Restoring Our Biblical Self-Image

After a careful reading of early chapters in the Acts of the Apostles it seems unavoidably evident that the first Christian community, the Jerusalem church, was qualitatively the church in all its fullness. From the social point of view it was also an only slightly interrupted continuation of the common life held by Jesus and his disciples for the three years prior to his ascension. Perhaps, then, the first Christian Pentecost was more of a puberty rite than a birthday for the primitive Christian community, and the church could better be regarded to have made its infant debut at the same time Jesus called his disciples from their nets and from their tax tables into a common life and ministry together with him. In other words, the church predated the Pentecost of Acts 2 by three years. If this be the case -- and I believe it is -- then we have more evidence than just the so-called Jerusalem experiment of communalism to fortify our contention that a restored biblical self-image for the church of today requires it to seriously challenge the economic and social pre-suppositions of its converts and committed members.

There can be little doubt that Jesus’ call upon “the twelve” radically intervened in their family life and standard of living. And the twelve, as a nucleus of leadership in the Jerusalem church, led the next wave of his followers along a similar path. I think Jesus’ and the twelve’s casual acceptance of such radical social change was less likely to have been the result--as some would contend--of a mistaken notion about the second coming than it was a fulfillment of anticipated Old Testament and New Testament prophecies (e.g. Isaiah 61:1-9; Luke 1:52-53), the former of which were familiar to every first century Jew who received Jesus as the expected Messiah.

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