Two surprising things about the first church
Surprise 1: Tongues
The first surprising thing about the first church is that the apostles spoke in tongues. Before Jesus ascended, he told the apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come on them. The Holy Spirit caused tongues of fire to settle on top of each them, and each began speaking in tongues. But not unknown languages. The Holy Spirit caused them to begin speaking in languages that were known by the people who had gathered to hear them. Acts 2:5-11 says there were men there from different lands and languages. And each of them heard the apostles talk in their own language. Language they couldn't believe the apostles could speak, since they were Galileans, fishermen at that. The general crowd believed they were drunk.
In the 1980s miniseries, “A.D.,” Peter and the apostles dance and celebrate the Holy Spirit coming on them. With big smiling faces, they tell about Jesus and what they, the Jewish people, did to Him. That they are not drunk, but filled with the Holy Spirit who guides their speech.
Peter delivers a sermon about Jesus, telling the the crowd what they did to Jesus. Some feel hurt in their hearts and minds. Some are completely devastated at the news that they killed Jesus. They ask Peter, “What can we do?” How can they make it right?
Acts 2:38, " Peter told them, repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God call to himself."
They listened. They listened to what Peter said, and they did what he said to do. They got baptized. Three thousand people were baptized that day. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and fellowship with each other. They broke bread, and prayed together. They bonded together and held things in common together.
Surprise 2: Communism
The second surprising thing about the first church is that they practiced communism. We don’t often use the term because of the 20th century connotation. Russia and China are not truly communism but really dictatorships. In communism, everyone does what is necessary to benefit the whole group, not just a few. In the early days, one member would sell something and share the profits with everyone else. The classic saying, "What is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine." No one called anything mine, it was always ours. That is the true form of communism. And their commune gained favor with people outside of it. God continually added to their commune. New people were being added to their number daily and baptized.
Does the same spirit of communism exists in the Christian church today? In the early church ideal, everyone mattered, no one was better or worse than anyone. They were all the same and accepted as the same. No class distinctions, no social distinctions, no money distinctions. Everyone was the same. Everyone contributed what they had for the good of the community as a whole. We know they did not practice this as much as it was the ideal. Do we today, see everyone as the same? Do we do what we do, or say, for the good of the whole community? Or do we do it, or anything, for ourselves? Do we still hold on to the true community ways that the early Christians aspired to? How can we recover what we’ve lost to selfishness, individualism, capitalism that is mostly concerned with getting ahead?
How can we recover the communal spirit of the first century church, or let’s say first decade church? Or maybe the first year church? What if we zero in on the first few days of the church when they were developing the ideals out of the teachings of Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we can recover the Holy Spirit leading, we can show the world the true love of God through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, in us.
How long did you rejoice after you first followed Jesus and was baptized?
What does Acts 1:10-11 tell you about how we will see Jesus again?
How is the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues like a reversal of Babel in Genesis 11.
How do you like the fact the Christian church started out as communists? According to Acts 2: 44-46, everyone shared things together, and held everything in common, as in a commune. Could you live like this?
In Acts 3, Peter and John healed a man who was lame on their way to the temple. This was a man who begged regularly, and everyone was familiar with him. What would your life be like if you had been this man, given the gift of walking after so many years being lame!
Chris W. Dial
Chris W. Dial was born in Miami, Oklahoma but grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the Church of Christ. He graduated in 1981 from Oklahoma Christian University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible. He attends Journey Church of Christ and works for the Tulsa County Court Clerk's Office in the Records Department.