A Healthy Church is Born
Sermon Text: Acts 2:42-47
Sermon Theme: The fruit of a healthy church is devotion to the Lord’s Word, people, and work.
Note: Recorded audio is very poor quality.
In these verses we have the history of the truly primitive church, of the first days of it; its state of infancy indeed, but, like that, the state of its greatest innocence. They kept close to holy ordinances, and abounded in piety and devotion; for Christianity, when admitted in the power of it, will dispose the soul to communion with God in all those ways wherein he has appointed us to meet him, and has promised to meet us. The greatness of the event raised them above the world, and the Holy Ghost filled them with such love, as made every one to be to another as to himself, and so made all things common, not by destroying property, but doing away selfishness, and causing charity. And God who moved them to it, knew that they were quickly to be driven from their possessions in Judea. The Lord, from day to day, inclined the hearts of more to embrace the gospel; not merely professors, but such as were actually brought into a state of acceptance with God, being made partakers of regenerating grace. Those whom God has designed for eternal salvation, shall be effectually brought to Christ, till the earth is filled with the knowledge of his glory.
(From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)
- Are we sometimes trying to design a church where non-Christians can feel comfortable? This can’t be the goal in a church that is devoted to holiness and righteousness in all areas of life. Churches exist for the very purpose of proclaiming Christian truth. If truth has gone, their mission has gone, and thirsty souls will go to them and find no living water. In the first fellowship, the Church’s life was completely defined by the devotion to those spiritual duties which make up the unique identity of the church — nothing outside the living Lord, the Spirit, and the Word define life for the church. This first fellowship, though not having any cultural elements of success, no worldly strategies, was still endowed with every necessary component for accomplishing the purposes of its Lord. The church will still be effective in bringing sinners to Christ when it manifests the same key elements of spiritual duty that marked this first fellowship. That is not to say that unbelievers are not welcome to attend the preaching of the truth and the worship. They are welcome to hear the gospel preached and the Word of God expounded. They are welcome to hear the prayers of confession, the singing of praise, and the calls to holiness. They are welcome to witness the corporate love and devotion of the church to Jesus Christ and the eternal God. All of that should make them uncomfortable with their spiritual condition. The Church must never, however, let them feel that they are a part of the fellowship until they come to faith in Christ.
- In some situations, do you think that God’s people and Satan’s people can work together to achieve God’s goals? For Paul warned the Corinthians: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). To design the activities of the church to appeal to unbelievers, or to allow them to play a major role in the life of the church, is to give them a false sense of security. It is foundational to the growth and spiritual health of every church to be committed to the apostles’ teaching. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
- As a Christian, are you failing to participate in the life of your church? In fact, those who choose to isolate themselves are disobedient to the direct command of Scripture. Hebrews 10:24-25 charges believers to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The Scripture does not envision converts separating after their baptism, as one living apart from other believers, in a life of pious meditation. They set themselves resolutely to a life of fellowship. The Christian is one of a community; alone, he is but a limb cut off from the trunk; separately, he must draw his vital vigor from the Head, but that vigor must be used and manifested in a self-forgetting fellowship. He must never fancy himself the whole body, either in being independent of the Head or of the church body. For unity affords the greatest identifying mark of the people of God. That’s why Luke emphasizes, all the believers were together and had everything in common.
- Are you one of the noble who are searching the Scriptures daily (cf. Acts 17:11)? A believer should count it a wasted day when he does not learn something new from, or is not more deeply enriched, by the truth of God’s Word. Scripture is food for the believer’s growth and power—there is no other. For the warning from Hosea to Israel suggests: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). The church cannot operate on truth it is not taught; believers cannot function on principles they have not learned.
- Are we feeling the genuine and spiritual sense of the awesome power of the presence of God in our church? Phobos (awe) refers to fear or holy terror related to the sense of divine presence, to the attitude of reverence. It describes the feeling produced when one realizes God is at hand. It is used in Acts 5:5 and Acts 5:11 to describe the reaction to the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. In Acts 19:17 it depicts the reaction of the citizens of Ephesus to the attack on some Jewish exorcists by a demon-possessed man. Luke 7:16 uses it to portray the reaction to our Lord’s raising of the widow’s son. Although the sign gift of miracles is no longer in existence, God still performs miracles in response to the prayers of His people. They are not, however, public signs like those in the apostolic era. The greatest of all miracles God performs today is the transformation of rebellious sinners into His beloved children, who are becoming like His Son. Do you see the Devine miracle when an unbeliever gives his life over to Christ? What majesty, what grace, what awesome wonder is our Lord.
