Acts 019 – The Beginning of the Church Age (pt. 13)Acts 2:45-47 • Dr. Andy Woods • April 19, 2023 • Acts
The Beginning of The Church Age (PT. 13)
April 19, 2023
Dr. Andy Woods
Let’s open our Bibles this evening to the Book of Acts chapter 2. And we are really, really, truly going to finish Acts 2 tonight. I know I’ve said that for the last five weeks. But all we have to do is do three verses. Reminds me of the old- well, can I talk about beer commercials from the pulpit? The old Rodney Dangerfield in the beer commercial where he was bowling and they say, Rodney, we just need one pin. You guys remember that? No? All right. Now that I’ve totally outed myself. So all we need is three pins and we’re done. Anyway, that went over like a pregnant pole vaulter, didn’t it? All right, let’s go to Acts 2:45. And this is a very pivotal chapter in not just the Book of Acts, but the whole Bible. You have the coming of the Holy Spirit, verses 1 through 4. The Spirit’s impact, verses 5 through 13, where the Apostles were speaking in languages that they had never learned and yet were completely understandable in those languages. Around verse 13, unbelief kicks in where people in the crowd were saying, Ah, this is just- this is nothing to do with the Spirit. This is just related to drunkenness. So that gives an opportunity for Peter’s sermon, verses 14 through 36, that we’ve walked through very carefully, where Peter is basically explaining that the source of these miraculous manifestations is not drunkenness.
But rather it is the work of Jesus who at one point did miracles in your midst. But you, Israel rejected him. You turned Him over to Rome for execution. He died on a cross. He rose from the dead. He ascended back to the Father’s right hand. And He’s continuing His miraculous ministry from the Father’s right hand. And that’s really the point of Peter’s message there. And he beautifully weaves together, I think, at least four Old Testament passages to communicate that. So this is a masterpiece of a sermon that the Holy Spirit used, and every great sermon has a great impact. And Peter has an impact. You see 3000 people saved, verses 37 through 41, about 3000 souls. So then what do you do with 3000 new converts? Well, you have the first church meeting. And so the chapter ends with these 3000 people, along with the apostles, and then the 120 who were with the apostles also before these conversions all coming together. And they’re having their first church meeting there in Jerusalem. And so this is the beginning of the church, verses 42 through 47. So that’s the section we’re in right now. We’ve seen the priorities they were pursuing, verse 42. The miracles that were happening, verse 43. The unity that they were enjoying, verse 44. And then you come to verse 45 where they were so unified, they were actually involved in a communal living. So what does verse 45 say? It says, “And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing with all, as anyone might have need.”
So before I try to explain what this is, I need to explain what this is not. As you probably know, there’s a very strong Marxist revolution- I hate to just come out and say it that way- happening in our country. And Antonio Gramsci, a well known communist from the I think the World War II era, basically fell out of favor with the communists of his day because he said, you guys are going about this all wrong. You don’t conquer countries through force if you’re going to bring in lasting change. What you have to do is you have to infiltrate the centers of thought. So you have to go into whatever host country you’re targeting that you want toppled to communism and you have to apply what became known as the Gramsci method. It’s what’s called the long march through the institutions. So you have to change academia. You have to change entertainment. You have to change media. You have to change the church. Because Gramsci said the church is an obstacle or a natural resistance to Marxism. So our country has been under the Gramsci method for a while in my humble opinion. And one of the things that’s happened is the church has been infiltrated. Where people are preaching a model of Christianity that really isn’t biblical. It has more to do with Marxism. They don’t go by the name Marxism anymore.
It goes under different titles like Liberation theology, if you’ve heard of that. The big name it goes under today is the social justice movement. But if you just kind of track it and follow it back to its roots, really what it is, is it’s Marxism. Trying to mix Christianity with the principles of communism, because Gramsci said you don’t have to turn everybody into a full-blown communist in a country. What you have to do is you just have to alter their values a little bit so that when communism comes, there won’t be any real resistance against it. Or the resistance will be lessened. So I think it was Congressman *Earlong* in the early 1960s read into the Congressional Record, the 65 goals. I think it’s 65 goals of communism in America. And when you read through his list, it’s just stunning how successful the Marxists have been when you compare our country in 1960 to what it is today in 2023. And so one of their goals was to take over media. That’s the Gramsci method. They said take over at least one of the two major political parties. And they said, you’ve got to get into the pulpit. You have to get into the church and you have to move the church away from revealed religion and more into an understanding of Christianity that’s more Marxist. And so a lot of our seminaries have been infiltrated with Marxism. I think it’s pretty well documented that the Marxists had a very strong influence into the Methodist church.
