Jerusalem: A Model Church

by Jeff Asher

"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:40-47).

A model is "the plan from which an item not yet constructed will be produced." It is "an example to be imitated or compared" (The American Heritage Dictionary). It is that which is "worthy of imitation or duplication." It is the "ideal," an "exemplar," the "standard" (Roget's Thesaurus).

The Jerusalem church is the working model after which every congregation should pattern itself. It began according to inspired prophecy, and the apostles of Christ organized and oversaw it.

The Jerusalem church had a supernatural beginning under a Divine providence that resulted in a perfect model of the local church to follow in every age.

A Model Of Organization

The apostles organized the church according to a plan that preserved its autonomy and independence. Elders were installed as the overseers of the flock (Acts 15:6, 22) and deacons were chosen to serve the needs of the saints (Acts 6:1-7). These men were taken from among the Jewish converts that exemplified the qualifications later outlined and applied in all the churches (1 Tim. 3:1-10).

There was no organization in the early church tying the congregations together in either a denomination or a society. Every church had its own elders which directed the work of each church (Acts 11:29, 30). There was nothing but independent, autonomous cooperation between the churches.

A Model In Worship

The church at Jerusalem was a worshipping church. There was a distinct pattern to their worship established by the apostles. It included teaching, preaching and reading the Scriptures, the Lord's Supper, prayer, a collection and praise (Acts 2:42, 47).

From the very beginning the church assembled on the first day of the week to eat the Lord's Supper and give (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). They often assembled to pray (Acts 4:23-31; 12:12) and to teach (Acts 2:46; 5:42). Moreover, as did the Gentile churches, the saints in Jerusalem sang praises to God (Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:26).

A Model Of Church Growth And Evangelism

The Jerusalem church came into existence when a prepared people were in the prepared place at the prepared time. The first gospel sermon ever preached resulted in three thousand conversions in one day (Acts 2:41). These were followed by five thousand more on another day (Acts 4:4). Men and women were added to the church daily (Acts 2:47). The success of their efforts extended even to the teachers of false religion (Acts 6:7). Jesus had said that the fields were white unto harvest (John 4:35).

A Model Of Liberality

The Jerusalem church was filled with cheerful givers (2 Cor. 9:7). From the first service, there were critical financial needs to be met by the saints in Jerusalem. The circumstances were unusual—thousands of people hundreds of miles away from home unprepared for the extended stay. The need was pressing—"teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." The only way to feed, clothe and house these converts was for the "possessors of lands or houses" to sell them, giving the proceeds to the church for "distribution" to every man who had need (Acts 4:31-35).

The saints in Jerusalem gave until they impoverished themselves for the cause of Christ and their brethren (Heb. 10:32-34; Acts 11:27-30; Rom. 15:25-27). They did not regard their possessions as belonging unto themselves, but as belonging to their brethren (Acts 2:44; 4:32).

A Model Church

The Jerusalem church is worthy of imitation by all who claim to belong to Jesus. She faced many of the same challenges and crises that churches have faced through the centuries. In her experiences are found the Divine answers to modern questions and religious division. Whether persecution, doctrinal purity, worship, or terms of membership is the issue we can return to the church in Jerusalem for the answer.