Early Church

It is my intent with the help of the Holy Spirit to find again the beginning truths, doctrines, warnings and visions from primitive Christianity and the Holy Bible. I hope to present this Early Church provocative core of truth as a guide, manual or liturgy to help the Church of our Lord in these last days. It is my prayer that this small beginning may become a rallying point for true unity in love, holiness, and power. The Bride of our Lord Jesus Christ must gather in love, openness, biblical unity and power to see His Kingdom come to maturity,  (John 17).

It is interesting that the New Testament writings do not give a complete and direct detailed liturgy. We are not given specific instructions as to how to specifically construct the “Holy” ladder from earth to heaven as we come together. Perhaps the Holy Spirit did not establish a detailed New Testament liturgy (manual) in the Early Church for a reason. Perhaps it was so that we would not become set in our ways and forget His necessary presence as we come together. It seems that we have conjured up our own “Golden Calves” which have become today’s sacred cows that keep the religious system in the “program” business.

The New Testament writings and letters do hold spiritual and basic liturgical canons and examples for worship. It is my hope to stimulate a return to these truths, visions and warnings.

The Holy Spirit has given us New Testament apostolic doctrine on which to build a liturgy (people-work or body-life ministry). Each generation will certainly need to fine-tune the details of any basic liturgy. The Holy Spirit will release new biblically based understandings and revelations to each generation. Because each generation has a different communication level, there is a basic need to make small adjustments in any liturgy in order to more clearly communicate to the spiritual and maturity level of each fellowship.

More young adults would come to church to enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit if the Holy Spirit were in control and if Jesus Christ was the central focus. Have we been fooled into thinking Jesus is the center of things? Mostly, He is not, and unless the Holy Spirit is evident in ministering the Word of God with love, holiness and signs following, the pure signs of the Trinity of God in action. The church is only a building full of people. if it is when the unsaved can see Jesus that it is really CHURCH. Jesus in HIS glory truth and power is the focus of His Church, not a concern for money, membership program, building maintenance or entertainment as we mostly find today.

The Holy Spirit is still at work to bring into the LORD’s Church, the “called out ones,” those who want to return from Adam’s rebellion into the Creator’s full fellowship. It is obvious that the New Testament scriptures do not allow for any works of the flesh. For, “It is not by might, nor by power but by My Spirit, saith the Lord” (Zech 4:6). All facets of any effective ministry must be totally under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Ministries must be receptive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and anointing. Care must be taken not to make any traditions, rigid, religious and into another sacred cow where we are able to, PERFORM, and look good and be religious without the very necessary presence and experience of the Holy Spirit in changing our hearts.

Remember, it was and still is the “very religious” who will even today try to murder the prophets and the apostles. It was very religious who would even now crucify the Lord of Glory (Col. 2: 8-23).

In (Acts 2:38-47), we find a clear and anointed path for the Christian Pilgrim to experience the Holy presence of God. It has been a wonderful blessing to see this scripture open up to a much deeper level of guidance in this effort. This portion of scripture has come alive for me in a very special new way. This is one of the basic scriptures used for the basis of a New Testament Liturgy. It is my hope, Lord willing, to enjoy this bit of history and vision for myself and make a connection with  those who are also  looking for The Lord’s everlasting Kingdom of perfect love and light.

Basics

Many of our church members have not really understood or entered into that eternal covenant with the Lord Jesus Christ on a personal level. This is due to the lack of effective teachings on faith, or perhaps by lack of a clear example. True conversion means that Jesus Christ is invited to become the Lord, The King, The Master in the center of one’s life. That is, all of our very beings in exchange for all of His very being (a major change from normal egocentric living to Christ-centered living). Conversion is not just a change in mental understanding. JESUS must become LORD and KING. REALLY KING. Conversion is not to a new religion or denomination but into a living relationship with our ever-living Creator God.

I have often asked inquirers or seekers, Where will your soul go when you die? Only true believers can respond, i.e.:

1) with Paul,  “I am crucified with Christ, yet I live, yet not I but Christ lives within me and the life that I now live, I live by the hope of the Son of God” (Gal.2:20); or

2) Jesus died for me, my sins are forgiven. Jesus is the Lord of my life. I would be in heaven; or

3) “I have confessed with my mouth, I believe with my heart, so I am saved” (Rom. 10:9-10).  My security is in the blood of the Lamb and the Word of God.

4) I shall not be moved. I am blood-washed, born from above, child of God by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. My life is hidden in Christ Jesus. (John, chapters 2 and 3).