And right now as I speak, it’s kind of moving through the SB, the Southern Baptist Convention, has a real strong influence there. The SBC is intentionally targeted because that’s the biggest Protestant denomination in America. And they don’t call it Marxism. They call it different names like economic justice. They use the expression equity. And they also have kind of interwoven it with what’s called social justice theology, where Jesus came into the world to fix the hole in the ozone layer. Supposedly He came into the world to raise the minimum wage so we would all have a minimum income. He came into the world to give us all universal health care and and those kinds of things. And so what you get at the end of the day is a picture of Jesus that really is not the Jesus of the Bible, but the Jesus of Marxism. Jesus was kind of a leftist social reformer. So the liberation theologians love verse 45, because to them they think it means Marxism. And again, that verse says they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing with them all, as everyone might have need. So they say, look, the Bible is against the ownership of private property. Look at how everybody in the first church is liquidating their assets and volitionally sharing it. That in and of itself should tip you off that something’s not right because there’s no government coercing people to do this- right?
Presumably it’s the Holy Spirit. Marxism, you’re forced to give up your wealth. These people are doing it voluntarily. And so they sort of present this this explanation of the Bible that the Bible is really open to Marxism. And if you get enough pulpits teaching that, when Marxism comes knocking at the door, people don’t see any real harm in it. And that’s what Gramsci said you have to do if you’re going to get a civilization to topple into Marxism. I’m here to tell you that God is in favor of the ownership of private property. The Bible is not against that at all. Notice this quote from John Adams, the second president of the United States. He wrote, “The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.” And what he’s saying is if you want to wreck a culture, take away the idea that you can own private property. And notice where John Adams got his ideas from. He quotes two of the Ten Commandments. He says, “‘If Thou Shalt Not Covet’ and ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made invaluable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.” So the thing to understand about the Ten Commandments is every prohibition negatively that God gives, God is trying to protect something positive.
So when God says don’t murder, He’s protecting the sanctity of life. When God says don’t commit adultery, He’s protecting the sanctity of marriage. And so similarly, when you have two commandments in the Decalogue, one of them says, Thou shalt not covet. And the other says, Thou shalt not steal. God is actually protecting private property. And so this never comes up when Marxists sort of try to hijack this particular verse. You might want to jot down First Kings chapter 21. There you’re going to run into a man named Ahab who was the king over the northern kingdom. And he was coveting a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth. And so Ahab went to Naboth and said, Sell me your vineyard. And Naboth said no. So King Ahab, he went home and sulked. He kind of had a pity party. And the reason he did that is because in the nation of Israel, private property was protected against a king coming and just taking it away from people. You go back to the law of Moses and you see how property had to stay within the family. Property, you know, when you died, there were real strong provisions in the Mosaic law explaining which family members it went to. And those provisions were there because God is in favor of private property. The whole nation of Israel revolved around, just like America at its beginning, the ownership of private property.
So Ahab, he kind of went home and he sulked and he was kind of pouting about the palace, so to speak, because he couldn’t have Naboth’s vineyard because Naboth’s Vineyard was private property. And unless Naboth was willing to sell the vineyard, he couldn’t have it, even though he was the king. And that’s where his wife Jezebel, got into the act. And what you have to understand about Jezebel is Jezebel was not Hebrew. She was Phoenician. So she came from a totally different culture. So he was involved in what we would call a mixed marriage, something the king is not supposed to do. And Jezebel- and you can read all about this in First Kings 21- she started making fun of Ahab. Like, what kind of king are you? Where I where I come from, kings just do whatever they want. In other words, in Phoenicia there are no laws protecting the citizen against the king if the king wants private property. He just went and took it. So Jezebel convinced Ahab to do that. And so Ahab, against the law of Moses, had Naboth murdered- and he had the power to do this because he was the king- and he just took the vineyard. He just took it over. And that’s when God’s prophets start to speak and say, you’re going to die in the same kind of bloody death that you put Naboth through. And this becomes one of the main reasons why the Northern kingdom was taken by the Assyrians and scattered in 722 BC.
