The church from the resurrection to the conversion of Paul (Acts 1)

Illustration: an ancient stone church

The book of Acts provides the only historical record of the activities of the earliest Christians from the time of Jesus resurrection until the conversion of Paul. Acts 1-8 precedes the first mention of Paul, and these chapters provide a selective report, primarily detailing the activity of the apostles in Jerusalem following Jesus’ resurrection.

The earliest believers began to establish a communal life. They were frequently in conflict with the Jewish authorities, and followers of Jesus soon were expelled from the temple. Seeds of dissension between Hellenistic and Jewish Christianity began to sprout even during these early years (Acts 6:1). Meanwhile, although Acts does not tell much about early missionary work outside Jerusalem, it is certain that the church saw extraordinary growth. The brothers of Jesus, who are mentioned among the earliest believers (Acts 1:14), are known to have been active in spreading the gospel throughout the region later known as Palestine. We are not given many details, but Acts intimates that communities of Christians were established in Antioch (Acts 11:19), Damascus (Acts 9:2), North Africa (Acts 8:27) ans Samaria (Acts 8:5) prior to Paul’s conversion. The Good News even reached Rome, the leading city of the Roman world, prior to the advent of Paul’s missionary enterprise.

It is highly likely that some pilgrims who had been present in Jerusalem during the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus became believers (Acts 2:5). When these masses returned to their hometowns, they took the gospel with them. Persecution also played a role in the spread of the Good News and the growth of the early church. As believers migrated in order to avoid persecution, they established new Christian communities in the towns and cities where they settled.

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