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Revive Israel Ministries

©June 16, 2012 Revive Israel Ministries

Apostolic Community in Jerusalem

Asher Intrater

Almost 2,000 years ago, there was an apostolic congregation/church/community in Jerusalem. This was the first congregation ever. All other churches or congregations ultimately came from this first one. It is described in the book of Acts, particularly chapter 2. This congregation is the master pattern for all faith communities, and forms the basis of the vision for our congregation [Ahavat Yeshua] in Jerusalem as well.

That first congregation was the "starting line" for the gospel. The faith community in Jerusalem today represents the "finish line." We have returned to Jerusalem to "finish the race" that our forefathers started. The gospel went out from "Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth" – Acts 1:8. Today it is returning from the ends of the earth to Samaria to Judea to Jerusalem.

The Acts 2 congregation felt they had received the mandate to establish the kingdom of God on earth. That great "commission" was passed on from Yeshua (Jesus) to His disciples and afterwards to the whole community. That community was dedicated, totally consumed, with the desire to complete that mission. That burning passion in their souls was ignited into flames by the fire of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 2:2-4). The Acts 2 community was consecrated to the Acts 1 commission.

The original core of that first congregation was only 120 people (Acts 1:15). This number is surprisingly small. There were hundreds of thousands of people who were impacted by Yeshua's ministry and "believed" in Him. Yet from those myriads there was only a small remnant that gathered together into active cooperation to fulfill His words.

The early disciples were not only dedicated to Yeshua's vision; they also experienced together a supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They had a shared experience to accompany their shared vision. That shared, supernatural, spiritual experience gave birth to their community and their commission. The establishment of the church and the launching of the gospel only came after this experience. There was no church or gospel without it.

They understood their experience to be similar to the anointing that fell upon the prophets of Israel (Acts 2:16-18). They saw speaking in tongues as an extension of the ecstatic expression of the Old Covenant prophets (Numbers 11:29, I Samuel 10:5-6), and the preaching of the gospel as a continuation of their prophetic messages (Isaiah 61:1-2; Revelation 19:10). They lived that experience by daily prayer, praise, prophecy, preaching, teaching, and speaking in tongues (Acts 1:14, 2:40-47; 4:31).  

Their shared vision and shared experience caused the early disciples to make an extraordinary commitment one to another in partnership and love. Their congregation involved deep covenantal relationships of loyalty and integrity.

  1. Fellowship – They ate constantly in one another's home (Acts 2:46)
  2. Generosity – They sold homes in order to give (Acts 2:45; 4:34)
  3. Holiness – Sinners dropped dead in their meetings (Acts 5:5, 10)
  4. Miracles – The fear of God led to great healings (Acts 2:43; 5:11-12; 9:40)
  5. Unity – They lived in one heart and soul (Acts 1:14; 2:1, 44, 46; 4:32, 34)

The early congregation was based on three foundations: kingdom vision, spiritual power, covenantal relationships. The disciples were dedicated to all three elements.

The inner core of that congregation were Israeli Jews, who spoke Hebrew (Acts 6:1; 22:2), lived within their community (Acts 2:47), followed religious tradition (Acts 10:14; 15:10; 21:20), kept the feasts (Acts 2:1) and even participated in Temple prayers and rituals (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 24:17; 28:17).

However, when that core group began to preach, there soon gathered around them people from different nations, with different languages and different customs. "There were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language" – Acts 2:5-6.

So the early congregation soon developed into two circles: an inner circle of Hebrew-speaking Israelis and a wider circle of internationals from other language groups, primarily Greek. This caused tension in issues such as decision making, delegation, budgeting, fundraising, mission priorities, etc. "Now in those days, when the number of disciples was multiplying, the Greek-speaking Jews began to complain against the Hebrew-speaking ones, that their widows were neglected…" – Acts 6:1.

That friction was often uncomfortable, if not traumatic. Yet it was a necessary component because of the dual mandate to both restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6) and to preach the gospel to the nations (Acts 1:8). We find that same tension in our congregations today.

Finally, there was an issue of leadership. Imagine the problem: one congregation with 12 apostles (!) [- and who were Jewish at that (!)]. The congregation in Jerusalem had two purposes: 1) to be a local congregation in every respect; 2) to carry the strategic planning and execution of the great kingdom commission. This developed into a two-tiered leadership.

One council was made up of "elders" who were primarily responsible for the local community; and another council of "apostles" who were primarily responsible for the wider commission. "The apostles and elders…" – Acts 15:2, 4. Sometimes the two groups would come together to discuss overlapping issues. "The apostles and elders came together to consider this matter" – Acts 15:6.

Please pray for wisdom for our congregation and other Jerusalem congregations as we seek God's right order for restoration and revival.


Correction:

The name of the location at the Jordan River where the Jews entered Canaan with Joshua, Elijah rose into heaven before Elisha's eyes, and Yeshua was immersed by John the Baptist (Khasar al Yehud) means in Arabic "palace of the Jews," not "crossing of the Jews," as written last week.


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