Some of the confusion is perpetuated by the church in the use of religious words, such as “baptism.” In the Early Church, water baptism was the sign, seal or witness of the separation from the carnal world unto the New Covenant of God, such as spiritual death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism is similar to circumcision, indicating a separation unto God  as with the old covenant (Col. 2:11-23).

The word “baptism,” is a Greek word meaning immersion, or to be placed into, as dye into a fabric. The word was never just equated with water by the writers of the New Testament (Heb.6:2, Luke 3:16). The context of the passage determined what was being placed into what and by whom.

To be baptized is for someone to take something and place it into something else. It is unfortunate that the 1611 King James English translators neglected to use the English word “immerse” (to be placed into as dye in a cloth). Perhaps it was due to the traditions of that day. It is also possible that they considered water as the only medium concerning baptism when translating the Bible.

There are other possible uses of the word “baptism” or “immersion” in the Bible such as in the O.T. Tradition: 1) As in the release of vows of a Nazarite at age 30; 2) Or as used in gentile proselyte conversion to Judaism. Or in the New Testament: 1) placement of a believer into the Body of Christ; 2) placement by a minister of a convert into water; 3) the placement of the believer by Jesus Christ into the Holy Spirit as needed for the power of ministry; baptism of suffering; and baptism of fire. I have found seven and I am sure there must be more (Heb.6:2).

The Greek word “bishop” (overseer) can mean: 1) a pastor in a local ministry; or 2) an apostle, a ministry to pastors. It is important to seek the full meaning of words found in the New Testament. It is the calling of the local fellowship, community, and/or church to provide a true balance of love, holiness, and power as seen in the Trinity of God. We refer to these streams as evangelicalliturgical and charismatic.

The three streams must merge into God’s mighty The Mighty River of Life. We must be willing to ruthlessly remove all non-biblical tradition and denominational excess baggage for the sake of true biblical unity. The denominational fences must fall if we are to see the glory of our God revealed among us (further information is available on this subject under the chapter, “God and Authority”). If we do not do this by choice then we will find ourselves doing it because of persecution. The persecutions have already begun. Our children can not even bring a Bible to school without strong opposition. Our New York Trade Center was blown up as God is no longer able to provide protection to our nation due to our national sins, pride and rebellion against His Kingdom by our national government and supreme court. See the chapter on: “Mystery of Iniquity”. We are now in the Holy War, like it or not.   The bottom line? Will we learn to submit to the Creator’s definitions of what is right and holy as written by His Apostles and Prophets in the Holy Bible?

As a nation if we continue to leave His covering we will lose His blessing and He will not be able to protect us. “In God We Trust” there is a national responsibility for America towards the God that we trust. We must return to living His way and not our way. With the legal support of sin, America is now coming under judgment.

In His love He saved us. In His Holiness He sanctifies us. And, in His power, He changes us into the likeness of Christ Jesus. The Church desperately needs the excellent and biblically sound doctrine from each of these three great streams of faith to become like Jesus Christ.  In humility, each has much to learn from the other two.

At this time I have not tried to bring into this New Testament Liturgy the ancient words that we all love to hear each week or try to “place the flesh on the bones,” so to speak. It will be the responsibility of the “House Church” to clothe this trial liturgy with the beauty and pageantry of the past as fits their culture.

For many years I walked, to some degree, in this liturgy without being aware of the order and was greatly blessed. I am very grateful to Bishop Rich Lipka of the Charismatic Episcopal Church for the course LS301 and for its demands of focus on the liturgy. I’m grateful, also, to the books written by Robert Weber. And also to Bishop Robert Hawn for the freedom to explore and to Mar John for His support and learned wisdom. I am looking forward to the time when I can experience this vision of a New Testament liturgy with His power in a full community of faith. I believe with all my heart that God will answer by fire.  As a trial liturgy, the basis of this writing has been totally focused on the New Testament & the Early Church Fathers. I am also open to corrections and/or additions for the next edition.

It is my feeling that this departure from a standard church service might be best made available in the context of a Saturday evening fellowship as with the Early Church. The service than would have more freedom in the Spirit due to the longer time frame of an evening. The presiding elder or minister would need to govern the time well as to stay in and with the Holy Spirit. The minister must have the freedom to encourage the shy and sometimes not be so indulgent to those who would seek to usurp God’s glory for themselves. Extroverts can do a lot of harm by seeing the time of gathering as a stage on which to meet their own personal needs instead of the needs of the body of Christ in the ministry of the Lord. In my experience when the Holy Spirit is in control everything is done will lift up Jesus as the Christ.

