Acts 018 – The Beginning of the Church Age (pt. 12)Acts Acts 2:43-44 • Dr. Andy Woods • April 12, 2023 • Acts
The Beginning of The Church Age (PT. 12)
April 12, 2023
Dr. Andy Woods
Let’s take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Acts. Acts chapter 2 and verse 43. As you know, we’ve been studying the book of Acts, kind of putting the finishing touches, Lord willing, on Acts 2 this evening. So just a reminder of Acts 2 you’ve seen the coming of the Holy Spirit, verses 1 through 4. The Holy Spirit’s impact verses, 5 through 13, as the apostles were speaking in known languages that they had never studied or learned. And then Peter gives a sermon, verses 14 through 36 explaining that these manifestations are not the result of drunkenness as unbelief in the crowd was saying. But these are actually the outworkings of the Ministry of Jesus Christ, who is continuing to perform miracles now at the Father’s right hand. And then you go down to verses 37 through 47, which is the section we’ve been studying of recent. And this relates to the sermon’s impact. First of all, this sermon that Peter preached had a large impact because about 3000 souls are saved at this point, verses 37 through 41. And then what do you do with 3000 new converts? Well, you have church. And so what you see described beginning in verse 42 through the end of the chapter is the first church meeting in Jerusalem. So it’s always instructive to look at how the early church functioned and to always ask ourselves, Are we doing the same things they did? Because I think Christendom, Christianity is always in need of reformation.
You know, getting back to sort of more of the original model of church. So last time we saw their priorities, verse 42. And then we’re going to just pick it up right there with verse 43, where you have a historical account of the miracles. The miracles that were happening. Acts 2:43, it says, “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.” Notice that first part there. “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe.” The word or there- I’m reading out of the NASB. The word “awe” is the word phobos in Greek. You know where we get the word phobia. Basically, there was happening there in the early church what we would call the fear of the Lord. The Book of Proverbs 1:7 says, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of- who said wisdom? Okay. That’s not the right answer. It does say that later, but I’m reading the first reference to the fear of the Lord in the Book of Proverbs. So let’s try this again. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Yeah, because you can’t have wisdom- which is knowledge applied- until you have knowledge. So one of the things that happens to the human mind when it rejects a knowledge of God is the brain doesn’t function correctly. Paul at the end of Romans 1 called it a darkened mind, becomes futile in its speculations.
Paul uses the expression a futile mind, a depraved mind, a mind that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to work. So the mind only works correctly when it’s submitted to God. Satan, who was brilliant, the book of Ezekiel chapter 28 tells us, was darkened in his understanding. His wisdom became darkened because he rejected a relationship with the true God. And that’s what happens in the angelic realm and in the human realm when people reject God. They can’t think correctly. So here’s a chart that I like to use from time to time. This comes from David Barton’s book, Original Intent. And those are SAT scores in the United States. And you’ll notice that there are sort of hovering around the same place until the year 1962 and in 1963. It almost drops off precipitously. It’s almost a free fall from that point on. And so you ask yourself, well, what in the world happened in 1962 to 1963? Did a meteor hit the planet or what? Well, as you know, that was the year the Supreme Court threw Bible reading and prayer out of the schools. In other words, we just told God, we’re not going to have you in our classroom anymore. My mom, who was reared in the public school system here in the Houston area prior to this long before this, you know, would tell me that her public school teacher would read to her from the Book of Psalms, you know, before every before every school day.
So it was it was a very different world pre 1962-1963. But you’ll notice that when we told God, we’re going to just learn, but we don’t want you involved in it. That’s when our nation became stupid. That’s when our knowledge started to become subtracted, if you can put it that way. This is what Paul is talking about when he says they were given over to a reprobate mind. So the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. And what you see here in the early church is a clear fear of the Lord. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe. And fear of the Lord Is not this thing where you’re walking around scared and trembling. It really has to do with respect for God, respect for His principles and rules. And when a human being will deposit himself in the presence of Jesus and basically say, I’m going to submit my will to Yours, that’s when the mind becomes enlightened because it’s functioning the way God intended. So there was this sense of awe. And then verse 43 says, And many wonders and signs were taking place. The Greek word for signs and wonders is sémeion, signs and teras, wonders. And notice that there were not just a few, there were many. So when you track down those words, sémeion and teras, you see that they were active in the Ministry of Jesus when you look at the right hand column there.
