Played golf this morning, so am just getting to the blog.
The big difference one notices in entering into the early churches is this: kingdom language is largely dropped and ecclesia (church) language is picked up. There all kinds of issues here, not the least of which is that as the Church trotted into its first decade the community became convinced of its “sectarian” status rather than a ruling status and this accounts for some, not all, of its switching of languages. Along with this is that it became increasingly effective in the Roman Empire and its status was less and less of a power. (I don’t buy that it gave up its vision for Kingdom, but its language did shift as it realized its status.)
Having said that, and there is more to be said about it, we need to look at the nature of its earliest communities to gain an idea of what they say as central to the mission of the gospel in the earliest churches.
Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-35 are indicative of its central ideals and concerns. Which are:
1. Devotion to the apostolic teaching, who are mediators of the teachings and life of Jesus.
2. Devotion to fellowship (which is continuous with Jesus’ table fellowship as an inclusive kingdom community).
3. Lord’s supper (probably the best understanding of “breaking of bread”).
5. Spiritual power, noted in Spirit-inspired wonders.
6. Economic liability for one another.
7. Worship practices.
8. They were known for being good people (2:47).
Here is Spirit-inspired and Christ-centered community that survived beyond the resurrection. It is a socio-economic, power-denying, fellowship with a mission to spread a Spirit-empowered gospel about Jesus Christ to its communities for the good of other and the world. The chapters of Acts 1–15 will show its struggles with inclusiveness, but they worked at being an inclusive community, regardless of one’s economic or ethnic make-up.
Ecclesia, in other words, is not what happened after Christ but what happens when the power of the Spirit makes possible that Kingdom vision of Jesus.
Let me put it this way, if not a little harshly: we should not think, “Too bad for Jesus, born on the wrong side of the Cross and Resurrection, and not able to preach the Spirit-inspired message.” Pentecost did not end the Kingdom vision of Jesus, it enabled it.
Any vision of the Ecclesia that does not begin with Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom is a denial of Jesus’ Lordship and a misunderstanding of the New Testament.
Tommorow: Peter’s view of the Ecclesia.