Segment Two, Part One
In the introduction, we stated: The “church” is a body of believers and that we would expand upon this. How then did this “body of believers” come to be known as the first century church and what helped to identify them in this way? Several things that these first century assemblies did helped to bring about their identity. Their identity was wrapped up in how they saw themselves. Three things helped to shape their identity: 1) they saw themselves as the bride of Christ, 2) Christ was their cornerstone and his teachings were their basis for what they believed, 3) It was through their assemblies that they would plan and do their ministry.
These ideas and how they went about them grew out of the leadership of Jesus’ group of disciples. We see these listed in Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-19 and also in Luke 6:13-16. Jesus was the leader (head) of these men and they continued to teach and minister as he had taught them. Paul in several verses reiterated the same thought that Jesus is the head of the church and his disciples as well as all believers are members. (Romans 12:4 and Ephesians 1:22) Many believers understood that by baptism they became members of the church.
The ministry of the church was what Jesus taught the disciples. This was Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in Matthew 10: 6-8 “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as ye go, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” His disciples were to evangelize first the Jews, then the Samaritans, and then to the world. All of this required prayer, fasting, and planning. This was the initial ministry of the church and much of this still continues today.