Summary: The pressures of persecution brought the early Church closer together and closer to God. If we allow the pressures of our life to be redeemed by God then they will draw us closer as well!
All Things In Common, Acts 2:38-47
It happened at the noonday luncheon of the local Rotary. The dishes had been cleared away, and the meeting had been called to order. After the reception of new members and the introduction of visitors, the chairman asked who of those present represented the oldest company in the community.
A young man in the back of the room hesitated a moment, then arose and said: “I believe I do, sir. I am a minister of the gospel. The company I represent was founded some 1,900 years ago. And I am happy to say that it is still flourishing.” His announcement was greeted with applause, for none of those present was inclined to contradict him. He did, indeed, represent “the oldest company” in the community.
It was 19 centuries ago that the Founder of this “company” had said: “Upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). How true the intervening centuries have proved His startling prediction to be! On every continent and on the islands of the seven seas, from East to West, from North to South, the company of Christ’s redeemed have carried the message of salvation.
It was that “company” that the young minister represented — indeed, the oldest, grandest, and the largest to be represented at the meeting, a “company” that you can belong to by simple faith in Christ the Savior. We are “fellow” citizens with the saints and of the household of God, and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone.
This morning I, like the young minister in the story, want to talk to you about this grand old company – the Church of Jesus Christ! I do not, however, want to talk about the Church as though it were merely another of the world’s organizations.
Rather, I let us focus on the company – the friendships – of the family of the household of God. This morning let us focus on what we learn from those earliest of believers who held al things in common.
Throughout the centuries there have been those who have suggested that the statement about the early believers having “all things in common” is either a mandate for us or that it is completely irrelevant for us.
There are those who would tell us that these early believers sold all of their goods and held all things in common largely as a result of the persecution that they faced. You see, at this time in the early history of the church to be a follower of Jesus Christ meant that you were a criminal.
The first mass persecution of Christians occurred under the Roman Emperor Nero in A.D. 67 when he set the city of Rome to flame and then summarily blamed the entire thing on local Christians.
In regard to this persecution, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs says, “This monarch reigned for the space of five years, with tolerable credit to himself, but then gave way to the greatest extravagancy of temper, and to the most atrocious barbarities.
Among other diabolical whims, he ordered that the city of Rome should be set on fire, which order was executed by his officers, guards, and servants. While the imperial city was in flames, he went up to the tower of Macaenas, played upon his harp, sung the song of the burning of Troy, and openly declared that ’he wished the ruin of all things before his death.
This dreadful conflagration (inferno) continued nine days; when Nero, finding that his conduct was greatly blamed, and a severe odium (hatred) cast upon him, determined to lay the whole upon the Christians, at once to excuse himself, and have an opportunity of glutting his sight with new cruelties.”
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs records no less than nine other major persecution periods in the life of the primitive or early Church. The early Church knew persecution and it was that very persecution – the greatest obstacle to the growth of the Church – which provided the iron to sharpen the sword of God’s Church.
The early church father, Turtullian, said that, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The very thing which sought to destroy the early Church was the catalyst which made it grow.
I have often said that it is when times get tough, when persecution or hardship comes our way; it is then that you see the depth or lack of depth of a person or a groups character and devotion.
In the face of terrible persecution the early Church not only survived but flourished! They grew in the face of suffering. Their lives were a testimony to the provision of God in the face of trails.