Jesus did signs, sémeion, John 20:30. He did wonders, teras, Acts 2:22. So the point is that the miracles that Jesus did in His earthly ministry He is now replicating through the church. He’s just doing them from the Father’s right hand. Peter in his sermon earlier in the chapter drew attention to Christ’s miracles when he was on the earth. He said, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you-” witnessed to you, in other words, proven to you- “by God with miracles, signs and wonders which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know.” So Jesus, when He was on the earth, did the sémeion, the signs and he did the teras, the wonders. And in the early church He was continuing that miracle working ministry, but from the Father’s right hand. So obviously the attributing the languages that the apostles were speaking in to drunkenness is not much of an explanation. These wonders were taking place because Jesus was continuing His ministry, but this time he was doing it through the church. The whole book of John, as you probably know, is set up according to Christ’s seven signs, sémeion. It says there in John 20:30-31, which is the purpose statement of John’s gospel.
It says, “Therefore many other signs-” that’s sémeion– “Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;” In other words, if I told you everything Jesus said or did in terms of miracles, the Gospel of John would be a lot bigger than what it is now. “but these,” seven signs, in other words, “have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” So John wrote the Gospel of John to prove to the unsaved person that Jesus is the Son of God the Christ. And one of the ways John proves that is by showing you here’s seven of many signs I could talk about. Here are seven. And then, of course, John doesn’t want you to just say wonderful lesson in Christology. He wants unsaved people to read this and place their faith in Christ so that they can be saved. So that’s why when you run into people in your home or family or workplace that know you’re Christian. And they sometimes will ask you, I’m investigating the claims of Christ, the Bible. What book of the Bible should I read? You immediately would send them to John’s gospel because that’s why John’s gospel is written. It’s written with an evangelistic purpose. So John focuses on seven signs. Christ’s first sign is He changed water to wine. The last sign, He brought back Lazarus from the dead.
And in between, He healed the official’s son. He healed the invalid by the pool of Bethesda. You can see all the verses where these occurred in the right-hand column there. He fed the 5000. He walked on the water. He healed the blind man. And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus actually performs an eighth sign. He rose from the dead. John Records that. We just celebrated that last Sunday. Of course, we should probably celebrate that every Sunday. Amen? And then He actually does a ninth sign, Jesus, in John’s Gospel, the miraculous Catch of the Fish, where He tells the disciples to throw their net on the other side of the boat and they have so much fish to bring in that there’s not enough room. The boat starts to sink and so forth. So there’s actually nine signs when you think about it. But these are all cataloged by John, who was an eyewitness to these things, to show people that Jesus really is the Christ, the son of God, and therefore, since He is who He claimed to be, as evidenced by His claims and His signs, you should trust Him for salvation and receive the gift of eternal life. So these miracles that were happening in the early church were just a continuation of Christ’s ministry that He was doing when He was on the earth, which was miraculous in nature. Now there is something that most people miss, and it’s the end of verse 43.
It says, “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe,” phobos, “and many wonders and signs were taking place,” teras, sémeion. Now notice this- “through the apostles.” These miracles were happening through the Apostles. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, in his Acts commentary, says, “The apostles did many signs and wonders. In fact, the only ones who perform miracles in the Book of Acts were [either] the apostles or their delegates, such as Stephen (Acts 6:8). These apostolic delegates were appointed by the laying on of hands by the apostles.” Now look at this last sentence. “Signs and wonders were not performed by the believers at large.” Because as you know, today we have the signs and wonders movement, the charismatic movement, and they go to the Book of Acts for their authority, meaning that if miracles happened in the early church, then we should be doing the same kinds of miracles today. More of an experiential ecclesiology or doctrine of the church. But what you’ll discover in the Book of Acts is the only people doing miracles are the apostles or those whom the apostles specifically laid hands on. Second Corinthians 12:12 says “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance by signs and wonders and miracles.” Notice Paul talks about the signs of an apostle. The reason that the miracles revolved around the apostles is because the Lord built the church on the foundation stones of the apostles.
