Church, Part 2
We’re going to look at the church and eventually we’ll move into how the church should be structured in terms of elders and deacons and all of those things. But before we get into all those, they’re not really dry topics, but before we get into that kind of issue we want to look at the heart of the church.
Let’s go to Ephesians 3:8. Paul says:
Ephesians 3:8-9 – Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
And verse 10 tells us what is the mystery that God is seeking to put forth for men to look at. In verse 10 it says:
Ephesians 3:10 – His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
The mystery that is being revealed, the mystery that God wants to work, the mystery that God is revealing to all men, is supposed to be the church. And this is one reason why Satan has all kinds of false churches around in order to make things a little more disguised and harder to find in order to discover the truth. “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” The church that God is bringing together throughout the world and in many people’s homes and places of worship is to demonstrate to the heavenly realms His power and His glory to what? To show forth His unsearchable riches. It is an advertisement, to put it into worldly terms, that says here is the manifold wisdom of God, here is His grace, and here is His glory. It is to be a place where people can look and see and say, “That is the wisdom of God, that is the love of God manifest, that is where the power of God dwells and how He works in His people’s lives.”
Have you ever wondered why hospitals never advertise their success rates in terms of healing people? And why you never see an ad in the newspaper saying come to this hospital because our success rate is such and such? It’s because people don’t really get well, they just prolong the inevitable that is soon to come and so they can’t advertise success. But the church is supposed to be a place where you can point and say, “There is the manifold wisdom. There is the manifold love and there is the riches of God’s grace manifested in people’s lives.” The church isn’t supposed to be known as a social club. It isn’t supposed to be a place where people come and they’re just sick all the time and they can’t get their lives together and they somehow never discover the healing power of God. They always go from one new thing to the next new thing or from one new counselor or one new study. It is to be within the church, verse 10 says that now:
Ephesians 3:10 – His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
To the highest parts of heaven. To those that have power, to those that are full of His glory. Those who are manifested of the grace of God are looking down watching a church be born and manifested and they’re watching the glory of God reveal itself. Verse 11:
Ephesians 3:11 – according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now verse 12 tells us the church is to be a place of confidence. It is to be a place of freedom. It is to be a place where the Holy Spirit is freeing men from their sins. It is to be a place of crying out to God and God’s glory being manifested within the lives of the people. Verse 12:
Ephesians 3:12 – In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
It is within the context of the church. It is together as a body. That is why Jesus Christ says, “Where there are two or more gathered together in My name there I am.” Jesus Christ doesn’t say if one person is there I am there. He calls us together in terms of fellowship and He calls us together in terms of life. And when God sees people coming together as a body that’s where He begins to manifest, to show forth, to declare His glory for men to see His glory. Verse 13 says:
Ephesians 3:13 – I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
And though we must suffer in this world, though we must be slandered and persecuted and hindered and have all manner of men come against us, it is within the context of the church that God has chosen to show forth the wonder of His grace. In verse 14 Paul says:
Ephesians 3:14-15 – For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
Why did Paul suffer? Why did he lay down his life? Why did he tell them to glory in his sufferings? It was for the manifestation of the church. It was for bringing the church together. So we’re not talking about a church that is formed because a committee gets together and says, “Okay, we need to start a new church.” We’re not talking about a church that’s put together because there’s some worldwide headquarter that needs to go out and evangelize and share the good news. We’re talking about a man suffering for the sake of the church because he knows that it’s within the context of the church that God chooses to glorify His name. It is as verse 14 says, for this reason, for the glory of God, for manifesting His glory and His riches and for people to have confidence in glory he says, “I kneel before the Father, and I ask God to establish and to make bold His church for everybody to see.”
