Jesus and the early Christians

The disciples and a small group of the first believers that followed Jesus when he was on this earth knew that He was the Messiah, the son of the Living God.

There were also a few gentiles who also believed in the power of Christ and showed great faith in Christ's authority such as the Roman centurion in Matthew 8:5-11

And when he was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth in the house sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.

And he saith unto him, I will come and heal him.

And the centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say to this one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

And when Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed,

Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven:

You will notice that Jesus says in Matthew 8:11 that many will be in the Kingdom of Heaven not just the Jewish believers. This mercy of God to the gentiles was mentioned before in the old testament where they were called "strangers" such as in the books of Leviticus and Numbers:

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:34

One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. Numbers 15:15

One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you. Numbers 15:16

God accepted people outside of the Hebrew race as long as they worshiped Him and followed His laws and commands. These obedient "strangers" were considered as if they were born into that race which are God's chosen people.

Paul in Romans 11:17 says the gentiles were "grafted in" to the chosen people of God.

"And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

In Mark 7:25-29 Jesus proclaims that the gifts of God are for His children and will not be given to those who are not. Those outside of God's family were called "dogs" and pagans" and they were considered unclean. This Greek gentile woman's faith in Jesus and her humble response reveled her heart which impressed Jesus and her request was granted.

For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet:  The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. 

But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. 

And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs. 

And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.

It is interesting to note that "Christians" originally were not called by that name, but were simply known as “people of the Way” or “followers of the Way.” The earliest followers of Christ only became known as "Christians" later in the first century A.D. in the large, ethnically diverse, Syrian capital of Antioch as seen in (Acts 9:2, 11:26 , 24:14).

Acts 9:2   and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to "the Way", men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Acts 11:26   And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

Paul says in Acts 24:14,

  But this I confess to you, that according to "the Way", which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets,

They were called “followers of the Way” in reference to their lifestyle which was the way of life they lived. In other words, it was their lifestyle that identified them as being followers of Jesus Christ, not only their words.

The early “people of the Way” were not called that because they were pious folk who lived morally superior lives with a condescending attitude toward their fellow man. They were called “followers of the Way” because they imitated their leader, Jesus Christ and His commands and teachings.

What does it mean to be a follower of the Way?

Jesus taught from the Old Testament to the people. Throughout the Gospels, we find Jesus bringing up many of the accounts and teachings in the Old Testament, such as the destruction of Sodom and the death of Lot’s wife (Luke 17:29, 32) the murder of Abel by his brother Cain (Luke 11:51), the calling of Moses (Mark 12:26), and the manna given in the wilderness (John 6:31–51) with many more not mentioned here. The first followers of Christ, Jew and Gentile, were being taught how to live righteously according to God's word and commandments in the Old Testament as Jesus states in Matthew 5:17-19

  Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

They all followed Christ as He preached and taught on the Mosaic Law as written in the Torah which is the first five Books of the Old Testament. They worshiped on the Sabbath, observed the New Moon, celebrated the spring and fall feasts, only ate the foods that were considered clean and everything else that was commanded by the word of God.   As Jesus said in John 15:10:

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.