The first century Church shows us plenty of lessons about both individual living as well as how the Church as a whole should function today. If you’ve ever read through Acts, you’ll know how the Church grows, changes, and works through problems in their own lives and congregations. We can learn a lot from them about applying Jesus to our everyday, enduring persecution and hard times, and trusting God when we can’t always see the big picture.
I’m in the process of taking an in-depth course on the book of Acts. When I say in-depth, I mean reviewing each chapter thoroughly – practically line by line. I want to share some of what I’ve learned with you in hopes that it will bring the Bible to life more for you and show you that God has given us concrete examples of the application He wants to see in our lives.
- The Focus of the Church’s Conversation
The Church and apostles focused on one thing when speaking to others about Christ: His means of salvation for us due to His death and resurrection. Acts provides multiple examples of this focus when the early Christians are preaching, teaching, and traveling (examples: Phillip speaking with the Eunuch in Acts 8:26–40, Peter before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:1–22). Their sole purpose was to reach people with this good news and to carry out what Jesus started, which is what they continued to do in every opportunity, even during persecution.
- Persecution and Hard Times Grew the Church
The early Church went through a lot of persecution from the Sanhedrin and Romans. Regardless of their equality and deep roots in Judaism, Christianity was being rejected by the Jewish leaders. Peter and John are taken to the Sanhedrin while preaching the gospel, and the tension escalates when Stephen (Acts 7:54–60) is brought before the Sanhedrin and stoned to death. The Church was then scattered and things began to look bleak; but, from an outside perspective, we can’t help but see how God worked through this to bring his plans to fruition, spread the gospel message and grow the Body of Christ.
- They Trusted God When They Couldn’t See the Big Picture
The early Church is focused on preaching the good news, no matter the circumstance they seem to be in. Consider Stephen on trial – he still speaks about Jesus’ hope for us all. They begin to be persecuted harshly and are soon scattered throughout the region. I’m sure living in this time (and for myself I know this would be true), as a member of the early Church, it would be easy to question where God was in these moments. However, regardless of the immediate circumstances and difficulties, people in all regions are being reached with the Good News:
-The Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26–40)
-The Samaritans (Acts 8:4–24 – this situation also breaks down a racial divide between the Jewish Christians and Samaritans)
-Saul/Paul on the in Damascus (Acts 9:1–31).
I know this might feel like a history lesson, but it can be applied to the here and now. When your mom unexpectedly passed away, when the depression and anxiety seem so unbearable, when you didn’t get that job you wanted – God is there, working. He’s there to comfort you and guide you and to work with you and through you to bring ultimate glory to His name. I’m not saying it’s easy – because, as we all know, it’s not. But I hope you can see the connection that even when it feels like God is missing (the Church following His will, but still being persecuted daily), He’s doing something more amazing than we can imagine (spreading His good news to the ends of the earth).
The take away here is simply this: speak the Good News and trust the Lord amidst your circumstances. Where would the Church be today if He hadn’t allowed there to be persecution and a spread of the Church’s community to “the ends of the earth”? We can’t always see what He’s doing, but it may be greater than anything we can imagine.
PC: @carolineartime via #belovedlife