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Subject: Christian Religious Studies
Topic: Fellowship in the Early Church
Lesson Objectives: At the end of the lesson, learners should be able to:
i. Explain the reason for the replacement of Judas Iscariot,
ii. Identify the characteristics of the early Christian community,
iii. Discuss the problems of the early Christians communal living,
iv. Examine the need for the appointment of the seven deacons.
Communal Living In The Early Church (Acts 1:15 – 26; 2:41 – 47; 5:1 – 11; 6:1 – 6)
After Christ ascension, the apostles and the disciples about one hundred and twenty of them together. Peter addressed them on the need to find a replacement for Judas Iscariot who had committed suicide following his betrayal to Jesus Christ. Peter mentioned some of the attributes of the person to be elected as one of the original disciples of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist, and all his earthly ministries, resurrection and ascension and should preach the gospel and take care of the needs of the Christian community.
Based on these qualifications, the disciples forwarded two names – Barnabas and Mathias. The congregation prayed for God’s guidance in choosing the right person. After prayers, they cast lots and the lots fell on Mathias and he was then registered with the eleven apostles.
Lessons To Learn From The Election Of Mathias
i. The prayer, the casting of lots and the eventual election of Mathias shows that God was behind the election.
ii. God can always raise people to do His work
Guidelines that should be borne in mind while conducting Elections
i. Seek God’s guidance in choosing a leader.
ii. Consideration should be given to character and qualities of person to be elected into positions.
iii. People to be elected into positions of authority in the church should be experienced and faithful Christians who live their lives according to the word of God.
iv. Elections should be free and fair.
v. Results of elections should be taken in good faith.
After Peter’s speech on the Pentecost day, about three hundred thousand men were converted to Christianity. Thus, the number joined the apostles to form the first Christian community, living a communal life. They ate together, lived together and did almost everything in common. They were all devoted to apostolic teachings and fellowship. The rich among them sold their property and brought the proceeds to the church. God was with them and God added to their number daily. Great signs and wonders were performed by the apostles.
Problems of the Early Christian Community and their Solutions (Acts 5:1 – 22; 6:1 – 6)
As it is common in every society, the communal life and fellowship among the early Christians were destroyed by dishonesty and discrimination, this was quickly stopped by the apostles.
Ananias And Sapphira
As many of the Christians sold their property and brought the proceeds to the congregation, it was assured that any member of the congregation that sold his property should follow the same trend, though; people were not forced to sell their properties. Ananias and Sapphira, in order to enjoy the same praise given to others who had sold their property and brought the whole proceeds, went and sold their own property. But rather than bring the whole proceeds, they kept back some and brought some of it to you the congregation. Peter rebuked them sharply for dishonesty, saying;
‘Ananias why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not reman your own? After it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but into God (Acts 5:3 – 4).
Immediately Ananias received this rebuke, he fell down and died. The young men around carried him away and buried him. The whole congregation was afraid at what happened. When Sapphira, Ananias’ s wife who did not know what happened arrived, Peter also asked her whether all what the husband brought was the proceeds of the land. She confirmed that it was all. Peter equally rebuked her and she fell down and died.
Significance And Lessons To Learn
i. Lying by these couple resulted into their death. Christians therefore should learn how to be faithful to God in all their dealings. God is a consuming fire. The consequence of telling lies may be disastrous.
ii. When people are honest with God and their fellow human beings, the result is blessing. So Christians should endeavour to be honest.
iii. Ananias and Sapphira were misguided into thinking that they could serve both God and Mammon at the same time.
iv. One can deceive a fellow man, but cannot deceive God who reads the heart of man. The church was established by God and controlled by the Holy Spirit. Members must work in accordance with guidelines set up by the Holy Spirit. God punished sin of disobedience and his judgement is certain. We should make our donations in church with all sincerity.
Discrimination And Favouritism In The Early Church (Acts 6:1 – 6)
The early Church was made up of the Hebrews, Greeks and people from other nations of the world. Problems arose when the non-Jews accused the Jews of neglecting their widows in the daily distribution of food that was donated by the wealthy members of the church. The apostles therefore summoned a meeting of the elders of the community and explained:
“It is not right that we should preach the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2 – 4).
Based on this, seven deacons were chosen from the congregation. The seven deacons included: Stephen, Phillip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas.
Problems Of The Present Day Church
As the early Church had social problems, the present day church is also faced with problem or the other. These problems include;
i. There is always struggle for leadership in most of all the churches. This coupled with ethnic problems, have led to splitting of churches.
ii. Some church leaders, due to lust for materialism have departed from the faith. For this reason, they desist from preaching sound doctrines and are now preaching prosperity and materialism without holiness. Whereas the Bible says without holiness, no man can see God.
iii. Again, some pastors live immoral life, thereby making people deviate from the doctrine they preach.
iv. Furthermore, there is the problem of local customs and traditions interfering with the laid down doctrine of the church. Some church members and their leaders find it difficult to drop some anti-christian practices which have a lot to do with their traditions. Some of them take traditional titles and thereby contradict their Christian faith.
These ills are point out so that Christians and their leaders would ride up to the occasion and find lasting solutions to the problems as the early Christians did.
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Take a quick test for this lesson
i. What social problems brought about the appointment of the deacons in the early Church? Mention five social problems facing the church today.
ii. Trace the events that led to the election of Mathias as one of the twelve. Highlight three problems that should be borne in mind when conducting election.
iii. Describe the election of the successor of Judas Iscariot. What two lessons can be learnt from this incident.
iv. What led to the selection of Mathias as one of the apostles. How was the selection conducted?
v. Trace the circumstances that led to the death of Ananias and Sapphira. Indicate two lessons that could be drawn from this incident.
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