Ecclesiology 039

Ecclesiology 039
Acts 2:41-47 • Dr. Andy Woods • October 21, 2018 • Ecclesiology


Andy Woods

Ecclesiology 39, Spiritual Gifts 17

10-21-18     Lesson 39

Thank you for the fall weather, I’m particularly excited today, Father, as we’re going to be involved in a baptism this afternoon so I just ask for Your guidance and superintendence on that and the teaching of Your Word this morning.  We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen!

Good morning you all.  If you could locate Acts 2, the Book of Acts, chapter 2, and verse 41.  We’re continuing on with our study on Ecclesiology; emerging from that category is the purposes of the church, and part of that discussion involves spiritual gifts.  So I looked back on my lesson and I couldn’t believe this was true, maybe you guys can validate this, we spent 17 lessons on spiritual gifts, is that right.  That’s what the number said, so we’re finished with spiritual gifts, I hope we’re not finished with spiritual gifts, hopefully we’ve just started on spiritual gifts in daily life but we’re finished teaching on spiritual gifts.

So we’re moving away from the purposes of the church and we’re moving into the activities of the church.  In other words, when the church gets together what exactly is it supposed to be doing?  And when the Holy Spirit is in charge of a body what activities will be naturally raised up in that body?  So this takes us to Acts 2 and we’re going to be spending our time this morning on verses 41-47.  This, of course, Acts 2 is the day of what?  Pentecost.  And if  you back up from verse 41 and you go back to verses 5-13 you’re going to see a lot of different people assembled there on the day of Pentecost from different parts of the world.  And every name that’s mentioned there in verses 5-13 I have there on my map.

And what were all these people doing assembled in Jerusalem from these different parts of the known world on the day of Pentecost?   Well, all these people were Jewish so the Jews had been, ever since the Babylonian captivity, most of the Jews in Israel at this time but some had been pushed out their homeland into surrounding regions, meeting in synagogues.  And they were good students of the Book of Leviticus, which is part of Hebrew Bible, Leviticus 23.  Leviticus 23 gives the feast days that Israel is to celebrate.  And one of those feast days is the day of Pentecost.  And it’s commanded of Jews to show up in Jerusalem for that particular feast to celebrate Pentecost.    So that’s what all of this collection of nationalities is doing in Jerusalem at this particular time.

Except this time around the Holy Spirit had sort of a surprise for them and we read about that surprise, it’s the birthday of the church, and then following the birthday of the church you have    the first church meeting.  The very first church meeting in all of church history takes place here in Acts 2.  So that birthday and that first meeting shows us what a church is supposed to be.  It shows us that when the Holy Spirit gets ahold of something here are the activities the Holy Spirit will raise up.  So as I’m reading these verses to you make your own mental list of things you see the Holy Spirit doing.

Notice, if you will, Acts 2, starting at verse 41.  It says, “So then, those who had received his word were baptized;” you should underline that, “and that day there were added about three thousand souls.  So this is following Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost and it’s given to all of these Jews from remote parts of the known world meeting in Jerusalem.  So you’ve got three thousand converts, three thousand Jews just changed their mind about who Jesus is.  They went from being Christ-rejecting Jews to Christ-accepting Jews.  Certainly not the majority in the nation of Israel but a small remnant of 3,000 people.  And it says there in verse 42, “They were continually devoting themselves to” so this is what they did, and notice the word “devotion,” this is what the first church singularly gave themselves to.  “They were continually devoting themselves to” the what? “the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  [43] Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.  [44]  “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; [45] and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.”  [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, [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.”

So what has just happened here on the day of Pentecost is spectacular.  Peter has preached his message, he has called the nation of Israel to repent for having rejected their own Messiah and having turned Him over to the Romans for execution.  And now that Jesus has ascended the day of Pentecost is in existence, you’ve got Jews from all over the known world meeting there and Peter calls that group to repentance and he’s got three thousand converts.  That’s quite an altar call, wouldn’t you say?

It says, verse 41, “that day there were added about three thousand souls,” this is the beginning of the church.  So what did these three thousand people do?  Well, they had their first church meeting; the first church meeting is described in verses 42-47 and it tells us what their priorities were because verse 42 says, “They were continually” not when they felt like it but “continually devoting themselves” meaning this is what they purposed to do in a church meeting, “they were continually devoting themselves to” and then we have a laundry list of church activities.  So we might be able to categorize these different ways, my list I’ve got seven things the church is doing right out of the gate.