So if you if you doubt that God is pro-private property, all you have to read is the Ten Commandments. All you’d have to read is First Kings chapter 21, and you’ll see that the Bible is a very pro-private property kind of kind of book. And if you go over to Acts 5 for just a minute. Acts 5:4. Here is a verse that the liberation theologians do not want you to see. It has to do with Ananias and Sapphira who had property. They sold it and they said, we’re giving all of the proceeds of the sale to the church. And God struck them dead because they did not give all of the proceeds to the church in Acts 5. They kept back some of the proceeds for themselves. The reason they were struck dead is not because they didn’t give all of the proceeds to the church from the sale. The reason they were struck dead is they were dishonest. They told everybody, Hey, we had some property and we sold it and we gave all the money to the church. And Peter confronts them and says, You have lied to the Holy Spirit. And the two of them, Ananias and Sapphira, were killed right there on the spot. An example of what I would call maximum divine discipline. And God did this at the beginning of the church age because an infant, if it gets a new virus of some kind, is very vulnerable.
And the church just getting off the ground was very vulnerable to getting derailed. And that’s why God killed Ananias and Sapphira immediately. But their sin was not that they didn’t give all the money to the church. Their sin was they lied about how much they gave. Now, in the process of all of that, Peter, as he confronts Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:4 says something that totally contradicts communist Marxist ideology. Peter says to Ananias and Sapphira, “While it-” that’s the land. “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” In other words, God is not upset at Ananias and Sapphira because they had property. He’s not even upset at the fact that they sold the property and had money on hand to give to the church. And God is not upset at the fact that they didn’t give all the proceeds to the church. What Peter is saying is it’s your property. You can do whatever you want with it. The sin was they lied about it. They said we gave all the money from the sale of the property to the church when in reality they hadn’t and that’s why they were struck dead. But Peter clearly says, Acts 5:4, “While it the land remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” So very clearly, you start putting these pieces together and the Bible is not against the ownership of private property.
So all of that to say that what’s happening here cannot be considered communism. What the Jerusalem Saints were doing is they were volitionally, through their own free will, liquidating their assets so that they would have cash on hand to help people in need. Now, this could be the reason why the Jerusalem church became poor. Because as you go through the New Testament, you’ll discover Paul raising an offering. He talks about it in Second Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. He talks about it in Romans 15:26-27. He keeps going to all these churches and he says, we’ve got to raise money for the Jerusalem church because they’re poor. Why did they become poor? Because they moved in this communal direction. Romans 15:26-27 says, “For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.” Why did the Jerusalem church become poor? They became poor because they moved into this communal model. So although they did it out of generosity, I don’t think the Bible is saying, hey, it was a great idea. In fact, as you read this, you don’t even see God commanding them to do this. There’s no voice from God that says, Hey, everybody, sell your property so that you’ll have cash on hand to help the poor.
And even beyond that, you see this communal living situation happening in Acts 2. You see a few references to it in Acts 4. You see a few references to it in Acts 5. But then it just drops off the radar screen. Never again in the Bible are we told of the church ever practicing this method. And I just bring some of these things up because the Marxists will say, well, this is the way we’re all supposed to live. Communism is a great thing. You see it modeled in the early church. No, not so fast. The Bible is a pro private property book, number one. Number two, God never told him to do this. Number three, you see no example after Acts chapter 5 of it being practiced anywhere. So why did the early church do this? It has to do with the fact that you had people from all over the world that had showed up in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. They were all Jewish. They were Hebrews. If they weren’t Hebrews, they were what we call proselytes- Gentile converts to Judaism- and the Jewish people living outside the land of Israel were commanded to show up to celebrate, I believe it’s three mandatory feasts. And so that’s why they were all there. They all came for Passover. What comes fifty Days after Passover? The day of Pentecost. That’s why Penta- fifty. So typically, the way it worked is if you came from some remote part of the earth, you brought enough resources to be in town for Passover and then for fifty days to celebrate Pentecost, and then you return back to where you came from.
The problem here- and there’s a calendar that I like to use, showing you where Pentecost shows up just fifty days after Passover. Here’s another Jewish calendar showing you that Pentecost shows up fifty days after Passover. The problem here is the Holy Spirit had a surprise for them. The surprise was Peter’s sermon. Peter preaches this sermon. He does it in Jerusalem under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. His point in the sermon is that the nation of Israel was wrong in rejecting their Messiah. And what you people that are visiting from out of town in Jerusalem for Passover and Pentecost, what you need to do is you need to repent. In fact, when you go back to verse 38, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent.'” We’ve explained what repentance is. It’s a change of mind. You need to change your mind about Yeshua or Jesus. In other words, you have to believe that what I am telling you is true, that Jesus was the long-awaited Hebrew Messiah that the nation of Israel rejected in the first century. You have to change your mind away from being a Christ, rejecting Jew to being a Christ accepting Jew. And when Peter preached that 3000 souls are saved, 3000 people changed their minds.
