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They were called Christians

Today, we continue to look at the early church, discovering the post-resurrection roots. Last week, we learned about Matthias and how he became the 12th apostle, taking the place of Judas Iscariot.
They were called Christians They were called Christians
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer

Background text: Matthew 10:1-4

Devotional text: Acts 11:25-26

Today, we continue to look at the early church, discovering the post-resurrection roots. Last week, we learned about Matthias and how he became the 12th apostle, taking the place of Judas Iscariot.

I’d like to look at how the apostles were chosen by Jesus and then give us a view of the forming of the church.

The original 12 apostles called by Jesus were: the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, brothers James and John, the brothers James and Judas (Judas was also known as Thaddaeus), Matthew (also known as Levi) the tax collector, Philip, Bartholomew (also known as Nathanael), Thomas, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot (Luke 6:12-16).

We know that Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John were called when they were involved in their occupation of fishing (Matthew 4:18-22) and that Matthew followed Jesus while he was seen collecting taxes (Matthew 9:9). The rest of the apostles we find when Jesus chose the 12 in Luke 6:12-16.

Reading the scripture from Luke 6, we find Jesus calling his disciples together after spending a night in prayer. That next day, he chose those 12 to become his apostles.

I think we should understand a few things here. First, disciples and apostles are not the same. A disciple is a student, one who learns from a teacher, and Jesus had many following him when he began his ministry. Second, the word apostle refers to one who is sent out to teach others, as missionaries. Jesus chose the 12 to be those people.

What can we know about the other seven apostles?

We know that Judas Iscariot was part of a nationalist group who wanted the Jewish nation to revolt against Rome. There was also Simon, known as a zealot, who, like Judas, was a nationalist. However, this Simon changed through the ministry of Jesus and became a man of peace and love.

Philip, who also lived in Galilee, was another fisherman. Another Galilean was Thomas. We don’t know his occupation, only that from his actions he was a careful, timid sort of person.

As for James and his brother Judas (Thaddaeus), we know little accept that they too were Galileans.

Bartholomew Nathanael was the son of Talmai. He was the only apostle who came from royalty, as his line was descended from King David.

Jesus gave his apostles a chance to be missionaries as he sent out the 12 in pairs (Matt. 10:5-42, Luke 9:1-6) “to heal the sick and to drive out demons.” He also instructed them to leave any place they were rejected by shaking off the dust from their sandals as they left.

As we read of the acts of the apostles in the Book of Acts, we must add Paul (Saul of Tarsus) to the list. Paul became an apostle on his way to Damascus to arrest the new believers. In Acts 9, a bright light flashed around Paul, causing him to fall to the ground. A voice from heaven led to the conversion of Paul into a follower of Christ.

It was Paul (Romans 11:13) who became the apostle to the Gentiles (all who were not Jewish), and it was Paul who founded the church in Antioch (Acts 11:26) where the disciples were first called Christians ( 2:19-20).

The Book of Acts is full of the works of the apostles and their companions as they journeyed and founded the church based on the core belief of Jesus as Messiah. His ministry on earth, his death and resurrection were all key elements of the Christian church.

As Paul wrote to the Ephesian church (Ephesians 2:19-20), “The family of God is based on the prophets, the apostles and on Jesus himself.”

In Acts, we find the early activities of the church, even before the day of Pentecost. The disciples met together and prayed, sung psalms and hymns, ate and drank together and offered communion and baptism. They opened up scriptures from the Hebrew Bible that showed the coming of Christ that pointed to Jesus. They told and retold the stories of Jesus. They read letters sent by the apostles.

Prior to their meetings, others were involved in preparation for hosting the meeting, for seating and food and preparing the materials to be read.

It’s amazing to me that even as the Christian church began, the elements of worship were already coming together. They haven’t changed much today.

I was fortunate to be part of a new church plant in Avon, Ind., several years ago. The feeling of this church reminded me so much of those first gatherings so long ago. We were committed people. We couldn’t get enough of meeting together. We wanted to live together so we could always be ready to worship God (although that did not happen). We were a church family in the true sense of the word of sharing in common and helping one another with our needs.

I was not a pastor at the time but put together the church bulletin each week and sang in the choir/band. The core people working on the founding and growth of this church met constantly and were always open to any who wished to join in planning and growing the church.

This was where I learned to listen to ideas and to be open to trying new things. Our philosophy was, if it worked, we’d incorporate it into the service; if it didn’t, we’d leave it behind. Everyone felt important to the whole, and, when we didn’t meet at church, we met in one another’s home.

I felt like I was back in Jerusalem centuries ago with the church fathers (apostles), establishing the worship of God through salvation by the Messiah Jesus, and learning the wonder of the Holy Spirit helping us to be a family of God.

Sadly, that church is no longer in existence. I also learned that some churches do come and go. However, mostly, I learned that God’s light draws his people together, and those things we learn and take hold of in our hearts never perish, but continue to shine brightly in our lives.