In Ephesians 2:20, it says, “having built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.” Now here, Paul, in the book of Ephesians is analogizing the building of the church to a metaphorical temple. And in the ancient world, when you built a temple, the first stone you put into the ground was what’s called the cornerstone. And that was the most important stone because you use that stone to measure the distance relative to where all the other stones should be in the temple. So if you don’t have the cornerstone, you don’t have anything. So Jesus is the cornerstone. And then the next stones that go in are the foundation stones. And you build the structure on the foundation. If you don’t have the right foundation, then you’re going to have a problematic building. And that’s why there’s all this information that we read about in Acts 1 about, okay, Judas has killed himself. We have to replace him with Matthias. And all that information was given how they did that to demonstrate that the church was built on the right foundation stones, twelve apostles, Matthias having replaced the deceased Judas. And so that’s the foundation of the church. And you only lay a foundation once. Anybody in construction and building will tell you that. And so that’s why there were these signs, tongues, languages, miracles, signs and wonders that revolved around the apostles.
The apostles were the foundation of the church. Now, we have a lot of people today that are claiming to be apostles and they’re claiming to do signs and wonders. But the truth of the matter is you only lay a foundation to a building one time. God in the 21st century is not relaying the foundation of the church. What He’s been doing for the last 2000 years is building on that foundation. I would actually argue that today He’s putting on the roof of the building. Because we’re pretty close, I would think, to the end of the church age. So this is something that never comes out when you run into people that claim to be apostles, they claim to be prophets, they claim to be doing signs and wonders. Is this never really explained that those miracles revolved around the apostles and they were the foundation of the church. And you only lay a foundation once. I’ve given you this chart before concerning the miracles in the Bible. They have a tendency to revolve around times in history where God is doing something new. So miracles cluster around the time of Moses because something brand new was happening. The law of Moses was being given. Miracles cluster around the time period of Joshua because something brand new was happening. The land of Canaan was being conquered. Miracles cluster around the Elijah and Elisha stories because something new was happening there.
God was raising up a new office called the Prophet who was calling wayward kings back to the Covenant. Miracles have a tendency to cluster around the Ministry of Jesus because something brand new was happening there. The kingdom was being offered on a silver platter to first century Israel. Miracles have a tendency to cluster around the apostles in the Book of Acts because something brand new was happening there. The church was just getting off the ground. And then the next Signs and Wonders movement will relate to the tribulation period and the millennial kingdom because something brand new will happen there. That’s the establishment of God’s kingdom on the Earth. So other than those time periods you don’t have in biblical history, a lot of miracles transpiring. Now that raises a question. People say, well, do you think God can do miracles today? And my answer is yes. Even though we don’t have apostles and prophets like we had at the foundation of the church. If I didn’t think God could do miracles, I wouldn’t pray for anybody to get well. So I do believe God does miracles. I do believe, though, that if a miracle occurs, it’s more of the exception rather than the rule. And when God does the miracle, He does it directly, rather than indirectly through an apostle or someone that has the gift of working miracles. So this is kind of our perspective here at Sugar Land Bible Church on this issue of signs and wonders.
So we’re really not as a church connected to the segment of the Body of Christ called the Charismatic Movement, where they would basically argue that everything in the Book of Acts continues right on into the present. We would be more in a what we would call a selective cessationist mindset. You’ll see this in our position statements. We don’t have prophets today like we did at the foundation of the church. We don’t have apostles. If we see miracles, it’s God doing it directly rather than indirectly. And miracles are more of the exception rather than the norm. But in these areas here it was the opposite. Miracles were the norm rather than the exception. And Paul the apostle says something very interesting at the end of his life in Second Timothy 4:20. Now, keep in mind, Paul wrote this just before he was ready to die. Because he says a couple of verses earlier, I think it’s around verse  in Second Timothy 4, I’m already being poured out as a drink offering. And the time of my departure is at hand. So this is what Paul says at the end of his life. Now, keep in mind, this is a guy that brought people back from the dead. Remember Eutychus? Fell out of the window because Paul preached too long one night. I’m glad that never happens. And the guy fell asleep and he died.