And in so doing, they repented. They were saying Israel is wrong. Peter is right. Jesus was not just a common criminal that had to be ushered to an early grave. He was actually our Messiah. So their whole mind had changed. So what do you do with 3000 people, roughly, whose mind has just changed? They have to learn the new way of life, what later is going to be called Christianity. And Peter can’t just say, Hey, you all just need to go back where you came from and read your Bible. Read the New Testament. Why? The very simple reason: there is no New Testament yet. So if they’re going to change their minds about Jesus, they needed to understand how to live the new way of life. And the only way they could get the truth was from the apostles themselves. Now that causes an economic problem because they only had enough resources. Let’s say you were from Babylon or Rome or Cyprus or Crete. In fact, if you go back to Acts 2:5-13, you might remember actually picking it up there in verse 9. Look at all the different places they had come from. “Parthenians,” Acts 2:9, “Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea Cappadocia-” which is modern day Turkey- “Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia Egypt, and the districts of Libya around Cyrene-” That’s in North Africa- “visitors from Rome.” In other words, if these people are going to stick around and learn the new way of living from the Apostles, they only had enough resources to be in town from Passover to Pentecost. So they had no money. So to help these out of towners so that they could stay and learn the new way of life, the Saints in Jerusalem who had property, started to sell their property so that they would have cash on hand to help these out of towners so that they could stay and learn from the apostles. Since they couldn’t just go back home and read their New Testament because there is no such thing as a New Testament. And so that’s why this whole scenario developed. So it’s not talking about communism, it’s just talking about the goodwill and the charity of people that had property in Jerusalem to help these people out of town stay so that they could learn the new way of life. They didn’t have resources to stay in Jerusalem any more from Passover to Pentecost. And they were at the end of that cycle and they were running out of resources. So that’s why this whole thing started. God never said- that we have record of- You guys need to do this to help these people. He could have. But the Bible doesn’t say that. It’s not talking about communism here because it’s not mandatory wealth redistribution. And besides that, as I’ve tried to demonstrate, the Bible is not an anti-private property book at all. So that’s why what happened here in verse 45 happened.
And then you come to verse 46 where you learn what else these 3000 people are doing in Jerusalem. It says, “Day by day,” In other words, this was something that they consistently practiced every single day as a new believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.” Now notice this expression verse 46, “Day by day.” This is something that they were totally devoted to. In fact, if you go back to verse 42, you see their single-minded devotion. It says, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” In other words, this was the number one thing on their mind. Day by day, practicing these things. And they were breaking bread together. I’m of the opinion that in addition to perhaps a common meal, they were practicing communion. The Lord Jesus in the upper room had already outlined communion. Paul says this in First Corinthians 11:23-26. “For I receive from the Lord what I also passed on to you, the Lord Jesus on the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way after supper He took the cup saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this whenever you drink it in remembrance of Me. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.'”
In other words, Paul, referring back to something Jesus said in the upper room prior to His death, said to the church that was about to be formed on the day of Pentecost. You need to take communion regularly. Because the bread symbolizes My body which absorbed the wrath of a holy God in your place. The cup symbolizes My blood which was shed for you. And so we are commanded in the church age, in the age of the church, to take communion regularly together so that we will never forget the price that was paid for us on the cross of Calvary 2000 years ago. Because in the age of grace, it’s very easy to forget that somebody paid a great price to give us the grace that we now have. Jesus sacrificed for us, and had He not sacrificed for us, we wouldn’t have our current standing in grace. And so that we would never forget the price that was paid because God wants us to worship Him in spirit and truth, a worshipful attitude, not forgetting what He did for us. We’re commanded to take the Lord’s Supper together. Now, here at Sugar Land Bible Church, we do it once a month, the first Sunday of the month.
Other churches do it differently. Some churches do it once a quarter. I’ve been in churches that do it every single Sunday. We’re not really told in the Bible how frequently we’re to do it. It just says make it a regular practice. And so these folks here made it a regular practice because they were breaking their bread together day by day in the temple. That’s a large group meeting, 3000 people. And then it says here they are also doing it “from house to house.” That’s a small group meeting. So a church, if it’s functioning the way God intended, it has both kinds of meanings. There’s large group meetings where you’re meeting together corporately and then there are other smaller group meetings that are typically a little bit more intimate where you get to know people more one on one. Our church has both. We have larger corporate meetings on Sunday. We have what are called fellowship groups that meet periodically, sometimes a couple times a month at people’s homes that are more smaller groups. But you’ll notice that both are happening here in the in the early church. They’re meeting together in the temple. That’s a big group meeting. And then their meeting from house to house. That’s a small group meeting and they’re breaking bread together. Now, notice that they’re meeting in the temple. This is very important to understand. They didn’t say to themselves, you know, we got to get out of here.
