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A Church of Converts. Widening the Circle of Jesus’ Followers. Major Concepts. The Original Circle The Circle Expands Paul Gentile Converts. The Original Circle.

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A church of converts

A Church of Converts

Widening the Circle of Jesus’ Followers

Major concepts
Major Concepts

  • The Original Circle

  • The Circle Expands

  • Paul

  • Gentile Converts

The original circle
The Original Circle

  • The church began with 12 Apostles and other disciples (followers) who knew Jesus personally and eventually came to recognize Him as the Messiah

  • The Last Supper was a ritual meal that was to be repeated in remembrance of Him

  • At that meal Jesus showed the Apostles how to serve one another and share the word of God

The original circle continued
The Original Circle - continued

  • Jesus’ death on the cross crushed His followers and sent them into fearful hiding

  • But the Resurrection and the gift of Jesus’ spirit at Pentecost turned them into courageous heralds of the Good News

  • Pentecost truly marked the beginning of what we now know as “the church”

The circle expands
The Circle Expands

  • At Pentecost the Apostles experienced a new, deeper conversion to Jesus.

  • They began to proclaim God’s deeds convincingly and baptized many persons in Jesus’ name

  • Jesus’ original followers, and those baptized by the Apostles at Pentecost, did not consider themselves as converting from Judaism but simply as following Jesus’ way.

The circle expands continued
The Circle Expands - continued

Because the Apostles and other disciples claimed that Jesus was the Messiah, they ran into trouble with the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem and persecution of those who followed “Jesus’ way” began almost immediately.

A brief overview of paul a k a saul
A Brief Overview of Paul, a.k.a. “Saul”

  • Saul was a devout Pharisee who initially saw Jesus’ followers as blasphemers

  • He persecuted Christians in Jerusalem and sent many to prison

  • He then set out to arrest any Christians he finds in Damascus

  • On the way he has a dramatic encounter with the Risen Christ which leaves Paul blind and unable to eat or drink

Overview of paul continued
Overview of Paul - continued

  • After being cured in the manner Jesus told him to do, and experiencing conversion to belief in Jesus as the Messiah, Saul goes into the desert to reflect on his experience

  • When he returns Saul, now called by his Roman name Paul, was even more zealous in spreading Jesus’ message than he had once been in persecuting Jesus’ followers

Gentile converts
Gentile Converts

Samaritans and Gentiles began accepting the Good News, but the Jewish followers of Jesus in the Jerusalem community objected to the baptizing of Gentiles because they (the Gentiles) did not follow the Jewish Law as regards food, prayer, circumcision, etc.

Gentile converts continued
Gentile Converts - continued

Meanwhile Paul began preaching to his fellow Jews and was persecuted by the Jewsih authorities who had previously been his bosses.

Paul seems to have teamed up with Barnabas and together they made a powerful team in convincing people to convert to “Jesus’ Way.”

Gentile converts continued1
Gentile Converts - continued

  • Paul and Barnabas later had success in ministering to the Jewish-Gentile community in Antioch (a city in what is today known as Turkey)

  • Paul and Barnabas then undertook a missionary journey beyond Antioch

  • They were rejected by most Jews, sometimes violently

Gentile converts continued2
Gentile Converts - continued

  • Many Gentiles accepted Jesus and mixed communities of Jewish and Gentile Christians soon formed their own worship groups

  • But a crisis emerged over whether Gentiles should be required to follow all the requirements of Jewish law

Crisis over the jewish law
Crisis over the Jewish Law

  • In Antioch a group of Jewish converts from Jerusalem rekindled the long-standing controversy over whether all Christians should be required to observe the entire Jewish Law

  • To settle the question, the Antioch Christians sent Paul and Barnabas to talk to the leaders in Jerusalem

Crisis over the jewish law continued
Crisis over the Jewish Law - continued

  • This resulted in the Council of Jerusalem which is now considered the first official gathering of church leaders to resolve questions about religious practice

  • The Council’s decision was that followers of Jesus do not have to observe the entire Jewish Law

Stephen the first martyr
Stephen – The First Martyr?

  • Stephen was a deacon in the Church in Jerusalem

  • He was accused by the Sanhedrin (the supreme council of the Jews) of:

    • Saying God did not need a temple to be worshiped in

    • Claiming that Jesus was the Righteous One

    • Preaching that Jesus was the Messiah

    • Accusing the Sanhedrin of having been Jesus’ murderers

  • He was stoned to death by the Sanhedrin

To read stephen s full speech
To read Stephen’s full speech ….

… before the Sanhedrin read his words in Acts of the Apostles 7:1-53

The effect of pentecost
The Effect of Pentecost

  • After Jesus’ death on the cross, the eleven remaining Apostles, and probably other disciples, retreated from public sight in fear and hid in a locked room for fear of their lives

  • They were afraid the Jewish or Roman authorities, or both, would kill them as Jesus’ closest followers

  • Pentecost changed these timid, cowards into men/women of courage and honor – despite knowing they would eventually die for their beliefs

How is early christianity different from what we would today refer to as a cult
How is early Christianity different from what we would today refer to as a “cult?”


Leader claims divinity Yes Usually

Leader is sole judge of member’s actions No Yes

Totalitarian Governance No Yes

Total control over member’s daily lives No Yes

Exclusivity of membership No Yes

Physical isolation of the community No Often

Deep emotional dependence on leader No Yes

Independent thinking prohibited No No

Tries to destroy individual ego No Yes

Uses mind control techniques No Disguised, but Yes

Exploits member’s finances No Yes

Almost “slave work” conditions No Yes

The old saul and the new paul
The Old Saul and the New Paul refer to as a “cult?”

  • The Old Saul was a Roman citizen, a privilege he maintained all his life. As a Roman citizen, any verdict by any court could be appeal to the Emperor for final judgment, like our Supreme Court

  • After his conversion on the road to Damascus, the New Paul’s obvious change of heart was noticeable to people considering conversion

  • Paul’s new identity made him appreciate that all people are made in God’s image and he developed positive relationships even with those who were hard to love, like his Roman jailers

Paul s unique conversion
Paul’s Unique Conversion refer to as a “cult?”

  • Paul recognized that his own conversion event was the exception, not the rule even in his day

  • Most conversions today are gradual

  • Yet so dramatic was the effect of Paul, and the Apostles, that conversions which today would take months or years take place in hours or days

  • The times back then were certainly different from today’s world, but so was the experience of meeting someone who had experienced a direct, personal interaction with the Risen Jesus like Paul and the Apostles!

And on to chapter 3
And on to Chapter #3 ….. refer to as a “cult?”

…. “The Lasting Legacy of the Apostles:

Christian Communities and Scriptures”