And I believe that when you’re looking for a church these are the seven things you ought to look for to see if the Holy Spirit is really in control of said group that you’re thinking of affiliating yourself with and fellowshipping with. When the Holy Spirit gets control of any church you’re automatically going to see these seven things coming into existence.  So those become the priorities of the church, these become what we would call the activities that should take place in any local church.

So what are those activities?  The first thing, they gave themselves to was to apostolic doctrine.  Doctrine is number one on the list.  Why do we believe that?  Because verse 42 says, “They were continually devoting themselves to” the what? “the apostles’ teaching” or doctrine.  Now the word “doctrine” in Greek is the word διδαχή (didaché) which simply means instruction.  And God is interested in instructing us on how to live the Christian life.  Amen.  And this concept of instruction, people think it’s unique to us but the false religions have their point of instruction too.  1 Timothy 4:1 says, “In the last days people will follow doctrines of demons,” doctrines are teachings, so no matter who you align yourself with there’s going to be a set of teachings and you want your teachings to be from the apostles.

And so you’ll notice that doctrine is the very first thing mentioned on the list because if you understand doctrine you know how to do everything else on the list, going all the way through verse 47.  If you don’t have doctrine as a priority you don’t know how to live the Christian life, you don’t know what a church meeting is supposed to be.

Now why did these people need doctrine?  Because when you go back to verses 37-38 they had just repented.  Repentance means to change your mind.  So this is the result of Peter’s sermon.  It says, “[Acts 2:37, “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart,” I think they probably came to faith at that point, “and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?’” [38] Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  And there’s a lot of complexity in that verse that I don’t have time to unpack but “Repent … and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

So what had happened is these people had repented, metanoeō, means literally to change  your mind.  What had they changed their mind about?  They had changed their mind about what Israel just did with Jesus.  Israel nationally had rejected Jesus.  Peter, on the day of Pentecost, has all of these Jews assembled there in Jerusalem to celebrate that feast.  He calls them to repentance, he calls them to change their mind and basically what he’s saying is I want you to change your mind about who Jesus is; go from being a Christ-rejecting Jew to a Christ-accepting Jew.

So these people changed their minds about all of the just like that.  [Andy snaps his fingers]  And consequently they were saved.  So if your mind has been changed authentically you have to know how to live the new life, right?  So Peter says well just go home and read your New Testament and figure it out.  NO, you don’t have a New Testament yet. So these are people that they’re completely and totally dependent on the writers of the New Testament which hadn’t produced the New Testament  yet, and these are the who?  The apostles.  So that’s why there’s such a priority and then sticking around longer than they had planned on staying in Jerusalem, to learn truth and to learn doctrine because how do you live the new way of life that you’ve just changed your mind to unless you receive teaching and instruction?

And so what  you have in Christianity is a priority [can’t understand word] related to perpetual instruction because unless there’s instruction we don’t know how to change our minds, and the Bible bases a HUGE priority on instruction.  I wish we had time to look at all these verses but jot down 1 Timothy 4:13, and you’ll see it.  Jot down 2 Timothy 3:15-4:2 and you’ll see it.  And in fact, when you get into the epistles, which are given to govern the life of a church, instructions, there’s a huge emphasis on teaching.

Dan Wallace says, “By my count, there are twenty-seven explicit commands given in the body of this letter. In 27 words Paul tells pastors what to focus on. You have to be blind to miss the thrust of Paul’s instructions here, because eighteen of those commands–fully two-thirds–have to do with the ministry of the Word.”  [Daniel Wallace, “Crisis of the Word: A Message to Pastors or Would-be Pastors,” Conservative Theological Journal 1, no. 2 (August 1997): 108.]

And this concept of teaching doctrine is what is in perpetual attack today.  I’ve rounded up a few quotes, I don’t think you have these on  your handout because I did these at the last minute but I just want to demonstrate how frequently everybody today is denigrating and marginalizing the study of doctrine in the local church.  It’s the exact opposite priority that you find in Scripture.

One emergent church writer says, “At Solomon’s porch,” an emergent church, “sermons are not primarily about my extracting truth from the Bible to apply to people’s lives…So our sermons are not lessons that precisely define belief so much as they are stories that welcome our hopes and ideas and participation” (Italics added).  [Doug Pagitt, cited in Oakland, 41-42.]  So my question is well what in the world are  you doing then if you’re doing those things.