- How much is prayer neglected in the church today? While special events and concerts draw crowds, prayer meetings attract only the faithful few. That is undoubtedly the reason for much of the weakness in the contemporary church. Unlike the early church, we have forgotten the Bible’s commands to pray at all times (Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:11), and to be devoted to prayer (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2). Remember that the first fellowship was eagerly and persistently engaged in the critical duty of prayer.
- Are we sometimes being told that Christianity is not dogma, but life? It is both, and to say that it is either at the expense of the other is to antagonize the clear teaching of Scripture. Christianity is neither dogma nor life; it is life founded on dogma; it is ethics growing out of truth; it is creed (a belief; a faith) flowering into conduct. And we find it stated that “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.” If you ask what this doctrine was, refer back to the clear outline of it presented in the sermon of Peter (Acts 2:14-36). It was the doctrine of a free and full remission of our sins, through the atoning sacrifice of our blessed Savior, who was put to death for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Christian doctrine is and ever has been essential to the integrity and the triumphs of the Christian Church. It is a shallow and often a hypocritical cry that asks us for a Christianity without doctrine. You cannot have it. God is — that is a doctrine. God loves you — that is a doctrine. So, feed your mind on these and yours shall be no puny life.
- Is there constancy in your performance of holy duties? If an instrument be daily played upon, it is easily kept in tune; but let it be but a while neglected, and cast in a corner, the strings and frets break, the bridge flies off, and no small labor is required to bring it into order again. And thus, also, it is in things spiritual, in the performance of holy duties, if we continue with them in a settled constancy, they will be easy, familiar, and delightful to us; but if once broken off, and intermitted, it is a new work to begin again with much endeavor and great difficulty to get to the former state. For the church is a living body, whose graceful movement is as much impeded by an inactive member as is the action of the body by a diseased limb. The rich are to help the poor, and the strong the weak; the wise are to be the advisers of the ignorant, etc. Trust God’s Spirit for the power to serve him. Proclaim Jesus’ resurrection at every opportunity. Understand how the Old Testament and New Testament fit together. Participate with other believers in biblical behavior. Enjoy your Christian faith.
1) UNITY OF THE TRINITY (By Augustine): If, as they drew near to God, those many souls became, in the power of love, but one soul and these many hearts but one heart, what must the very source of love effect between the Father and the Son? Is not the Trinity for even greater reasons, but one God?… If the love of God poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us, is able to make of many souls but one soul and of many hearts but one heart, how much more are the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit but one God, one Light, one Principle?
(From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture)
2) Some of the reasons the early church found favor with the common people can be discerned from the apology written by the philosopher Aristides early in the second century:
Now the Christians, O King, by going about and seeking, have found the truth. For they know and trust in God, the Maker of heaven and earth, who has no fellow. From him they received those commandments which they have engraved on their minds, and which they observe in the hope and expectation of the world to come.
For this reason they do not commit adultery or immorality; they do not bear false witness, or embezzle, nor do they covet what is not theirs. They honor father and mother, and do good to those who are their neighbors. Whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols made in the image of man. Whatever they do not wish that others should do to them, they in turn do not do; and they do not eat the food sacrificed to idols.
Those who oppress them they exhort and make them their friends. They do good to their enemies. Their wives, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest. Their men abstain from all unlawful sexual contact and from impurity, in the hope of recompense that is to come in another world.
As for their bondmen and bondwomen, and their children, if there are any, they persuade them to become Christians; and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction.
They refuse to worship strange gods; and they go their way in all humility and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them. They love one another; the widow’s needs are not ignored, and they rescue the orphan from the person who does him violence. He who has gives to him who has not, ungrudgingly and without boasting. When the Christians find a stranger, they bring him to their homes and rejoice over him as a true brother. They do not call brothers those who are bound by blood ties alone, but those who are brethren after the Spirit and in God.
When one of their poor passes away from the world, each provides for his burial according to his ability. If they hear of any of their number who are imprisoned or oppressed for the name of the Messiah, they all provide for his needs, and if it is possible to redeem him, they set him free.
If they find poverty in their midst, and they do not have spare food, they fast two or three days in order that the needy might be supplied with the necessities. They observe scrupulously the commandments of their Messiah, living honestly and soberly as the Lord their God ordered them. Every morning and every hour they praise and thank God for his goodness to them; and for their food and drink they offer thanksgiving.
If any righteous person of their number passes away from the world, they rejoice and thank God, and escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby. When a child is born to one of them, they praise God. If it dies in infancy, they thank God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. But if one of them dies in his iniquity or in his sins, they grieve bitterly and sorrow as over one who is about to meet his doom.
Such, O King, is the commandment given to the Christians, and such is their conduct. (The Apology of Aristides, translated by Rendel Harris [London: Cambridge, 1893])
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