There is within Protestant circles an idea that the Early Church–that is to say the first generations of the body of believers both individually and corporately–had it right, and that we should endeavor to go back to doing things the way they did. This idea is very appealing to men who are discouraged at the prospect of attending churches of the present because, at present, churches are full of feminism, hucksters, con-men, fornicators, and all such manner of evil behavior that is dishonoring to Christ and harmful to the whole church. Solomon, at Dalrock’s blog said it this way:
I might suggest, however, that you look into the works of David Bercot, who has done extensive research on the early Christian writers (pre Constatntine)
Their “church” looked a lot like my meetings do. In addition to not being corrupt by feminist garbage at every level, the leaders of their groups were unpaid, preventing the conflict of interest.
Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? I have never heard of Mr. Barcot and I don’t know anything he has written, but I doubt it matters. In the epistles of the New Testament we have the best and first-hand accounts of how the Early Churches conducted themselves. Let me tell you: If you read the epistles from Peter, Paul, John the Beloved, and the others then you really get a sense of how pleasant, and giving, and humble, and orderly these churches…
No. The picture is of how bad were the churches. Apparently, Solomon is not alone in desiring to withhold a living from pastors. Paul writes to the Early Church in Corinth:
3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
If you’re not feeling the Corinthians’ shame, then you aren’t reading it right. “Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” Endure anything: Even the cheapskate, hypocritical, commandment-shunning finger-wagglings of reprobate and miserly little Corinthians who won’t provide for those who feed them living bread, and slake them with living waters. Paul shamed the Corinthians and used their wormy excuses to boast of the importance of the Gospel.
Don’t take my word for it: The epistles go on and on like this: Stop whoring with false idols. Stop whoring at all. Stop refusing marriages. Stop divorcing. Stop setting up heretic traditions as law. Stop withholding from those deserving. Stop women from clogging churches with noise. Stop men from passive inclusion. Stop bickering over what you think you’ve figured out, and focus on what has been revealed.
Shame! Shame! Shame!
So the picture of the Early Church is very much like the ones we have today. They were full of loud-mouthed women and their silent male enablers. There were con-men in positions of privilege, and men who would use the vacuum of male voices as license to fill the void with every sort of nonsense and premonition.
The bad news is that we still struggle with the exact same problems after more than 2000 years. The good news is that the instructions to the errant Early Church are still valid for us, and we have them. We, having their bad examples and their excellent corrections, should not bring the shame of the Corinthians and the Ephesians, and the Galatians upon ourselves by continuing in their same errors.