A blessed new year to all of you! Someone said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” With the year 2007 ahead of us, let me remind you of the main thing that we are to pursue. Let us see how the early church did it in Acts 2:41-47...
“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Keep in mind that in verses 1 to 40 we see that the Holy Spirit just came down upon the early church. Dr. John Stott wrote that, “As a body without breath is a corpse, so the church without the Spirit is dead. There can be no life without the life-giver and no effective witness without His power.” The passage we will be studying is the result of the empowering of the Spirit. So we can say that Acts 2:41-47 gives us the marks of a Spirit-filled church. Let me ask you, “If the Holy Spirit withholds His power in our church, would there be a marked difference in what we are doing? Or would it be ‘business as usual’?” If we as a church are filled with the Spirit, then let us pursue the main things.
First, let us PROCLAIM the Gospel together.
Verse 41 says, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” The Apostle Peter just preached the Gospel to them and there was an overwhelming response. But don’t think that sharing the Good News of salvation is limited to mass evangelism. Note in verses 46 and 47 that as the believers met in the temple or as a group and in different houses in small groups, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” So both publicly and personally, the early church proclaimed the Gospel. God gave our church the privilege of joining the Franklin Graham festival early this year and the My Hope Philippines this December. But that is to supplement personal evangelism, not to replace it. Yes, we have Gospel Sundays. But that is to stimulate us to share the Good News one-on-one. Verse 47 says that the early believers enjoyed “the favor of all the people.” In other words, people liked them. Let us ask ourselves, “If I am a first-time visitor of Makati Gospel Church, what would be my first impression?” Do people feel so welcome or they feel snubbed? Our day-to-day dealing with our loved ones and with people we worked with will determine if they will be attracted to our church. For some of us who are a little timid to invite or to share the Gospel with others, I hope that the only reason is that we are just shy, not because we are ashamed of the way we lived before our peers. We are to proclaim the Gospel both in our words and in our works.
Second, let us PERSEVERE in the faith together.
After accepting the message, verse 42 says “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching...” The word “devoted” means they committed themselves not only to spend time in the Bible but to obey it. One time an issue came up in the Jerusalem church. Before, other than their pastoral duties, the apostles took charge in distributing funds among the widows in the church. But since the church was growing, some people felt neglected and the apostles felt pulled in different directions with all the demands for their attention. They said, “It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God’s word in order to handle finances.” They were so busy that they neglected their main responsibility. Don’t get them wrong. The needs of the widows were legitimate. But they have to keep the main thing the main thing. So they decided to delegate the food distribution to others so that they can “give [their] full time to prayer and the work of preaching.” Like them, we your pastors are to give emphasis to prayer and preaching. The Apostle Paul said to the church in Ephesus, “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house... I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.” We your pastors are not here to entertain or even to educate you. We are here to edify you with the Word of God. Of course, we are responsible not to bore you with the Bible. But we are to build you up in the faith. Our aim is not just to inform you but to transform you with the Bible. Dr. John Stott wrote, “The Spirit of God leads the people of God to submit to the Word of God.” The Lord Jesus said, “If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples”. Let us devote ourselves to obey God’s Word.
Third, let us PARTNER with each other.
Verse 42 says, “They devoted themselves... to the fellowship...” Remember that after Peter’s preaching, God added 3,000 to the church. Most if not all of those people were not from Jerusalem. Now, if you are on vacation for only a week, you won’t make preparations for board and lodging for a month. That’s the situation of these new Christians. Supposedly they were there only for the Feast of Pentecost. But they became believers. As young believers, they have to grow first in the faith before going back to their homes. So they stayed in Jerusalem. Soon, their funds got depleted. What did the Jerusalem church do? Acts 2:44-45 says, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Remember that the apostles did not require them. They did it voluntarily. That’s why don’t ask what the church can do for you. But rather ask what you can do for the church. And, more than their belongings, they shared their lives. One translation of verse 42 says “they were like family to each other.” Another translation says that “They committed themselves to… life together…” Is our church fellowship a burden or a blessing to you? Dr. Charles Swindoll wrote, “Fellowship occurs, I believe, when there are expressions of genuine Christianity freely shared among God’s family members. First, to share something with someone something tangible. To help him meet a need. And second, to share in something with someone else. Our time together becomes so much more valuable when our lives become entwined with one another, moving closer together, feeling each other strain and struggles, deeply caring for one another.” That is why we are commanded in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Lastly, let us PRAISE God together.
The early believers “devoted themselves… to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe… praising God…” The early church was a great church because they saw how great God is. Worship is not limited to the program but it was their way of life. In fact, that shows that the Spirit is moving in our lives and in our church. Ephesians 5:18-20 says “be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s why we are encouraging you to join us not only in our worship services but also in our prayer meetings. According to the Natural Church Development Institute, “One of the marks of a healthy church is passionate spirituality. The church enjoys prayer as an inspiring experience.” They have a deep love not only for each other but for God. I believe that’s the reason why “many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles...” Now, we may not experience sensational miracles. But when we worship God, I believe people’s lives will be changed.
Brethren, let us proclaim the Gospel, persevere in the faith, partner with each other and praise God together. Those are the main things that we are to keep the main thing. Let’s keep on pursuing ahead!
Let us pray...
Note: Pastor Cortez preached this message last December 31, 2005 in the Joint Worship Service of Makati Gospel Church.
All Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise noted.
Good News Bible (GNB)
Acts 20:20, 27
John 8:32, GNB
Contemporary English Version
Acts 2:42-43a, 47a