The First Century Church

The First Century Church

Information on these pages pertains to the work, worship and organization of the first century church that we read about in the New Testament.  It is our belief that every church today should mirror that work, worship and organization.


Christians In The First Century Church

In the first century church, as described in the New Testament, each local congregation was composed of persons who had responded to the gospel message by believing in Jesus, repenting of their sins, and being baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:36-41). These saved persons not only had a new relationship with God, but also with one another. The saved in a certain area (a local church) met together continually in order to hear the apostles’ teaching, sing and pray together, and partake of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42). In continually doing so, they constantly worshiped God (John 4:23-24) and encouraged one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).

The New Testament identifies these saved persons as “believers” (Acts 5:14), indicating that they had placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They are also identified as “disciples” (Acts 6:7), indicating that they had committed themselves to learning from and following the teachings of Jesus. The New Testament also calls them “saints” (Romans 1:7), indicating that they had been separated from the world of unbelievers and placed into a special relationship with God through Christ. And the New Testament identifies them as “Christians” (Acts 11:26), indicating that they were citizens in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

One thing you will notice about the terms by which saved persons are identified in the New Testament is that all of them are terms that promote the unity of our relationship with Jesus and with one another. The saved are all equally believers in Christ, disciples of Christ, called to be saints with Christ, and Christians in the kingdom of Christ. What is missing from the New Testament is any additional name tag that identifies one group of Christians from another group of Christians. There are no Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, or any other “ists” or “ians” in the Bible. There are just Christians, and in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 the apostle Paul says that is the way God wanted it to be.

Have you not yet obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ by believing in Jesus Christ, repenting of your sins, and being baptized for the forgiveness of your sins? In other words, have you not yet become a believer, a disciple, a saint, and a Christian? If not, you need to so that you can enjoy the salvation that God is offering to you! Elsewhere on this website you will find a section where you can contact us for more information about what you need to do to become a Christian, and just a Christian.

If you are a Christian, have you joined yourself to a group of fellow Christians in your area, brothers and sisters in Christ with whom you can worship God and give and receive encouragement to love and good deeds? If not, contact us and we will be happy to put you into contact with a local church in your area that is working hard to be the kind of church God wants them to be.

Shepherds In The First Century Church

In the first century church, as described in the New Testament, each local congregation was a self-governing body of Christians, organized according to the New Testament pattern of shepherds, deacons and saints (Philippians 1:1).

Shepherds were all mature Christians, as the name implies, and served in the office of shepherds by reason of meeting the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Their duty was to watch out for the souls of the local congregation which was among them (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:2), thus the New Testament also refers to them as elders, bishops (one who oversees) and pastors (one who shepherds God’s flock). Each congregation had a plurality of shepherds (Acts 14:23), and the New Testament knows nothing of “head shepherds” or “presiding bishops.”

Shepherds were not to be lawmakers or lords, but rather leaders in applying the law of Christ to their congregation’s work and worship. The local congregation’s responsibility to their shepherds was to follow their example of faith (1 Peter 5:2-3) and obey their instruction (Hebrews 13:17).

If you are looking for a church in your area where mature, spiritually-minded men serve as shepherds, accurately and wisely leading their congregation in the path God would have them to go, elsewhere on this website you will find a section where you can contact us, and we will be happy to assist you.

Deacons In The First Century Church

In the first century church, as described in the New Testament, each local congregation was a self-governing body of Christians, organized according to the New Testament pattern of shepherds, deacons and saints (Philippians 1:1).

Deacons were special servants who managed the physical needs of each local congregation. Their qualifications are listed in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Deacons managed the church’s physical needs so that the shepherds could devote their full attention to the church’s spiritual needs.

Today, at the West Allen church, our deacons manage such things as worship assignments, building repairs, special physical needs of members, and assistance to the shepherds in organizing our Bible classes.

If you are looking for a church in your area where good, spiritually-minded men serve as deacons, accurately and wisely helping their congregation function in the way God would have it to, elsewhere on this website you will find a section where you can contact us, and we will be happy to assist you.

Preachers In The First Century Church

In the first century church, as described in the New Testament, certain men devoted themselves to proclaiming the teachings of Christ. The New Testament calls them “preachers” (“one who proclaims a message” - Romans 10:14). On occasion they are also called “ministers” (servants – 1 Corinthians 3:5) and “evangelists” (one who brings glad tidings – 2 Timothy 4:5).

