Expository Research Essay
February 17, 2003
Christianity and the First Hundred Years
A. Size of the church
Even though the Christian faith is less than 2000 years old, it has
grown to be the largest religion on earth, passing up religions far older
than itself. In order to understand this phenomenon, you have to trace
Christianity back to it’s roots.
II. The Beginning of the Faith
A. Roman Rule
By the time Jesus was born, The Roman Empire stretched from Britain on
the north to the Sahara on the south. At that time the empire was peaceful
and prospering. The wars were over, and roman soldiers occupied themselves
with games, tournaments, and gambling.
Why the Jews hated Rome
Jesus was Jewish. At the time of his birth the Jews hated roman rule.
The Romans believed in many gods, while the Jews believed in one god. Some
Jews thought their only hope of survival from Roman persecution was to
adopt this Roman theology. Others became religious fanatics who formed
resistance against Rome. Still others retreated into the wilderness to
study Jewish law and wait for the coming of the messiah.
III. The Arrival of Jesus Christ
Jesus was born to a plain, ordinary Jewish couple by the name of
Joseph and Mary. Joseph was a carpenter, and passed his skills onto his
first-born son Jesus.
Jesus revealed his sense of destiny, when at the age of twelve he went
to the synagogue and amazed the Jewish church leadership with his wisdom
and understanding of the scriptures.
At age 30, Jesus began his 3- year ministry – to save the lost, heal
the sick, and offer salvation through belief in the one true God. The
summation of his teachings boils down to two statements he made on two
separate occasions. The first was the great commandment, which can be found
in Luke 10:27 –
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as
The second, which is known in Christian circles as “the great commission.”
is found in Matthew 28:19-20:
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I
am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV) Within these two
principles, the life and belief of the Christian faith hangs..
Throughout his ministry, Jesus frequently called into question the
sincerity of the religious leaders. At the same time, his popularity grew
throughout the Jewish world.
As a result, great hatred and bitterness was
directed towards him. Plots against his life were planned on many
occasions, yet each time he escaped unharmed. According to prophetic
scripture, Jesus had to be crucified and his blood shed at the appointed
time. Just prior to his execution, Jesus himself reminded the believers
that his life must be cut short in order to fulfill his eternal destiny.
One of his closest companions, Judas, secretly conspired against Jesus and
one night an angry mob led by the Jewish leaders captured Jesus. They
interrogated him and brutally tortured him, then handed him over to the
Roman government and demanded that he be crucified.
He was taken to a hill
and nailed to a cross, where he died.
Three days later, 2 women went to the tomb where the body of Jesus had
been placed. When they arrived they found the giant stone that was used to
seal the tomb rolled away. When they went inside they found Jesus’ body
gone. Christians believe that Jesus rose back to life, appearing several
times to his disciples.
IV. The Church after Jesus’ Death
The 11 original disciples of Jesus became the church leadership as the
early church began to grow in numbers. Their primary role was to minister
to the Jewish-Christian churches. Peter seemed to have the most influential
role, which was represented by the meaning of his name. Jesus first used
the name Peter due to its meaning – “rock”.
Jesus was quoted as saying
“That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt
16:18). James, the brother of Jesus, seems to have been given the
leadership role in handling matters of doctrine and controversy. All 11 of
the original disciples were later referred to as apostles as their
ministerial callings became .