9 February 2011 (Revee/Shavu'ot)|
Day #330, 5934 AM
The New Covenant Assembly
Part 5: Building Christian Character
Continued from Part 4
8. The Christian Character
As we examine the priorities of Yahweh's ministers in the early New Covenant Assembly we are struck by an overarching theme about which all were united: the development in every believer a stable Christian character. Morally, many of the converts (especially from a gentile pagan background) had a poor start. Paul reminds the Corinthians that they had themselves known something of the vices of that notorious city (1 Cor.6:9-11). The slave in industry or trade who had purchased his freedom was apt to be as ungenerous as self-made men sometimes are. He stood on his rights, haggled over little things, went to law on slight provocation (1 Cor.6:1ff.), and suffered from many forms of inferiority-complex. Many of these artisans and freedmen were carried away by the novelty of Christianity. In their excitement, they would do extravagant things, throw up their jobs, and expect to live on the community (1 Thes.4:11-12; 2 Thes.3:6-12). Their thirst for novelty and for culture would lay them open to fresh suggestions. They would readily embrace another gospel (Gal.1:6), or run after a new prophet or veer round with every new teaching that came their way (Eph.4:14). Above all, they were exposed to all sorts of temptations. They lived in an atmosphere of idolatry and superstition, and to avoid compromise and reaction was not easy. To live a clean life in Corinth or in Antioch, whose suburb, Daphne, was known throughout the world as the home of soft voluptuousness, required no mean resolution.
Paul (Sha'ul) believed that in devotion to Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus) lay the secret of salvation. He knew that simply living a Torah-lifesyle was not enough without empowerment from on High in such an environment. Let the gentiles live for Messiah and in Messiah and all would be well. Yet Messiah's Torah may be expanded in simple detail, and so the initial instruction of gentile converts included such elementary moral teaching as is contained in the document known as The Two Ways (that was included in the Didache and appended at the end of the later Epistle of Barnabas) and in such straightforward summaries of the duties of husband and wife, parent and child, master and slave, as are found in Colossians and Ephesians:
These standards seem simple and obvious to us, and indeed they differ little from the teaching of the Stoics and the more thoughtful members of ancient society. But this teaching had a new power, because it was associated with the ahavah or love of Yah'shua (Jesus) and because it was backed by the fellowship of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). These gentile converts did actually reach a higher standard than their neighbours. They were more honest and more diligent in business, more faithful and more chaste in the marriage relationship. They set a higher value on human life and the slave. They felt themselves to belong to a world-wide society with a new moral standard. The global Messianic Community (Church) was one, and the local messianic assembly must act as the representative of a universal fellowship, as a colony or outpost of a heavenly Kingdom. It was no idle claim of an anyomous Christian of the second or third century to say that while Christians did not differ from their neighbours in language or dress or outward manner of life, they were nevertheless the very soul of the world - the spring of new life in a decaying social order.
1. Thou shalt love Him that made thee, thou shalt fear Him that created
thee, thou shalt glorify Him that redeemed thee from death; thou
shalt be simple in heart and rich in spirit; thou shalt not cleave to
those who walk the way of death; thou shalt hate everything that is
not pleasing to Elohim (God); thou shalt hate all hypocrisy; thou shalt never
forsake the mitzvot (commandments) of Yahweh.
2. Thou shalt not exalt thyself, but shalt be lowly minded in all
things. Thou shalt not assume glory to thyself. Thou shalt not
entertain a wicked design against thy neighbour; thou shalt not admit
boldness into thy soul.
3. Thou shalt not commit fornication, thou shalt not commit
adultery, thou shalt not corrupt boys. The word of Elohim (God) shall not
come forth from thee where any are unclean. Thou shalt not make a
difference in a person to reprove him for a transgression. Thou shalt
be meek, thou shalt be quiet, thou shalt be fearing the words
which thou hast heard. Thou shalt not bear a grudge against thy
4. Thou shalt not doubt whether a thing shall be or not be. Thou shalt
not take the name of Yahweh in vain. Thou shalt love thy
neighbour more than thine own soul. Thou shalt not murder a child by
abortion, nor again shalt thou kill it when it is born. Thou shalt
not withhold thy hand from thy son or daughter, but from their youth
thou shalt teach them the fear of Elohim (God).
5. Thou shalt not be found coveting thy neighbour's goods; thou shalt not
be found greedy of gain. Neither shalt thou cleave with thy soul to
the lofty, but shalt walk with the humble and righteous. The
accidents that befall thee thou shalt receive as good, knowing that
nothing is done without Elohim (God). Thou shalt not be double-minded nor
6. Thou shalt be subject unto thy masters as to a type of Elohim (God) in shame
and fear. Thou shalt not command in bitterness thy bondservant or
thine handmaid who set their hope on the same Elohim (God), lest haply, they
should cease to fear the Elohim (God) who is over both of you; for He came not
to call with respect of persons, but to call those whom the Ruach (Spirit)
7. Thou shalt make thy neighbour partake in all things, and shalt not say
that anything is thine own. For if ye are fellow partakers in that
which is imperishable, how much rather shall ye be in the things
which are perishable. Thou shalt not be hasty with thine own tongue,
for the mouth is the snare of death. So far as thou art able, thou
shalt be pure for thy soul's sake.
8. Be not thou found holding out thy hands to receive, and drawing
them in to give. Thou shalt love as the apple of thine eye every
one that speaketh unto thee the word of Yahweh.
9. Thou shalt remember the day of judgment night and day, and thou
shalt seek out day by day the persons of the set-apart ones (saints), either labouring
by word and going to exhort them and meditating how thou mayest save
souls by thy word, or thou shalt work with thy hands for a ransom for
10. Thou shall not hesitate to give, neither shalt thou murmur when
giving, but thou shalt know who is the good paymaster of thy reward.
Thou shalt keep those things which thou hast received, neither adding
to them nor taking away from them. Thou shalt utterly hate the Evil
One. Thou shalt judge righteously.
11. Thou shalt not make a schism, but thou shalt pacify them that contend
by bringing them together. Thou shalt confess thy sins. Thou shalt
not betake thyself to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the
way of light. (Epistle of Barnabas 19:2-12)
Until such a time as we are gathered to the Holy Land upon the second return of Messiah and can become a visible theocratic nation again, this too is how we must be. Therefore we have not only much to learn from the first gentile and Judahite believers but we should, where they were true to their profession of the Master, be imitating them too.
May you be inspired by this short summary of the early New Covenant Community to do the same as them!
Back to Part 1