We got to get away from all this Jewish stuff. We’ve got to get some stained glass windows put in. We need some steeples. We need to set up some denominations and we need to do all the things Protestant evangelical Christians do that we do in the year 2023. They did not disassociate themselves from Judaism. The reason they did not disassociate themselves from Judaism is they were meeting in the temple. They had no incentive to leave the temple. And the reason they thought the way they did is, number one, they were Jewish except the Proselytes, as I’ve tried to explain. And number two, they didn’t see Christ or Yeshua as some sort of entity that’s inconsistent with Judaism. They saw Him as the fulfillment of Judaism. That’s how they looked at it. In other words, when they changed their mind about Christ, they didn’t say, Oh, we’re not going to be Jewish anymore, Let’s get out of here and get some stained glass windows going and some steeples. And we need some choir robes, too. Let’s just get- let’s just dump all this Jewish stuff. They did not do that because they saw Christ as the fulfillment of Judaism. This is what the nation of Israel got wrong. They thought Jesus was antithetical to Judaism when in reality He was the fulfillment of it. And if they didn’t think that way, there’s no way they would have had their large group meetings in the temple. So what you have to understand about Jesus is He is the fulfillment of Hebrew Bible.
He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. And if a Jewish person hasn’t come to Christ as their personal savior, then they don’t even understand what their Judaism is about. Because the whole point of Judaism was to point towards Christ. Jesus, as you know, was Jewish- Right? Jesus said this in John 5:39 to the Jewish Hebrew religious leaders of His day, He says, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these-” the Scriptures, Hebrew Bible, Old Testament- “that testify about Me.” And then he says a couple of verses later, “For if you believed Moses,” who wrote the first five books of the Old Testament, “you would believe Me, for he-” that’s Moses- “wrote about me.” Jesus on the road to Emmaus after He had resurrected from the dead is walking with His disciples. And He says this in Luke 24:27, “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them,” That’s the disciples, “the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures-” What scriptures? What we call Old Testament. A few verses later he said, “Now he said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all these things which are written about Me in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” those are the three major divisions of Hebrew Bible.
“Moses, Prophets, and Psalms must be fulfilled.” Josephus, a first century Jewish historian says of Christ, this is now outside the Bible. “He was the Christ…for the prophets of God-” that’s Old Testament, we call Old Testament- “had foretold these things.” So Jesus and everybody around Him who understood what He was all about understood that He was not antithetic to Israel. He was the fulfillment of it. That’s why the early church here is meeting in the temple still. They saw no contradiction between their newfound faith in Jesus and meeting in the temple because they saw Jesus as the fulfillment of Judaism, not the antithesis of it. As you probably know, Jesus fulfilled multiple Old Testament scriptures written about Him in advance His virgin birth, Isaiah 7:14. The place of His birth, Bethlehem of Ephrata, Micah 5:2. The fact that He would be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Numbers 24:17. The fact that he would come from the tribe of Judah, Genesis 49:10. The fact that he would show up on Palm Sunday on the exact predicted day, Daniel 9:25-26. The Old Testament- and look at the years in advance that is as you look at the right-hand column- centuries in advance. In some cases over a millennia in advance. He was crucified between two thieves, Isaiah 53:9. That He would be pierced in His death, Isaiah 53:5. The fact that none of His bones will be broken, Psalm 22:17.
