No Partiality / part 1

The Early Church

 

 

 

 

The early church, led by Peter and a handful of others, was beautiful—and that’s an understatement. From the moment Holy Spirit burst onto the scene in the upper room, as depicted in Acts 2, there was an evangelistic explosion. With “many wonders and signs,” folks were added to the church daily, weekly, and monthly. 1

Unity marked this early church. The phrases “all together” or “of one accord” can be found five times in the first five chapters of Acts. The power of God displayed by leadership was remarkable. Even Peter’s shadow healed people. 2

Young leaders—most notably, Paul and Timothy, both championed by Barnabas; and later James, championed by Peter—were raised up and commissioned to spread the Good News from village to village and city to city. 3

Miracles occurred at a rate the world had never seen. Yes, there was persecution, and yet the church grew, and “throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria [they] had peace and richly increased in numbers.” 4

The presence of Holy Spirit manifested in every aspect of the church. From Pentecost on, Holy Spirit was present and known to fall “on all who heard the word.” 5

In this beautiful church, sons and daughters grew confident in the love of a good Father! This was a church passionately releasing heaven on earth, the Kingdom within us; a church where righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit were deeply rooted in the soul and every aspect of life. 6

This was also a generous church where the lost were being found, the sick healed, the sinner forgiven and transformed, the lonely placed in family, all who were thirsty could come and drink, and “where they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” 7

All could be saved!

Except, well, anyone who wasn’t Jewish.

So, not literally all, I guess. Just, well, the Jewish all.

In those first nine years or so of the early church, when I write, all could be saved, what I mean is that a small exclusive group of people could be saved; all of the included us, but none of the excluded them could be saved.

Just like today, the understanding of the Good News of Jesus within the church and her leadership was limited, but ever-expanding. In those beautifully formative early church days, the limitation was that only Jews were in.

Imagine a church stunning in fellowship—a church Jesus referenced as “the light of the world, a city set on a hill.” 8 Imagine the revelation of eternal life flowing through their veins. Imagine the power of their evangelism.

Now imagine, because of their tradition, culture, and limited understanding, they only shared this life-transforming Good News with a select few. Imagine meetings like the one I had with those two elders, except it was not just women who weren’t at the table. Most of humanity was excluded, as well.

I know. It’s nearly impossible, but imagine a church interpreting Scripture to reveal Jesus as the Savior of a select group, a people who looked, believed, and acted like them—as though atonement was somehow, limited…

Imagine they interpreted Scripture in ways that separated Gentiles from Jews, in from out, and women from ministry.

I know. It’s difficult, but try to imagine a church experiencing profound revelation, favor, life, joy, and unity while simultaneously living with a heart-breaking limited perspective regarding the all-inclusive nature of our heavenly Father.

You may be picking up on some playful sarcasm. Why? Because it’s relatively easy to imagine this church. You’ve likely participated in it. I certainly have. I don’t write that as a condemning statement. Rather, it is an invitation to daily repent—to mature in reconciling Love.

The early church and her leadership were authentic, sincere, and growing in revelation. At the same time, the early church had a serious flaw on its God lens, the same dualistic hierarchal flaw the church and her leadership continue to discover and repent of today.

“Us or them.”

“In or out.”

“Republican or Democrat.”

“Women and Ministry.”

And I could go on.

The early church knew the transformational Truth of reconciliation. They experienced the kindness that leads to repentance, and they followed a friend of Jesus who knew cruciform love and restoration like few others.

Peter and the early church grew in the revelation of an all-inclusive reconciling love. Yet, even in the daily miraculous manifestation of God’s goodness, for the first nine years or so, the early church seemed oblivious to the devastating us or them flaw on their God lens—especially pertaining to Gentiles… and women in ministry.

God didn’t ignore their delusions nor condemn them for their exclusivity. He just walked beside them as the Wayfaring Stranger and kept speaking to their burning hearts. Like that Farmer who went out to sow seed, Measureless Love just kept sowing into every limitation of their understanding, every delusion, every hierarchy of exclusion, and every cruel and punishing missing of the mark.

To read part 2, CLICK HERE

1 Acts 2:43 & 5:12
2 Acts 5
3 Acts 12
4 Acts 9:31
5 Acts 10:44
6 Romans 14:17
7 Acts 2:45
8 Matthew 5:14

This article is excerpted from my book, Leaving and Finding Jesus / To read part 2, CLICK HERE
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Jason Clark is a bestselling storyteller who writes to reveal the transforming kindness of the love of God. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children, Madeleine, Ethan, and Eva.

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