This post is only meant to be a simple placeholder until I can write more, but this should get you started down this road of investigation.
Here are some questions to get the ball rolling:
- Was anything supposed to change in the time between the original ekklesia (First Century) and now?
- Did anything change in the time between the original ekklesia (First Century) and now?
- Is it important if something has changed?
- If so, how important?
Now that I’ve framed the issues just a bit with these questions, let me throw out just a few of the fairly obvious differences between life in the original ekklesia and life in “the church” today.
- Apostles, engaged in a worldwide missionary venture. They had them, and this generation does not.
- Apostles ran off the “wolves” who were false teachers in the ekklesias. This does not happen today.
- Prophets. That generation had them, and this generation does not. (Yes, I know that many today claim the gift of prophecy, but whatever they are doing is not what the prophets in the original ekklesia did.)
- Gifts of Healing. That generation had them and this generation does not.
- Miracles, signs, and wonders. That generation had them and this generation does not. (And I don’t mean fortuitous outcomes, but actual miraculous activity.)
- Angels delivering messages. That generation had them and this one does not.
- God actively disciplined Christians. God made Ananias and Sapphira drop dead. Jesus struck “that Jezebel” and her children with “sickness”. And it was publicly announced. This does not happen today. (It was also publicly announced that God made Herod drop dead. This doesn’t happen today, either.)
- Evil angels appearing to people. That generation had them and this one does not.
- Evil spirits (also called demons) possessing people. That generation had them and this one does not.
- Satan was walking about and “roaring” like a “lion”; today, he is said to be “prowling” as if in “stealth mode”. (1 Peter 5:8)
- Back then, “grace” prompted Paul to “work harder than them all” and it to “deny worldliness and lust”. Today, however, grace is said to “cover” their failures in morality and to make the idea of “works” repulsive. (Titus 2:12, 1 Corinthians 15:10)
- The Christians met daily at the Temple. Today, they do not. (Acts 2:46)
- They lived communally. Hardly any church does that today. (Acts 2:44-45)
- They routinely took care of the widows among them. Today, most churches do not. (1 Timothy 5:9)
- Back then, an unrepentant brother was brought before the ekklesia so that they might talk some sense into him. No church (to my knowledge) does this today. (Matthew 18:17)
- The entire original generation of the ekklesia was spent receiving real-time warnings (from inspired men and women) of an imminent judgment and resurrection. No such warnings are coming from inspired people today.
- That generation saw the last days of the Temple at Jerusalem, which seems to have culminated in a massive judgment against the Jewish nation, their priesthood, their lineage, and all practice of the Law of Moses. No such judgment is imminent today, nor can it be, since that nation is already crushed and annihilated.
- The original ekklesia was all in one camp and one camp only. Today’s “church”, on the other hand, is split into several thousand distinct corporate entities, each under different leadership.
Some of these differences could be addressed with reforms today, while others could not. For instance, no reform on the part of any church today will bring back Jesus’ authorized apostles. Nor would it bring back the Temple or the demon possessions. Others, however, could be brought back if the will to do so existed. Take, for instance, commmunal living and the disciplining of unruly members.
Here are some questions for your consideration:
- What does God think about these differences?
- Obviously, God probably had something to do with some of these differences. Did he design them all?
- Should believers today be striving to emulate anything about the original ekklesia?
- If so, what?
- What things about the original ekklesia are OK not to emulate today?
- Is there anything that God would not want us to emulate about the original ekklesia in our present generation?
- Does the Bible have any passages that specifically address whether changes were supposed to happen after the original ekklesia was up and running? If so, what did they foretell?
- Does the Bible have any passages specifically addressed to generations future to the one in which the original ekklesia was founded? If so, which are they?
- If you should not find specific passages addressing these questions, what standards or paradigms could you and should you use for answering these questions? Facts? Conjecture? Guessing? Feelings? Common sense? Something else?
That’s all I have time for, for now, but this should be enough to get your thoughts tuned into these important issues.