The fact that the soldiers would gamble for His clothing. Psalm 22:18. And He would actually be buried in a rich man’s tomb, Isaiah 53:9. Jesus obviously is not the antithesis of Judaism, rightly understood. He’s the fulfillment of it. In the early church, these 3000 people understood that. That’s why they kept meeting in the temple, because they saw the temple as pointing to Jesus. I mean, there’s no ambition on the part of these people to leave Jerusalem. In fact, the only reason they eventually leave Jerusalem is they get persecuted. That’s the only reason they left. If they hadn’t been persecuted, they would have stayed there as long as probably they could have because they didn’t see Judaism as somehow pointing it to a different direction than Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of Judaism. So when you’re talking to a Jewish person- I know this sounds a little harsh- but you have to look at them if they’re unsaved as an incomplete Jew. They are not complete because their own religion points towards Jesus and they’re missing the main point of Judaism and the nation of Israel itself. So verse 46, “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,” Their hearts were in this. Proverbs 4:23, in the new King James version says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”
If your heart is for something, then the issues of life are going to flow from that. If your heart is for negative things, negative things will come out of your life. If your heart is for positive things, positive things will flow out of your life. This is where their hearts were. I mean, they really believe that after Peter’s sermon that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah and they recognize that they’re a minority within the nation of Israel. There’s only 3000 of us compared to probably about a million that were in town on the day of Pentecost. And so to stay in fellowship related to their newfound faith, they’re now meeting together. So we see their priorities, we see their miracles, we see their unity, we see their communal living, which is not to be confused with Marxism. We see them practicing the Lord’s table. And one other thing they were doing is they were involved in evangelism. They were telling other people about what they had just learned. And notice verse 47, “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” First of all, notice they were worshipers. They were praising God. What is worship? Worship is a response to truth. You hear the truth and you want to audibly praise the Lord. I don’t think they were getting into a bunch of fights like we get into today.
Should we have an organ? Should we have drums? Should we have a guitar? Should we have a choir? I mean, churches come to blows on these things. It’s very sad because we’ve forgotten really what worship is. Worship is not so much a style as much as it is an opportunity to gather with God’s people and audibly praise the Lord publicly because you’re responding to truth. They heard the truth from Peter. They believed it and they wanted to worship accordingly. And look what God was doing. “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day.” Did you catch the day by day Throughout this paragraph? They’re taking communion together. Big group, small group, day by day. They’re devoting themselves continually to the apostles teaching. I would think that meant day by day. So the Lord said, Wow, if you’re that, if you love Me that much day by day, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to add to your number day by day. So they were sharing the good news. People were getting saved. But who gets the credit for the growth of the church? Somebody running around writing a book about how to make a church bigger based on marketing principles? I’ll be honest with you, I’ve read some of those books. I’ve seen some of those speakers, and the whole thing just makes me want to vomit. I’m sorry for being that crass, because the glory is going to a person.
It’s not going to God. God doesn’t say, Hey, if you follow this five step method, your church will grow. The Lord just starts adding to their number daily. It’s the Lord causing the growth. This is an outworking of what Jesus promised. Jesus said back in the gospels just prior to His death. He said this in Caesarea Philippi. He said, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock-” Now the rock here is not Peter. It’s a different word in Greek. Petros, Peter, Petra, Rock. What he’s saying is, I’m going to build my church. Peter, on your confession. You confess me accurately as the Messiah. So Jesus says to Peter, “I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock-” your confession- “I will build-” the verb is in the future tense there. So whatever He said he was going to build wasn’t being built right then and there because He says, I will build. I will build your church. Whoops- doesn’t say that. “I will build-” What? “-My church.” So the church doesn’t belong to Peter. Doesn’t belong to the pastor. Doesn’t belong to an elder board. It belongs to Jesus. And Jesus promises to build His church. And apparently He’s going to do a pretty good job of it because it says the gates of Hades will not overpower it. And so here we are 2000 years later and He’s still building.
If this was a work of man, it probably would have fizzled out a long time ago. Would have fizzled out 2000 years ago. So here’s Jesus now at the Father’s right hand, keeping His promise. He’s building his church. He’s adding to the church because that’s what He said he would do. First Corinthians 3:6, Paul says, “I planted,” Evangelized, in other words, “Apollos watered,” edified, in other words, “but God was causing the growth.” I planted Apollos watered, concerning the Corinthian church but God was making it grow. What a relief it is to learn in ministry as a pastor that it is not the pastor’s responsibility to grow the church. For years and years and years I thought it was my job to make the church bigger. If a pastor or leaders in a church think that’s their job, then they put on their shoulders a task that only God can do. And no wonder everybody’s so stressed out and burnt out into the ministry. They’re trying to do things that only God promised He would do. And that really takes all the sweat out of the ministry. Zechariah 4:6 says, “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” And to be honest with you, we’re just sort of surprised that we have this little Internet ministry here. And yet God is using this all over the world. It’s just sort of a shock when you travel and you meet people saying, oh, we’re just so blessed by your ministry.
