What Were the Churches of the New Testament Really Like?



How Does this Dish Resemble New Testament Churches?

The “New Testament Church” is often idealized—and rightly so.  We admire their power and evangelistic zeal.  They were the persecuted few who, against all odds “turned the world upside down.” From the seminal New Testament Church, the whole of the Western World was evangelized within 300 years.  All this without radio, television, newspapers, printing press, internet or other forms of mass media.

Most churches started small.  (Jerusalem was the exception.)  It’s hard to guess the size of the earliest churches.  The writer J. Murphy O’Connor proposes the church in Corinth numbered about 50 people. That estimate takes into account Paul’s words in Romans 16:23:  “Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you.”  Early Christians had no church buildings; homes were the normal meeting place. One or more small house churches comprised “the church” in any given city.

A careful reading of the record portrays an entity much like a bubbling pot of stew—tasty and life-giving, yet all mixed up. Sometimes a pot of stew is called a “mess.” That term could be applied to many of the churches in the New Testament, not just the believers in Corinth!

“Every new birth is messy.”  As a home birth father who has cut and tied the cord for four of our own children, I heartily agree.  After all, little babies don’t enter the world all dried off and sporting bows or ribbons in their hair!  It’s good to have plenty of towels, wipes, and helpers on hand.  What’s true for human births was also true for the birth of the church in city after city.

At the same time, a careful reading of the record portrays an entity much like a bubbling pot of stew—tasty and life-giving, yet all-mixed-up.  Sometimes a pot of stew is called a “mess.” That term could be applied to many of the churches in the New Testament, not just the believers in Corinth!

Imagine if you will the situation in Thessalonica.  Here was a multi-racial, multi-lingual group of fresh converts composed of traditional Jews and pagans.  The pagans were just now giving up their idols and had no concept whatever of monotheism.  The Jews, on the other hand, hated idols and held themselves above any images of God.  Nonetheless, these Jews were sporting amulets, wearing prayer shawls with fringed corners and knotted tassels at each corner, and reciting the Torah.  Synagogue Jews were prohibited from even eating with Gentiles!  A greater cultural divide is hard to imagine.

Paul’s preaching created a synagogue split and a mob riot in town.  The accusation went out that the new Christians were subversive and treasonous, even traitors to the Caesar.  Further, there was no established leadership for the new converts.  They had only a few weeks of teaching and no common theology or background.  All were newly-born babes in Christ.  The fact they got along at all is nothing short of miraculous!

After Paul was hustled out of town by night, the new church was left on its own.  No wonder all sorts of questions arose regarding sexual morality, Christ’s return and gifts of the Holy Spirit!  Yet Timothy returned to Thessalonica briefly and noted a young and flourishing church!  How could this be?

Amazing as it is to the modern observer, the church in Thessalonica was experiencing the grace of God.  The church as a whole began to experience what Jesus said would happen.  “I will not leave you as orphans.  I will come to you.  I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper, that is the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16, 18).  Thessalonica received a couple of follow-up letters (First and Second Thessalonians containing apostolic admonitions and commands) but no more visits from an apostle for six years!

Problems abounded in the churches of the time.  The Galatian churches slipped into legalism soon after conversion.  The Ephesian churches effectively evangelized an entire region, yet lost their first love.  The church at Thyatira was known for her love, faith, service and perseverance, yet tolerated a woman with a Jezebel spirit.  The church in Sardis went to sleep and became a “dead” church.  The gospel bore fruit and increased in Colossae, yet the church in that city was troubled by a host of problems including asceticism, angel worship, and Gnosticism. The list could go on.

With all of their syncretism, movements, fads, teachings, leaders, strengths, weaknesses, and swirls of emphasis, the various churches of the first hundred years of Christianity were much like churches today—a sweet-smelling potpourri that God destined to change the world.


How Many Apostles in the New Testament–12 or 25?

How Many Apostles?

How Many Apostles?








How many apostles are explicitly mentioned in the pages of the New Testament?