And Paul went- remember- in Troas, Acts 20. We’ll read about it in our study of the Book of Acts. Paul went down and laid hands on him, and he brought him back to life. Brought him back from the dead. So Paul was a man of signs and wonders. I mean, clearly. But he says something very interesting at the very end of his life. This would be about A>D. 67. He says, “Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.” So Paul, who brought back people from the dead, didn’t or wasn’t able to heal somebody? A man named Trophimus. So how could you bring people back from the dead in the Book of Acts. But leave someone sick at Miletus. I think it argues for a general sort of petering out of the apostolic gift of miracles as the apostles pass from the scene. So this is a perspective that we come from called selective cessationism. There are gifts of the Holy Spirit today, but there are certain gifts of the Holy Spirit that have ceased. And we think this is borne out not only in Scripture, but we think it’s also borne out in the writings of the early church fathers. Here’s a statement from Chrysostom, end of the fourth century, beginning of the fifth century. And he’s talking about Corinth. Corinth was well known for its signs and wonders. Paul wrote to them and said, You have every spiritual gift.
So they got out of control with their spiritual gifts, where they were putting people that spoke in tongues on a pedestal and prophets were prophesying to the point where they were interrupting each other. And so Paul says, okay, one or two prophets at a time, or actually two to three prophets at a time, and everyone else should listen carefully to what is what is being said. So Corinth was a place of signs and wonders. But Chrysostom in the fourth century says, “This whole place is very obscure; but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur-” signs and wonders in other words- “used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not now happen? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity has produced us again another question: namely, why did they [then] happen, and now do so no more?” So Chrysostom is saying that the certain sign gifts cease to exist at least by the fourth century as he was looking at Corinth. Augustine said the same thing. Here’s Augustine writing at the end of the fourth century, beginning of the fifth century. And he writes in his commentary on First John. Chrysostom was writing a commentary on First Corinthians, and he was trying to explain why what you see in chapters 12 through 14 in First Corinthians isn’t happening anymore.
So this is what Augustine is saying too. Augustine says, “In the earliest times, the Holy Spirit fell upon them that believed; and they spoke with tongues, which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:4. These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth.” In other words, the Holy Spirit testified to the gospel through signs and wonders, through the apostles at the beginning of the church age is what Augustine is saying. He says, “That thing was done for a betokening, and it passed away…If then the witness of the presence of the Holy Ghost be not now given through these miracles, by what is it given, by what does one get to know that he has received the Holy Ghost?” So a lot of interesting things to talk about here. But he said those kinds of things passed away. So Augustine says that, Chrysostom says that. And here’s a quote from Philip Schaff. Philip Schaff probably wrote the most authoritative treatment of church history ever. He wrote it in his classic called The History of the Christian Church. And here’s his study of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
He says, We do not know how long the glossolalia-” that’s the tongues- “as thus described by Paul, continued. It passed away gradually with the other extraordinary or strictly supernatural gifts of the apostolic age. It is not mentioned in the Pastoral, nor the [general epistles.] We have put a few allusions to it at the close of the second century. Irenaeus speaks of ‘many brethren’ whom he heard in the church having the gift of prophecy and of speaking in ‘diverse tongues,’ bringing the hidden things of men to light and expounding upon the mysteries of God. It is not clear whether by the term ‘diverse,’ which does not elsewhere occur, he means a speaking in foreign languages, or in diversities of tongues altogether peculiar like those meant by Paul. The latter is more probable. Irenaeus himself had to learn the language of Gaul. Tertullian obscurely speaks of the spiritual gifts, including the gift of tongues, as being still manifest among the Montanists-” if I’m pronouncing that right- “to whom he belonged. At the time of Chrysostom-” excuse me- “it had entirely disappeared; at least he accounts for the obscurity of the gift from our ignorance of the fact. From that time on the glossolalia was usually misunderstood as a miraculous and permanent gift of foreign languages for [foreign] missionary purposes. But the whole history of missions furnishes no clear example of such a gift for such a purpose.” So Schaff, in his classic book, History of the Christian Church, says the sign gifts disappeared. Augustine in the fourth century says the sign gifts disappeared.