And we’re like, really? You are? I’m stunned. And the reason it’s sort of stunning is it’s something that a man can’t reproduce. Only God can do it. Only God can enlarge a ministry. Now, there’s a lot of fake enlargements where people cater to the unsaved and they get a bunch of unsaved people in the room and they call that church growth. That’s not what was happening here. These are authentic conversions. These are authentic additions to the church. Our job is just to be faithful in whatever sphere He’s placed us in. But the ultimate goal of church growth is God is going to do it. He’s promised to do it. That way He’s the only one that gets the credit for it- right? Man can’t take credit for it because man didn’t cause it. So the pastor’s job is to be faithful where God put him. The job of growth is on the Lord. Now you start to think that way, and suddenly ministry doesn’t seem quite as cumbersome. “Praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Saved from what? Verse 38, saved from hell. Verse 40, saved from this perverse generation. Remember what Peter said? End of verse 40, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” So they’re being called out of being part of wayward Israel who had rejected Messiah.
And they were aligning with Peter’s message and they were being saved from that perverse generation. But they were also receiving the Holy Spirit. They were going through water baptism as their minds about Christ was changing. They were receiving, verse 38, the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. So they were being saved spiritually and they were being saved from this perverse generation. This is something that God himself was doing. Now, Luke, who’s writing all of this down for Theophilus is trying to show him that this Christian thing that he’s believed in is of God. God is the one that brought the Gospel to you, Theophilus, in Rome. And Luke category categorizes this by writing a book on the birth and growth of the church. The church is being born. Well, how is it growing? In the book of Acts, it’s being grown numerically, geographically and ethnically. Now what Luke is focusing on here is the numerical growth of the church. These are what we call progress reports. As you go through the Book of Acts, you’ll see a reference either to a specific number like 3000. Later, it’ll be 5000. Or just to a generic statement that the church was growing numerically. So this is how Luke is documenting the progress of the church for the benefit of Theophilus. That upper bullet point there is some of the clearest numerical progress reports you have in the Book of Acts.
And then you have some other ones that are a little less clear, like Acts 2:47. But they are there nonetheless. One other quick thing here, and I want to toss this in. If you’re reading this in the New American Standard Bible. It says, “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” But if you were to read this in the King James version or the New King James version, it would read this way, “praising God and having favor with all the people and the Lord added to the church daily those who are being saved.” Why does one version not use the word church and the other version does use the word church? Why is that? Particularly here, because this is a pivotal issue, because there’s a lot of people running around- they go by the name Hyper-Dispensationalist, Ultra-Dispensationalist, and they will say the church didn’t start in Acts 2. But boy, the King James version sure gives you the impression that the church started because it uses the word church. But it’s a problem because I don’t find the word church in the New American Standard Bible. So what in the world is happening here? This is an issue of what we call text criticism. We do not have the original Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, which is good because if we had them, we’d probably worship them.
And if we had them and they got damaged, then all of Christianity would be destroyed. So God in His providence never allowed us to have the original manuscripts. Then what do we have? We have copies of the original manuscripts. And people sort of freak out about this. Oh, no, we don’t have the original Greek manuscripts, but just copies. And they kind of act like we don’t have anything of real trustworthiness. All you have to do is compare what we have to other works of antiquity, which nobody second guesses. And you’ll see how far out in front of the crowd we are. Notice the number of manuscripts that we have and notice the time distance between the earliest manuscript and what would likely have been the time of the original. Caesar; ten manuscripts in a thousand-year time period. Plato; seven manuscripts in a 1200-year time period. Thucydides; only eight manuscripts in a 1300-year time period. Tacitus; 20 manuscripts in a 1000-year time period. Suetonius; eight manuscripts in an 800-year time period. Homer’s The Iliad, 640 manuscripts in a 500-year time period. And notice what we have in the Bible. Second from the bottom, New Testament. Look at the comparison. We have 24,000 manuscripts. And the time distance between the earliest manuscript and the original is as low as 25 to 50 years. We come out way ahead in comparison to any other work of antiquity. So if you’re going to challenge the Bible on the grounds that we don’t have the originals and you’ve got to throw out Caesar, Plato, Thucydides, Tacitus, Suetonius, Homer’s, The Iliad, etcetera. Here’s another chart that basically has the exact same information on it.
