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"AND ALL THAT BELIEVED WERE TOGETHER AND HAD ALL THINGS COMMON; and sold their possessions and goods and parted them to all men, as every man had need." (Ac.2:44,45) "Neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common...neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." 13 (Ac.4:32-35 ; see also 2Co.8.15 .)
ACCORDING TO THESE VERSES THE EARLY CHRISTIANS VOLUNTARILY AND GLADLY CONTRIBUTED ALL THEIR WORLDLY POSSESSIONS to their local colony for sharing with their brothers and sisters as they had need. They withheld nothing from the Lord, for Jesus had said, he "that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple". (Lk.14:33)
WHEN ONE COUPLE AT THE JERUSALEM COLONY PRETENDED TO FORSAKE ALL BUT WITHHELD PART, THEIR SIN FOUND THEM OUT. 14 "A certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price...and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost and to keep back part? After it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? (Why? Because he wanted the glory of being a disciple without paying the price.) Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down and gave up the ghost (as his wife Sapphira also did later): and great fear came upon all them that heard these things." (Ac.5:1-11 ; see also Heb.12:29 .)
DURING THOSE EARLY DAYS OF THE EARLY CHURCH THEY NEEDED NUMBERS TO GET THEM STARTED, a big push to get'em rolling, sensational publicity to make them popular, and a wave of fame to noise them abroad, as we now have. Their original colony was immense, as some of ours have been, to make them known, strong, encouraged, basically trained and off to a head start, way out in front of the opposition, before scattering for survival.
ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST "THERE WERE ADDED UNTO THEM ABOUT THREE THOUSAND souls". Then on another day soon after, "about five thousand"; then "believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both men and women", and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly: and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. From the very beginning "the Lord added to the church daily". (Ac.2:41 ; 4:4 ; 5:14 ; 6:7 ; 2:47)
ALSO THE ORIGINAL CHRISTIANS PROBABLY WOULD HAVE ALL BEEN WIPED OUT IMMEDIATELY AFTER JESUS' DEATH IF THEY HADN'T BEEN SO NUMEROUS and looked so big and powerful, so they were practically telling the city what to do. It says they were "having favour with all the people" and "the people magnified them." (Ac.2:47 ; 5:13) This was to impress the System to leave them alone "for...fear of the people" (Ac.5:26) until they could get better organised, taught, strengthened, grown up and ready for the bigger battles ahead.
THEN WHEN THEY WERE READY FOR THE FULL SCALE WAR, GOD SCATTERED THEM throughout the world to salt the whole earth and enlighten all mankind.
IN JERUSALEM, "WHEN THE NUMBER OF THE DISCIPLES WAS MULTIPLIED, THERE AROSE A MURMURING...BECAUSE...(SOME) WERE NEGLECTED in the daily ministration. Then the twelve...said, it is not reason that we should leave the Word of God and serve tables...Look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business". (Ac.6:1-3)
YOU TOP LEADERS SHOULD TRY TO KEEP OUT OF THE FINANCIAL AND BUSINESS END AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE for your own protection and for the protection of God's work. Apostles and elders should direct the spiritual affairs and let the deacons handle the material if possible. It's not always possible until God sends you a good man, but when he does, let'em do it.
THE LEADER'S JOB IS NOT TENDING TABLES (DOING THE MUNDANE TASKS) BUT LISTENING TO GOD AND GIVING GOD'S ORDERS, attending diligently to the ministry of the Word and Prayer. Of course, this doesn't mean just sitting around on his fanny in perpetual meditation doing nothing, but it requires a lot of hard work, prayer, study, teaching and action and direction to see that it's done.
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE EARLY CHURCH GOT TOO BIG FOR JERUSALEM? 3,000 one day, 5,000 another day and God only knows how many thousands later! Tens of thousands of Christians living in both the temple compound and all over the city, scattered out in people's homes and everywhere, and just getting so big that the Jerusalem Church was splitting at the seams, too big for its britches and too big for the city--what happened then?
DID THEY VOLUNTARILY DECIDE TO SEND MISSIONARIES to Antioch? And to India with Thomas, and down to Ethiopia with Philip, and up to Asia with Paul?
I'M SORRY TO SAY THEY DID NOT! Apparently they were as disobedient as I have been on occasion. They were supposed to divide and conquer.
THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO GO OUT AND IN A SENSE, COLONISE THE REST OF THE WORLD in the way God had ordained for it to be done, with the same type of little communal societies that they were practicing in Jerusalem. But they were enjoying themselves together. It was just so nice; it was so wonderful: "We've got so many people now and God is with us, and how wonderful it is!"
ALSO, I DON'T DOUBT THAT THEY WERE GETTING STRONG AND POWERFUL AND PROBABLY TELLING OFF THE CITY AUTHORITIES AND EVERYBODY ELSE: "Now look at us. We have arrived. We're just strong by a strength of numbers."
NOW THE STRENGTH OF THE CHURCH HAS ALWAYS BEEN ITS UNITY IN THE LORD and its unity in fellowship, but the minute like in times past when the Israelites got the idea that "Mine own arm hath saved me" (Jud.7:2) "Here I am, I have arrived"; the minute they got to that point--WHAMEE!.
GOD GAVE IT TO THEM AND SCATTERED THEM to the four winds, out there singly and individually all amongst the heathen and everywhere in the world to make them get back to God and ask God to forgive them for their damn pride and their selfishness, and their bunching up together just for their own glory and not for God's glory. 26 "Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall". (Pr.16:18)
ANYHOW, ONE THING WE KNOW: THEY WERE BUNCHING UP, AND NOT GETTING OUT AND DOING WHAT GOD HAD TOLD THEM TO DO. And all we know is when they got their biggest and most powerful and most numerous, God's Word says He drew out a sword after them and scattered them throughout all Asia and throughout the whole of Asia Minor by persecution.
BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T PRACTISE ACTS 1:8, GOD GAVE THEM ACTS 8:1: "There was a great persecution against the Church which was at1) Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of
"NOW WHEN THE HIGH PRIESTS AND THE CAPTAIN OF THE TEMPLE AND THE CHIEF PRIESTS HEARD THESE THINGS (about the power and popularity of the Church), they doubted of them where unto this would grow." (Ac.5:24)
"AND WHEN THEY HAD CALLED THE APOSTLES, AND BEATEN THEM, THEY COMMANDED THAT THEY SHOULD NOT SPEAK IN THE NAME OF JESUS." But "daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ", and "the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly." (Ac.5:40,42 ; 6:7)
"THEN THEY SUBORNED MEN, which said, We have heard him (Stephen, a leader of the Church) speak blasphemous words...And they stirred up the people...And set up false witnesses...And they stoned Stephen." (Ac.6:11-13 ; 7:59 ; 8:1)
WHENEVER YOU GET BIG AND POWERFUL YOU BEGIN TO THREATEN THE SECURITY OF THE STATUS QUO! You endanger the establishment and they will do their best to wipe you out before you do them in. The Scripture says there's a time for everything. There was a time for the Early Church to have its thousands all in one place at Jerusalem, to attract the attention of the whole world and to start off the Church with a bang--one big splash. (Continued in part 3)
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