Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you. (Romans 16:16)
Churches Of The New Testament
The city of Jerusalem would never be the same. Events unfolding in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, would change the world. Untold numbers of Jews came to the city of David to celebrate the Day of Pentecost and this day was no different than it had been in years past. Devout Jews from all over the world gathered to celebrate a great feast to the Lord God. Centerpiece of this immense crowd of people was the Temple and worshippers flocked to celebrate one of three important pilgrimage feasts: the Passover, Pentecost and the feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost was named from the fifty days from the first Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the end of harvest. What happened on that day would bring an end to this feast and all other celebrations contained under the Law of Moses. This Pentecost would be the beginning of the New Testament church.
Strange events took place in Jerusalem that brought the people together. Twelve men stood before them speaking in the tongues of different nations. Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, began explaining the significance of the events and declared to all the Jews gathered the man called Jesus – who had been executed just fifty days prior – was the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ. In a stirring indictment of guilt, Peter unfolded the culpability of the Jews responsible for killing the Son of God. Many did not argue and realized what they had done knowing the judgment of the Lord would come upon them. Obeying the words of Peter and the apostles, three thousand souls were baptized into Christ. What happens next is the remarkable story of the Day of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem. The Lord added to the church those who were being saved. The church had its beginning.
Jerusalem was the birthplace of the eternal plan of God. The church was born on the foundation Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. From this ancient city, the word of the gospel of Jesus Christ spread throughout the world in power, glory and number. Soon devotees to the message of the Christ left the walled city of Jerusalem and spread the message of hope to Judea, Galilee and Samaria. But the church would not stop there. It began to move into areas like Antioch of Syria where disciples took the gospel to the world. Men like Paul, Barnabas and Silas began to make plans to carry the good news of Christ to places like Cyprus, Perga, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. Later journeys would send them to Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth. Philip would change the life of an Ethiopian treasurer who would take the message of Christ to the deep recesses of Africa. Saints would be found in Lydda, Joppa, Cenchrea, Achaia, Caesarea and Antioch of Pisidia. Preserved in scripture are letters written to brethren in Galatia, Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, Thessalonica and to Crete. The church would be found in the homes of people like Priscilla and Aquila, Aristobulus and incredible as it may seem: Caesar’s household!
What is remarkable about the New Testament church is the unnamed churches of Christ spread throughout the world who followed the simple plan of salvation, worshipping as they had been instructed and saving souls. These are not inscribed upon the pages of ink and paper but their lampstands were evident to the eyes of God. Paul would tell the saints of Colosse the gospel was preached to every creature under heaven. The church of Christ began in the city of Jerusalem and today fills the earth. There is a sad part of this story. Looking at the New Testament church and the vibrancy of the gospel during the early days is found lacking today. The main story of the church in the New Testament is found in the modern nations of Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Italy and Ethiopia. Churches of Christ can be found in some of these countries but very few. The church has suffered loss in many nations that have rejected God and His Son, Jesus Christ. America has been blessed with many churches but sadly, many are closing their doors for lack of faith on the part of brethren to fight the good fight. Who is to say the church cannot die in America and break out in Central and South America, China, Vietnam or even as remote a place as North Korea with a passion not seen in generations? The church in Jerusalem began in the center of Judaism against all odds but it spread to the whole earth. God’s Kingdom will never cease to exist. His power and glory is found in the germ of redemption proclaimed by the people of God who are added to the church daily by the grace of the Lord – wherever they may be.