Another writer says, “It isn’t about clever apologetics or careful exegetical or expository preaching…Emerging generations are hungering to experience  God in worship” (Italics added).  [Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church, 116]    It’s about experiences this writer says, exactly the opposite of what you find here in Acts 2.

One writer says, the current generation wants to know less about God.  They would rather experience God.  [Leonard Sweet, Soul Tsunami, 420]  Well, if you’re going based on your experiences how do you know you’re worshipping the right God because the devil can give experiences, can’t he.  But notice in all these citations it’s always doctrine and the study of doctrine and the study of the Bible which has always been criticized by post-modernists.

Another writer says, “…something beyond a belief system or doctrinal array or even a practice. I mean an attitude–an attitude toward God and our neighbor and our mission that is passionate.”     [Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, 117-18.]

Here’s a collection of things you hear out there, “Don’t give me doctrine, just give me Jesus.”  Well, the Jehovah’s Witnesses will give you Jesus too.  How do you know that their Jesus is the right one or the wrong one.  Doctrine alerts  you to that. “What really matters is Christ not creed.”  “Devotion is important and not doctrine.”  “What counts is our behavior, and not our beliefs.”  [Most of these slogans were originally accumulated in Henry Holloman, “Prolegomena, Bibliology, and Theology (Part 1)” (unpublished class notes in TTH511 Theology I, Talbot Theological Seminary, Spring 1998), 9.]  Well, let me say this, you can’t have proper behavior until you have proper beliefs.

And isn’t Rick Warren great?  I mean, don’t we all need to be doing the Forty Days of Purpose.  I mean, I was in the Dallas area and virtually every Bible church I went to they were doing “The Purpose Driven Life, The Purpose Driven Church, Forty Days of Purpose, the Daniel Diet.  I’ve never been able to figure out the Daniel Diet by the way, because if I’m reading Daniel 1 it looks to me like the three Hebrew youths are gaining weight.  Have  you noticed that?  Because it says after they went through the Lord’s diet they were heavier afterwards than before.  So how in the world are we getting a Daniel diet out of Daniel 1.  I thought the purpose of a diet was to lose weight, amen!  And the reason Sugar Land Bible Church is never going to (as long as I’m here anyway) is never going to promote Rick Warren, ever, because almost every page you turn in Rick Warren’s book is some kind of denigration of doctrine, the study of it.

So if you were to read his Purpose Driven Life you would see these quotes:  “God won’t ask you about your religious background or doctrinal views.”  He said,  “Jesus said our love for each other – not our doctrinal beliefs – is our greatest witness to the world.”   Well, excuse me, unless you understand Christology you don’t even know how to love somebody else.  He goes on and he says, “Today many assume that spiritual maturity is measured by the amount of biblical information and doctrine you know.”   [Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life 34, 124, 183]   The Bible is far more than a doctrinal guidebook.” He says, “The last thing many believers need today is to go to another Bible study.”  That’s the last thing they need to do?  I personally think it’s the first thing they need to do.  “They already know far more than they are putting into practice.”  Now this one I think is funny, maybe  you guys will like this one: “My pastor has been in Daniel’s seventy weeks longer than Daniel was!” [Rick Warren Purpose Driven Life 186, 231; Purpose Driven Church 300]

And I can’t touch that, our Daniel series lasted sixty-three weeks, not quite seventy weeks.  But what I want you to see is the spirit in all this literature; it’s always the denigration of doctrine.  Now at a certain point I kind of understand what they’re saying because they’re saying that doctrine is not the end game and it’s not.  Doctrine is to lead to wisdom which is practice and you see that in the rest of Acts 2.  But here’s the reality of the situation folks—doctrine, all it means is teaching.  Doctrine is not the enemy, doctrine is your friend because when you learn it God expects us to apply it and as we apply it we can live out the Christian life, something that’s an impossibility without the teaching of God’s Word.  And this is what’s missing in all of this literature that I’m quoting.

