Ready for Paul?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Testament Tales - Building a Church

Building a Church
1. What were the first deacons appointed to do?
2. Which men called to work in food distribution became famous for their preaching?
3. When did the first baptisms take place after Jesus’ resurrection?
4. What rules did the early church follow for Baptisms?
5. What rules did the early church follow for Communion?
6. What rules did the early church follow for sharing property?
7. Who is the first “evangelist”?
8. What happened to Ananias and Sapphira?
9. Who worked miracles in the early church?
10. Who spoke in tongues?

After receiving the Holy Spirit, the disciples set about continuing Jesus’ mission, first as a Jewish sect in Jerusalem, and then around the world. Like many other Jewish sects, they cared for their widows and orphans. And like many human groups, they ended up trying to resolve disputes about fair play. The 12 disciples chose 7 people (generally considered to be the first deacons, though the Bible doesn’t say so) to deal with everyday life, freeing them for holier work, though Philip (the evangelist – Acts 21:8) and Stephen became more famous as preachers than as kitchen laborers. (Twelve and seven are nice Biblical numbers – God’s choosing and God’s complete plan.)

New members were baptized into the early church, starting with three thousand on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). They then appear to have lived communally, sharing everything, though it seems the system broke down after a while (Acts 5:1-5). After Stephen’s death the believers scattered and the next recorded baptism takes place in Samaria where Philip calls and baptizes followers of the sorcerer, Simon, eventually converting Simon too. At this point Peter comes to re-baptize them with the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:16), and Philip is carried off to baptize the Ethiopian (Acts 8:36). Saul is baptized by Ananias, who also heals his blindness, after encountering the risen Lord on the road. Soon the Gentiles are speaking in tongues, having received the Holy Spirit without being baptized, and Peter agrees that they’d better baptize them too. (Acts 10:47). Soon the baptisms of John and of Jesus (Acts 19:3) are treated as separate events, the one signifying repentance and the other involving the Holy Spirit. It’s possible that some churches interpret this as a separation between baptism and confirmation. When Lydia, in Thyatira, is baptized, all her household are baptized as well (Acts 16:5). It’s not clear who is involved in the household, but again, some churches interpret household baptism (1 Cor 1:16) as confirming that infants can be baptized. Using the Bible as a template for baptismal rules becomes difficult with so many different actions in different passages. It might be more a matter of interpretation than of divine conviction. . It might be more a matter of interpretation than of divine conviction, as with so many other rules. In Acts, different groups argue about leaders, followers, circumcision and even the types of meat which can be eaten.

Different Christian denominations use different events in the New Testament to define their lists of sacraments. While most churches agree on baptism and communion (Luke 22:19-20), additional sacraments can include confirmation (or adult baptism, or rebaptism, or recommitment), confession (John 20:23), anointing the sick (Mat 6:13, John 9:6, James 5:14), marriage (Hebrews 13:4), and Holy Orders (there are many references to apostles and leaders being among the “anointed”). Seven sacraments, of course, results in a good "traditional" Biblical number.

When Paul breaks bread after raising Eutychus from the dead, it’s generally believed he celebrated communion; similarly when he blesses breaks and eats bread on the sinking ship (Acts 20:11, 27:35). But the Lord’s Supper itself is not mentioned till Paul gives instructions to the Corinthian church (1 Cor 11:23-34).

The book of Acts contains many references to healing miracles (Acts 5:12-16; also in chapters 3, 4, 8, 9, 14, 16, 19 and 28), miraculous rescues from prison and shipwreck, raising of the dead, snakes safely held, foreign tongues being spoken, etc. And Jesus’ teaching spreads with the promise of salvation.

2 comments:

Barbara said...

Amen Sheila very good information, hugs my friend, have a blessed day, Barbara

Lloyd said...

Thank you for this study of Acts. God bless, Lloyd