Foreword: The Church Then and Now

When we consult the Bible, we find the church of the first century is different from the church (as we see it) in the twenty first century. The Renaissance not only had an effect on the arts and sciences but a rebirth of learning of the Scriptures. In studying the Bible, first in the original languages and later in their native languages, students of God's Word discovered amazing differences in the New Testament Church and the medieval church. In the twenty first century, we too find striking differences between the church Christ built (Matthew 16:18) and the modern concept of that same called out body.

 Denominations, as we know them, did not exist in the first century. Denominations arose as a result of various leaders finding followers that rallied around their view of a biblical doctrine. For example, in the New Testament baptism was immersion for the remission of sins (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38, etc.). When Bible students learned baptizo meant immersion in Greek, they realized that those who were sprinkled, no matter how sincere, had not done as God commanded. Other issues arose that also divided well-meaning and sincere disciples. However, Christ prayed, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:20-21).

 In the first century the focus was on saving souls, today it seems to be on entertaining members. This is the reason God gave His son (John 3:16) as a sacrifice for sin. Christ did NOT die on the cross to entertain anyone. The bottom line is that man is lost and must repent because of the final Judgment (Act 17:30). Today, too many worship services resemble the Big Band era rather than the simple congregational singing (Colossians 3:16) that characterized first century worship. Judging from TV, some of the audiences have come to "swing and sway with Sammy Kay," rather than give solemn homage to our Creator and our God.

 In the first century the commission was to carry the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 1:16ff) to a lost and dying world. Today the emphasis seems to be feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. The feeding of the body is obviously more important than feeding the soul with the Word of God. With today's cry for "Social Justice", we need to remind ourselves that Jesus did not come to take man out of the slums BUT rather to take the slums out of man. As Jesus pointed out, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3) and at the same time "ye have the poor always with you" (Matthew 26:11).

 The basic function of the first century church was to preach and teach (Matthew 28:18-20) God's Word, not to discuss current events or the price of tea in China. Primarily man must be taught how to become a Christian by obeying the Gospel. Secondly, we must learn how to live the Christian life. This means we must study and discuss the Bible as God's will for His children. As Christ pointed out, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32).

 Dale I. Royal Elk City OK