Let’s go to Acts 2:1 and let’s see the first church being brought into being. Let’s see this mystery coming to life. Now this isn’t something that was for way back when. This is something that has to do with love, the foundation of grace, we’ll see here in a moment. And in verse 1 it says:
Acts 2:1 – When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
And then it says in verse 2 that as they were in this place and they were together:
Acts 2:2 – Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
These are sitting people waiting upon the grace of God. These are sitting people waiting for God to manifest His glory and His strength. It doesn’t say they were weeping and wailing and praying for revival, does it? It says they were sitting and waiting and God comes to them in surprise. He comes as a violent wind, He comes blowing and shaking their whole life. When we begin to talk about the church and what the church is supposed to be we need to back up and look at the foundation of a church and see how it got started. Was it started because of man’s efforts and his committee meetings and the way that he goes out and evangelizes? Was it because of an advertisement? Was it because of the way man structures the church and brings it together or was it because the people were sitting some place before the Lord and He comes with a violent wind, He comes with a sound. Look at verse 2 again, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind.” It didn’t come because men were praying for twenty, thirty years for a church to get started. It didn’t come in the manner and the way that they had anticipated. It wasn’t as it is today that if you want revival you do these ten steps and then God will create a church. It wasn’t because we formed this committee over here and we get all these plans together and so we establish a church. It is that they are sitting and suddenly God appears and He begins to manifest His glory.
“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” It filled the house and the homes of men’s hearts and it will bring them together to form a church. It will not start by somebody building a church and inviting people to come. It will come by God entering each man’s home and each man’s heart and they automatically want to come together to worship God. Verse 3 says:
Acts 2:3 – They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
And so God has this storehouse of fire up there. He has the new life there. He has the manifold wisdom of God’s glory and that fire is up there looking for hearts where that fire can come and rest on each man’s heart. It comes together as one thing and then it begins to divide itself and to separate itself, finding the place where it can rest. And so if we will sit before the Lord, if we will be found in our homes waiting upon God, if we will sit there waiting and being empty vessels, He will come and He will separate the fire and that fire will fill each man’s life and his tongue will be alive and on fire with the glory of God.
Acts 2:4-5 – All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
That’s not a minor point. Men from everywhere and every nation are gathered together. Men with different cultures, different ways of doing things, different languages, different customs, these men are as different as people can be different in all the ways that men can be different. And yet something is going to happen. Their whole homes are being shaken and their lives are being torn apart and a violent wind is causing something to take place. Verse 6 says:
Acts 2:6 – When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
When they heard this sound—when they began to see the evidence of God’s wisdom and grace it says, “ crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” They were able to sense and to hear what the glory of God is about. They were able to hear the call even though they didn’t fully understand what that call was. And so it is with the church that God seeks to bring together. Inside there’ll be something within your heart that says that must be the Lord and it must be of God, but you’ll come in bewilderment, you won’t fully understand how the riches are going to be displayed and how God is going to manifest His glory. But yet it will draw men to look and to examine and to stop for a second and say, “Okay, what does it mean to have a church? And what does it mean to be a church of God?”
When they heard this sound a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Each man could identify and say that is the glory of God. Each man could sense this was something beyond human effort and human design. It was beyond each committee. It was something they understood deep within their heart even though they didn’t fully understand it with their head. They were still bewildered with it and yet something rang in their heart that said, “This is truth and this is life and this comes from heaven, and this is beyond the schemes and plans of man.” And verse 7 says:
Acts 2:7 – Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?”
They could see that the power that was within these people’s lives, that were in these men’s lives was way beyond who they were and what they were able to accomplish and to do. And when people see a church in a town they should be able to look at that church and say, “That is something beyond their means and beyond their power. There’s something extra ordinary going on there that we can’t quite figure out.” We’re a little bewildered about what they do and how they conduct themselves and where they get the power to live their lives, but there’s something inside that tells us it must be of God. Verse 8:
Acts 2:8 – Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?
Something was ringing deep within their hearts that was saying this was truth and this was light and that this came from God. It says:
Acts 2:9-10 – Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome
Men from every culture, every location and every city, every country, recognizing that there is something that was from God even though they couldn’t fully understand what was taking place.
Acts 2:11 – (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!
All brought together, all hearing, all listening to what God was working and manifesting among them but not fully understanding. In verse 12 it goes on again to say they were:
Acts 2:12 – Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
They come in and they see God working and working His glory but they don’t fully understand it. And yet it is this wonderment, it is this perplexment that God will use as a springboard to begin to preach and to teach them and to tell them that this is the mystery of God. This is what it means to have a church and this is what it means to bring a church together. And Peter will begin to explain to them the grace of God. Verse 12 says, amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean? What is it all about? Where does it come from? It rings in our hearts and we hear the glory of God and we hear all the truth here. What is all this about?” It is a stirring of God, it is a stirring by God’s hand and has nothing to do with man’s ability or the way he conducts himself or the way that he would start a church. Verse 13 tells us there are always those who oppose, always those who ridicule what they can’t understand. And what they cannot bring in and understand they begin to make fun of. It says in verse 13:
Acts 2:13 – Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
They will reach for the most illogical conclusions, they will draw and listen to worthless pieces of gossip that float around and say, “That it is truth.” Now verse 14 says:
Acts 2:14 – Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.”
