Some have the view that everything in the early church ran smoothly. Doctrines were uniform. Division was minimal to none. Problems weren’t so bad because, hey, some of these guys knew Jesus and so surely they knew how to get it right. What is more, they had Holy Spirit inspired leaders and miraculous spiritual gifts to give them an edge as well. You would think things would go pretty smoothly in an environment like that.
Things didn’t always go smoothly in the early church. Here are a few problems and divisions they faced
They had division. There was racial division (Read Romans 1-3). There was socio-economic division (Read 1 Cor 11). There was doctrinal division (that is what Galatians is written to combat). Then there were the false teachers who stirred things up and caused chaos (Galatians, 1 Timothy, Revelation 2-3). Things got so heated over some of these issues that the apostles called a conference in Jerusalem in Acts 15 to help resolve some issues they were facing and come to consensus. Even after that Paul and Peter had a falling out. Paul and John Mark didn’t really get along very well. Then add in persecution from the outside that threatened the church. They faced the question of what to do with someone who denied their faith when faced with death but then later repented. These are serious issues. This is the short list.
They had numerous issues and problems to resolve. Honestly, I am glad they did. Otherwise, I would read the New Testament and not be able to relate at all. I appreciate the fact that we can read the New Testament and learn how to resolve conflict and division because we see them doing it as well. Again, I am not glad those things happened but it is useful for us that we don’t read a clean account of a problem free early church. They were people with issues just like we are. I am glad I can read about how Paul handled various issues or realize that Peter was even once a part of the problem. I am glad we can read about how God worked them through those issues to something better. It gives me a lot of hope that, although Christianity today isn’t perfect, God can still use us for His glory. It is very humbling to realize that we don’t have to get it perfect to be like the early church. We may be more like them, in our issues, than we often think we are.