The History of the First Century Church

Acts of the Apostles

A history of the church's growth and development during the first century AD. It contains accounts of journeys of some of the church founders for the purposes of spreading the Christian message and establishing stable groups and networks of the new converts.

The birth of the church
During the Pentecost Festival at a gathering of those who believed in Jesus coming back to life, God sent the Holy Spirit to fill them. It entered like a rushing wind and they saw fire over each others' heads. They became very excited and spilled out into the street, speaking in lots of different languages that they hadn't learned, and were understood by foreigners visiting Jerusalem. Three thousand people were converted that day. The first gathering of followers was in Jerusalem, where the members lived in community and shared their possessions to the extent that they no longer claimed ownership of anything.

The spread of God's message
Stephen was the first to be killed for telling God's message. After this, Acts is mostly about Paul's travels, though others feature too. (Paul helped to stone Stephen to death, but was converted by seeing a vision and hearing God's voice. He was blind for a few days afterwards.) They would start by speaking in a public gathering place, sometimes performing a miracle, make contact with interested local people and teach in their homes, gathering curious and eventually committed people around them. Thus close knit groups and networks were established for worship and mutual support. Sometimes they were imprisoned because their message clashed with the local religion or because the Romans got nervous about it. On one occasion the locals thought they were gods and tried to sacrifice to them.

Establishment of new ideas
While this was all happening, their teachings and customs began to diverge from Judaism to the extent that Christians, as they were now called, were now members of an entirely different faith.

Quotes from Acts
4:32The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul, neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common.
7:51You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears: you do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do you.
9:1-5Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples ... journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined around him a light from heaven, and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying ... "Saul, Saul, why persecute you me?
10:15"What God has cleansed, that call not you common or unclean.
17:22-23Paul: "I found the altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore you ignorantly worship, him declare I to you.
17:29-30Paul: "We ought not to think that the Godhead is like gold or silver or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.
19:18-19Many that believed came and confessed, and shewed their deeds ... many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

Next section: Letters (Epistles) from Paul the Apostle
Previous section: The Gospels

Introduction and Index     Books of Moses     Books about the time of the Judges     History of the Era of the Kings      The Exile in Babylon     Songs and Wisdom     The Major Prophets     The Minor Prophets     The Gospels     Acts of the Apostles     Letters (Epistles) from Paul the Apostle     Letters (Epistles) from Other People     Revelation     Ten Commandments     Selection From Psalms     Selection From Proverbs     Jesus's teachings and sayings

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