So Peter stood up with the Eleven, so they’re all going to stand up and they’re all going to declare the one truth, they’re going to declare what the truth is. We’re going to look at all Peter has to say but as we look at that I want you to listen for what he does not talk about. I want you to listen for what he does not declare and how he speaks to these people. He doesn’t advertise inviting them to come get their blessing at church. He doesn’t promote himself in any way or any fashion. He doesn’t say, “We have a great children’s ministry over here, we have a great work over here. And you’ll receive all these blessings over here.” He doesn’t try to attract numbers or to draw people in. In fact, he doesn’t even talk about what church life should be or what the church would look like. He doesn’t talk about love, he doesn’t talk about fellowship. He doesn’t talk about any of those things. He doesn’t talk about spiritual gifts. We’re going to see and realize more that what he doesn’t talk about is significant as much as what he does talk about. He says, “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.” Let us listen carefully to what Peter is going to preach because this is the birth of the first church. Let us listen as if we ourselves are bewildered and Peter is going to begin to speak and the church is going to be born. And let’s see how a church is made and how it comes to life and how it is given birth. Verse 15:
Acts 2:15 – These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!
He stands up and he declares, “Don’t believe such a foolish notion in your head. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!” The evidence does not support it. And so when there was a stirring within God to draw people together to form a church there will be wrong conclusions. And we are to stand up and declare that nothing like that is taking place or is happening. But this instead is a hand in the work of God. Verse 16:
Acts 2:16-17 – No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”
This will be beyond man and his ability to build a church or to do anything. This will be an act and a work of God. Verse 18:
Acts 2:18 – Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
What is emphasized so much today is the miraculous part of this—prophesy and tongues and miracles and those things going on. And while those are good things in the Lord, I want us to back up a little bit and look at verse 18, “Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” In other words, everyone will be filled with the glory of God. Everyone’s life should be reflecting that glory. They should be partaking of what? The unsearchable riches of God’s grace. The idea of when you go to a hospital is you go there to get well even though it’s a lie or delusion. But not so with the church, that when the church stands up and declares that this is life and this is truth, that people should be looking at the church saying, “It’s there that I can be healed and it’s there that my sins can be exposed, and it’s there that I can find deliverance for what enslaves me.” But so many times the church is just as worthless and as weak as the world around it and so what they advertise is entertainment. What they advertise is a little temporary fix, a little band-aid for sin. But God says I will pout out My Spirit on men and women, on servants, on everyone in life, they will all be filled with My glory. Verse 19:
Acts 2:19 – I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
God is going to act and He’s going to move and it’s within the context of the church that that power is to start and be seen. He will some day shake the heavenly bodies and the planets and everything that we see around us. But it is within the church that He starts that power and that’s where He begins. Verse 20:
Acts 2:20-21 – The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
And so what we find is what? That God is saying, “I’m coming with great power and I’m coming with great speed. And all those who look to Me will be delivered.” And so God is saying, “I’m going to shape not only the lives of men but also the universe itself.” Verse 22:
Acts 2:22 – Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.
He begins again by saying, “Listen carefully and pay attention to what is being told to you.”
Acts 2:23 – This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
Again, is Peter talking about them receiving their personal little blessing? Is he making them feel comfortable about who they are and how they conducted themselves? Did he turn to them and say, “I know that you’re God-fearing Jews and that you’ve gathered yourself here to worship the Lord. I know you’re here for the Feast of Pentecost and I know that you come with good motives and good intentions. But let me tell you, you made a mistake. You crucified the Son of God.” He begins by confronting them with who they are and the need for them to repent. “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge,” he says in verse 23. “nd you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” He is totally destroying their religious walk, those who they say they fellowship, all their good friends and all the good people that they hang with, and he says, “You crucified the Author of Life.” Verse 24 says:
Acts 2:24-25 – But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him: “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”
Don’t let it slip by what is being said here. Peter is saying, “You turned Him over to be crucified but God has exalted Him high. You committed this sin with wicked and evil men, you put yourself with men who you consider corrupt and vile but God has exalted and made holy Him whom you crucified.” Verse 28:
Acts 2:28 – You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.
