Table of Contents / Overview
- The First Century A.D.
- The Mission of Jesus
- Paul, The Apostle to the Gentiles
- Belief and Obedience Necessary for Salvation
- Baptism Essential for Salvation
- Continuance in Well Doing
- The Formation of Ecclesias
In earlier lessons we have studied the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have seen how he was born of the virgin Mary, grew to manhood and, after 3 1/2 years of preaching, was condemned to death and crucified. But God raised him from the dead. All this was in fulfillment of the words of the prophets of Israel. These same prophets said that there would come a time when God's plan for the salvation of mankind would be extended to include other nations in addition to Israel. Isaiah wrote of Jesus:
"I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth." (Isaiah 49 v 6)
This development took place in the first century A.D. and resulted in the establishment of communities of believers throughout the Roman world.
In this lesson we shall learn how this came about and try to learn from the way of life of these early believers how the true follower of Christ should live today.
THE NEW TESTAMENT is the record of the development of God's purpose during the first century.
- Hebrews 6 v 13-20
THE GOSPEL RECORDS, the first four books, all tell us of Jesus the founder of Christianity. Therein we learn of the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus, his work, life, death and resurrection. (Refer to Lesson 5 on Jesus Christ Page 2 - Fulfilment of Old Testament Prophecy.)
THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, the next book, tells how they spread the Gospel, basing their teaching on the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Acts 2 v 22-24
- Acts 3 v 12-15
- Acts 4 v 4
- Acts 6 v 7
- Acts 12 v 24
- Acts 17 v 30-31
THE EPISTLES, which make up the rest of the New Testament (with the exception of the last book) are letters from the apostles to various groups of believers or individuals teaching doctrine and practice, giving advice, exhorting and encouraging to greater efforts to please God.
THE REVELATION, the last book, is a message given by Jesus to John in visions, telling him of the events which should happen until the return of Jesus to the earth to set up his Kingdom and beyond.
- Revelation 1 v 1
- Revelation 22 v 12
THE FIRST CENTURY was a vital period in God's plan. Jesus had by his perfect life, death and resurrection confirmed the Promises made to Abraham, setting the seal of the New Covenant (New Testament). This means:
- the sacrifices under the Law of Moses were no longer to be observed (Jesus was the pefect sacrifice, and had fulfilled the law).
- Colossians 2 v 14
- Hebrews 9 v 11-12
- the Gentiles were now to have the opportunity through baptism of becoming related to Jesus and the promises to Abraham.
- Galatians 3 v 27-29
These two factors were a source of conflict even in the minds of some who were responsible for the preaching of the Gospel. It was difficult for the Jews to accept these momentous changes in God's dealing with mankind, yet they were part of God's plan long since declared in the Old Testament Scriptures.
- Acts 10 v 45
- Acts 11 v 1-3
- Acts 13 v 44-48
- Acts 15 v 1-18
JESUS WAS BAPTISED by John the Baptist in the river Jordan as an example for his followers.
- Matthew 3 v 13-17
JESUS WAS GIVEN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT and declared to be God's beloved Son.
- Mark 1 v 9-11
JESUS THEN SUBMITTED TO A PERIOD OF SEVERE TESTING but because God was his father and he had a very thorough knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, he was able to resist all the temptations with "It is written".
- Matthew 4 v 1-11
JESUS PREACHED THE GOSPEL or good news of the Kingdom of God to his fellow Jews. (God's chosen people.)
- Matthew 4 v 23
- Mark 1 v 14
JESUS WENT ABOUT DOING GOOD to those in need of help and we read in several places that "He had compassion on the multitude".
- Acts 10 v 38
- Matthew 20 v 34
- Matthew 9 v 36
JESUS TAUGHT THE PEOPLE the truth concerning God and His purpose with mankind centered in him. He spoke of his forthcoming death and resurrection and of his everlasting Kingdom to be established on this earth.
- Mark 8 v 31
JESUS SPOKE OF HOW WE SHOULD BEHAVE in order to please God.
- Matthew chs. 5-7
"If ye love me, keep my commandments".
- John 14 v 15
JESUS HIMSELF SET US THE PERFECT EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW
- John 13 v 15
- Philippians 2 v 5
From among those who followed him Jesus chose twelve men to be his Apostles (meaning "those sent forth") and prepared them to continue his work. He sent them forth to preach the good news of his coming Kingdom and gave them limited power to do miracles.