The New Testament likens preachers to workers in a garden - some of them were “planters,” taking the gospel to places where it had not been proclaimed before and establishing new churches, while others were “waterers,” concentrating their efforts in strengthening the disciples in an already established church and bringing their faith to maturity (1 Corinthians 3:5-6).  Whether planters or waterers, their task was to preach the word, when it was popular and when it was not (2 Timothy 4:2-5).

The New Testament authorizes local churches to provide financial support to preachers so that they can devote their full time to preaching and teaching work. 1 Corinthians 9:7 likens this to a warrior being supported by his nation to fight in their defense, to a farmer having the right to eat grapes from his vineyard, and to a shepherd having the right to drink from the milk produced by his flock. In the first century church, it was not mandatory for a preacher to give his full time to preaching and teaching (there was a period of time when the apostle Paul worked as a tentmaker to support himself while he also preached and taught), but if he chose to devote his full time to “sowing spiritual things,” the church was encouraged to enable him to “reap material things” from them.

If you are looking for a church in your area where the preacher has a reputation for diligent labor in sound preaching and teaching, one where you will be correctly instructed in the things you need to know in order to live a joy filled life on earth and live for eternity in heaven, elsewhere on this website you will find a section where you can contact us, and we will be happy to assist you. 

The Work Of The First Century Church

In the first century church, as described in the New Testament, certain responsibilities were required of the Christians. These responsibilities fell into two different categories – individual responsibilities (what a Christian was expected to do by himself) and collective responsibilities (what Christians were expected to do together in the local church).

As individuals, Christians were expected to live according to God’s moral guidelines. Those guidelines can best be summed up in the exhortation of James 1:27  to moral decency and love of fellow man – “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

As a collective in a local church, Christians were expected to do things together that God wanted them to do together.  This included gathering for assemblies to worship God and encourage one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:22-25). It also included using their individual talents and abilities to minister to, teach, and exhort one another (Romans 12:4-8). It is important to understand that spiritual life in the first century church included the “one another” relationship that came from membership in a local church; God never intended for the Christian to “go it alone.”

Churches came in various sizes in the first century, but no matter what the size, God expected each church do its own work in meeting its responsibilities to faithfulness.  While each church was expected to do all that it could in fulfilling its mission, none was expected to do more than it could. Each church was autonomous (self-governing), and each church was expected to build upon its own strengths and correct its own weaknesses (see that in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3). The New Testament knows nothing of the various types of organizations of churches (conventions, synods, districts, etc.) common in the religious world today.

Are you looking for a local church in your community that is striving to fulfill all its responsibilities to God without interference from organizations not authorized in the New Testament? Elsewhere in this website you will find a place where you can contact us if we might be of help in finding such a church near you.

The Worship Of The First Century Church

In the first century church, as described in the New Testament, Christians in a local congregation met together regularly in order to worship God. Their times of worship were to be used as opportunities to encourage one another to continued faithfulness, and they were not to forsake these opportunities (Hebrews 10:24-25).

In their assemblies, local churches taught and admonished one another by singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs together (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). It might be noted that the New Testament is very specific about the kind of music the first century church engaged in – it says they sang, and there is no mention of musical instruments in their worship. The fact of the matter is that instrumental music was not used in churches until hundreds of years after the close of the New Testament, and were first met with great opposition.

In their assemblies, local churches also prayed together (Acts 2:42). Prayer together was important to the first century church (Acts 12:12). If one righteous man’s prayer avails much (James 5:16), imagine the profit that must come from a group of righteous people praying together!

Also, local churches in the first century assembled together to eat the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20-34), the memorial Jesus instituted on the eve of His death (Luke 22:14-20). The Lord’s Supper is also referred to as “breaking bread” in several passages. In Acts 2:42 it was one of the acts of worship the first disciples “continued steadfastly” in doing. In Acts 20:7 there is record of a church coming together on the first day of the week to break bread, the only example in the New Testament of a particular day the church assembled to do so. At the West Allen church of Christ we partake of the Lord’s Supper on every first day of the week because we believe that is the day and that is how often the Lord intended His disciples to do so.

And local first century churches also “laid by in store” on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). We at the West Allen church take up a collection during our Sunday assemblies by “passing the plate” because we believe that is the most expedient way to do so. Visitors are free to participate if they desire, but we never solicit money from our visitors or in any way pressure them to feel obligated to contribute. The money contributed is used only to do the work that Christ has authorized the church to do in the New Testament.