Then Peter says in verse 29:
Acts 2:29-32 – Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
And so Peter is testifying to what he has experienced. And this is the most crucial aspect of what we’re looking at today, that a church in order to be a church that is alive must have everybody within that church experiencing the resurrection of Jesus Christ in their life and they must be able to turn and tell other people who are coming in bewilderment saying, “This is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is what you are seeing within my life.” It is in the context of the manifold wisdom of the church that God has chosen to display His mystery of grace. Verse 32:
Acts 2:32-35 – God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’”
He’s declaring that this Jesus will overcome. That He will conquer the world. Jesus said that we would have trouble in this world but that He has overcome this world. So Peter stands up and he stands up in front of everyone, Peter kneels down and he prays for what? The glory to be seen in the church. And in verse 36 Peter comes back to their life. He knows that in order for them to partake in the resurrection of Jesus Christ they have to see what they have done. Verse 36:
Acts 2:36 – Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
You may not agree with anything else Peter is saying and you may not be too sure of these things over here, but be assured of this: God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. And so in the formation of a church, in the declaration of bringing together of a church what is it that Peter is declaring? That Jesus Christ is both Lord and Christ. He doesn’t talk about forming a church, does he? And again he doesn’t talk about all the blessings of the church as so many talk about today, does he? He talks about their guilt and he talks about their sin and he talks about God coming with judgment. He talks about God’s mercy and grace and that’s what gives birth to a church. Again he says in verse 36—“God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now verse 37 starts to see the birth of a church because the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is being brought to life. It says:
Acts 2:37 – When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
And I want to repeat it again, what does Peter talk about? How does he bring the church together? He says:
Acts 2:38 – Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
And this promise wasn’t for us way back when, many centuries ago. People will often say, “Well, that was for those people back then.” We’re going to see here in a moment that as the church comes together they had all things in common and they were devoted to the word of God and to prayer. And I’ve had men look at me straight in the eye and say, “That was for back then.” As if love somehow disappeared after the third century.
Acts 2:39 – The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.
This is a church by God’s calling and God’s power. There are churches that are formed all the time by man’s calling and man’s power. The Mormons have a special reception area that when you land in Hawaii they have a reception committee that comes out and greets every one, where they get your name, and when you get back home after your vacation they contact you. There are churches formed all the time by men’s PR committees, by their advertisements and by their works. But this is a church being brought together by the call of God so of course it comes with conviction and it comes with grace. Verse 40 says:
Acts 2:40 – With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them. “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
He continues to talk and to warn them of the judgment to come and how to escape that. It says then he pleaded with them. This is a church born of full emotion and full light. They understand the wrath to come. That is why Paul will say, “We know what it is to fear God so we warn all men.” Paul does not say, “We know that God is coming soon and so we entertain men into the church.” Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.
Acts 2:41 – Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
We’re talking three thousand people from all areas of the world. We’re talking three thousand people with three thousand different opinions. We’re talking about three thousand men coming together each with their own thoughts about who God is and how He conducts Himself. Three thousand individuals maybe having read some of the scriptures or understanding certain parts of scripture, some devout Jews that understood a lot of things about God. Three thousand people that you would not expect to be able to come together and to agree upon anything. But it says in verse 42 because their lives had been shaken, because the homes had been having a violent wind that came through and disturbed everything. It says:
Acts 2:42 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
There are four things that signify a church; four things that show a church to be of God. And miracles are not listed as one of those even though miracles can and do take place. The first thing was that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. They were devoted to the word of God. And I don’t mean token devotion, I don’t mean a sermon where the pastor stands up and they read a scripture and then you hear a story and a joke and entertainment after that and everybody leaves and they go about their week and then they come back together and they talk a little bit more about one other little scripture. They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching, they understood it well. It went deep within their hearts. They were able to testify to the living word of God as they went out into the community.
