Intro: The Beginning of the church at Jerusalem provides a pattern for churches today. I believe this is by design. The divinely guided apostles established the pattern in Jerusalem. The first chapters of Acts record the establishment of this first church of God’s people, so this text provides necessary information. We cannot teach the nature and work of the church apart from the Jerusalem model.
I. Solidarity with the NT Church? Local churches of Christ today are not dependent on establishing some type of succession, imagined or real, from the church of the first century. (sign on the building – as though there is an organizational succession of a religious body) There is one church, and that church exists today. But how is our solidarity established?
A. The credentials that apply here are explained by Jesus in the parable of the soils..Luke 8:11 – “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.” A true church of Christ is no built through its association with any other church or a succession of apostles or teachers. A true church of Christ is validated through its relationship with Christ alone. It is a church (assembly) of people who belong to Christ. Their beginning, growth, and reproduction are dependent on the seed – the word of God.
II. The Apostolic Message: The central place of the apostolic teaching in clearly seen in the words Albert read for us a few moments ago:
Acts 2:40-43 – And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
A. There are many who demean, or deny the place of pattern in the authority of scripture. The interesting take on this approach is that not only that it denies what is clearly presented as a legitimate element of authority in the scriptures, but also that it excludes the basis of all Biblical authority. We are all reading someone else’s mail. The truth revealed by Jesus was delivered by the apostles once for all to churches and individuals of the 1st Jude 3 – Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
B. Jesus promised to guide the apostles into all the truth (Jn. 16) and that what they bound or loosed on earth, would already have been bound or loosed in heaven. (Mt. 16)
C. That delivery of the apostolic message was given and delivered as an example (or pattern) for all churches. Peter called Paul’s words “scripture” and the apostles claimed to be teaching the same message. (2 Pet. 3:16)
D. The apostles understood their message as a pattern of truth for all churches.
• 1 Cor 7:17 – 7 But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches.
• 2 Timothy 1:13 – 13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. NKJV
• 2 Timothy 3:14 – 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
• 1 Thessalonians 2:13– 13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.
• Galatians 1:9-12 – 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. 11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
III. The Seed Meets the Soil – The church emerged on the scene in Acts 2 through the preaching and teaching of the word. The seed brought forth a harvest. Throughout the 1st history recorded in the book of Acts this process was repeated. As we noticed in the parables of the Tares this morning, Satan sows his own seed. It does not surprise us to see the two sowing side by side. In fact, God’s harvest is described within the context of Satan’s sowing.
A. Acts 5:12-16 – 12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. 14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. 16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
1. Immediately Satan sows the seeds of hate and anger: Acts 5:17-18 – Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, 18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.
2. God delivers the apostles from prison; Acts 5:19-20 – But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.” – keep sowing the seed.
3. Acts 5:27-29 – And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. (translated as “we have to keep sowing the seed of the word”)
4. This infuriated the council once again and they plotted to kill them on the spot. After Gamaliel’s advice to leave them alone, lest we fight against God, they beat the apostles and ordered then once again to cease and desist from teaching about Jesus. (5:40) Notice the response: Acts 5:42 – And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
5. After the murder of Steven, the church was physically scattered from Jerusalem, but “those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word”. (Acts 8:4)
B. Acts 14:1-4 – Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. 3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4 But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. The teaching of the apostles is set in opposition and contrast with the teaching of the unbelieving Jews. – This is a story of sowing the seed and encountering different types of soil. As Paul and his companions moved from Antioch southeast to Iconium, then to Lystra, then to Derbe, they sow the seed of the word. It is a thrilling success story as churches of Christ are established. There is a developing pattern in each city, indicative of the teaching Jesus’ parable:
1. There is an initial acceptance of the message, and the preachers are encouraged. But not long after the persecution arises and there is a conflict. Through the power of God the confrontation comes to a head, suffering ensues, and the church grows, and God is glorified. .. And then the pattern starts over again because the preaching continues.
IV. How did they plant the seed of the kingdom? What are the important elements of the apostle’s work that have application to us today? After Paul was stoned at Lystra, he got up and went back into the city, and then began a return trip through the cities of Asia Minor. (14:20) Acts 14:21-22 – 21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
A. They preached the gospel (vs. 21) – the same message Seed) in each city. There was no effort made to accommodate the message because of the persecution. Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 2 Corinthians 4:5For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. It is always important to keep the message in the front. We cannot attempt to evangelize through making ourselves look appealing and substitute that for the message. (“We are just the church you are looking for” – instead of “this is just the message you need”.)
B. They “made disciples of the Lord” (vs. 21) –Making disciples is what Jesus wanted – Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
1. This passage points to the goal of every evangelist who preaches the gospel, every church that begins a personal work program or a visitation program, every teacher that talks to their neighbor about Jesus – we must make disciples. This involves both baptizing & teaching.
C. They “strengthened the souls” (vs. 22) How strong is your soul? Jesus is concerned with making the inner person stronger and healthier – 2 Cor 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
1. We struggle to distinguish between the physical and spiritual, the inner and outer person. If I ask you, “How are you doing” what is the most common reply? To what were you referring? Probably had in mind your body. We mention those things that may be wrong with our bodies – pain in my back, headache, etc. But how are YOU doing? The inner person. Romans 12:2– And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. We need to strengthen each other’s souls. Use the word to change and improve attitudes. Educate each other on what God’s word teaches. Pray for each other for spiritual development and improvement.
D. They “exhorted them to continue in the faith” (vs. 22) We must make sure that we are not quitting. Some of us may be on the verge of giving up. Who are the most vulnerable, and what can we do to encourage them?
1. Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, Gal 6:9-10 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 2 Thess 3:13“But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.
2. Luke tells us that Paul and Barnabas exhorted these brethren to not give up by saying “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” There is not more important message of encouragement to give to those who truly desire to do God’s will than that. You and I must suffer. Sowing the seed involves all of these elements:
• Preaching the gospel
• Making disciples
• Strengthening Souls
• Exhorting each other to continue in the faith.
Conclusion: The church has the potential of being a source of great joy in a joyless world. The message of the gospel is a message of hope and joy. Later in Acts 8 a Spirit guided preacher is sent to the searching heart of the Ethiopian and brings the same message that was preached at Jerusalem. He planted the seed. It brought obedience and joy.
Acts 8:35-39 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.