You may have heard of Steve Furtick of Elevation Church.  Here’s one of his recent posts.  He says: “We don’t teach from books of the Bible because it gets in the way of evangelism.  We don’t offer different kinds of Bible studies because it gets in the way of evangelism.  We don’t teach doctrine because it gets in the way of evangelism.  If  you want to be fed God’s Word or have the Bible explained to you then you are a fat lazy Christian and you need to shut up and get to work,” love the Christlikeness there, “or you need to leave this church because we ONLY do evangelism.”  [Larry “Steven” Furtick is the lead pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Wikipedia.  Education, North Greenville University], Southern Baptist Theological Seminary]

So you see what’s being confused here is the purpose of the church.  If the whole purpose of the church is for the unbelievers to get them saved then it’s no longer a church anymore.  Church is not for unbelievers, it’s to equip believers to be witnesses in their spheres of influence.  And that’s how to really increase the influence of the church because all of you have unsaved people in  your life this week that I will never ever reach or see and don’t even know.  But if I’m able to equip you through the teaching of God’s Word to be a good witness in the work place, or in the family, then you see just by looking at it by principles and numbers and multiplication the church has way more influence that way than to get every single unsaved person you know to get into the building.  See that?  And pastors are losing sight of what their priority is, to equip the what?  The saints.       Ephesians 4:11-12.  [Ephesians 4:11, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, [12] for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”] So the very first thing the early church gave themselves to was doctrine; that’s step one, because if you don’t have doctrine you can’t do anything else, having their minds just been changed about who Jesus is.

But notice it doesn’t stop with doctrine, they began to practice other things and so the second thing they gave themselves to was the ordinances.  And we have a whole teaching coming up in Ecclesiology on the ordinances and the Lord has given to the church two ordinances.  The first one is in verse 41, it says, “So then those who received His Word were” what? “baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls were added.”  [Acts 2:41]

Baptism is part of the great commission because Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,” what’s the next clause, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  [Matthew 28:19] And if you come today at 4:00 o’clock we’re going to be baptizing seven people and baptism doesn’t save anybody but it’s an outward confession of an inward reality in front of witnesses.  So guess what we need?  We need witnesses.  So if you could all come and be witnesses, and this is an exciting step of faith in the lives of these seven people, we would love to have you.  But you’ll notice that the first ordinance that God has given to the church is baptism.

Ordinance number two is the Lord’s table because if you look at verse 42 of Acts 2, see all my ideas here I’m getting right out of verses 42-47.  It says very specifically there that they were breaking bread.  And then as  you go down to verse 46 it says the second time, “and breaking bread from house to house.”

[Acts 2:42, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  43]  Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. [44] And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; [45] and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. [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, [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.”]

Ordinance number two is communion or the Lord’s table which, like baptism, has no saving power but it contributes to our worship experience by reminding us what Jesus has done for us.  Because didn’t Jesus say in the Upper Room, Luke 22:19-20, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”  [Luke 22:19, “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’”]

So the second church activity that they gave themselves to, in addition to learning apostolic doctrine, was baptism.  And then there in verse 42 you find a third thing that they were doing, they were giving themselves to prayer.  It says, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”    So these three thousand converts apparently were people that believed in individual prayer and they believed in corporate prayer.  And so if the Holy Spirit is doing anything in a group you’ll start to see bodies raised up where the emphasis is on prayer.  When Peter himself got thrown in jail what did the early church do?  They all got mad and wrote letters to their city councilman…. NO, not that there’s anything wrong with writing letters to politicians but it says here, “So Peter was kept in prison but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church, which started in Acts 2 in Jerusalem.

Other parts of the Bible which talk about prayer, you might want to jot down 1 Timothy 1:1-2, Ephesians 6:18-20, and James 5:16, which says the prayer of a righteous man is what?  Powerful and effective.

[1 Timothy 1:1-2,  “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope,   [2] To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”    Ephesians 6:18-20, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, [19] and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, [20] for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. James 5:16b, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”]

So activity number three was prayer.  And the list doesn’t start there because we discover that these people didn’t just sit, soak and sour, but they were interested in the unsaved world around them.  Now here’s the difference with Steve Furtick and Rick Warren and all these people.  They weren’t allowing the values of the unsaved word to dictate what was happening in the church.  That’s what the modern day church growth movement is trying to do, you develop a church for the unsaved.  There is no such teaching in the Bible for such a doctrine.  If you want to do that you don’t call it a church, you call it a crowd and you put it under the category of crusade evangelism. But that isn’t church; church is for the Christian.  Church exists to equip the Christian.  But what happens in a lot of the assemblies is the focus sort of gets internalized but we get completely preoccupied with ourselves and we forget that there’s a world out there that’s on their way to hell.

So what you discover here is these were folks that kept sight of both things, the teaching from the apostles but the unsaved world around them and they were clearly evolved in evangelism because if you go down to verse 47 look at what it says here. “The LORD was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  [Acts 2:47]

Of course the great commission is “Go therefore and make” what? “disciples of all” Houstonians, no, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.  [Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”]  So that’s why we have missions moments, a missions committee, a missions budget, because we’re trying not to lose sight of all the nations around us, which is a mandate for the church.

