Key People of the Early Ecclesia (Church)

Before we cover Pentecost, let’s go over what the church was meant to be starting with the apostle Peter.

Peter

Matthew 16:18 (NIV)
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

This has become a very controversial verse. What is meant by the word “rock”? And, how does it apply to Peter? The Greek word for rock is petra (πέτραpétra) [g4073] which means protruding cliff or immovable rock. While the name Peter (Πέτροςpétros) [g4074] means stone or a rock fragment.

Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament [pp76] states that in this case rock does refer to Peter and that he will build the church or “lay down its foundation”. Of course, Jesus the Messiah is the precious cornerstone, a sure foundation (Isaiah 28:16) of the church.

Peter was a fragment of the Rock. However, Jesus never intended Peter to be raised to a position similar to a high priest or be considered infallible. On more than one occasion, Paul confronted Peter who admitted his faults.

Acts 2:14 (NIV)
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.

Peter preached the first sermon (Acts 2:14–39). And, he gave the first altar call (Acts 2:40–41). There were both Jews and Gentiles present. The Bible doesn’t say if Gentiles were part of the 3,000 that accepted Jesus that day.

Saul (Paul) & Ananias: Discipleship

This is a story of faith, obedience, and discipleship. The LORD commanded Ananias to go to Saul. Ananias was concerned because Saul had a writ from the High Priest allowing him to arrest Christians. The LORD told Ananias that Saul was specifically expecting him. Ananias obeyed God.

Saul’s name was changed to Paul. He was chosen to play a key role in spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles. Saul prosecuted the Church. But, as Paul, he lead people to the Church.

Nugget: One of the meanings of the name Saul is “death”. The name Paul means “little”. Since Paul tended to have a strong ego, the name “Little” helped keep that ego in check.

Peter & Cornelius: The Gentles

This event presented problems on both sides. Cornelius was not only a Gentile but also a Roman military commander. The Jews saw the Roman soldiers as conquerors, thus unwelcome. Cornelius was an exception because he was known for his godliness and good works for the needy (Acts 10:2).

Peter had an issue about being in the same house with Gentiles. Paul confronted Peter about this issue later on in Acts. Before Cornelius’ men arrived, the LORD gave Peter a vision saying, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” So, when Cornelius’ men arrive, Peter was mentally and spiritually prepared to go with them.

As Peter discipled Cornelius, the Holy Spirit began to move. Many people in Cornelius’ household came to know the Messiah, were baptized, and were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Cornelius’ strengths and accomplishments:

  • Sought God.
  • Generous to the needy.
  • Well-respected by the Jews.
  • Responded to God’s calling.
  • Encouraged his household to do the same

Because of Cornelius’ conversion, the young church realized that the Gospel (Good News) was for all people, both Jews and Gentiles alike.

Paul’s teachings vs Apollos’ teachings

We have heard about church congregations splitting over doctrine and other issues. Many of you have likely experienced it firsthand. Unfortunately, it is nothing new. During the early church, satan tried to split the church in Corinth.

Apollos arrived in Ephesus shortly after Paul had left the area. Apollos was very charismatic in his speech as he preached to the people. His teachings were noticed by a couple named Priscilla and Aquila. To them, his message seemed incomplete but otherwise accurate. Instead of being critical of the newcomer and dismissing him, they sought to help him. This should be a lesson to us. We should help others, not criticize.

After carefully listening to Apollos, they discerned that his teaching was based on the Tanakh (Old Testament) and John the Baptist’s teachings. They kindly invited him to their home. While there, they brought him up to date on the teachings of Jesus, His death at the cross, and His resurrection. They also taught him about the Holy Spirit. To Apollos’ credit, he willingly listened and learned.

So many times, our egos get in the way. Thus, we are very slow to admit our faults if at all. The same is true for our leaders, churches, and denominations. Pray for our leaders and groups that govern us to overcome this problem. Of course, pray for ourselves to overcome the resistance to correction in our egos.

Then, Apollos moved on to Corinth where Paul had recently been. But because of his charisma, Apollos developed his own following. Soon, there were groups saying, “I follow Apollos.” Other groups said, “I follow Paul.” Still others said, “I follow Christ.” Does this sound familiar?

When Paul got wind of the situation, he wrote the Corinthians and chided then for their divisiveness. He told them to be one body under Jesus the Messiah. Paul did not blame Apollos for the situation. Nor did Paul think of Apollos a competitor. In fact, Paul had a lot of respect for him and loved him as a brother in Christ.

Apollos’ Strengths and accomplishments:

  • Had a charismatic personality.
  • Preached the Gospel accurately.
  • Willing to be taught.
  • helped grow the church.
  • Possibly the author of Hebrews.