The second thing that came into existence after the word of God was what? They devoted themselves to fellowship. And this is what it means for a church to have life is that he devotes himself to the word of God and then on the basis of that living word, on the basis of that kind of thing, on the basis of God’s mystery then fellowship begins to take place. But Peter hadn’t talked about fellowship. Peter hadn’t preached on fellowship. He had preached on repentance and baptism. He had preached on what? Coming to God and fellowship flowed naturally from that. “They devoted themselves,” it says, “to the breaking of bread.” They understood that it was by the cross of Jesus Christ that they maintained this kind of fellowship and this kind of love. That only as self was crucified and only as they denied themselves would fellowship be something sweet and lovely and full of grace. And it says they devoted themselves to prayer. This is what the church is to be known for. This is the starting point, this is not the goal. This wasn’t after ten years of study. This wasn’t after they ordered the little study guide on what a church body should look like. There shouldn’t be a church in existence that needs a study guide on how to have church fellowship. It should be a result of what? Self being crucified, the message of Jesus Christ being preached and what flows from that is as natural as breathing, it’s called fellowship and devotion to one another. Verse 43 says:
Acts 2:43 – Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
Now verse 44 says:
Acts 2:44 – All the believers were together and had everything in common.
The miracles were achieving their purpose. Today all the church likes to talk about is miracles and miracles and miracles. But you don’t leave those places saying, “You know, they were together and they have everything in common.” You don’t say they think alike and they move alike and everything flows perfectly from the Holy Spirit. “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” Not because Peter stood up and said, “Okay, guys, we need to love one another so I’ll tell you what. I’m going to take possession of everything you own. I’ll keep track of it and then I’ll divvy it out to everybody and then we’ll be a church that has everything in common.” Peter didn’t preach on having everything in common. That’s the point. Peter didn’t stand up and declare those kinds of things, it flowed naturally from their hearts. Verse 45:
Acts 2:45 – Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
But he didn’t preach on that. That was the fruit of the sermon of the message of the cross. This was after he had warned them and pleaded with them to save themselves from this corrupt generation. It is as Peter talked about the need to hate and despise money they began to see and to let go of the things of this world and what flowed from them was as natural as we breathe air without thinking. Not knowing what our left or our right hand is doing. Verse 46 reminds us again and God repeats it again:
Acts 2:46 – Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
This is certainly no every Sunday kind of church. These people loved to be together and they loved and talked about the word of God and they loved to break bread and they rejoice in coming together. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They didn’t just show up on Sunday and then disappear for the whole week and everybody say, “How was your week?” Every chance they had and every opportunity they had was to fellowship and to be together. They didn’t just endure one another, they didn’t just put up with one another, they enjoyed being with one another and they knew that when that joy was not there it was because of their self and their sin and they knew there was a remedy. They knew there was the unreachable what? Unsearchable riches of God’s grace and they could run in and grab hold of that grace and they could say to God, “I’m being selfish and I’m being greedy and I’m full of me. If you will crucify it I will have that love and that fellowship again.”
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. The cross was being lived out and talked about. The bread was being broken in their homes. And it was sincerity of heart. This was not a put-on to show the community that they were full of God’s glory. This was sincerity of love for God, not trying to prove anything to any man. They felt privileged to be able to come together on a daily basis. And when they couldn’t get together in the temple courts they were what? Meeting in their homes and breaking bread and they were glad to be with each other. Now is this what the world looks at and sees in the church? Is that what the church is known for? I dare say right now if you took most of the churches in America and said, “Okay, you guys are going to be with each other for one solid week, you’re going to have a meeting in the church every single evening at five o’clock and we’re just going to get together and we’re going to look at God’s word. And then you’re going to have lunch and breakfast together. We’re just going to mix everything up together and for one week everyone in the church has to meet with everybody else in the church.” And you notify them that they have to. They’d be destroying each other by the following Sunday if they got that far.
“They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” Now verse 47 says:
Acts 2:47 – praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Look at the attitude of praise and joy here. This is not forced and it’s not put on. It’s not slammed down people’s throats. You don’t have to make them do that. They’re praising God, they’re rejoicing always no matter what the circumstances. So they break bread in their homes. They can’t wait to get together to study God’s word and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. This is what the church is supposed to be known for. This is how the church is supposed to have numbers added to it. This is not a formula. There is no guaranteeing that you’re going to get numbers every single day. This is how a church is born and how it’s maintained. They’re busy breaking bread in their homes, not at committee meetings deciding how they can evangelize the town. Evangelism wasn’t the idol and the goal of the day. What they were naturally doing was loving one another and loving God and seeking His grace and that naturally spread the fragrance of Jesus Christ and they naturally preached the word of God as they went about their daily activities.
