Imbued with unshakable faith and well-founded hope and motivated by true love, the early Christians set out to obey Jesus’ final command to them before his ascension to heaven: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . . , teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Matthew 28:19, 20.
At Pentecost 33 C.E., God’s spirit was poured out upon 120 Christian disciples gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem. The Christian congregation had been born! Its members were miraculously endowed on that day with the ability to speak in foreign languages, thus enabling them to communicate with the Jews and proselytes from other countries who were in Jerusalem attending a festival. (Acts 2:5, 6, 41) And with what result! On a single day, the number of Christians jumped from about 120 to over 3,000!
Jesus limited his preaching largely to the Jews. But shortly after Pentecost, the Christian apostle Peter was used to open “The Way” for Samaritans, who observed the first five books of the Bible, and later, in 36 C.E., for all non-Jews. Paul became “an apostle to the nations” and embarked on three missionary journeys. (Romans 11:13) Congregations were thus formed, and they flourished. “Their zeal in spreading the faith was unbounded,” says the book From Christ to Constantine, adding: “Christian witnessing was both widespread and effective.” Persecution of Christians backfired, helping spread the message, as wind fans a flame. The Bible book of Acts relates an exciting history of unstoppable Christian activity during Christianity’s youth.
‘That’s Not the Christianity I Know!’
Is that your reaction upon hearing this description of Christianity’s early days? Have you found that instead of possessing strong faith, many professed Christians today are full of doubt, unsure of what to believe? Have you found that instead of hope, many of them are gripped with fear, uncertain as to the future? And have you found, as 18th-century English satirist Jonathan Swift expressed it, that “we have just religion enough to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another”?
Paul foretold this negative development. “Oppressive wolves”—leaders Christian in name only—would “rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29, 30) How far-reaching would this be?