- Matthew 10 v 1-7
He promised them that after his departure to heaven the full power of the Holy Spirit would come upon them to help and guide them in the difficult work.
- John 14 v 26
- John 16 v 7
- Acts 2 v 1-13
Jesus' ministry was remarkable in that so few of the Jews believed that he was the Prophet promised them by Moses, and they rejected him as their Saviour. After his resurrection, he instructed his apostles to go into all the world to preach the Gospel.
- Acts 3 v 13-22
- Deuteronomy 18 v 18
- Acts 7 v 37
- Acts 13 v 46
- Mark 16 v 15-16
- Acts 1 v 8
At first the Gospel was taught only to the Jews until God gave Peter a special vision demonstrating His plan to call the Gentiles.
- Acts ch. 10.
Later Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles whilst Peter continued his work amongst the Jews.
- Galatians 2 v 7-9
The preaching of the Gospel by the apostles based on the death and resurrection of Jesus was strongly opposed by the Jews and resulted in the persecution of the followers of Christ.
- Acts 4 v 16-20
- Acts 12 v 1-3
One of the chief persecutors was SAUL OF TARSUS a Jew who had authority at this time. Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus and this was the turning point in his life. Thereafter he dedicated himself to preaching the Gospel as the Apostle to the Gentiles.
- Acts 9 v 15
- Romans 11 v 13
"Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ".
- I Corinthians 11 v 1
He made three missionary journeys and with others established churches or ECCLESIAS in the cities north and west of Israel, examples of which are Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi and Rome.
- Acts chs. 13-14 & 16-20
He wrote letters or epistles to these ecclesias to assist them in their work. These letters are also a guide for us in doctrine and conduct.
NOTE: ECCLESIA - this word comes from the Greek and means literally "that which is called out". It is used to describe an assembly of people who have accepted the invitation to come out and be separate.
The Philippian Jailer asked Paul what he should do to be saved.
- Acts 16 v 30-34
Philip said to the Ethiopian, "If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest" (be baptised).
- Acts 8 v 27-38
NOTE - PAUL WAS NOT BAPTISED UNTIL AFTER HIS CONVERSION
- Acts 9 v 18
Baptism was commanded by Jesus and is essential to salvation. It is an act of faith by which the believer demonstrates his conviction that Jesus died and was raised to immortality. It is also an act of obedience to God's command by which we identify ourselves with Jesus. This subject will be more fully explained in the next lesson.
- Mark 16 v 16
- Romans 6 v 3-5
While belief and baptism are an essential beginning, these alone will not give us salvation. Dedication to God's service must follow.
- Matthew 7 v 21
- Luke 14 v 27
- Luke 9 v 23
- Romans 2 v 7
Those who had believed the Gospel and obeyed it in baptism formed assemblies or ecclesias. The members of each ecclesia met together each first day of the week to remember the death and resurrection of their Master in "the breaking of bread" and to encourage one another to live faithfully.
- Acts 20 v 7
- I Corinthians 16 v 2
- Hebrews 10 v 24-25
We have seen how Jesus in his life set the perfect example for true Christian believers to follow. He obeyed God implicitly and went about preaching the Gospel and doing good. After his ascension to heaven his apostles continued his work and extended it to include Jews and Gentiles in all parts of the Roman Empire. As a result men and women learnt the true Gospel believed it and were baptised. These believers formed ecclesias and met together regularly for worship, for breaking of bread and to encourage one another to obey God.
Since the first century the work has gone on. In each generation a few have obeyed the call of the Gospel to separate themselves and to associate together as small communities striving to obey God and to prepare for the coming of Christ from heaven. The call is the same today and in the remaining lessons you will learn something of the standard of life required of those who heed that call.
- Describe in your own words how Jesus was baptised and received the Holy Spirit.
- State THREE commandments of Christ (see Matthew chs. 5-7).
- When did the Apostles receive the full power of the Holy Spirit and what did this enable them to do?
- Describe in your own words how God showed Peter that the Gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles.
- Describe how the Apostle Paul was converted.
- What are the conditions of salvation? (Give references to support your answer).