And quite frankly this verse here has become one of my favorite verses verse 47 because it says who was adding to the church?  “The LORD,” it doesn’t say the pastors were adding to the church through their slick marketing campaigns. It says the Lord was adding to their number and this is very important to understand in pastoral ministry, is God has never called elders or pastors to build the church.  In fact, if you start trying to build the church you find yourself competing with who?  With God because Jesus, in Matthew 16:18 said, “I will build My church.”  [Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”]  Notice it’s His church, not our church, and He’s the architect of it and the builder of it.

So the Lord never wants us to build His church; He wants to use us perhaps in the construction process but the actual construction of the Church was never something that God assigned to elders or pastors or any spiritual leader.  It’s what God Himself is doing.  And it’s very clear that that’s what’s happening here in verse 47 because it says the Lord added “to their number day by day.”  Now every shepherd, every pastor goes through frustration because they always, myself included, try to step out and build God’s church.  And as you’re trying to build God’s church what you’ll discover is  you’re going to be very frustrated because you’ve shifted onto your shoulders a burden which God never intended for you to carry.  So that’s why Matthew 16:18 is a very significant verse to me personally, as is Acts 2:47, the Lord added to their number.

As is Zechariah 4:6, now this is not a church age passage, it has to do with the construction of the temple in the postexilic era.  The temple was destroyed brick by brick.  [Zechariah 4:6, “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”]  And so when Israel came back out of the seventy year captivity they had to rebuild this temple which was no easy task because the older guys could remember the Solomonic temple and its glory that Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed seventy years earlier.  And so think of the frustration that you would have trying to rebuild what was once glorious.  And so Zechariah was raised  up to motivate Israel during this difficult postexilic time period.  And Zechariah, chapter 4 and verse 6 says, “’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”  Amen to that?

And this is the point that the Lord was adding and it’s also the point of Jesus saying I will build.  I mean, the building is going to get done, it’s just a matter of are we going to let the Lord use us as individuals or not; that’s to be determined because a lot of times we quench the Spirit because we try to do the work of God through human flesh.  But you see here that this group never lost sight of the evangelism opportunities that the Lord was bringing to them.

Now let me give you a sermon illustration here, an application from the Sea of Galilee, which is up north, sometimes called the Sea of Liberia’s, and the Dead Sea which is down south.  The Sea of Galilee up north is teaming with life, vegetables, I don’t know, greenery, fish, all of these kinds of things.  But the Dead Sea down south is called the Dead Sea because everything in the sea is dead.  In fact, when you go to Israel, and I hope you do before the millennial kingdom comes, because once the millennial kingdom comes you won’t be able to do this anymore.  You can go to the Dead Sea down south and actually float in the Dead Sea.  And I thought I would be the first person to sink but I was buoyed up there nicely because of the salt content which kills everything buoys you right to the top.  So there we are happily floating there in the Dead Sea.  And in fact, it’s sort of interesting along the coast there they have life guards and I’m always wondering what do these guys do, I mean, no one can drown, no one can sink, so in my retirement  years when I’m looking for a cushy job I’m thinking of applying for a lifeguard in the Dead Sea.  I could just read the paper all day.

But  here is a question that I have for you.  Why is it that everything in the Dead Sea dies but the Sea of Galilee is alive?  Have you ever asked yourself that?  And here’s basically the answer: the Sea of Galilee has an inflow of a river coming into it and an outflow.  You don’t have that with the Dead Sea, it only has an inflow.  So do you see the spiritual illustration here?  The illustration is if you have an inflow of truth into your life and an outlet through evangelism or a ministry whereby you can disseminate that trust what you’ll have is life, spiritual life, like the Sea of Galilee.

If you are, on the other hand, one of these types of people that just takes in, and there’s a time to take in, but there’s no evangelism, there’s no urgency for the lost, there’s no real ministry that you have, you can expect  your spiritual life to wither away just like life withers away in the Dead Sea.   And I like to use this example of Disneyworld; have you guys ever been there?  Disneyworld is kind of our modern day Mecca, we all make  pilgrimages there, every so many years and we walk around the park three times, how many times can you see Disneyworld or Disneyland when you’re 52  years old and have seen it all before.  I mean, how many times can you ride Space Mountain and be excited about that?  I mean, it’s fun but it’s sort of like yeah, I’ve done all this before.

