Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Question:
People are trying to reinvent church today. The reason why I know my Church is right is because we seek to model ourselves after the first century church. I don’t think all these modern approaches are Godly, do you?

Answer:

Yes, I think there is much to be concerned about many modern fads and movements in the Church today. However, I would like to more specifically address your comment about “the first century church”.

I often hear phrases like “restoring first century Christianity” or “modeled after the first century Church” or “the first century Church is our example”. I’ve often heard arguments such as “well, the first century church didn’t do that (or did do that)”.

My question was, and is, all will always be: where does the Bible command us to be like the “first century Church”? What Scriptural basis is there to say that the first century church is some sort of model?

Biblically, our only example and model is Jesus Christ (1Cor 11:1; 2Cor 10:5; Phil 2:5; 1John 2:6; 1Peter 2:21).

If we do insist that the first century church is some sort of model example, I would then ask which of the following characteristics do we need to imitate (all were present in the “first century Church”):

” Division – 1Cor 1
” Contention – 1Cor 7
” False teaching – Rev. 2; 2 Peter; 3John
” Sexual immorality – Rev. 2; 1Cor
” Wickedness – Rev. 2
” False Apostles – Rev. 2
” Toleration of sinfulness – Rev. 2
” Spiritual deadness – Rev. 3
” Lukewarmness – Rev. 3

The “first century Church” was made up of fallible, weak, sinful human beings, no different than us. There was no magic about being a “first century” Christian.

The next time you hear the phrase “restoring the first century church” or “the first century church is our model” ask that person to give you Scripture that commands us imitate first century Christianity, and then ask them who gets to decide WHAT we imitate. Consider:

  • They met in homes not facilities
  • They had full celebratory meals for the Lords Supper
  • There were no paid staff or orators
  • The assembly was not a “spectator event”, it was a fully interactive and mutually involved gathering
  • There were no choirs, bands or entertainment or full time song leaders

I could go on, but the point is, people PICK AND CHOOSE only certain parts of the “first century church” to imitate or restore. Who gets to make that decision?

Answer: no one… because it is an erroneous and non-Biblical idea to begin with.

Imitate Christ, not flawed first century Christians. Restore Christ to our lives, not first the century Church examples that are imperfect and incomplete.

We are only on the right track to the degree with imitate (act like, look like, talk like and think like) JESUS CHRIST…. not the sinful converts of the first century.

That does NOT denigrate their commitment and sacrifice to the early Church. In fact, I think they would find it quite appalling if they knew the 21st Century Christians were “restoring first century Christianity” rather than fulfilling the call to be the 21st Century Christ Followers we are called to be when we “imitate Christ”.

Repeat something long enough
and often enough, and it goes
from good concept to tradition to doctrine.

Am I splitting hairs? I don’t think so. We should not hang our Christian focus on a phrase that is not even Biblical to begin with. Repeating a phrase long enough and often enough transforms it from concept to tradition to doctrine. For some Christian groups today, it most certainly has become a foundation.

The bigger point those is that as Christians (and the Church) the only thing we should strive to restore is Christ-likeness; then only thing we want to model ourselves after is Christ’s life; the only example we imitate is Jesus Christ.

PS: WHAT ARE YOUR QUESTIONS FOR ME? Ask here. To give a gift of support, click here.