After Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit descended upon the twelve apostles on the first Pentecost. These men were filled with the miraculous powers to remember every word that Jesus had taught them, and they were guided in to all truths concerning the plan of salvation and the church. The apostles preached that day utilizing their new ability to speak in different tongues, to every Jew assembled in Jerusalem in their own language or dialect. The sermon by Peter was recorded for posterity and can now be found in Acts chapter 2. This occurred in approximately 32 A.D.
After Peter, and the other apostles, finished their sermons, there were some 3,000 who were baptized into Christ that day and then in verse 47 it tells that “the Lord added to the church daily, such as should be saved”.
But many people do not realize that all these people were Jews, either by birth or had become a proselyte into the Jewish faith. We know this because of previous scriptures explaining it. Jesus appeared before the apostles before he ascended into heaven and he had this to say:
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46-47 KJV)
And two others, one from the apostle Paul to the Romans and another from Isaiah the prophet.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 KJV)
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3 KJV)
The Jews were God’s chosen people and he wanted them to have the privilege of being first in the Kingdom. So it was offered to them first. A large number believed and obeyed the new teachings, but many more rejected it.
The fact is that from A.D. 32, for almost 10 years, there were only Jews who made up the church with the exception of a few proselytes. By the time the evangelist Stephen was stoned to death, there was much persecution begun, and he was the first martyr for the cause of Christ. But the Jewish community, including the Sanhedrin court, were persecuting more and more.
In Acts chapters 6 and 7, one may read of the stoning of Stephen and in chapter 7, verse 58, you will see that those who stoned him, lay their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. Saul, whose named was later changed to Paul when Jesus appeared to him and chose him for a special mission, that of taking the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles. This occurrence happened approximately A.D. 40.
Paul himself preached and converted some Jews, in fact, scholars believe that he was a school friend of Luke, the Gentile physician and was probably responsible for his conversion into Christ and that later Luke wrote gospel by his name and also wrote the book of Acts. We know that he was an almost constant companion of Paul.
Then, the incident of Cornelius and Peter’s vision, his going to and teaching the household of Cornelius, and then baptizing them into Christ, is the first recorded incident of Gentiles being added to the church. But with the tireless and dynamic efforts of Paul, innumerable Gentiles were added into the church over the next few decades. Although the scriptures do not contain all the works of any of the apostles, historical writings show where a good number of the apostles did also convert Gentiles in various places.
By A.D. 70, when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed and those who lived in Jerusalem were slaughtered except for a remnant who then went to all parts of the earth. Those who had been converted were also converting many. Although the church went through trying times, it grew rapidly. In fact, some historians report that many were converted simply because of the strength and bravery of some young Christians who faced torture and death in the persecution.
The writer of the Hebrews letter, in writing chapter 11, enumerates many of the Old Testament characters whose faith was indestructible and the suffering they endured, was similar to a lot of the ungodly measures taken against the Lord’s church in its early days. The Hebrews writer puts it in perspective in verse 38 of Hebrews chapter eleven when he says, “of whom the world was not worthy:”