Religion and believers #8 Groups following one or another apostle

Brothers and sisters following some leader

From the previous chapter, you could see that for the first followers of Christ it was important how one behaved and how one was willing to accept the other as his brother or sister, and as such, they also became known as brothers and sisters in Christ. For them Christ Jesus, though he had died, was their example and leader. They felt united under this one “Leader” who was the head of their family, the Body of Christ. From the beginning, Jesus Christ was the appointed lord and head of the congregation, and he was recognised as such by all the congregations. (Acts 2:34-36; Eph. 1:22) From the heavens, Christ actively directed the affairs of his congregation on earth by means of holy spirit, which came over the apostles.— Acts 2:33; compare Acts 5:19, 20; 8:26; 1 Pet. 3:22.

The faithful apostles of Jesus made new disciples from whom older men tried to keep matters in good order to have a fellowship involving close friendship rather than just casual acquaintance. In the other ecclesiae outside Jerusalem the members also continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)

As is often the case among people, one has preferences for someone and desires to follow one rather than the other. So it also happened in the first and second century, where one could find typical followers of certain apostles. As mentioned in the previous chapter, a primary source for the Apostolic Age is the second book of Luke or the Acts of the Apostles.

In those days, as the disciples increased in number, there came to be a grumbling of the Greek-speaking members against the Hebrews, that their widows were disregarded in the daily distribution. Therefore, the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, indicating it did not seem right that they would forsake the word of God, and would be serving tables. (Acts 2:42; 6:1-6; 8:14-17; 11:22; 15:1-31)

Even though some men held positions of responsibility, there was no clergy-laity distinction among the first-century, and all matters came under discussion in the group of believers, who felt like brothers and sisters. (Matt. 23:8, 10.)

But on one side there were those who found their faith had to stay identical to the Jewish faith, whilst others believed there had to be an adaptation for including non-Jews, and for another group it seemed better to go against the Jewish milieu in which they arose, cultivating an intense devotion to Jesus as the definitive revelation of God’s salvific will. This way we could find a group that placed great emphasis on the teachings of Jesus and his apostle John. Those last ones supposedly authored the works of the Johannine literature: the Gospel of John, the Johannine epistles, and the Book of Revelation.

Brothers and sisters distinguished from others

The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetu, written during the second century,  from a “mathetes of the Apostles,” or “a student of the Apostles” offers a description of the Christian community.

“For the Christians, are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity.

At that time those followers lived in different regions, considered Jewish, Greek but also barbarian.

inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.

Jesus always had spoken of humankind as people who were allowed to live on this earth and could be seen as sojourners

As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.

Brothers and sisters not of this world

What was most important for all the followers of Christ, whatever group they belonged to, was that they did not cling to material goods and did not love the world in such a way that they kept to the traditions of the world as if not of this world.

They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.

The apostle Paul talked a lot about this not being of the flesh or of this world, though he fitted his religion to meet the needs of all the world, and freed entirely of the local and national meaning which had hitherto attached to it. The kingdom of which the early disciples were talking was interpreted by him as righteousness and something we had to look forward to. For certain Jewish followers of Christ it was also not alright that Paul did away with the fundamental distinction between Jews and Gentiles telling that there was no need to the observance of the Jewish law, but in love, purity and peace. This precipitated a very serious conflict, of which we learn something from the Epistle to the Galatians and the Book of Acts (xv. and xxii.).  This idea of Paul was not taken in gratitude and some opposed him, mostly also because they knew him as Saul who had sued them.

Opponents and apostates

One of those opponents of the apostle Paul was according to Paul Hymenaeus, who had made shipwreck concerning faith. For the apostle Paul he belonged to those of the apostasy among professed followers of Christ that he foretold (2 Thessalonians 2:3.) The apostle also spoke about Alexander, and Philetus. (1Ti 1:19, 20; 2Ti 2:16-19).

Among the varied causes of apostasy set forth in apostolic warnings were: lack of understanding, lack of faith (Heb 3:12), lack of discipline, lack of endurance in the face of persecution (Heb 10:32-39), abandonment of right moral standards (2Pe 2:15-22), the heeding of the “counterfeit words” of false teachers and “misleading inspired utterances” (2Pe 2:1-3; 1Ti 4:1-3; 2Ti 2:16-19; compare Pr 11:9), and trying “to be declared righteous by means of law” (Ga 5:2-4).