But you see, when you’re with your little girl who’s never seen any of this stuff and you’re watching it through a child’s eyes it’s very exciting because you’re remembering what it was first like for you when you visited that theme park for the very first time.  See that?  And that’s the value of new converts in a church.  A lot of people will say ah, ecclesiology, I’ve heard all that before, the Book of Revelation, I’ve heard all that before, but here’s the reality—when you’re around someone that’s never heard it, its intoxicating because they’re excited about it and you’re remembering your first love for those things, when you first heard them for the very first time.  So evangelize or fossilize is sort of a good rule of thumb to follow.  So you’ll notice that the early church they never lost sight of evangelism.

There is a fifth thing they gave themselves to and that’s to worship; they started to worship the Lord and where am I getting that from?  It says, “praising God,” right there in verse 47, “praising God and having favor with all the people.”  So these were people of worship; they were worshippers.  What is worship?  Worship is a response to truth; that’s what worship is.  Worship does not exist to get us all into a fight about what our favorite song is.  And a lot of the worship wars that break out in the church of Jesus Christ, and there were many of them in the Dallas area when I was there, it really comes down to one generation wants it one way, another generation wants it a different way.  Believe me, I’m in favor of songs that are biblically accurate and there’s a lot of songs we sing in Christianity today that are not biblically accurate.  But you see the worship wars break out and what it is, really what it comes down to is it’s self-centeredness.  It’s a generational war around people’s preferences.

Now I’m in favor of biblically accurate worship; I’m in favor of worshipping done right but to me part of what’s so disconcerting about the worship wars is the whole battle is taken away from that focus and it turns into my personal preferences not being met.  So the younger generation wants it this way, the older generation wants it that way, so here’s what we’ll do, we’re going to have two different services, one for the younger people, one for the older people.  And what have we just done?  We’ve just divided the body of Christ because weren’t these people meeting in one accord?  It’s a unity of heart and mind.  I don’t think they were all worried about what musical instruments are we going to use, and are going to capture generation A or generation B?  They just couldn’t believe what they heard from Peter, that their nation had it wrong, Peter and the apostles had it right. They changed their minds about who Jesus was.  They were justified before God in a nano­second and they couldn’t even contain themselves.  They just wanted to worship and wanted to publicly praise the Lord.

Jot these verses down: Ephesians 5:19 talks about worship as does Colossians 3:16.  [Ephesians 5:19, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”  Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”]

Now there’s a lot of definitions of worship floating around out there.  Let me just give you what I think is the simplest definition and the most biblically accurate.  Worship is a response to truth.  That’s what worship is.  Because they had truth, didn’t they, verse 42, apostolic doctrine, and that lead to worship, verse 47.  That’s what worship is, it’s a response to truth.  As we travel through the Book of  Revelation, particularly when we get to Revelation 4 and 5 and we are as determined as I am going to finish chapter 3 today, some of you don’t believe me, “you’re going to cover three verses in a whole sermon?”  Yes I am!  I’m going to force myself to do it at gunpoint.  [Laughs]  Someone is worshipful already as I said that.

But worship is a response to truth because in Revelation 4 and 5 we’re going to be transported to the heavenly scene where worship is really done right in heaven and you’re going to see what worship is.  Worship is not a battle over preferences, it’s not about my liver-quiver of the day.  It’s not about does this church over here give me the… I call it the liver-quiver, the goosebumps on the neck.  It’s about seeing Jesus as Creator and Redeemer.  Creator—Revelation 4; Redeemer, Revelation 5. And as He is unveiled in that sense the only thing heaven can do, which would include the church and the angels and the four living creatures, is just explode in worship.  That’s what worship is, it’s the response to truth.

And so my pet heresy is I think within modern day evangelicalism we’ve got it backwards.  We have songs before the sermon and the thinking is we have to prepare the way for the sermon.  That’s how people think. We’ve got to get people in the right mood to sit and endure the sermon I guess is what they’re saying.  I think the whole thing is backwards because the sermon is a proclamation of truth; worship should be a response to truth.  I sort of think we ought to be doing our singing after the sermon. And we do a closing song after the sermon and I’m not going to push that, that’s just my pet heresy.  But what  you see here is the early church gave themselves to worship.