Let’s go to Acts 4:23, it’s repeated to us again. It says:
Acts 4:23 – On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.
You notice the wording there, their own people. There is the church and we belong to that church and they are our people, they are our brothers and sisters. It’s who we belong to. All you need to do to know where a man is going when he dies is to see who he enjoys being with. Who does he rejoice in being with? These people would meet together daily in the temple courts and they would break bread in their homes. They would identify and they rejoiced in, their hearts treasured with what? Being with other people who love God. Not those who played games about God. Not those who just showed up at church now and then. Not just the religious but those who loved God with an undying love, that’s who they wanted to be around. And I can tell where a man is going, I don’t necessarily have to ask him, “What are your five tenets of belief and what particular denomination do you go by?” I look to see who he fellowships with and who he hangs with, who he calls friend. Verse 24 says:
Acts 4:24 – When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”
What are they continuing to hold up but His glory and His power? Not themselves and not the church. Paul would say, “We don’t preach ourselves, but that Jesus Christ is Lord. We don’t preach our name.” Peter wasn’t there to promote himself. Verse 25:
Acts 4:25-27 – You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.” Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.
It is sad to say but this kind of fellowship that we’re looking at here is always in the midst of persecution. There’s always a threat of it being overrun. There’s always a threat of you losing what God is starting to work and that’s what they’re praying about. And they’re literally telling God, “God, this love is special and this fellowship is precious and if You don’t defend it and if You don’t protect it, it will disappear in an instant because we have all of the government that would like to shut it down. We’ve all the religious folks that would like to shut it down. We have all the Gentiles that do not understand that would like to mow this over unless You defend it, unless You protect it, unless You guard it, it will disappear in an instant. We must have Your Holy Spirit, we must have Your divine power, You must protect it because of Jesus Christ dying.”
How many people do you know in their churches that their fellowship is so precious that they would ask God to defend it at the cost of the blood of their son? Most people’s attitude toward the church is, “If it collapses I’ll just go somewhere else or go next door.” What they had was holy. Verse 28:
Acts 4:28-29 – They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their hearts and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.
Verse 29 says, “Now, Lord.” “Now that we have Your attention, Lord, listen to what we’re telling You. Now that we’ve come to You with all the basis for our argument over here, we’re not asking You to defend our name. We’re not asking You to defend our church. We’re not asking You to defend the name of Peter and his ministry and his work. We’re not asking for that kind of blessing.” “Now, Lord, consider their hearts and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” We acknowledge the threats, we acknowledge the people that would like to run it over. We acknowledge the people that would like to destroy love. This wasn’t an issue of doctrine or opinion. This wasn’t holy wars over doctrine or opinion, this had to do with love and with fellowship. Verse 30 says:
Acts 4:30 – Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.
And again, verse 31 says:
Acts 4:31 – After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
God is always shaking the lives of a servant and those who love Him. So don’t even tell me that you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior twenty years ago in the great winter of such and such year. Because God wants to come and shake us all the time. We get so lazy in our worship of Him. We become so comfortable and yet He seeks to stir us up, He seeks to blow the wind again. It says, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” We must ask for divine grace to speak the word of God boldly. We must ask for His power to fill us. But in order for that to happen He will have to shake you.
So the question I have for you this morning is what? Are you willing to be shaken? Are you willing for self to be crucified? Are you willing for God to come to you more and more and say, “This is sin and self”? Are you willing to fall to the ground a little bit more and to die that God might fill you with His love? He cannot fill that which is already full with something else. And if you’ll be full of yourself you cannot be full of Christ. “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” If we are to speak the living word of God, not man’s opinions or doctrines, not that which you studied in your quiet time, but the living word of God boldly then you have to be shaken. We must learn to rejoice in our lives being turned upside down and the dust being blown out of our homes and our lives. And look at verse 32. Look at what gave credibility to the message. Look at the part of fruit that gave them confidence. It says:
Acts 4:32 – All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.
