- The Church-Its Beginning
The church had its beginning on the first Day of Pentecost following the
death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (about 30 A.D.). The Book of Acts
deals with the early church in its infancy. It was at Jerusalem that the
promise Jesus had made to His disciples was fulfilled as the Holy Spirit
descended upon the twelve and they began to teach as the Spirit was giving
them utterance (Acts 2:4). Thus the gospel age was born as the death, burial
and resurrection of Jesus Christ was publicly proclaimed for the very first
time as an accomplished fact.
The Church in
The death of the first martyr, Stephen (32 A.D.), brought this period to a
close. A great persecution arose against the church at Jerusalem and many
disciples were forced to flee. But far from being a crushing defeat, they
went throughout the region preaching the word (Acts 8:4). There came to be
disciples in such places as Samaria, Damascus and Caesarea.
The Lord saw great zeal in one of the primary persecutors, a man named Saul,
and revealed Himself to him. Saul became a convert (33 A.D.). This enemy of
Jesus would become a great servant of His cause. But first, Saul returned to
his hometown of Tarsus where he lived for about fourteen years.
Another pivotal event took place soon after Saul's conversion. Peter was
instructed to take the gospel to the first Gentiles, a Roman Centurion named
Cornelius and his household (34 A.D.). Also, about this time, a strong
Gentile church was established in Antioch.
The Gospel Goes Into
This period begins with Saul beginning his ministry to take the gospel to
the Gentiles. He did much traveling, taking the gospel to cities in Asia
Minor and then Europe. While he would almost always begin by preaching to
the Jews in their synagogues, he would also reach out to the Gentiles.
Paul undertook three well defined missionary journeys. The first, undertaken
with Barnabas, went into Asia Minor (Acts 13,14).
It was between this first missionary journey and the following one that the
first epistle is written, thus beginning the New Testament Scriptures. We
read about a controversy that began when some of the Jewish believers
thought that the Gentile converts should be required to keep the law of
Moses, or at least portions of it. The apostles at Jerusalem dealt with the
matter, and James, the brother of Jesus, wrote the first epistle about this
time. The Epistle of James was written about 45 A.D. which was about fifteen
years after the church began. It dealt with the need for both faith and
It was very soon after that Paul wrote his first epistle to the churches of
Galatia. He and Barnabas had planted these churches during his first journey
and they were chiefly made up of Gentile converts. The Book of Galatians
deals mainly with freedom in Christ and that disciples are not justified by
keeping the Old Law now that faith has come. This was in accordance with
what the apostles had determined at Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15.
Paul's second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-18:23) was taken with Silas,
and Luke, the writer of Acts, was also in the group much of the time as well
(49-52 A.D.). In addition to revisiting the churches of Galatia, Paul was
told to leave Asia Minor and take the gospel to Europe. He first traveled to
Macedonia where he preached the gospel for the first time in Philippi,
Thessalonica and Berea.
After this, he traveled south to Achaia (both Macedonia and Achaia are in
Greece) and preached in Athens (even discussing matters with the Greek
philosophers on Mar's Hill) and also established the church at Corinth. Here
Paul wrote First and Second Thessalonians. Then Paul made his way back to
Palestine via Ephesus and other places.
Paul's third missionary journey (Acts 18:24-21:17) involved a return to Asia
Minor and continuing his work among the churches there (53-56 A.D.). He was
at Ephesus when he wrote the First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians.
After he was forced by persecution to leave Ephesus, he visited Corinth and
other churches in Greece. They had collections ready for Paul to receive to
take to the needy disciples in drought stricken Judea. It was during this
time that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans.
Paul traveled to Jerusalem with the gifts for the needy saints there,
stopping at Miletus and having a tearful farewell with the elders from the
church at Ephesus and also stopping at Troas, preaching there and partaking
of the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week.
A crises was caused at Jerusalem by those opposed to Paul and the gospel of
Christ. Paul was arrested after being falsely accused of violating the
sanctity of the temple. He was transferred as a prisoner to Caesarea where
he remained for two years (57-59 A.D.). It was here that Paul preached about
Jesus to King Agrippa as well as to the Roman proconsuls Felix, and later,
Paul was sent as a prisoner by Festus to Rome where he remained a prisoner
for about two more years (59-61 A.D.). Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and
after that he also finished writing the Book of Acts, ending it by recording
this imprisonment at Rome. Matthew probably wrote his gospel about this time
Paul was also writing as well as teaching, even as a prisoner, kept under
house arrest but permitted to receive visitors. During this time of
imprisonment at Caesarea and Rome he wrote the Epistles to the Ephesians,
Colossians, Philemon and the Philippians. Also, Mark seems to have wrote his
gospel about this time.
Paul was apparently released from prison and continued traveling and
preaching for a couple more years. During this time he may have preached in
Spain and he wrote First Timothy and Titus. Finally, after being arrested at
Rome again, he wrote Second Timothy and shortly thereafter was executed by
order of Nero, about 65 A.D.
The Closing of the
Peter also was doing a great deal of traveling during this time. We know he
was at Galatia before Paul wrote to the churches there. He is mentioned as
being at Corinth as well. Tradition tells us he was martyred at Rome about
the same time as Paul was. Peter wrote two epistles, probably very shortly
before his death. Jude was probably written soon after Peter's epistles.
The date of writing of Hebrews is uncertain, but most think it before the
destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Finally, John's Gospel, Three Epistles
and the Book of Revelation close out the era, the latest date of writing
being assigned to about 96 A.D., about fifty years after the first epistle,
had been written. Now, we reverently use these Scriptures to prepare
ourselves for Christ's return and eternity.