Chrysostom, fourth century, beginning of the fifth century, said the sign gifts disappeared. Paul the Apostle, who brought people back from the dead is indicating, I think, that the apostolic gifts were fading away because he left a man named Trophimus sick at Miletus. So I’m just giving you an explanation as to why you can read Acts 2:43 and not be pulled into the idea that the exact same signs and wonders have to happen today. A lot of Christendom, a lot of Christianity teaches that. We do not teach that here. For some of the reasons I’ve explained. But I also want to be clear that we do believe in the supernatural. If we didn’t believe in the supernatural, we wouldn’t pray for anybody to get well. I mean, didn’t Brother Jim just lead us in a lot of prayer requests for people? Obviously, we’re seeking God’s hand to move in the lives of people, which would be miraculous. But we believe that if and when God chooses to sovereignly do that, He does that directly rather than indirectly through an alleged apostle. And when it happens, it’s more of the exception rather than the rule or the norm. Miracles, as far as I’m understanding it there in verse 43 and verse 44, was normative. But things have changed. So what did the early church give themselves to? They gave themselves to certain priorities, verse 42.
They gave themselves to the miraculous, verse 43. And they gave themselves to unity. Look at verse 44. “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common. Now notice the word believed. The word believed, we think, is a synonym for received, verse 41, and repentance, verse 38. See first in Acts 2, Luke, concerning salvation, uses the word repent- change of mind. And then later in verse 41 he uses the word received for people coming to Christ. But the major word that’s used in the New Testament is the word believed. Believe means to trust. When someone trusts Christ for salvation. What has automatically happened? They’ve received Christ. And their mind has changed. They’ve repented. So Lewis Sperry Chafer in his systematic theology concerning the word repentance, says, “This vital newness of mind is part of believing, after all, and therefore it may be used as a synonym for believing at times. Repentance nevertheless cannot be added to believing as a condition of salvation, because upwards of 150 passages of Scripture conditioned salvation upon believing only.” God over 150 times tells the lost sinner exactly what they have to do to be saved. They have to believe. Did you catch that in John’s purpose statement? Back in John 20:30-31. “Therefore, many other signs Jesus performed in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these have been written so that you might-” what’s the next word?- “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. And that by believing you may have life in his name.” You hear the gospel and you’re convicted of your need to believe the gospel, and you no longer trust in yourself, but you trust in the gospel for your eternity. And that trust means that you’re a Christian in a single step. Well, where does repentance fit in? Well, in this kind of context, repentance means change of mind. metanoeó. meta– change, –noeó, mind. Your mind changed about Jesus. So when you trusted in Him, you automatically repented. And simultaneously you automatically, Acts 2:41, received Him. So a synonym is basically a different word. The same meaning. The dominant word that’s used is believe. But sometimes the Bible will throw in a few synonyms. A synonym for believe is receive. A synonym for believe, the way I’m trying to explain it, is repentance. Now, why is that important? Because a lot of people will tell you, well, you really need to do three things to get saved. You got to repent. You’ve got to receive. And you’ve got to believe. One, two, three. And if you do one of the three or two of the three instead of three of the three, then you’re not a Christian. Well, that’s nonsense, because the Bible isn’t laying these things out as three different steps you have to take. It’s a single step of belief.
Those other words are just synonymous with the word believe. So there’s only one step. I mean, you see it with the patriarch, Abraham. Genesis 15:6. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness. He believed. He repented, I guess, simultaneously and received simultaneously. But the important word that’s used is believed. So I bring that up because Luke here in Acts is using these as synonyms. And if you don’t understand that, you’ll get confused and think you’ve got to do three things, four things, five things to get saved. When the Bible says no, you just need to do one thing. So going back to verse 44, it says, “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common.” So the church was unified. This is an answer to a prayer that Jesus gave called the High Priestly Prayer in John 17. In fact, this here is the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is not in Matthew 6. Matthew 6 is the disciples prayer, where He’s teaching them how to pray. Jesus never prayed once in Matthew 6. I hope he didn’t because one of the clauses in there is forgive us our debts, our sins. I don’t think Jesus had any sin. But if you want to understand His prayer and it goes a whole chapter, I’m just giving you a few verses out of it. The truly the Lord’s Prayer is in John 17.