Part of what gave the apostles and everyone the boldness to speak, part of what the evidence was to know that they were filled with the Holy Spirit, was that God was able to take these three thousand plus people now and make them one in heart and in mind. Not just opinions that are crucified but hearts that are crucified. And he’s got three thousand men in one place, each heart has a different aspiration and a different dream and a different goal, don’t they? Each one has a different plan for glorifying God or doing what they want to do. But they were one in heart. They understood from God what should be done that day and how God should be glorified. All the believers were one in heart and mind. Why they lived, why they existed, why their heart beat blood through their bodies, had one goal and one purpose in mind and they received that heart from Jesus Christ and their minds thought alike and they understood and they agreed with one another. Would this not be a testimony to the world to find three thousand men all agreeing with one another on every thing? I’m sure that some people would say there’s some powerful brain washing going on but I’ll tell you something. I know a little about brain washing and I’ve studied it and none of it is powerful enough to brain wash three thousand men.
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of hiss possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.” Not because they were told to, not because it was a rule, not because it was a principle, not because it’s written in Acts 4:32, because it was in their hearts. And their hearts were crucified to the world and they loved nothing in the world. And what flows from a heart that is filled with love, but not claiming anything and giving freely and a great wisdom and love? A flowing of looking for every opportunity to be giving. What the church spends most of its time dealing with is people being greedy and holding on to money. That’s the wrong battle. The right battle is to look for opportunities to give and to serve and to know that when my heart is holding on then I deal with it but I move forward to give and to lay down my life and to serve and to love, claiming that nothing belongs to me. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With glad and sincere hearts to explode. It’s stupid nonsense to go around selling little plaques to put on the back of chairs for a certain amount of money in order to build the building. These were people that loved one another and beat with one heart and mind and they knew what the will of God was.
Look at 1 Corinthians 1:8. We’ll come back to Acts 4 in just a moment. 1 Corinthians 1:8. This is not something for way back when unless you’re going to say love was for way back when and it disappeared today. If anybody says to you, “Well that was for that culture back then,” then fine, because I can tell you right now the culture of heaven is called love. And I can tell you right now that everybody in heaven thinks alike and no one in heaven claims anything to be their own. This is the manifold wisdom; this is the riches of God’s grace manifested among men. And it comes out and the fruit of that is the beginning point of Christianity is that everyone thinks alike and that nobody claims that any of his possessions is his own.
1 Corinthians 1:8-9 – He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
Because of this power, because of this grace he can do verse 10.
1 Corinthians 1:10 – I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
I don’t know what most people in most churches do with this passage, cut it out or ignore it. “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” If the church would once again lift up Jesus Christ as crucified, then men would become united not only in mind but also in thought. They would not only agree upon doctrine but if that doctrine lived itself out—and as it manifested itself and as it worked—they would be perfectly united in thought. Moving where God moves and directing where God goes, everybody dead to themselves and alive in Jesus Christ. No one claims any possessions was his own. No one claiming any project to be his own. No one promoting themselves but each hearing from God what they are to do and how to glorify His name.
And again, I want to say it over and over again, this is the beginning of what it is to call a church. To say this is a goal twenty years down the road is to make a mockery of God’s grace. We’re talking about asking for a violent wind and all the talks you hear about revival today and all the discussions is this what you see manifested? Is this what you see being declared? Do you see these people walking out of these revival meetings perfectly united in mind and thought? Do you see people being crucified to their opinions and their doctrines? Do you see church dogma disappearing? With all the different talks about revival do you see the church banners coming down in terms of names and what they stand for and the word of God being exalted and lifted up and the church coming together and saying, “This is what the truth is. We thought it was this but now we know that it’s this over here.” Because it is not a revival that comes from God. It is not the Holy Spirit blowing forth, it’s something different all together.
In Acts 4:33 it says:
Acts 4:33 – With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.
Of course they could testify to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because how could they do that? What evidence could they offer? They didn’t bring Jesus Christ back again and say, “There He is.” They didn’t bring a resurrected Jesus Christ and have video tape. They didn’t bring a movie in and they didn’t go in and say, “There is the grace of God, there is Jesus Christ, there is proof to the resurrection.” That is not what they’re pointing to. What are they pointing to? They’re pointing to a church that had all things in common. They’re pointing to men who have agreement in mind and thought. They want to say, “There is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” It gave credibility to what was being preached. And when the world looks at the church that is what they are to see. You are to be able to turn and say, “I’m telling you there is the grace of God and there is the resurrection power. There are people that were alive in themselves and now they are dead and we are perfectly united in mind and thought and no one claims anything belongs to himself. We love to meet together with gladness in our hearts. We break bread in our homes, we enjoy being with one another.” That should be the biggest miracle for you. It’s called love.