In this little book, KEYS, I will try to present a simple and Biblical form of worship. This will be a walk in time and space back to the Early Church to bring the glory of the former rain into our experience for the “latter rain” (Joel 2:23-32). I am sure that the needed changes will not be easy, nor will it be an effort without mistakes. With our Lord it was first three; then twelve; then seventy; and then one hundred and twenty disciples before the church could begin. Christ Jesus ministered for three and one-half years with the end results of only one hundred and twenty disciples who were obedient to remaining in the “upper room” until the day of Pentecost (would we have waited ten days?). But, with these one hundred and twenty disciples, the Holy Spirit was able to begin the building of HIS CHURCH for the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus, the Christ. His Church also began to establish the Kingdom of God on earth as well. (note: not “believers” in this case, but “disciples” big difference.)

We can be sure that it is the mind of the Holy Spirit for us to enjoy the “latter rain.” Our Lord promised that we would do what He did in (John.14:12), and greater things would we do. Let’s stop our practice of learning to see doctrine in the light of our experience, or stop seeing through the religious traditions of our past. It is important to understand that we will learn to do what we have faith to do. We will learn to do what we practice believing. We will learn to hit what we aim at, eventually.

Jesus said, “Be it unto you according to your faith.”  The word “sin” is an old English word which means, to miss the bull’s eye in an archery tournament. We will need patience with ourselves and with each other to learn to walk in the Spirit of Acts 2:38 liturgy. We will probably have a few arrows in every thing as we learn to hit the bull’s eye. But it is a greater sin to leave the gifts of our Lord, that cost Him so dearly to purchase, unopened. You will learn to hit what you practice aiming to hit. You will never learn to hit the center of the bull’s eye by aiming at a branch on the tree that holds the target. John tells us that as He is, so are we in this present world (1 John 4:17). Is this not the center of our target?

What are we really aiming at in our heart of faith? Are we aiming to be like our fathers, or to walk on the water with Jesus? Are we really aiming to be like Jesus as Apostle John thinks we should (1 John 3:3)? Or, are we aiming at just being good church members? When is the last time the Holy Spirit showed up at church and delivered and healed everyone (Acts 5:16)

Perhaps, after all, perhaps the weakness of our church may basically be a matter of religious denominational disunity. “Where the leaders go the sheep will surely follow.” At the present time, we have denominational religious chaos. Oh, for the days when Christians were simply Christians. Those who were simply followers of “The Way.” And elders were “servant elders” in true unity with all the other godly elders in a given area. Any more when asked, I tell people that I am a Christian.

The Early Church, “House Church,” were God’s people coming together in fellowship. The “gathering” was considered the “church,” not the facility. The “House Church” concept may be found in the New Testament: (Acts 2:46;  Rom.16.5; 1 Cor.16:19; Col.4:15 and Philem. 2). Some of the upper rooms used for the “House Church” were very large due to the Eastern design for homes, as the top floor of most homes were one large area for the family gatherings. The access to this upper room was normally by an outside stairway. The bedrooms were usually below this family room and then the stalls for livestock were sometimes on the bottom dirt floor of the structure (Acts 20:9). On Pentecost “the upper room” was at least spacious enough for 120 disciples to have a 10-day fellowship (Acts 1:13-15}. I personally feel the room may have been even larger as many, who had come, had lost faith in the coming of the Holy Spirit and returned to their homes.

Please note that for the Early Church, the first day of the week was Saturday evening (Acts 20:7). The heartbeat of a fellowship was centered in the Lord’s Memorial of breaking of bread together. The Lord’s Supper was the heartbeat of the Early Church in the power of the Holy Spirit, 1 Cor.11:18-34. not the preaching as it is today in most churches. But here we must also realize that we have missed the balance of the evangelical, liturgical and charismatic truths as was given to the Early Church.

Today we are finding ourselves with three very separate denominational “positions,” or “streams.” Each stream is to carry some part of the gifts and anointing of the Holy Spirit meant for a healthy Church. These streams should be a mighty river, and yet these three streams still run side by side maintained by dikes and levees built by the “frozen chosen” of the church over the centuries. My good friend, Father Guy Peltz once said to me that His church over the years had become God’s “frozen chosen” dedicated to the preservation of the “stuff.”  Many big church fights begin over the “stuff”. Money is the root of all evil. The  reason that most of God’s work go begging is due to our inability to maturely handle His funds as good stewards.

It is my feeling that the Holy Spirit wishes to restore independent “House Church” ministries with meetings at times other than Sunday mornings. The Holy Spirit has instructed me to be very careful about being negative concerning any present efforts in church buildings, “For he that is not against us is for us” (Matt:13:29; Luke 9:50).

