WS Update: The Early Church

July 10, 2023

All July we are looking at different eras of church history and how God moved his people through the past 2000 years. His story of grace did not end with the close of the New Testament but continues today.

The contemporary Christian church has little influence in Europe, largely treated more like a historic relic than a living community. Empty church buildings are a museum of past glory fading into dust. They are the remains of the church which began as an insignificant community of little influence throughout Mediterranean Europe, Near East, and North Africa from the first through the sixth century.

The early church grew, despite being hated as a fringe cult, because they sacrificially loved. They understood that the love of Jesus was their driving force, defending them against persecution from without and heresy within. Their love for their neighbors knew no bounds, reflecting the selfless love of Jesus Himself.

Against societal expectations, most early Christians held fast to their values from scripture. In plague-ridden cities, while others fled, they embraced the sacrificial call to serve. This unwavering commitment set them apart, even if it made them seem strange or out of touch. They cherished women and female children, recognizing their worth and contribution. They had a hope for eternal life while martyred in the Colleseum. They gathered to codify the theology of the bible against false teachers.

By doing these, they displayed a radical love that made Jesus attractive. Their actions spoke louder than words, drawing others to the transformative power of the Gospel. Within 300 years, Christianity overcame the Roman Empire and the new era of Christendom in Europe began.

Today, let us be challenged by how God moved in the early church. May we embody their unwavering commitment to serve, regardless of the challenges or pushback we face. Let us move boldly into our communities, shining the light of Christ in a dark world. By sacrificially loving others, we too can make Jesus attractive and demonstrate his enduring love.

If you want to learn more about the story of church history, we have Bruce Shelley’s one-volume Church History in Plain Language (5th ed) available at our bookstore. Spend time this summer getting to know the heritage and heartbreak of Christians around the world.

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