Priscilla & Aquila strengths and accomplishments:

  • An outstanding husband/wife team
  • Ministered in the early church.
  • Supported themselves by tent making like Paul did.
  • Close friends of Paul.
  • Taught Apollos the full message of the Gospel.
  • Showed that couples can have an effective ministry together.
  • Proved the home can be a valuable ministry tool.
  • they were not judgmental.
  • willing to step up when a problem is perceived.

The Purpose of the Church

The Greek word for church is ecclesia (ἐκκλησίαekklēsía) [g1577] which means an assembly of the called. This is distinct from synagogue (συναγωγήsunagōgḗ) [g4864] which the assembly of Jews or God’s chosen people. This does not mean an ecclesia and a synagogue can not be the same place which would be a place of Messianic Jews. Basically, the Ecclesia (or Church) is the whole body of believers both Messianic Jews and Christians.

What the people of the church called to do:

  1. Spread the word that Jesus the Messiah is LORD and Savior.
  2. Lead the unsaved to Jesus.
  3. Disciple new believers.
  4. Give aid to others and not just to other believers.
  5. Stand as one body united in the common cause of reaching others for Christ.
  6. Be the light and salt to the world in word, in action, and in deed.

Mistakes of the Church

At one time or another, the church has failed to do these. The Church has done wonderful works and reached people all over the world. But, we are not truly united as one body. We squabble amongst ourselves. Also, our behavior is not that different from the world’s.

The two lists below refer to the church as a whole. There are many, many individual exceptions.

The Good:

  1. Reach out to the lost.
  2. Built hospitals.
  3. Supports missionaries.
  4. Helps the community

The Bad:

  1. Fight amongst ourselves about doctrine and small details.
  2. Lax on discipleship of new believers.
  3. Our personal behavior is not much different from the world.
  4. Do not tithe as we should to help with LORD’s work.
  5. Been too quiet on social, moral, and other issues.
  6. Don’t support or encourage each other.

Let’s take tithing as an example. If 80% of believers (instead of 20%) tithed properly, the church could accomplish what they were called to do. They would not have to beg for funds to do the LORD’s work.

Reuniting of the Ecclesia

Ezekiel 37:3–5 (NIV)
3He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”
4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.

Ezekiel 37:3–5 applies to the Jewish people. But, who of the Jewish people will be brought back to life? The ones who accept Yeshua, the Son of God, as their Messiah. But that means these Jews will become part of the Ecclesia. Also, us Gentiles who accepted Yeshua are grafted into the lineage of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

Nugget: This passage could just as well apply to Today’s church in receiving new life

The Gentile believers make up the rest of the Ecclesia. There must first be a revival and reuniting of the current Ecclesia before the Rapture of the first Ecclesia occurs. This revival will serve as a guide and inspiration for the renewed Ecclesia. This renewed Ecclesia will be lead by the Messianic Jews that turn to Yeshua after the Rapture of the first Ecclesia (Revelation 7:1–4).

Nugget: The word “Rapture” does not appear in the Bible but the event is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50–54.

In order for this to happen, the present Ecclesia needs to once again come together under one name only. JESUS! It is time to break down the barriers in this present Ecclesia.

The barriers to broken:

  1. Jews vs Christians
  2. Non-Denominational vs Denominational
  3. Denomination vs Denomination
  4. Church vs Church
  5. Division inside individual churches
  6. Last but not least, the barriers in each one of us which are holding us back from our full potential

We are not advocating:

  1. A single World Church
  2. The abolishment of the various denominational organizations and other groups

First, World Churches have been tried and failed. The problem with World Churches is that ultimate control is put into the hands of a small group of human with a fallen nature beings instead of God Himself. Us human beings are all fallible. The soon-to-come Anti-Christ will try to establish his own one-world religion. And, he too will ultimately fail (Daniel 11:36–45).

Secondly, these various groups and organizations all serve a purpose like the parts of a single body. The problem here is these parts are, in general, not working together as God intended. Even the parts of the individual groups are, in general, not working together as efficiently as they could.

We need to help each other to work towards the goals God set for the Church. Currently, there appears to be a competition for some unnamed prize. We are all followers of Jesus the Messiah. And, we need to stand united in His name!

We need to pray for the full return of the empowered Ecclesia. This power can only come from God with the leading of the Holy Spirit. We must want it to happen. Furthermore, we must expect it to happen!

Church, arise from the valley of dry bones!

Enjoy this song “He is” by Aaron Jeoffrey:

next time, we will cover the Feast of Pentecost.

Until then,
שָׁלוֹם (Shalom!)