It intrigues me how many different groups of people who all refer to themselves as Christians, who wish to have nothing to do with each other since they believe the others are heretics in their thinking, all share the goal of restoring the Jerusalem church. Each of the groups emphasizes different things in the story of Acts 2 about the church in Jerusalem. Some point to the speaking in tongues and sons and daughters prophesying, old men dreaming dreams and young men seeing visions. Others point to whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Others point to the fact they were told as believers in Christ to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Some emphasize it was in the name of Jesus Christ. Some point to the gift of the Holy Spirit. Some look closely at Peter’s admonition to “Save yourselves from the crooked generation.” Others point to the fact the church had all things in common and thus argue that if we restore the church we will not have private property but have all together. Others point to the fact that they were meeting daily from house to house eating together and praising God and declare that the restored church should have daily meetings in homes where we share the meals together.
A worthwhile question for anyone who says we need to restore the Jerusalem church today is, “Which part are you wishing to restore?” We tend to base our thinking on that one chapter of Acts 2, but have you considered that the only people added to the church on that day were Jews or proselytes? If you aren’t a Jew, circumcised in accord with the law, you couldn’t have gotten in. If you keep reading it becomes obvious that even though Jesus told them to begin in Jerusalem, then go to Judea, then Samaria and then to the uttermost parts of the earth. But it took persecution to get them out of Jerusalem. In Acts 6 they already had problems with Grecian speaking widows being neglected in the daily distribution of food. Do you want to restore that part? It took almost ten years for them to reach out to gentiles with the gospel and that took two miracles to bring about. God had to send an angel to speak to Cornelius to send for Peter and then send a miracle to Peter to convince him to go. Even then the Jerusalem Christians hearing of Peter going were upset that he went into the home of a Gentile and he had to defend himself. When the gospel began to be spread in a mighty way to the Gentiles and Paul, Barnabas and later Silas and Timothy established churches in every city, it was Christians from Jerusalem that came to upset the churches telling them if they really wanted to be right with God they had to be circumcised and obey the Old Law. Is that what we want to restore?
When Paul followed the charge of the Jerusalem elders and apostles and remembered the poor among the Gentile churches, collecting money from them, even when some were in very poor condition themselves, to give to the poor among the church in Jerusalem, the reception from the elders was great. But immediately they warned Paul that there were many thousands of the Jews who had become Christians BUT THEY WERE ALL STILL ZEALOUS FOR THE LAW. They warned him to convince these people that what they had heard about his preaching among the Gentiles that they didn’t have to observe the law and the Jews among them didn’t have to observe the law, he should make a vow and pay some others way who made a vow and make an offering in the temple so that these Jewish Christians would know that what they had heard wasn’t true. For some reason, Paul went along with them. I agree with J.W. McGarvey’s commentary that he made a mistake and that God intervened to make certain he didn’t make the offering that was planned. Paul was attacked inside the temple and nearly beaten to death, being rescued by the Roman authorities. Even then some of the Jews made a vow to neither eat nor drink until they had killed him. They convinced these religious, law-abiding Jews to lie to the Roman authorities to get them to bring Paul down so they could kill him. It was only through Paul’s nephew who heard the plan and revealed it to the authorities that Paul was rescued and sent to Caesarea. Here is my question, where were all these thousands of Jewish Christian’s in Jerusalem who had been brought aid by Paul from the Gentile churches when Paul was being beaten, threatened and plots being made to execute him? Did none of them know anything about it? Did they cower in fear? Did they secretly hope he would be executed? Or were some of them among the crowd who attacked him in the first place. One thing we never read is how the church in Jerusalem came to his aid in any way whatsoever.
Now, tell me one more time what it is about the Jerusalem church that we need to restore today? About the only thing that impresses me much is that they continued steadfastly in the apostles teaching, in fellowship, in breaking of bread and in prayer.
My prayer is that we will become more and more determined to be like Jesus who built the church than any congregation of the first century who had all kinds of problems of their own.