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Story of the Bible, Act 10: Early Church

Author: Mark Woods, 7 October 2020

Pentecost launched the Church with a great rush of power and enthusiasm.

The early chapters of the book of Acts show us a body of believers inspired by their knowledge that God had done something wonderful: he had raised Jesus from the dead. Because of that, no power of evil could ever conquer forever. They didn't need to be afraid of anything. As Paul said to the Roman Christians, 'Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death?' (Romans 8.35). He answers his own question: 'No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us!' (verse 37).  

It wasn't all songs of praises, though. The first Christians faced all sorts of problems. They had the usual problems every church faces – matters of conduct, including moral issues (1 Corinthians 5.1), personal rivalries and conflicts (2 Timothy 4.14), disagreements about policies and strategies (Acts 15). Paul's letters are sometimes hair-raising in what they deal with.  

But most of all there was the question of who was actually to be included in the Church. Was the Church just for Jews, or should it include Gentiles as well? And if Gentiles did become believers, should the men be circumcised and should they all keep the Jewish Sabbath and dietary laws – in other words, convert to Judaism? In Acts 10 (Peter's vision) and Acts 15 (the Council at Jerusalem) that question is answered: Gentiles too can be part of God's family just as they are. This was a live issue for many Jewish believers, who showed enormous grace in receiving and welcoming Gentiles into their hearts and homes. In Christ, strangers became friends – though it wasn't easy.  

The early Church made sacrifices for each other and learned to love one another. Christ still brings strangers together in fellowship today. 

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