“Now all these things happened to them for examples. They are written as an admonition to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11).
Sadly, modern believers are unwilling to consider early apostolic practice. They’re convinced that we’re so far removed from the purity and power of the first century that there’s nothing to appropriate.
With this idea in mind one leader recently told me, “We cannot do what they did because what was afforded to early Christians has not been afforded to us. Besides, we’re not as holy, and the Lord will never bless us in our present condition.”
I understood these concerns. Spiritual power appears to be on the wane in Western Christendom. Everywhere many problems are plaguing believers. It often seems that we’re not as favored as those preceding us.
Nevertheless, an honest reading of Scripture shows that early believers were just as faulted and frail as we are today. God often worked in and through them, in spite of their sin. One can’t look at the doubts of Thomas, the disloyalty of Peter, or even the “murderous” life of Paul and not see parallels to modern-day failings. Imperfect men and women embodied the gospel in the first century and will continue to do so today.
There’s simply no other way to read the text. First-century Christians, with great blemishes and disappointments, are examples for later generations. They show the way, not just in spiritual power, but also in overcoming personal deficiencies. They didn’t just model what to think or believe, they also demonstrated the wondrous beauty of grace.
I’ve discovered that God often uses broken people to repair a broken world.
The time has come to listen to the ancient stories and replicate their patterns. First-century believers aren’t demonstrating an ideal past. No, they are helping faulted people learn how to navigate a glorious future.
J.D. King, director of the World Revival Network and co-pastor at World Revival Church, is writing Regeneration: Healing in the History of Christianity. King is a sought-after speaker, writer and author.