And there is a sixth thing the early church gave themselves to was benevolence.  Look at what it says in verses 44 and 45. It says, “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;” now folks, this is not communism and I say that because liberation theology, which is galloping all the way through South America and is 90 miles off the shore in Havana Cuba, and obviously is very much on the rise today because of the activities of Putin and so forth.  The strategy of communism is to teach liberation theology in the churches.  Communists want to infiltrate the churches not necessarily to make you a communist but to desensitize you to the evils  of communism.  That’s all they’re trying to do and they know that if they can take pulpits and teach a version of Christianity that mixes the Bible with communism, the technical name for it is liber­ation theology, they can desensitize a population to the evils of communism and they can get that population to more readily accept communism.

And you can go right back to the  House on Un-American Activity, it was thoroughly investigated and thoroughly documented if anybody wants to see the research, that the communists for the most part had targeted and by and large taken over the Methodist church, sections of it and what they targeted was the seminaries because if you can corrupt the minds of the preachers you can corrupt the congregation.  And so there’s a lot of people today teaching liberation theology.  I call them… the term for them is useful idiots which is not a pejorative it’s a term that has an actual meaning.   You’re willingly allowing your pulpit to be used to promote the doctrine of communism and you don’t even know it,  you’re just teaching a brand of theology called liberation theology.  Liberation theology loves this verse here because it says they “had all things in common,” that’s got to be communism, right.  [Acts 2:44, “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common.”]

Well, do you see the government involved here at all?  I mean, is the government, which is what communism teaches, coming in and redistributing the wealth?  I don’t see the government involved here at all.  I see what’s happening is compassionate capitalism; the Bible is pro ownership of private property because two of the commandments are don’t covet and don’t steal which are protecting private property.  The Bible is not anti private property.  What was happening here is people were touched by the Holy Spirit for purpose of benevolence and they voluntarily gave of their resources.  It wasn’t coerced the way communism through its mandatory redistribution of wealth teaches it.

In fact, here is the verse that the liberation theologians will never show you. They will never show you Acts chapter 5, which comes after Acts 2, right?  Verses 3 and 4, “But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?”  Ananias and Sapphira were killed because they sold property and they said they were going to give it all to the church and they didn’t; they kept back part of the proceeds for themselves.  And so people say aha, see God is pro-communist, He killed those people because they hung onto their property, they didn’t share it with the masses.  And they’ll never give you verse 4, where Peter says, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?”

In other words, you could do whatever you wanted with your property.  But here’s what you did that displeased the Lord, you lied to everybody.  That’s the sin, they’ve lied to the Holy Spirit.  Their sin wasn’t private property, their sin was they sold it and they told everybody we’ve given it all to the church when in fact they hadn’t.  And Peter is very clear here, while it was unsold you could just do whatever you wanted with it.  That’s not communism.  This is compassion in capitalism because the Bible says the Lord loves a cheerful giver.  On April 15th are you cheerful?  That’s not my most cheerful time of the  year because God is into touching people’s hearts privately and they become generous with their goods.    It’s not coerced, it’s not forced, it’s not mandatory, the government is not involved.  But the early church was involved in this form of benevolence.   And it says, [45] “and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.”    Now why did they do that?  Who was Peter’s audience?  Out of towners from the known world.  They had planned to enter town (Jerusalem), celebrate Pentecost, and go back home.  They only had resources for a short stay.

So what had just happened to these people?  Their minds had just been changed, they needed new doctrine, they couldn’t go back home and they couldn’t read the New Testament because it wasn’t written yet and where else can they learn the new truth from?  From who?  Apostles!  Where are the apostles?  Jerusalem, so they had to stick around.  Now you’ve got an economic problem; you’ve got a bunch of unemployed people. So what happened is the Lord began to touch the hearts of individual Jerusalem church saints and they began to volitionally liquidate their assets to have cash on hand to help the out of towners.  You see that?  And that’s why God raised up benevolence in the early church.

I wish we had time to look at all these verses but jot down Acts 6:1-7, you’ll see benevolence there.  1 Timothy 5:3-16, benevolence, what do you do with people in the church that have a difficult economic time?  What do you do with widows?  I mean, does every widow get support.  You’d be shocked at how specific the Bible is on that.  I Timothy 5:3-16; Acts 6:1-10.

[Acts 6:1-7, “Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on to the ministry of the word.” [5] The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. [6] And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.  [7] The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.  [8] And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. [9]But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. [10] But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.”]

