alone, but a real love expressed in the very practical, real ways that John detailed in 1 John 3.[fn]1 John 3:14-18[/fn] According to John, one who did not freely share “the world’s goods” did not possess God’s love. He was only fooling himself. True love is shown in the kind of sharing seen in Jerusalem in Acts 2 and 4, where all things were held in common and no one lacked anything he needed.[fn]Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37[/fn] Anything less than this was not true love — such as holding on to one’s own life and possessions. God judged this very seriously in Jerusalem in those early, sincere, and pure days of the first-century church.[fn]See the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11.[/fn]
Their self-sacrificing love, expressed in both the big and small ways, was noted with wonder by the world around them. They were even said to have “turned the world upside down.”[fn]Acts 17:6 (KJV)[/fn] This quality of love expressed in their everyday life was proof that they were living and walking in the light. Or to put it another way, they lived their lives as though Yahshua were living in their communities in bodily form, as though His eyes were upon them and the grace of His immediate presence was available to them.[fn]They could confess that He was among them, 1 John 4:2[/fn]
Their willing hearts were continually responding to the teachings of the apostles, just as chlorophyll continually responds to the sun. The natural result was that they became more and more like their Master, Yahshua the Messiah.[fn]Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:42[/fn] He had made the great promise to those who loved Him (which is to say, those who obeyed Him) that He would reveal Himself to them:
He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21)
The Analogy of Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll harnesses the vast energy of the sun, as it is transmitted across the empty, cold chasm of space through its radiant light, enabling the plant to grow, mature, reproduce, and withstand disease. That vast energy in the physical world may be compared to the Word of God in the spiritual realm. Those who respond to it prove they have the same spiritual “chlorophyll” as the early church. Naturally, they will bear the same fruit the first disciples did. The secret of the glory of the early church was this: The Savior and His disciples had the same heart to do the will of their Father in heaven. This willingness is the “chlorophyll” that continuously and fruitfully responds to the love/light of the Father. This heart passes on to the rest of the body all that it needs to grow, mature, reproduce, and resist infection, disease, and spiritual death.
Yahshua was the seed of life from which they came, which fell to the ground and died and so did not remain alone,[fn]John 12:24[/fn] but filled the hearts of many with love and hope. He showed it to the uttermost, even going to the cross for them in obedience to His Father.[fn]Matthew 26:39; John 20:17[/fn] Receiving this heart is what enabled His disciples to receive the grace and power to do the Father’s will. They were truly linked to their God, and as a germinating seed explosively grows, they enjoyed in those days the growth that comes from God.[fn]Colossians 2:19[/fn]
As they responded to God’s light in the gospel, they continued to express it through outspokenness in their gatherings, where all were free to share, not just a specialized, highly educated few.[fn]1 Corinthians 14:1,26,31[/fn] As James would write many years later, taking care of its widows and orphans was a sign of whether a church was actually connected to God. But this standard was set in the very beginning of the Church, in Acts 6, where taking care of the widows and orphans was a matter of the highest council and chief importance, which would have taken the apostles away from their ministry of the Word to serve if no one else were appointed.[fn]Acts 6:1-7[/fn] They knew the Father’s heart towards the widows and orphans as expressed in Psalm 68:
A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a dry land. (Psalm 68:5-6)
They did not want the communities they had begun to end up as a dry and parched land, no longer moistened by the showers of grace from heaven above. It is only the rebellious — those actually disconnected from the God of Heaven — who ignore the widows and orphans in their midst. As James would write many years later,[fn]See the The Insurgent for more about the Epistle of James.[/fn] such people also do not bridle their tongues, but talk on and on:
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:26-27)
Preamble to Christian History
The epistle of James would, sadly, be the preamble to the awesome and terrible Christian history which followed the days and acts of the apostles. The epistles of the New Testament exposed the problems of the early churches (which the Holy Spirit evidently wanted us to know about), as well as the revelation given to those who had received the good news.
Far from being either a rigorous statement of theology or a glorious march through its early history, the New Testament chronicles what can only be described as a continual spiritual decline. By the time James wrote his epistle, the story was virtually over, the light of revelation extinguished, and the fire of love down to a few coals in the hearts of the few sincere. The grave warning signs were recorded not only in the letters to the churches in Revelations 2 and 3, but in many other places as well, from the first letter to the Corinthians on.
The other articles in this section discuss many of them which, if one reads the New Testament with open eyes, are both shocking and revealing in their portrayal of the decline, even the death of the young church. Selfishness, immorality, greed, Gnosticism, and rebellion against God’s authority in the apostles and prophets were all fatal wounds, culminating in the takeover of the church by the Nicolaitans — the clergy. They were a grim representation of the deeply stained condition of most in the churches. Their garments ended up the color symbolic of death and evil — black. With them, night had come when no man could do the works of God, just as Messiah prophesied in John 9:4.
If you desire to be set free, not only from this evil religious system, but also from the deep effects of unbelief on your soul, read on. We have found the antidote to the silence of the churches in which only the educated few speak. It is the thankfulness of those truly saved by the blood of the Lamb, who overcome by the word of their testimony, and who do not love their own lives unto death. They have something better to love — His life!