It’s called the High Priestly Prayer. It’s the intercession of Christ first for Himself, next for the disciples, and then for the soon to be birthed church. And it’s a magnificent chapter where you really see what’s on Christ’s mind prior to the cross as he becomes engaged in this prayer. But part of the prayer, He says this. He says, “I do not ask [for] these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word.” So I’m not just praying for Myself. I’m not just praying for the twelve. I’m praying for the church that’s going to be birthed through the twelve. And He made a specific prayer “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that you sent Me. The glory which you have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so the world may know that You sent Me, and love them, even as You have loved Me.” And what He’s saying here is for the church that’s about to be birthed on the day of Pentecost. I pray that they would be unified. In fact, I pray that they would have the exact same unity that we members of the Trinity have the exact same unity that I have with the Father and the Father has with Me.
Because once the world sees that, then they’re going to know that You sent Me. Because He said earlier in John, in this upper room discourse, John 13, I think is verse 35, all men will know you are my disciples by your love for one another. That’s what gets the world’s attention. It’s not so much our fine sounding arguments. It’s when they see unity in the body of Christ the world takes note of that. It’s an apologetic to the world that Jesus, in fact, is the Son of God and was sent into the world by God the Father. So what you are seeing here in Acts 2:44, where they were together and had all things in common. This is an answer to that prayer request. The prayer request has been answered. Now, the interesting thing about John 17:20-23 is verse 17 comes before verse 20. You guys with me on that? Can we say that again? In John 17, verse 17 comes before verse 20. And in verse 17, He makes this statement in the prayer. “Sanctify them by the truth; Thy word is truth.” So why am I bringing this up? Jesus never promoted a unity at the expense of truth. Everybody quotes verses 20 through 23 in terms of the church all has to come together. And typically what they mean by that is yeah, let’s get the Mormons in here.
Let’s get the Roman Catholics in here. Let’s get the Lordship Salvationists in here. Let’s get the Jehovah’s Witnesses in here. Let’s get the Church of Christ in here, and let’s just all hold hands across America kind of thing. And once we do that, then the world will know that Jesus is true. So what- and what I’m describing here is what’s called the ecumenical movement. The siren song of ecumenism, the urge to merge. You know, let’s all come together and be one. I was involved with Promise Keepers in the day where Promise Keepers packing out stadiums, men all in large stadiums saying let the walls fall down. Singing that, meaning the denominational walls, doctrinal walls, let them all fall down. I remember the guy that was the head of it, Coach McCartney, saying, you know, Promise Keepers doesn’t care if you’re- and he started to go through the different denominations. Promise Keepers doesn’t care if you’re Baptist as long as you’re born again and love Jesus. Promise Keepers doesn’t care if you’re Methodist as long as you’re born again and love Jesus. And I was like saying, That’s- That’s right. That’s right. Then he said, Promise Keepers doesn’t care if you’re Catholic. As long as you’re born again and love Jesus. Now, I’m not. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not denying there could be saved Catholics, but that’s in spite of their Catholicism. It’s not because of their Catholicism.
And I think God’s agenda for born again Catholics is to get them out of the Roman Catholic Church. I think that’s the clear spirits leading. But I remember Coach McCartney saying that and I thought to myself, Well, why don’t we just keep going with this? Promise Keepers doesn’t care if you’re Mormon as long as you’re born again and love Jesus. I mean, once you move into Catholicism and once you move into Mormonism. You’re not dealing with the same Jesus. You’re dealing with a different Jesus. And there were some things in Promise Keepers that I enjoyed. I’m not here to just tear everything down. But there was a very strong- I remember it very clearly late 1990s- There was a very strong ecumenical current in Promise Keepers. And what you’ll see all the time in the ecumenical movement is they will quote these verses over and over again. They will start at verse 20 and go through verse 23. And the last time I checked, verse 17 comes before verse 23 where Jesus emphasizes truth. So Jesus in this prayer is not saying let’s come together at the expense of truth. In fact, when you’re listening to people that are telling you need to water down truth so we can be joined with other groups, that’s not the voice of Jesus. That’s the voice of the ecumenical movement. A lot of people have told me you need to really play down the Pre-trib rapture.