A “House Church” needs to role-model the New Testament liturgy as found in (Acts 2:38).  The Lord’s Supper must be the focus of the gathering. There are three steps of preparation, then communion and three steps of prayer in enjoying the Lord’s real presence. A House Church should seek to restore the expectancy of the mystical presence of our Lord through the Holy Spirit with the confirmation of the “Word” with signs following. This can only happen by coming together with one mind and one spirit,  (John 17). The message of His Kingdom will be confirmed during the prayers. The work is done by the Holy Spirit or not at all.

For hundreds of years “the church” has been trying persuade people to get “saved from hell,” without understanding the vision of our Lord’s Kingdom, or having any experience concerning the Kingdom. Most Christians have never experienced the power of the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus, the Christ. We need New Testament “faith” and “unity” to help us return to the experience-level of Acts 5:16.

It is interesting to note that any mention of “church,” as a place, in the New Testament, was always as a fellowship meeting place at someone’s home. Scriptures for “House Church” in the New Testament may be found in (Acts 2:46; Rom.16.5; I Cor.16:19; Col.4:15 and  Philem. 2).

There is not one word nor precedent, in the New Testament, for the consideration of funding building programs. There was no “Sunday School” in the Early Church as the responsibility for teaching children from birth to 12 (girls), and 13 (boys), was the personal God-given responsibility of the parents. At 12  and 13 children were given the status of responsibility as an adult and admitted into the adult fellowship of the Church. This assumes that the parents had brought up their children as believers in the ministry of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

In beginning  a “House Church” ministry, those who are led to do so, would first begin with the use of the seven steps of fellowship between perhaps two people (this works very well with a married couple but is not limited to a couple). As the steps became familiar then others could be invited for fellowship. This meeting or fellowship would be considered a “House Church” regardless of the number of those in fellowship. The Lord said when two or three are gathered together in His name that He would join and be in the midst (Matt.18:20).

Buildings and numbers are not important, neither is calling for tithes. Giving in the New Testament is a personal consideration of the heart, and no longer under the law. I fully realize that this will seem like walking on water, but then that’s where Jesus is. He is still calling for us to get out of the boat and walk with Him on the water. We see only a few glimpses of the possibilities of this kind of empowering from time to time. Due to the lack of “true unity,” “doctrinal divisions,”  “denominational walls” and “non-Biblical traditions”.

The present church has left out much of the original guide book and created its own liturgy.  The new liturgy of the theater makes all of the participants look good, but little of our Lord’s Kingdom is experienced in the final reality. The bottom line is that we are losing the war with sin in our country and the world and are even now we as a nation are teetering on the very edge of having a majority of voters bent on the destruction of our national ethos as a Christian Republic.

It may take some time to get over our lack of faith in the possibility that we can enjoy the Kingdom today as the Early Church did in the First Century. It is time to go back to the drawing board and draw the plans as were laid out by the Master Builder and His apostles.  We have the truths given very clearly in the New Testament, but we have been long in unbelief-training with wrong examples. We have nearly 1900 years of tradition to go through and separate the living baby from the bathwater. This is a must for spiritual reality and for us to be about the Master’s business of making disciples.

Basically, I try to be a New Testament, primitive, simple, Evangelical – Liturgical- Charismatic Christian. Evangelical, as I deeply believe in the grace and love of God. Liturgical, as I love for the structure of holiness and the breaking of the bread as set down by our Lord and the apostles. And as a Charismatic I expect the Holy Spirit to show up, set folks free, heal, change lives and give folks a heart of joy in the presence of Christ. I truly enjoy sharing the joys of finding the balance of being a normal Christian instead of being lopsided as I was for far too long. The Evangelicals say that the salvation of souls for Jesus is a real issue. The Liturgical say if you don’t have a holy structure going back to Peter and the Twelve, you don’t have church. The Charismatic follow up with the position that, if the Holy Spirit doesn’t show up, you haven’t had church either. Each has parts of the truth.

So, the Saints go from church to church trying to get out of their little “kingdom boxes” so as to have a (John 17) peace in their hearts. To correct the problem the following might be considered:

1. Elders in a given area should come together and confirm the calling of Jesus Christ on each other for the ministry and eldership that the Holy Spirit has called them to serve in the Church of Jesus Christ ( Eph. 4:11).

2. The Elders should make the physical resources that belong to Jesus Christ common to all of the fellowship families so the physical properties and meeting places may be used to present the Gospel of the Kingdom  in power and support for the common ministry of Christ in building His Church.