1 Timothy 5:3-16, “Honor widows who are widows indeed; [4] but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. [5] Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day.  [6] But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives. [7] Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach. [8] But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. [2] So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. [3] “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. [4] “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and faith and is worse than an unbeliever. [9] A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, [10] having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. [11] But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, [12] thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. [13] At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busy­bodies, talking about things not proper to mention. [14] Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; [15] for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. [16] If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.”]

And also jot down Galatians 6:10 which says, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of” what? “the household of the faith.”  Benevolence.  So the sixth thing the early church gave themselves to was benevolence.  And then there’s a seventh thing they did and with this our list is finished and we’ll stop.  The seventh thing they did was fellowship and the Greek word for fellowship is κοινωνία [koinonia].

And where do you see fellowship?  You see it there in Acts 2:42, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to” what? “ fellowship,” κοινωνία, what were they fellowshipping around, the commonality that they all had that Jesus was who He claimed to be, that they’d all just changed their minds on.  Now look at this, “they were taking their meals” what? together.  And then it says, verse 47, “praising God and having favor with” what? “all the people.” So you have fellowship being raised up here.  Now notice in verse 46 there’s two kinds of fellowship, large group fellowship, small group fellowship.  Large group is in verse 46, it says, “Day by day continuing with one mind in the” what? “temple,” that’s about three thousand people, “fellowshipping together in the temple as a large group, and then they had smaller groups because it says, “and breaking bread from house to house, [they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.]”

So we kind of have a little bit of that here, don’t we.  We have regular church meetings, then we have fellowship groups and then we have men’s groups and then we have women’s groups and we have opportunities to fellowship in smaller groups. And you can see that the Holy Spirit would be in that because He was doing that in the very first church meeting from the beginning; large groups, small groups, corporate fellowship, small group fellowship.

And there’s a tremendous attitude out there that is very disturbing to me where people look at church today as optional.  And I’m wondering how much we’ve contributed to that by making everything so online and accessible where people say well, I’m just going to stay in my pajamas and catch it on line as if a sermon is the height of what church is. Church is a lot more than just a didactic teaching; it’s comradery with those of like mind.

Hebrews 10:25 is very clear, where it says, “not forsaking your own assembling together,” watch this, “as is the habit of some, [but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”]  Now we fully get it but that some people don’t have a church for whatever reason and we want our outreach to go to them but we’re also very clear that if you have a church within your vicinity and you say well, it’s not a perfect church, well if it is a perfect church then you shouldn’t join it because it won’t be perfect any more.  Amen!  There are no perfect churches because have in them people; people have a sin nature, so you if you have a church without a problem you have not people in the church.  And if you have a church with no people then you’ve got another problem because that’s not a church, it’s just a building or a room.  So everybody says they’re looking for the perfect church.

Sugar Land Bible Church is not utopia Bible Church.  Now the online people think it is because they don’t even know us, that’s why they think that.  But if they hung around here for a while they’d figure it out pretty quick.  This is not Utopia Bible Church.  You’re going to get your feelings hurt in church, people are going to step on your toes, someone is going to say something unkind because all of us are beset by the sin nature.  And yet we’re called to overlook these differences of opinion around the commonality of Jesus Christ.

I would put church like this, if I can use this illustration, it’s like a campfire. Remember when you went camping and  Smoky the Bear told you not to start a forest fire?  And you have a problem because your campfire is still smoldering and you want to go home.  How do you get rid of the campfire as fast as possible (other than throw water on the fire).  You take the coals and you separate them; if they’re separated they go out faster apart than they do together.  See the illustration.  That’s what church is.  This is why the devil is trying to get you to be down on church, hate church, I’m not in favor of organized religion people say, I just want to worship God under this tree over here.  The reality of the situation is that is a satanic lie because he knows that if he can disassociate you from God’s people your energy in the Christian life will quickly disappear.

So if you’re looking for a church, what should see in that church.  Verses 41-47 gives you the seven things that the Holy Spirit will raise up in some form or substance in any body: doctrinal ordinances, prayer, evangelism, worship, benevolence and fellowship.  And the next time I am with you we’re going to be going into church government; how do you govern a church.  Who makes final decisions in a church?  Is it mobocracy, because after all in the United States it’s one man, one vote, right?  So is it a majority opinion, is it a poll, is it congregational led, or is there some kind of papacy or bishop or denomination that we’re to be submitted to outside of Sugar Land Bible Church.  So we’ll get into the subject of government.  And then once you understand the true nature of government then you’ll start to understand why there’s such a premium on how leaders are selected.  It’s called officers.  And we’ll be talking about that.