Acts is a roadmap of the progress of the church, it presents Christianity on the march. Do people outside our churches see us as Christians on the march, or closing ourselves away from the world around us? Perhaps it is a little uncomfortable for us – Christianity on the march suggests action, marching for Christ.
In Jesus’ eyes there is no such thing as Christians not on the march (Acts 1:8). The early chapters of Acts link to the end of the gospels, the disciples being witnesses to the ends of the earth. Yet they stayed in Jerusalem waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit. This was the key. The promised Holy Spirit came, those ordinary Galilean fishermen stand up for the cause of Christ in front of thousands of Jews to fearlessly to proclaim the gospel. As Peter stands and preaches a wonderful sermon, Christianity begins its wonderful march.
Christianity on the march stands up, has confidence in the Bible, makes much of the death, resurrection, reign and return of Jesus Christ and tells the world to repent.
What does Christianity on the march look like? What does a Spirit-filled church look like?
The early days of the Christian church were the best times. But in chapter 5 behaviour comes into church that you wouldn’t expect. These verse have much to teach us.
- A Spirit-filled church is a church that learns (verse 42). The early Christians were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. Interesting, their 3,000 new converts had just witnessed a massive supernatural event. Yet, for them, they didn’t want more miracles, they wanted to learn, they were hungry to know more. They were hungry for instruction. Throughout the New Testament believers grow from listening and studying the Bible (2 Timothy 3:14).
The question is, what did the apostles teach and preach? 2 Timothy 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:23, 1 John 1:1. They taught and preached Jesus Christ – that’s it! The person and work of Jesus Christ as witnessed by them first hand. What about us? Are we devoted to what the apostles taught and preached? Do we spend time devoting ourselves to the Bible? Do we live by this scripture day by day? James 1:22
What is our attitude as we come to church Sunday by Sunday? Do we come with expectation, that the Word will do something in our lives? After the service, what is the nature of our conversation?
- A Spirit-filled church is a church that loves (verse 42). We use the word ‘fellowship’ a lot. Fellowship comes from the Greek word ‘Koinonia’ which means ‘to have in common.’ What did the early believers have in common? They had God Himself (1 John 1:3, 1 Corinthians 13:14). Our church fellowship is Trinitarian, with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What gets us through the hard times is having God as our ‘koinonia.’ The early church believers also had in common what they shared as believers, what they gave as well as what they received. They shared their possessions (verse 45). As modern, Western, affluent Christians these are disturbing words. Do we literally sell all possessions and give everything to the poor, like monastic orders? The answer comes in verse 46 – we can observe that the early Christians still had homes. In verse 45 we can see they gave as they had need. Giving was occasional and met certain needs. Giving was voluntary (Acts 5). But, you can’t avoid reading verses like this and seeing there was a huge generosity among the Christians, particularly with regard to the poor and needy. They early Christians loved in deed and word. They shared and gave, shared and gave. I John 3:17. Are we generous? We have gifts from God to give away. Do we truly care for the needy in our world? James 2:14
- A Spirit-filled church is a church that worships (verse 42). The early Christians were devoted to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. They were devoted to corporate worship, they were devoted to the Lord’s Supper and to the prayer meetings. They were devoted to remembering the Lord’s Supper. When we see communion laid out, what’s in our hearts? JC Ryle states, “No wonder that an ordinance was specially appointed to remind us of our Saviour’s death. It is the one thing which poor, weak, sinful man needs to be continually reminded.’ Are we glad of the opportunity to break bread together as a company of God’s people, to have a chance to be bowled over by Him?
The early Christians were also devoted to prayers, the prayer meeting. Isn’t it striking that these new believers weren’t devoted to asking for more miracles but to the prayer meetings? What is my attitude to the prayer meeting? Do we ache to be at our church’s prayer meeting? Daniel was devoted to prayer (Daniel 6:10). He prayed even when it meant the death sentence for him.
What about the style of worship? The style of worship of the early church had to be varied (verse 46). It took place daily in the temple courts as well as in spontaneous meetings. It is a good balance to have.
Observe, their worship together was both joyful and reverent. They broke bread in their homes and had glad and sincere hearts. What do you expect! They were Christians so had every reason to be joyful. They were understandably overjoyed that they were Christians, they were chuffed to bits. Are we amazed to be in this privileged position? Do we meet together in exaltation? John Stott wrote, ‘It is right in public worship to be dignified; it is unforgiveable to be dull.” The early Christians were reverent, filled with awe. They saw God’s holiness, His majesty, His otherness. Do we have that view of God? Isaiah 40.
- A Spirit-filled church is a church that has an impact on the world around it (verse 47). The climax to this passage, which also should be the climax of our hearts too. The Lord added to the number daily. The early believers had not forgotten the world; they were witnessing. A Spirit-filled church evangelises. The book of Acts shows Christianity on the march. Even persecution doesn’t stop them from witnessing. Acts 8:4. They gossiped the gospel wherever they went. Who is bringing the people to new life? God, the head of the church. That’s why, however we feel about our own witness, we carry on witnessing because it’s out of our hands, it’s in the Lord’s. The witnessing has to be constant, daily.
Let’s pray we show more of the marks of a Spirit-filled church.