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. Would it not require much grace to have this? This is what we are to pray for and before you ever say that at a Christian church this is what you are to look for. If they don’t have this they don’t have anything. This is the foundation. This is the beginning point. This is where a man starts. This is what it means to say, “We are a Christian church.” And if they don’t have this foundation, this basic-ness of what it means to be a part of Jesus Christ they live a lie. You may have one or two people in that church that are living this—there’s the church in those two people. Verse 34 says:
Acts 4:34 – There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales
The resurrection power of Jesus, much grace upon them all. Everyone filed with grace, everyone filled with power and no needy person among them.
Acts 4:34-35 – For from time to time those who owned lands or house sold them brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
They were able to trust the leadership. They were able to go to whom? The apostles. They were able to lay that money down at the apostles’ feet and to know that it would be used according to the Lord. Not so much today. We have to have accountability committees and accountability committees for the accountability committee. We have all kinds of schemes and all manner of things set up in order to what? Be able to trust everybody. And these people were able to come in with all the freedom and the confidence of Jesus Christ and they were able to lay their things at their feet saying, “Give to other people in need as you see fit in the Lord,” and they were able to walk away with confidence knowing that God was the one that was in charge. Because why? They had tasted the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. This wasn’t blind trust. This wasn’t just going up and saying, “Okay, here’s this. I just trust God.” It’s because they knew that God was able to deal with the greed in their own hearts. They knew they were free from the things of this world and so they were able to see it in other people’s lives.
One of the reasons we cannot trust anybody else is because deep down inside we know that we cannot trust ourselves. We know that if we were given such power, if we were given such money we would use it for our own benefit. And so in our own wickedness we can’t envision any other man being clean. But when you taste the resurrection power of Jesus Christ in your own life, when you yourself are being delivered from money and from things in your own self, you know that God is able then to work that righteousness and holiness in another man’s life and you’re able to recognize it when it is happening. With the greed in most churches, most places, I wouldn’t want to lay anything at their feet. But let us not become cynical and full of unbelief and say, “Okay that could never happen. God could never work His righteousness and holiness.” If that be a true statement then you need to ask God to work in your heart and you set the example for everybody else. Verse 35:
Acts 4:35 – and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
Look at 2 Corinthians 5:16. Paul says:
2 Corinthians 5:16 – So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
That is, there are men’s opinions about situations. He says that we used to walk in our own opinions and our own ideas about religion and about God and about how people worship the Lord and what’s best and not best. What has power in it and what doesn’t have power in it. And he says, “So from now we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” Now look at what he says: “Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” Let us no longer view the church from a worldly point of view any longer. Let us let God come in and shake us and blow forth His wind. Let us go home and sit in our homes until He decides to blow forth and to change all of our thinking about what it means to belong to a church and what a church should look like. And let’s ask God to shake our own lives and our own homes that what may flow from our heart is true fellowship and true love for one another that a true church might be established. We tend to look at Jesus Christ from a worldly point of view. We sit in our rooms, we open the Bible, we look at the ink on paper and we say, okay, this is what a church is supposed to look like. And we go through and we find the things we like and we list those things while we ignore the things that we don’t like and we go, okay, now that’s a church and now I’ll go out and find a church where I feel comfortable.
Those who want a Pentecostal type of church, a church filled with the Holy Spirit, must go home and they must sit and they must let God come on His own terms for who He is. And if we want a church that is of the Lord and of His grace and of His power then let us sit and let the wind blow. And let men persecute and let them slander and let them say all manner of things and we will turn in prayer and we will say to God, “Consider their threats. Consider what they say and consider what they do. Enable us to have great boldness and great power.” And may it be said of us that we can testify to the resurrection of Jesus Christ by pointing to other people in the church. Where we can turn to other people and we can say, “There is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There’s a changed man. There’s the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there’s a changed woman. You see those people? They all agree with one another. They have everything in common. They love to meet together with glad and sincere hearts. There is our proof to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Let’s go ahead and pray.
Father, may we never, never get lost in talking about the technicalities of what a church should look like. But what we speak for and look for is the very body of Jesus, the mystery that you kept hidden and now are declaring to those in heavenly realms. Father, grant us death to self that we might have the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Grant us, Father, that love that is in heaven. Give us a taste of that. Glorify Your name, O Lord, and bring together the church that we’ll truly glorify Your name. Amen.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.