You need to play it down. Why do we need to play it down? Well, because we need to be at peace with all the other churches in the community. Well, that’s not the voice of Jesus, because the Pre-trib rapture is in the Bible. I didn’t invent the Pre-trib rapture. It’s in the Bible. And if you’re telling me I’ve got a water something down so we can get along with group A or group B or group C down the street. That’s not the voice of Jesus because you’re only quoting Jesus in verses 20 through 23. You left out verse 17. Jesus was very clear. You have to put truth first. And unity is a wonderful thing, but it’s never at the expense of truth. In fact, if you want in the Bible, an example of a movement that was very unified but had no truth in it at all, look at the Tower of Babel. Boy, they had unity, didn’t they? They came together with one language and they were building a stairway to heaven and they were going to make a name for themselves. And God wasn’t happy with it- right? That’s why He confused the language so that the builders couldn’t cooperate. I mean, if the only goal at the end of the day is unity, why did God disrupt what was happening at the Tower of Babel? Jesus is not into unity at the expense of truth. It’s a unity that is to be built on truth.
That’s why the foundation stones in the church are the apostles, the apostolic doctrine that they represented. Twenty-seven New Testament books. If you want to be unified, you’ve got to be unified around that. And as you look at Acts 2 very carefully, doesn’t verse 42 come before verse 44? Can I get an amen on that? Just like in John 17, doesn’t verse 17 come before verse 20? Well, here we’re reading about unity in the early church. Acts 2:44, everybody quotes that, the ecumenist. They all quote that, but they left out verse 42, which says, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles-” what? “-teaching.” The early church never pursued unity at the expense of truth. They never were told to water this truth down or water that truth down so we could all be one. The ecumenical movement is saying that. The Parliament of One World Religions is saying that. Jesus is not saying that. And the Book of Acts is not teaching that. Now even beyond that, and I’m kind of going this direction because I’ve just sat through countless presentations where I’ve seen these verses misrepresented. Even beyond that, Christ’s prayer for a unified church has already been answered. You know, when it was answered? The moment the Holy Spirit, in Acts 2, began the baptizing Ministry of the Spirit. As we’ve demonstrated in prior teachings Acts 2 is when that ministry started and that’s what unified the church.
The baptizing Ministry of the Holy Spirit. Greek baptizo means identification or the Spirit at the point of faith alone in Christ alone takes men and women and identifies them with the body of Christ. Which is what happens the moment you trust Christ as Savior. The Spirit takes you and joins you to Christ’s metaphorical body, the church. Now you might be a hand or a leg or an ankle or an eye. You might be a mouth. I think God made me a mouth in the church. I’m a mouth. But whatever your role is, the Spirit took you at the point of faith alone in Christ alone and baptized you- baptizo, Greek- identified you with Christ’s body. And you may not even decided what denomination you are. Are you going to be a Bible church person or a Baptist or a Methodist or whatever. That’s all irrelevant. The Holy Spirit took you and connected you to His body, the universal church. Water baptism, which this is not speaking of here, is an outward symbol of that. An outward symbol of an inner reality. We were just talking earlier about how we’ve got a bunch of people in our church that want to be baptized in water, which is wonderful, but water baptism doesn’t create this. The Holy Spirit creates this. Water baptism is a testimony that it’s happened to a person. So the baptizing work of the Spirit is mentioned by Paul in first Corinthians 12:13, and he says, “For by one spirit we were all-” notice that if this hasn’t happened to you, then you’re not a Christian.
“We were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free…we were all-” I love the “all’s” here. He keeps mentioning the “all’s”. “we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” And he goes through the divisions of Greco-Roman society. Jews versus Greeks, slaves versus free. Huge divisions. Elsewhere, Galatians 3:28. Male versus female. I mean, just huge barriers that cut Greco-Roman society apart. And if people from those different segments of society are believers in Jesus, then those barriers just got overcome by the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit took them at the point of faith and connected them to Jesus body. And you could be in the body of Christ with someone of a different ethnicity. A different gender. Someone that speaks a different language than you. Someone that lives in a different neighborhood than you. I mean, they could be Republican and you could be Democrat. Just don’t tell anybody about that. No, I’m just kidding. I mean, whatever, you know. I found this very interesting because our society is really talking about so-called race issues today. We’ve got the greatest book that’s ever been written on race. You want racial reconciliation? Get people from different ethnicities trusting in Christ because that just connects us all together. And we’re all part of the same body, regardless of color, creed, ethnicity, socioeconomic standing, what kind of car we drive or don’t drive.
