The Church of God, next to the Cross of Christ, is the greatest thing God ever wrought. It is the nearest and dearest thing to His heart. In the opening chapters of the book of the Acts, it has pleased the Lord to preserve for us the activities of the early Church, and it is the best of all Church histories. Let us take a look at the Jerusalem Church which was so blessed and honored of God. Let us look at her in prayer and on the front line. Can we not learn some lessons? Are we fitting into the purpose of God for our generation as they did? If not, why not?
Salvation through the Word
On the Day of Pentecost, we have the birthday of the Christian Church. There were Christians before that notable day (Acts 1:13), but on this historic day they were constituted the Christian Church by the descent and baptism of the Holy Spirit. Believers in Christ became the Body of Christ here on the earth. Peter, filled with the Spirit of God, explained the mighty miracle of Pentecost. In a moving, mighty discourse, the apostle showed that the faith of the Church is founded on a historical Person who lived at Nazareth, “a Man approved of God.” Further this Man was, “Thine only One” (v. 27) and the “Christ” (v. 30), and the “Lord” (v. 34), declared to be “Lord and Christ.” Peter, in his first gospel sermon, preached a divine Saviour who was crucified but could not be holden of death, who is now exalted to the right hand of God in heaven. If anyone is to be saved, he must bow to Him. It was a message that told out the Scriptures and their verifi- cation as seen in Psalm 16 and Psalm 110. David had not spoken of himself; but, being a prophet, he spoke of Christ. Now the good news of a crucified and risen Saviour is to be the solemn responsibility of the early Christians. Have we availed ourselves of God’s great salvation by turning to Christ to be saved? There is no honor or calling so great as to belong to the Church of the First Born whose names are enrolled in heaven.
Submission to the Word
Not only did the people lay hold of Christ as their eternal refuge but they openly confessed Him in baptism, “the answer of a good conscience towards God” (1 Peter 3:21). Their creed was expressed in death, burial and resurrection. Their conduct adorned the doctrine of God their Saviour. Baptism is an open confession to the world that the believer is united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Not that we are to understand that baptism is essential to salvation but rather it is the first act of faith in Christ which is essential (1 Cor. 1:17). They were not baptized in order that they might be saved, but they were baptized because they were saved.
Steadfastness in the Word (vv. 42, 46)
These early Christians belonged to the “continuing brethren.” They went on in the Word and in the work. The doctrine of the Apostles was their milk and meat, their lamp and light. The hallmark of their confession was a steadily faithful going on. We are urged in the Scriptures to continue in the grace of God (13:43); in the faith (14:22), and here in the teaching ministry of men like Peter, Paul, James, and John. As the people of God, we are to be steadfast in the Word (John 8:31); in His love (John 15:9); in prayer (Col. 4:2); and in praise (Heb. 13:15). They not only continued in a genuine love for the Word of God but also for one another. The fellowship of the New Testament in which we are united is not some secret society. It is a fellowship of Christians and expresses itself in Christ, communion, compassion, and in the communication of our goods and substance (1 Cor. 1:9; 10:16; 2 Cor. 1:7; 13:14).
Another mark of the first century Christians was the Lord’s Supper. It is the central ordinance of Christianity, the commemoration of His mighty love and infinite sacrifice, and the command of the Lord Jesus.
Finally there is the matter of prayer. The history of the early Church reveals the power and place of prayer. This whole book is cast in a mold of prayer. Someone has said there are three things the Christian should always be doing: pray about everything (1 Thess. 5:17); praise about everything (1 Thess. 5:16); and petition about everything (Phil. 4:6). Like C. H. Spurgeon we need to learn how to pray briefly, yet never live more than ten minutes without lifting our hearts to God.
Signs by the Word of God (vv. 43-47)
The early Church knew nothing of standing still or lagging behind. Her watchword was, “Go, stand, speak all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20). She charged the citadel of the devil and pressed forward the conflict to the very gates. No worldly power could hinder the Church militant. They could sing in triumph, “Like a mighty army moves the Church of God.” Wherever the message went, there was either a riot or a revival. Some were exceedingly mad, others became sad, but a host of redeemed heathen were made glad. The new life was manifested by fear (v. 43), charity (vv. 44-45), joy (v. 46), praise, influence and success (v. 47). What dynamic! What drive! How many of these characterize the Church where I live?
Only a pure, separated Church can cause the world to testify, “These . . . have turned the world upside down.” May God help us to bow in contrition and seek His face in forgiveness. Then rising up in the energy of faith, may we proclaim His Name to the ends of the earth.