The Church View:
A church is a building that is used for assembly of members of that church, which teaches and practices doctrines, generally determined, and enforced by a master religious organization. The function of the individual church varies according to the edicts of the controlling religious leaders, but follows general guidelines. The indoctrination of the membership in the beliefs of the master religion is a prime function, with absolute loyalty strongly emphasized. This is accomplished with weekly meetings during which the membership is indoctrinated in and conditioned to follow the rules of the religion by a leader variously called a pastor, priest, or minister.
Members are expected to pay a certain percentage of their income to maintain the church building, pay the salaries and living expenses of the church employees, and other costs related to the promotion and functions of the master religion. Seldom is even a small percentage of church income and effort used to serve the community in which the church is situated, or the world in general. Most civic projects are done to present a token image of charity, which is aimed at attracting new members to increase the power of the church in size and financial holdings.
The Bible View:
A group of like-minded people who live in a communal setting and sacrifice all physical belongings to support a work totally devoted to charity. There is a staff, whose job is to feed and clothe the poor and infirmed, and many have the power to perform miracles. One basic law, love for one another, is the guiding principle. Pompous appearance, righteous pronouncements, and the advertising of charitable acts are condemned. There is no command to support any building based organization whose purpose is to serve only the interests of those members accepted into the membership. Pastors, pulpits, and pews were not mentioned, and neither weekly meetings, nor any other scheduled meetings were held or commanded. Those called out of society and into the first church donated all their earthly goods to the group as a whole and it was clearly stated none of the called were in need of anything.
Virtually nothing, which is accepted practice in the modern church, can either be found or supported in scripture, from the building the church is located in to the methods used to support that church. Neither the collection plate, the enforced gathering on Sunday, the open prayer, the support for political candidates, the party behind the pulpit, nor the pulpit itself bear any resemblance to the practice of the first church. Miracles, prophecy, and healing were common amongst the members of the first church.
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness;
whose end shall be according to their works.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
What Is Religion?
The word religion appears only 4 times in the Bible, three of those times in direct reference to the religion of the Jews. The one time it refers to religion in general is in this verse:
♦ “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)
What is the Church?
Does the above verse sound like the standard practice of today’s Christian churches or does it sound more like this verse?
♦ “ Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Romans 16:17)
What Was Peter’s Commission?
After the resurrection, Jesus confronted Peter, and with triple emphasis, gave him a very simple and specific command, to feed the people.
♦ John 21:14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. 15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
The word “feed” is taken from two different words in these verses. In verses 15 and 17 the word translated is bosko, pronounced bos’-ko; to pasture; by extension to, fodder; reflexively, to graze. In verse 16 it is taken from poimaino, pronounced poy-mah’-ee-no; to tend as a shepherd of (figuratively, supervisor). Therefore, the commission is to feed and lead, with double emphasis on the directive to literally feed the followers. Does this not clearly indicate that Jesus clearly chose Peter as the founder of the first church, and is it not obvious that this would also be the focus of the church?
Helping the poor and indigent is at the very core of the first church’s focus and practices.
The First Church
The first chapter of Acts, which is actually the second part of the Book of Luke, details the first actions of the first church. Jesus began the formation of the first church before his crucifixion as can be well established from the gospels. The beginning of Acts shows that this book is details the final actions of Jesus until he was taken up:
♦ Acts 1:1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
The next verses refer to the directive that the apostles and disciples were to wait for a special transfer of spiritual energy to be imparted to them after his ascension:
♦ Acts 1:4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
In the next three verses Jesus is beamed aboard a cloud as the apostles have a very close encounter and are told that Jesus would return in the same cloud he just boarded. ♦ Acts 1:9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11. Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
After the ascension, the group returns to wait for the promise:
♦ Acts 1:12Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. 13. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
The Spirit of God Enters Mankind and the Miracles Begin:
♦ Acts 2:1. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.