The Apostolic Ministry began after the Jewish holiday of Pentecost. A bewildered crowd had gathered after they heard the apostles (as well as other believers who were with them) speak in other languages. They had thought that those present were only drunk. Peter addressed the crowd in his Pentecost sermon—which was also the first ever sermon given by a disciple—and preached to them about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many of the people repented, were baptized and became believers in Christ.
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After Christ’s ascension, the new movement was commissioned to the apostles and was centered not in Galilee (as in Jesus’ time) but in Jerusalem. They were not alone, though, as Jesus’ mother and his four brothers were also among those who continued in the ministry after his death. The early Christians, headed by the apostles, remained essentially Jewish at the core. They continued to observe Jewish rituals, holidays, and other traditions.
The apostles performed their first miracles at the beginning of the Apostolic Ministry led by Peter and John. Both apostles healed the crippled beggar at the temple’s Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:1-10) while unnamed apostles performed miracles all over Jerusalem (Acts 5:12-16).
The number of the followers of early Christianity increased and with it came the inevitable rise of conflicts between believers as shown in Acts 6:1-7. Greek or Hellenist believers complained that the Hebrew widows were favored in the early church’s food distribution program. So the apostles decided to focus on the preaching the Word and delegate this responsibility instead to seven men who became the church’s first deacons. The seven men were:
- Philip the Evangelist
- Nicolaus of Antioch
Early Church, First Persecutions
Peter and John both irritated the Sanhedrin after they healed the crippled beggar, preached about Jesus’ resurrection, and encouraged the people to repent. Both apostles were imprisoned but released when the Sanhedrin could not find any fault to charge against them (Acts 3 and 4).
Unnamed apostles also healed many in Jerusalem (Acts 5:12-16) and once again earned the jealousy of the Sadducees. The apostles were arrested and jailed, but they were set free by an angel and commanded to preach in the temple court at daybreak (5:17-21). They were arrested again and made to appear before the Sanhedrin, who became furious when Peter defended their faith. The council wanted the apostles to be executed immediately, but a wise Pharisee called Gamaliel persuaded them to let the apostles go (5:34-39). The apostles were flogged and reminded not to preach about Jesus again. To the council’s disappointment, the apostles returned to the temple courts and continued to preach about Jesus Christ.
One of the first victims of the persecution was Stephen, who was known to be “full of grace and power” and “did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). He was falsely accused of blasphemy after he fell victim to the envy of other Jews and was stoned by the crowd after his defense before the Sanhedrin. Meanwhile, Saul of Tarsus first appeared in this chapter as the person who gave the approval for Stephen’s death.
Samaria and Beyond
As the early church gained more followers, the persecution intensified. The apostles, as well as the other believers, were forced to leave Jerusalem. They sought refuge in Samaria (Acts 8) where they converted many to the Christian faith. What seemed a negative event at first became something positive as the Samaritans accepted the Word and received the Holy Spirit.
Philip, one of the deacons appointed by the apostles, traveled to Samaria to escape the persecution and continued to Gaza where he met the Ethiopian eunuch, one of the first Gentiles to be baptized. After the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip was transported by the Spirit of the Lord to Azotus and preached from there all the way up north to the coastal town of Caesarea Maritima (Acts 8:26-40).
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