A common misconception pervades many minds these days:  “There were 12 apostles—the twelve who followed Jesus.  Judas dropped out and was replaced by Paul.”  However, as strange as it may seem to some, there are as many as 25 apostles explicitly mentioned in the pages of the New Testament.

How Many Apostles?

Let’s start counting. Yes, there were the twelve chosen by Jesus.  Eleven are named in Acts 1:13, “Peter and John, and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. “  Judas Iscariot, one of the original twelve, the one who betrayed Jesus, is not named in that list. That’s the original twelve.  Then add Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot to become one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Acts 1:26).    “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14).  When we include both Judas and Matthias the total is now thirteen.

We know additional apostles besides these men exist because Christ, after His ascension, appointed “some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers .  .  .  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).  Are we there yet?  Have we all attained to the unity of the faith?  Or mature manhood?  Or the fullness of Christ?  Clearly, the apostolic ministry will continue until Christ returns!

An investigation of the Scripture reveals several individuals in addition to the original twelve who are explicitly referred to as apostles.  We might call them “apostles of the throne“, “apostles of the Lamb” or “ascension-gift apostles.”  A complete listing of New Testament apostles follows.

James, the half brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church—Galatians 1:19

Barnabas–Acts 14:14

Paul–Acts 14:14 and many other references

Apollos– Corinthians 4:6-9

Timothy and Silvanus– I Thessalonians 1:1 and 2:6

Epaphroditus–Philippians 2:25.  While the King James Version translates the word as “messenger”, the Greek word (apostolon) is actually “apostle”.

Two unnamed apostles–Second Corinthians 8:23. A brother of fame among the churches, and a brother tested–“As for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.” Again, the Greek word is “apostoloi” but is translated here as “messengers”.

These nine now make  a total of 22 (13 + 9 = 22).

Andronicus and Junia–Romans 16:7   “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”  Were these genuine apostles or were they, as some (Charles Ryrie and others) translate, “well-known to the apostles”? If we count Andronicus and Junia, the total jumps to 24.

How Many Apostles?

Finally, Hebrews 3:1 designates Jesus Christ the “Apostle and High Priest of our profession.” That makes 25 apostles in the New Testament!

For more intriguing insights about apostles, come to Churches and Apostles. This info could make a whale of a difference in the Kingdom of God today.

For Pastors and Church Ministers

I just received the urgent request below from a prof at Elim Bible Institute to release a PDF copy of my new book Local Churches-Global Apostles: How Churches Related to Apostles in the New Testament Era and Why It Matters Now.

Mark, I was talking today with someone here at Elim who recently left a pastorate because of the decision that the church’s apostolic overseer made to intervene and “get rid of” the young worship leader in the church.This young worship leader had been raising up a new generation in the congregation, and after the overseer led him away, approx 100 people left the church in 1 Sunday! The pastor was obviously crushed, and bothered by the overseers intervention in that way. As he told me the story, I was surprised at the similarity with yours, and the timing – and told him about your upcoming book. He resigned in Nov., so I expect that he has a lot of raw feelings about it. Would it be OK if I forwarded him the PDF version of your book? I can make any request of him that you would like for me to make, if he receives the PDF, to contact you, refer it to friends he knows, etc. Nathan

That church, and the innocent people in it could have been spared immeasurable grief if the “overseeing apostle” had read my book.

Want to see the book description?

Anderson learned to relate to apostles the hard way. Personal agony and church crisis sparked in-depth study of the New Testament. The book contains case studies of every local church in the NT, reveals all 25 NT apostles mentioned, and describes patterns of local church and apostolic relations. Ground-breaking research and surprising conclusions offer fresh perspective on apostles and explain why the early church exploded with growth. Pastors and church leaders who grasp biblical roots will find clues to unleash the Spirit-power of God’s people and build dynamic churches today.

 Go to www.ChurchesAndApostles.com to get your copy of a book God is using to build right relationships between churches and modern day apostles.

God bless your service to Him,
B Mark Anderson