So Paul says, “For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” That’s why you see the unity that you see there in verse 44. And when this started to happen, it’s a supernatural work of God and He continues to do it for the last 2000 years. When this starts to happen, it’s an answer to the prayer request of Jesus that they may be one even as We are one. Now, Lewis Sperry Chafer says this. And he’s reacting to the ecumenical movement in his day, where people are using John in his day, just like they use in our day. John 17:20-23. That we all got to come together as one. Because if we don’t all come together as one and we don’t break down denominational barriers, then the world will not know that Jesus has been sent by the father. It’s the same mindset that I saw many years ago in the Promise Keepers movement. Ecumenism. Big tent mindset. And don’t talk about certain doctrines because that might alienate brother or sister down the street. You got to water the truth down to get everybody in the room so we can get this prayer request answered.
Chafer said that is a ridiculous way of thinking because the prayer request has already been answered. It’s been answered through the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. Once the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit started in Acts 2, that’s when Christ’s prayer given in the upper room, John 17:20-23 started to get answered. So Chafer is saying those verses have nothing to do with the ecumenical movement. Nothing to do with us trying to be more unified to get the church in a John 17:20-23 package. What Schaeffer is saying is it’s already in that package. The package started in Acts 2. So look at what Schaefer says, He says, “Thoughtless and absurd,” I like these older guys the way they write- you know? They just don’t- they just kind of say what’s on their mind. No beating around the bush, you know? “Thoughtless and absurd is the modern notion that Christ was praying that denominations which exist in this remote time and in a country then unknown might become organically united in one, and therefore it is the duty of all sects to unite and thus help to answer this prayer.” See, the ecumenical movement says we all got to get together to get this prayer request answered. Chafer says that’s thoughtless and absurd because the prayer request already got answered in Acts two. He continues and he says, “as indicated [before], this unity is sought at the hand of the Father, indicating that it is a divine undertaking.”
Jesus in the prayer is not asking us to do anything. He’s asking the Father to do this. The Father answered the prayer request to the baptizing ministry in Acts 2. It’s got nothing to do with, Let’s pal around with people that we don’t agree with theologically. That’s a misuse of the passage. He says, “It is that, and it results in a unity as organic and vital as that between the Father and the Son. This prayer began to be answered on the day of Pentecost when believers were by the spirit baptized into one Body, and it is constantly answered whenever a soul is saved and thus joined as a member to the body of Christ by the same baptism of the Spirit.” So in other words, don’t use John 17:20-23 to preach ecumenism. That’s not what it’s talking about. A) Jesus talked about a unity around truth and not at the expense of it and B) Jesus was not telling us in the 21st century to all get together in a coliseum and let’s sing let the walls fall down. That’s not what he’s talking about. He’s praying to the Father for unity and the Father answered that through the baptizing ministry in Acts two. And look at that. We’re out of time. I didn’t get a chance to talk about communism. I was just getting on a roll here.
Is Jesus a communist? That’s our next topic because it sure looks like communism. In verse 44, Jesus was a pinko, right? Jesus was a commie. Early church loved communism. And the reason I bring this up is the church today is being hit by the social justice movement. Where they’re trying to mix Marxism with Christianity. Except they don’t call it Marxism anymore. They call it equity. They call it social justice. And what they’re preaching- and your children and your grandchildren are all being hit with this- is they’re basically being hit with liberation theology, which is an old bad doctrine. It’s just given, you know, put lipstick on a pig, I guess. It just looks a little nicer today. You just give it the name social justice. So you have all these young people today that think Jesus was sort of like Fidel Castro. He was like a social reformer, and He wants to bring in redistribution of the wealth and reparations and universal health care. And their excuse for it is there. It is right there in verse 45, It’s communism. So we have to be able to think through that, which we’ll do next time