PROBLEMS IN THE EARLY CHURCH
“For I bear record to them that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge”, Rom 10:2
This verse is written in reference to non-converted Jews. But I find no better one, at this moment, to express such things as found “rest for the sole of its foot” within my soul today. Having in mind that the early church was mainly, in the beginning, composed by Jews, these having old habits to deal with from their previous nature, I believe I can use this verse to relate to them. I do not mean to minimize their early work at all, (for I believe that there has never been any greater one, even if there should since it should be easier now then than to have and breed it), but rather exalt it so as to be followed after.
There is a word from Peter that struck me today. He said to the people, concerning serving – at that point the most prominent doctrine they had been sticking to – “It is not right that we, leaving the word of God, should serve tables”, Act 6:2. Here, we find a man of God moving away from doctrine because of God and His lively words. It instantly made me also to think about zeal, the zeal that comes to feed our walk because we have been greatly touched either by examples from others, or by constrains from conscience. It takes a courageous man to move away from doctrine where people have the same heart and eat from the same table, feed upon the same efforts to become holy. The cross of Jesus led them all into serving – they were constrained to serve simply because Jesus set them an example and His death sealed that example, constraining them all to do the same, after the same way. At a certain point Peter and the eleven saw it was not right to carry on as they did till then, for the devil started using their unity to prevent more important things to happen. Maybe they had a revelation from the Lord, maybe they started to think about other examples of many other distinct things the Lord left them as well, since the Lord did not teach them how to serve alone. The death of Jesus, they all having lived it close by, struck them so deeply to serve and now the Lord had to remove the chaff from the wheat once the Spirit came down.
There are many problems we may perceive from this early church. I will steak to this kind of zeal brought about when something made a great impression on us in an unthinkable manner and way. This is often the main problem within revivals: there are many things which come to struck us deeply, things which are good and because they are good, they are carried within a bag of chaff we should soon surrender unto the fire of God to be burned. From all things which come from God and good people unto us, we should become able and fit to keep the grain alone. There is nothing wrong with revivals, but with the hearts of people which mostly keep and sustain the chaff and consequently throw out the grain and despise it.
Besides this issue of the cross and the death of Jesus having been turned into a problem unto them all, seeing it made them to see nothing else before them but serving, there is also the issue of the opening of their mind concerning Scripture. We know how Peter said to such who were zealous and lacked wisdom and acted not upon knowledge, once more, when explaining to the church the reason he had gentiles baptized , “And I remembered the Word of the Lord, how He said, John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit”, Act 11:16. This showed just how the Word should be understood, yes, but waited upon to be fulfilled as well. The word was revealed long before it had been fulfilled and when it came to fulfil itself, there was an inner, truthful word of confirmation for which people often do not wait upon and consequently try fulfilling it out somehow and some other way. The Lord has to come and act upon revelations still, many times long after they are even forgotten. There is always a great deal of revelations during revival times. Peter had them, many others do as well so we may pay attention to the Lord Peter speaks through and not fear Peter or praise him rather.
Once Peter read concerning Judas, “in the Book of Psalms, Let his estate become forsaken, and he not be living in it." And, "Let another take his overseership”, Act 1:20. They acted upon it so speedily that they did not consult the Lord concerning that wisdom they perceived from Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Maybe the zeal to have it all was a main problem, maybe the Lord gave them that to look upon as a form of inspiring exhortation alone and they thought to obey it rather, because they might have recalled that “He that has my commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves me”, John 14:21. And they wanted to love the Lord whom they saw suffering for them. Their Jewish zeal had been assaulting them all over again. There are better ways to obey God: at the right time, for opportunity will never run away since God reigns for sure among holy ones. They chose Matthias and felt fulfilled so as to carry on praying about other things. At least that problem would not hinder them anymore, and they would carry on expecting and praying and reading Scripture so as to understand it better. Yet, we know how Paul, later on, came to take that place Judas left as a void, and how the Lord, for the loss of one of the twelve chosen ones, gained one in return who worked more than the eleven put together. Because of zeal, had God told them Paul was the one to take over Judas' overseership later on, they would have put Matthias in a difficult, uneasy position if he carried on thinking humanly, fearing man instead of God. And as for Paul, he would have one more reason never to join them in Jerusalem, since by their rules, one to take that empty place among the twelve, should be one who had been with them since the beginning and Paul would not fulfil those requirements at all. I believe Paul knew he was one of the twelve, for if the eleven knew, so would Paul because God hides nothing from us that may be revealed still. Zeal may interfere with God's written will as well if it carries not the wisdom of waiting and inquiring after having been revealed something. Because their word is binding, we shall know how God is to solve that problem in heaven above once the twelve are to rule the twelve tribes of Israel. I believe it will be easy, for there Matthias will never feel but loving towards God's will and all He wishes.
But we know that when people do things they should not be doing for the lack of consultation of the Lord in the Lord, they use valuable time they should be using to do some other important things for the Lord and for themselves. Just as we cannot serve two masters at the same time, we will never do two different things at once and if our minds are occupied with some thoughts towards obedience, we may not be busy obeying in what really matters because we have been busy with other things different from the Lord Himself.
It is also true there was a time to reach to the gentiles, but when that time came, we find that the church was all together unprepared to receive them. At their coming, they were found discussing about the new little sheep. It caused divisions among many - had they prepared for greater issues, those problems could have been minimized somehow, later on. And those little ones were hurt through many a comment, spent the apostle’s time in solving new problems which should never be there at all had they been found with the right preparations - at least these problems would be minimized somehow. Jesus’ command stated “To all the nations” and they should have taken heed upon it beforehand. Because Judas had been a crushing thing they lived close by, it became personal and took the time and the willingness to be doing something else and of greater importance and of wiser preparation. I may not say they should have fulfilled the word out of time again, but at least prepare the church concerning that coming issue and learn concerning these problems from an early stage on. We must prepare people for coming issues during revivals as well and not discuss doctrines and futilities among them, not before, nor after it is able to happen and become fulfilled. People who have revivals are not prepared for many coming things and instead of giving away oveseerships, we should be building many up in the holy faith of God, in the presence of God and how to abide in there, "finding grace for a time of need" instead, through patience, opportunity and waiting upon response from them so as to build up some more, heading somewhere God sent too. Zeal is good, but should always be found doing the right thing at the right time, because, unless so, it will always become an hindrance, surely, for it will do something because it is ZEAL and WISDOM not living together with Love.
Now, there are these two great problems once Revival arrives: zeal and wisdom. These are good and needful things, gifts from the Lord Himself. But does the Lord rule them once they come? We know that zeal and wisdom inspires many to do accordingly. Paul says, “For I know your eagerness, of which I boast to Macedonia on your behalf, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has aroused the greater number”, 2Cor.9:2; and also concerning wisdom, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”, Col 3:16. But we should take notice as well, that there are a great deal of things during and within revivals which “indeed have a reputation of wisdom in self-imposed worship and humility, and unsparing severity of the body, but are not of any value but for the satisfying of the flesh” alone, Col 2:23. Concerning zeal, we know there is little time, but to walk wisely is the only way to redeem it and not to serve at tables if you should be studying and dealing out the word of God, praying all the time. “Walk in wisdom toward those on the outside, redeeming the time” - to walk in wisdom is not the same as doing lots of things for many people at once, Col 4:5. It is a kind of Life we may have which conquers people the best. Because time is short, we should sit still more often and start doing the right thing at the right time alone, so God may be able to lead us henceforth. Zeal and wisdom are good things to have, but of that kind that is “from above, truly pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy”, Jam.3:17. Do it then, And the Lord shall be with you. Amen.