While still making a profession of faith in God’s Word, apostates may forsake his service by treating lightly the preaching and teaching work that he assigned to followers of Jesus Christ. (Lu 6:46; Mt 24:14; 28:19, 20) Apostates often seek to make others their followers. (Ac 20:30; 2Pe 2:1, 3) Such ones wilfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the “antichrist.” (1Jo 2:18, 19)

Near the end of the first century, beginning second-century letters from the talmidim or apostles with those of the apostle Paul were brought together and used by disciples from the disciples of the apostles.

Clemens Romanus.jpg
Pope Clement I also known as Saint Clement of Rome, is listed by Irenaeus and Tertullian as the fourth bishop of Rome, holding office from 88 CE to his death in 99 CE – c. 1000 portrayal at Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, Kyiv

Even those who found the apostle Peter was appointed by Jesus to be the leader of the Church came to see the other’s writings as sacred writings. After the first “Apostolic Father”, pope from 88 to 97 or from 92 to 101, the supposed third successor of St. Peter the Apostle, Clement bishop of Rome, the letters of both Ignatius bishop of Antioch and Polycarp bishop of Smyrna, the leading 2nd-century Christian figure in Roman Asia by virtue of his work during the initial appearance of the fundamental theological literature of Christianity, attest the dissemination of the Pauline letters by the second decade of the 2nd century.
In his Letter to the Philippians Polycarp not only does he repeatedly quote from Paul’s writings, but he also stresses the personal importance of Paul as a primary authority of the Christian church.

From such writings we can understand that at that time Paul had been adopted as a primary authority by the gnostic heretics, Polycarp, in response, reclaimed Paul as a treasured figure of the orthodox church.

It is apparently thus partly due to Polycarp that Paul, the disputed apostle, became a theologically respectable part of the Christian church’s tradition. Furthermore, Polycarp’s orthodox use of the Pauline texts marked a crucial advance in the Christian theology of biblical interpretation. According to certain scholars, Polycarp may even have composed or directly influenced some of the letters traditionally ascribed to St. Paul, the so-called Pastoral Letters (I and II Timothy, Titus). These letters possess a 2nd-century vocabulary and style that are characteristic of Polycarp. {Encyc. Br.}

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Next: Religion and believers #9 Old and new cults

Preceding

Religion and believers #1 Lots of groups to be taken interest in

Religion and believers #2 Different forms of Truth

Religion and believers #3 From father and mother gods to land and local gods

Religion and believers #4 Order of Nature and Polytheism on the way to monotheism

Religion and believers #5 Transition to Monotheism

Religion and believers #6 Origin of a church

Religion and believers #7 Independent and organised form of existence of a religion

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Additional reading

  1. Ability
  2. Religions and Mainliners
  3. The Realm of profession in Christianity
  4. Ability (part 7) Thought about the ability to grow as a member of the Body of Christ
  5. Follow after whatsoever things are true
  6. Do those who want to follow Christ to be Jews
  7. A Living Faith #10: Our manner of Life #2

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Related

  1. The Average Ancient Christian
  2. The Twelve Apostles and “Apostolic Men”
  3. The Letters of John
  4. The Bishop’s Sepulcher
  5. A fair witness to the church? Didache 11.11
  6. The Lord’s Supper. Part Two: The Early Church, 1st-3rd Century
  7. What If What The Church Needs Is Not A New Christendom?
  8. Deceiving The Deceiver
  9. Carissimi:Today’s Mass; St Irenaeus Bishop & Martyr
  10. What did Irenaeus Believe?
  11. 3. Fragments of the Apostolic Fathers – Evolution of God
  12. Facing up to False Teachers and Wild Beasts. An Ancient Issue.
  13. The Real Presence of the Eucharist in the Early Church
  14. Ignatius of Antioch
  15. Early Christianity: Ignatius of Antioch – Early Christian Writings
  16. Ignatius of Antioch: What Can We Learn?
  17. Ignatius of Antioch: 7 Pivotal Quotes From The Great Saint
  18. Ignatius of Antioch: 7 Catholic Quotes From The Great Saint..Updated
  19. Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr
  20. Ignatius of Antioch, Christian, Pastor, Martyr…
  21. Parrot Polycarp
  22. Polycarp the Atheist?
  23. Polycarp: A Model For Ministry In The Post-Christian West
  24. The Martyrdom Of Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna
  25. From Presbyterian to Monepiscopacy in Early Christianity

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