The Church by the Wildwood is an old song that describes a memory that many would share. You may remember the lyrics from an old Andy Griffith episode. Malcolm Tucker sang the song in the episode called “Man in a Hurry.”
Come to the church by the wildwood
Oh, come to the church in the vale
No spot is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale
We all probably have memories of early childhood that we hold dear. These are memories of things that ground us, things that give us our core values. These memories may or may not be related to church but the words of the song can still stir those thoughts from earlier times.
I’d like to consider a church that reaches much further back into the annals of time, much further back than the days of my childhood. Let us consider the church at Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago.
There are those with a desire to go back to the church we find in the Bible. If that is our plea, then we are not interested in replicating the church of our childhood. We are not interested in the church of Wittenberg, Germany in 1517, or the church at Constantinople, or the church at Rome. No, we are interested in going all the way back to that Pentecost festival on a Sunday, in the city of Jerusalem, described in Acts 2. It is here we find the earthly beginning of the church.
One of my favorite passages in the book of Acts is found in 4:32. Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul;
Let us first note the church was described as a multitude. Passages like Acts 2:47 and Acts 4:4 tell us the number had grown to several thousand at this time. Some suggest that by the end of chapter 7 and the dispersion from the city of Jerusalem (thought to be about 5 years removed from Acts 2), the church was about 25,000 members strong. For our observation, we simply note it was referred to as a multitude.
Secondly, let us note they are referred to as those who believed. The term translated ‘believed’ as it appears in the Greek language is in the aorist tense. This means it is a single act without regard to time. A study of the Scriptures will make clear the only faith acceptable to GOD is an obedient faith, an active faith. Thus the single act in the past, referred to as belief, would represent the entire plan of salvation, for we know repentance, confession, and immersion is a part of the process.
A reading of Acts 2 notes the many backgrounds out of which the early believers came. And yet, they were of one heart and one soul. What was it that united them? The common bond was their love of the truth and understanding of the gospel. We are sadly mistaken today when we claim ethnic and cultural differences make it difficult to understand the word of GOD in the same way.
The early church, the church founded on Pentecost, is the perfect model for us today. That church still exists! That is the church that is dear to me. Let us strive to be that multitude of believers that operates with one heart and one soul. It can be done!