And finally, in their assemblies, local churches in the first century studied the Bible (Acts 2:42). Preachers preached a message from the word of God (Acts 20:7) and listeners were encouraged to search the Scriptures to confirm that the message was true (Acts 17:11). In the West Allen worship assembly, you will not hear political speeches or pop psychology lessons – you will hear messages from God’s word, with book, chapter and verse included so that you can confirm the truth of what is being preached.

The New Testament indicates that spiritual gifts (prophetic messages, speaking in tongues, etc.) were also included in at least some first century worship services (1 Corinthians 14:26-33). Note from 1 Cor. 14 that these spiritual gifts were to be used for the building up of the local church, and that there were strict regulations about how they were used. But 1 Corinthians 13:8-11 indicates that these spiritual gifts were for the church in its infancy, before the complete revelation of Christ was accomplished. Paul says in that passage that when “the perfect” (the complete revelation of the New Testament) had come, then “the part” (revelation in bits and pieces, by spiritual gifts) would be done away. Finally, in verse11, Paul notes that the spiritual gifts so  appropriate to a church in its infancy would not be appropriate to a church in its maturity, just as children’s toys are not appropriate for adults. The church today is in its maturity and spiritual gifts have long since been done away, and that is why you will not see the West Allen church attempting to recreate them in its assemblies.

Are you looking for a group of Christians in your area whose worship services are pointed toward God and His word, who worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24), whose assemblies are conducted with the decency and order that Christ demands (1 Corinthians 14:40)? If so, find our “Contact Us” section elsewhere on this website and we will be happy to put you in contact with a local church in your area that is diligently striving to do all, but to do only, what the New Testament teaches about worship.

Salvation In The First Century Church

In the first century church, as described in the New Testament, salvation involved the work of all three members of the Godhead, as well as the response of lost souls to that work.

God the Father loved the world and sent His Son to be an offering for the world’s sin (John 3:16). The Son took the form of a servant and obeyed the Father by willingly dying on a cross, and thereby making possible God’s offer of grace to mankind (Philippians 2:5-8). The Holy Spirit was the agent through whom the saving gospel was delivered to mankind (1 Corinthians 2:7-13).

Before His death, Jesus assured His apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth (John 16:13), and He instructed them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all mankind (Mark 16:15). This is known as the “Great Commission.” In Matthew’s account of the Great Commission, Jesus also tells His apostles to teach all who became His disciples to “observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). In other words, the gospel they preached would instruct men about how to become saved and how to remain saved.

Jesus made clear to His apostles what they were to preach and what the reaction of their listeners must be. Their listeners were to believe the gospel message about Jesus (Mark 16:16), they were to repent of their sins (Luke 24:47), and they were to be baptized in order to become His saved disciples (Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19).

Acts 2 records that fifty days after Jesus ascended into Heaven the apostles did indeed receive the Holy Spirit, and moved by the Holy Spirit, Peter preached the first gospel sermon, wherein He affirmed that God had raised up His Son from the dead, seated Him at His right hand in heaven, and made Him both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:1-36). Several thousand who heard that sermon believed the truth about Jesus and asked the apostles what they needed to do about their sinful condition (Acts 2: 37).

What Peter answered them is predictable. He told them to do just exactly what Jesus had instructed the apostles to tell their listeners to do, he told them to repent and to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38). Three thousand people gladly received the message of salvation and were baptized (Acts 2:40-41). Those three thousand were added to the company of the saved (Acts 2:41).

The message of the gospel did not change throughout the history of the first century church recorded in Acts, and neither did the response of those who listened with humble hearts. People heard the gospel, they believed in Jesus, they repented of their sins, and they were baptized. They were then disciples of Jesus, saved by His blood and committed to His Lordship.

And the message of the gospel and the required response to it has not changed in the two thousand years since. The same actions that made one a saved disciple of Jesus in the first century will make one a saved disciple of Jesus in the twenty-first century. Different churches may give different answers to the question, “What must I do to be saved?”, but the New Testament’s answer has not changed one bit. If you were to ask your preacher what a person must do to be saved, what would he answer? If his answer is different from Peter’s answer to the multitude in Acts 2:38 (“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”), he is wrong.

Have you not yet obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ by believing in Jesus Christ, repenting of your sins, and being baptized for the forgiveness of your sins? If not, you need to so that you can enjoy the salvation that God is offering to you! Elsewhere on this website you will find a section where you can contact us for more information about what you need to do to be saved, or about a church in your area that we are confident will help you to correctly obey the gospel.