Of the copies, 24,000, they all agree with each other over 99% of the time. In fact, that number is probably conservative. It’s probably like 99.9% of the time. They all agree with each other. There are areas, though, where there’s disagreements. The disagreements do not revolve around any major Christian doctrine. But there are disagreements. The goal of something that you learn in seminary called text criticism- and there are people that devote their whole lives to this- is when you have a slight contradiction between the existing manuscripts you try to figure out which one you go with that mirrors the original, which we no longer have. That’s what text criticism does. And these are called variants. Variants is when you have a tiny discrepancy between existing manuscripts. What we’ve just walked into is a text critical problem. Because some manuscripts, as reflected in the New American Standard Bible, don’t have the word church in there, Acts 2:47. Others as reflected in the New King James version do have the word church in there. And what you have to understand is that your English translations follow different theories of text criticism. The NASB and the NKJV are excellent translations. They’re not perfect. Neither of them. But they’re excellent. But you have to understand that when it comes to these variants like the woman caught in adultery, John 8.
There’s a bunch of information in Mark 16 towards the end, and if you’re reading it in the NASB, it’ll say something like, This is not found in the better manuscripts. What you have to understand is the English translation that you’re using uses a different model of text criticism. The New American Standard Bible says the earlier, the better. If it’s in the earliest manuscripts, it’s authentic. If it’s not in the earliest manuscripts, then it’s not authentic. So apparently the word church is not found in the earliest manuscripts. That’s why the word church is not found in the New American Standard Bible. I’m of the opinion that earlier is not always better. Because some of those very early manuscripts came from a place called Alexandria, Egypt. Where there was a lot of weird stuff going on in Alexandria, Egypt like Gnosticism. The physical world is evil. The spiritual world is good kind of thinking. A lot of false doctrine came out of Alexandria, Egypt. So just because something is earlier to me doesn’t always make it better. The King James version, on the other hand, says if it’s in the majority of manuscripts then we go with the majority. Majority is better, NKJV. Earlier is better, NASB. So that becomes your explanation why the word church doesn’t show up in the new American Standard Bible, but it is in the New King James version.
Both translations are very good, but both are following a different theory of text criticism. You read through John 8. The woman caught in adultery in the New American Standard Bible. And you’ll get this strange note in there saying this is not found in the better manuscripts, meaning earlier. You read the exact same story in the King James version and that marking won’t be there because the King James version is saying it’s authentic because it’s in the majority of manuscripts, although it’s not necessarily in the earliest manuscripts. So I just bring this up to show you why the word church would be in the NKJV. It’s in the majority of manuscripts, but it’s not in the NASB, the earlier manuscripts. So if the NKJV has it right- and people devote their whole lives in a field called text criticism, trying to iron these things out. I mean, I’m not- my training- I have a little bit of training in text criticism, but I’m no specialist in it. There are people that spend their whole lives specializing in this very thing. I’m just trying to explain it to you at the 10,000-foot level so you can sort of understand what’s going on. But if the NKJV is right, then very clearly the church started in Acts 2 because the word church is in the majority of manuscripts, which means that hyper-dispensationalism, ultra-dispensationalism, the idea that the church didn’t start in Acts 2 can’t be right because the NKJV in the majority of the manuscripts, not the earliest manuscripts, indicates that the church started here in Acts Chapter 2.
So if the NKJV is right, what you now have coming into existence is a second entity. All the way through the Bible up to this point in time, God’s redemptive instrument has been Israel. But God can’t use Israel currently. He will in the future, but currently He can’t because she rejected her own Messiah. So what did God do? He raised up a new institution called the Church, which is this tiny remnant within Israel that is rejecting the message of national Israel, but simultaneously believing that Peter’s message is true. And this is where the baptizing ministry of the Holy Spirit starts and the church forms. When you study the book of Ephesians chapter 3 around verse 11, you’ll learn that the church was always God’s eternal purpose. It just had been hidden up to this point in time. But now it comes into existence. And now you have in the outworking of God, a new institution that He has raised up called the church, which is different from Israel. Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes, “In the Book of Acts,” which is what we’re studying., “both Israel-” the nation- “and the church exist simultaneously. The term Israel is used twenty times,” in the Book of Acts, “and the word church ekklēsia is used 19 times-” They’re both used roughly the same amount of time- “yet the two groups are always kept distinct.”
In fact, it’s going to be unbelieving Israel in the Book of Acts that’s going to persecute the church and it’s going to be unbelieving Israel post the Book of Acts that is going to be pushed out of its land into the diaspora, the dispersion for 2000 years. And God has a plan and a program for Israel future. But currently He is not working in and through Israel to bless the world. He is working through a brand-new institution that He himself has raised up called the Church. And that’s why Acts Chapter 2 is such a big deal. We are in the outworking of God’s purposes and program, how the change took place. And we’re a product of it 2000 years later. God is still working through the church. Here we are on a different continent in Sugar Land, Texas, in the year 2023.