The Fellowship – The Early Church (Part 4)

A devoted church, is a church in fellowship together.  In this series, we’ll explore what Jesus said, what the early church did, and how we, the church, can become more devoted.

What JESUS said about fellowship…
Jesus declared that he would build his church on the rock that Peter stood on – the faithful ones who believed and followed him…

“[Jesus asked], But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon, Son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it…”[i]

Jesus spoke of building his CHURCH.  He used the Greek word ecclesia, meaning “the called out ones.”  Therefore, the Church consists of those who are called out to believe and follow in faith.  Jesus is calling all of us[ii], and so those who choose to believe and follow become the Church that Jesus is building.

Jesus even prayed for those who would believe in the future.  Jesus prayed, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message…”  But he didn’t stop there, Jesus prayed that through UNITY and LOVE, others would and will know that He indeed was the Son of God.[iii]

The Church, as Jesus taught, is a group of believers who not only follow in His footsteps, but also bond together in unity and love so that others would believe and follow as well.  For Jesus, the Church is about being in fellowship together.

 

What the EARLY CHURCH did…
The early church devoted themselves to the fellowship.[iv]  The fellowship was who they were.  The early church made up a group of believers, following after Christ’s example who gathered together in unity and love.  Paul wrote of this when talking to the church in Ephesus:

“For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”[v]

Because of their common belief, values and connection with God, the members of the Church became uniquely connected.  With Christ as their cornerstone, they were joined together by the Spirit to become a dwelling place for God.  As a result, the early Church devoted themselves to developing this fellowship with one another.

Check out this interesting picture of the early Christian life…

“The Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe.  They display to us, nevertheless, a wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.  They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners.  As citizens, they share all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.  They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.  They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.  They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives.  They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are insulted, and repay the insult with honor.  They do good, yet are punished as evil-doers…”[vi]

No doubt this is an optimistic picture of early Christian life; however, it certainly gives a clear picture of what was expected of early Christians.

 

What EARLY PENTECOSTALS did…
Early Pentecostals really embraced the idea of being a part of a spiritual family.  A Pentecostal believer wasn’t simply a part of an assembly; rather, they were a part of a family – and they were devoted to making sure everyone felt a part of it.

One of the ways Pentecostals create a family atmosphere, is by calling each other “brother” or “sister”.  No matter ones leadership role, age, or spiritual maturity, this prefix is used to bring everyone together.  This was especially true among early Pentecostals, and it brought a sense of community to believers.

Moreover, the Pentecostal view of fellowship can be seen in their view and understanding of God.  Steven Land labels this understanding as Eschatological Trinitarian Fellowship.[vii]  Let’s break that down.  Their fellowship is eschatological (meaning “focused on Christ’s return”) because they believe they are a part of the body of Christ and their work, as a fellowship, is directly involved in preparing for the return of Christ.  Their fellowship is Trinitarian (meaning “God in three persons: Father, Son & Spirit) because they believe they are in a relationship with the Father, as the body of Christ (Son), while living in the Spirit.  As a result, Pentecostals are driven by the fact that Christ is returning, to be a part of a fellowship based on a godly relationship with the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit.

 

What the CHURCH TODAY needs to do…
Jesus, the early church, and early Pentecostals gave a lot of attention towards being a fellowship.  A believer was not only a believer personally with God, but also in community with God and each other.  As a result, believers become united together in faith, belief, finance, community, and relationship.

In our culture, however, tradition often outweighs biblical support.  The question Christians need to ask today is this: will we base our fellowship on scripture or culture?  This is especially true for our public gatherings.  If we based our gatherings (services, socials, etc…) on scripture, not culture, would our meetings look like they do today?

Perhaps we should re-evaluate the way we conduct ourselves as a fellowship.  Maybe we need to regain what has been lost, and remove what has been added without warrant.  In either case, we need to be a people who are eager to be a part of the fellowship!

 


[i] Matthew 16:15-18, ESV.

[ii] 1 Timothy 2:3-4.

[iii] John 17:20-23, 26.

[iv] Acts 2:42

[v] Ephesians 2:18-22.

[vi] Henry Sheldon, History of the Christian Church The Early Church, vol. 1 (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988), 293.

[vii] Steven Jack Land, Pentecostal Spirituality (Cleveland: CPT Press, 2010), 205-206.

Andrew lives in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland with his wife, Deidre, and two children (Rae and Pierson), where he is the Lead Pastor of Bethel Pentecostal Church. He is a graduate of both Memorial University (BBA) and Tyndale Seminary (MTS). His passion is to help people become true disciples of Jesus.

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