Seed Inside

The (Im-)perfect Early Church

There is an almost default notion of the early church as the perfect example of church life for today. It is misremembered how all the correspondence we have, with the exception of Ephesians and maybe a couple of others, was in response to some heresy or immorality that needed addressed. The early church needed constant fixing.

However, I would submit Paul did not see the church as broken and in need of being fixed.

How Did He Do It?

The work Paul accomplished is a marvel. He was, most likely, middle-aged when converted. The majority of his post-conversion life was in seclusion (Gal 2:1) or in prison. Yet, he is seen as single-handedly (in reality it was a huge network of co-laborers) gospelizing the entire Mediterranean in less than thirty years (Col 1:6). How did Paul get so much done?

Wasting Time

A huge factor as to how Paul got it done was his view of God at work in the church. He didn’t waste time trying to fix people. He saw people’s greatest need as regeneration. He knew once they were made alive in Christ, that God would do the rest (Phil 1:6). Can you imagine the time you would have, if you didn’t have to fix people? Paul didn’t worry about how messed up and broken the churches were. Can you imagine how much easier and fun your job would be if you didn’t have to worry about how messed up people are?

People As Complete

Paul’s anthropology was people as dead outside of Jesus. Once people were given life in Jesus (Titus 3:5) they were complete in Jesus. Paul saw believers as having fullness in Christ (Col 2:10). He viewed fellow Christians as having the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).

People As Immature

So why, you might be asking, were there so many problems that Paul had to address in the churches? People may be complete, but they may also be immature. It is like a tree that hasn’t penetrated the ground. The complete tree is there. It simply hasn’t matured. Paul set the issue in terms of maturity. He wrote in Ephesians 4:13 that our work is to help people “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Paul understood that the life of Christ was already in his people. His work was to help them grow into it.

Already in Them

How maturity develops is like with my four daughters. They are already females. They are not yet fully grown women. But it would foolish and callous of me to see this as a problem to be fixed. Their woman-ness is in them. I don’t need to change them. My role is simply to contribute to their maturity.

Bring Them To Maturity

If you feel the people in the church are your problem, you probably see them as people you have to fix. The other way is to see the work God has begun in them. They are not your problem. It is your privilege to simply bring them to maturity.

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