3. Elders should  move freely among the local church families in ministry.

4. Elders will need to select a presiding (moderator) elder for the purpose of  order, to ensure that all may address the important issues in doctrine in order to maintain “the unity of the faith in the bond of peace” among the flock. (John 17 and Eph. 4:11-16).

God’s calling is for souls, disciples and helping people. For me, that is the bottom line. God can re-create everything that was and is. In fact, after the millennium Kingdom of Christ’s rule on earth, He will cremate all on planet earth and start over. Not one broken beer bottle or piece of concrete will be left of the former things (2 Pet. 3: 4-15). So the issue of the whales and the conservation of planet earth, for me, would be a diversion from my calling to touch souls for the Kingdom of God. Others may well be concerned about the repairs needed by planet earth, but heads up, planet earth will end in a fiery dump after the last soul is saved.

Only the souls of mankind are the ultimate concern of the great Creator. Only the free-will love of an eternal soul is without replacement. God can make a new soul and in the dimension of time, He can repair a damaged soul that seeks repairs. But once in eternity, He can not replace the soul that has self-destructed. He has honor-bound Himself to submit to our free will choices made in time for all eternity. And not many understand how serious the situation really is concerning free will, eternity, and Jesus Christ. God will one-day minister judgment to the great rebellion it will be final with no appeal and no escape. Then time will be eternally over.

That is exactly why we must live our lives as unto the Lord. You may be expecting too much from folks who really aren’t tuned in. Christian singles don’t date. Be a brother and sister, have fun, pray, enjoy lots of friends. Dating is like being engaged and headed for marriage. Work on spirit first, and then soul in an engagement. The physical belongs only in the marriage…this was the original plan of God and a good one. Don’t even talk about soul stuff to a potential partner until you have the clearance from the Holy Spirit, wait till those who really love you say “this is the one.” It is too easy to get off track and end up in a wreck…spiritually. There are no back doors. God does not serve desserts first. (See the chapter on Marriage.)

Fear is faith going backwards. God never uses fear to guide us. In him, there is no fear at all.  Fear and hate hold the kingdom of darkness together. Faith and love hold the Kingdom of God together. It is written in the book; God’s Faith And Love Win In The End. Don’t let folks manipulate you by fear. God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind, (2 Tim.1:7). Follow your heart in the Lord. If it is not illegal, immoral, unethical, against the Bible, or is something Jesus wouldn’t do, then you are free. The truth shall set you free. Don’t waste your life trying to make everyone happy; most people usually stone the prophets anyway; so what do they know?

Giving

No one was ever pressured to give tithes, offerings or gifts under the LAW in a New Testament House Church. If you have been manipulated into giving by the present church system under the law it will do the Kingdom of our Lord no good. It is important to understand that, “The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the righteous,” (Prov.13:22). We understand that 10% was the minimum under the Old Testament schoolmaster of the Law. But as “New Testament Saints” we come under a higher commitment of the Kingdom where God wants to give us His heart concerning the issues of life (Hebrews 8:10). He wants to place His thoughts in our heart so that in our “new nature” we will naturally know and want to do what is pleasing before Him. Apostle Paul taught: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 So don’t ever let anyone place you under the Old Testament law for giving.

The old covenant of the LAW was set aside upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as it did not work and could not work. The LAW only proved to us that we needed a Savior as the Law was impossible to keep for us as the children of Adam. So the Law was good but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ, (Hebrews 8:7-13).

The New Testament teaching on giving is reciprocity, or “as a man sows, so shall he reap.”  For whatever crop that you wish to have grown in your life and in Our Lord’s Kingdom, you must learn to plant the proper seeds (Luke 6:38; John 12:24; Rom.8:5-8; 2 Cor.9:5-15). If the crop is to be loved, then love is also the seed. If the crop is to be secured then you must sow security in the lives of others. If the crop is financed then the seed is also the giving of finances, or help, to those that are in need. God has created His Kingdom so that we can participate with Him in His creation in humility. We must plant the seeds of our needs with a farmers faith, but the sunshine, rain and good earth that makes the seed grow, is provided by our Great Creator. We can plant and pull weeds but He makes the crop grow. So the primary aspects of success and growth in His Kingdom are: faithplanting and weed pulling.

The “weeds” are the sins of pride, unbelief, fear, slothfulness, and lack of prayer (to mention a few). We need faith and biblical understanding of how to plant the crop. Our Heavenly Father is seeking farmers to help Him grow His fields of Righteousness. All of our petitions should be directed to “Our Heavenly Father” as our Lord has said in Matt.6:9. We can share our need with each other for prayer support but our requests need to be made to God in secret (Matt.6:4).

© Copyright - Trinity Fellowship International - The Vision for Biblical Unity