Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Church on the wheels (Part 1)

A good study of the first century church shows a lot of progress that the apostles made. In spite of the fact that they were introducing an entirely new system over an already existing old one, it is evident that they prospered. 3000 men gave their lives to the Lord the first day Peter preached. Later 5000 believed in Christ and the Lord continued to add to their number day by day those who were being saved. Both Jews and Gentiles were obedient to the faith. The church blossomed.

It was not a stagnant church. It was not a lukewarm church. It was a vibrant and dynamic church - always on the wheels. They were able to withstand, by the power of God, the challenges of their days and had something they kept for the subsequent generations.

Now, why and how did they succeed? What made them so prosperous? What did the apostles do that made them record such tremendous results? In trying to answer these questions, we shall consider the 7 things the apostolic church committed themselves to. For us to have similar results, we are expected to do what the apostles did.

• A church committed to God: The first thing we discover is that the members of the church were not just committed to the church religious practices. They were committed to God and His glory. They had vibrant personal relationships with the Lord, thus they were able to co-exist in love in their fellowships. Individual members having a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, through repentance to God and faith in Jesus Christ, is the only basis or foundation for a church having a cooperate relationship with the Lord. Organizational structures are useless, no matter how religious, if the members do not know God and pursue His glory. Our horizontal relationship with our fellow humans cannot be good when our vertical relationship with God has problems and vice versa. If a church is filled with people who do not know the Lord personally, it is going to be very difficult for it to pursue the glory of God. We find that in the early church, the people were totally sold out to God Himself. When they were imprisoned and beaten, they rejoiced and counted it as a privilege to suffer for the Lord. They were even ready to die if that was God’s will for them. It was a church made up of people that knew their God. No wonder they did exploits.

• A church committed to the Great Commission: Also the early church was committed to the preaching and spreading of the gospel. Having received the charge from the Lord to preach the Good News in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and the Gentile Nations of the world, they were all out to obey their Master. (See Mat.28:19 Mark 16:15). Peter was a married fisherman but he was involved. Barnabas was a rich man and yet he obeyed the commission. Luke was a Medical Doctor but became a missionary physician. Philemon and Onesiphorous were wealthy people and yet were committed to missions. Timothy was a young man and yet preached the gospel. Priscilla and Aquila was a couple that supported missions and gave out their house for fellowship. Throughout the Book of Acts, we see the early church on fire for the Lord. Men from different walks of life were committed to the preaching of the gospel. One thing is clear, whenever a church is distracted and is not committed to the vision of preaching the gospel and the expansion of the Kingdom, the devil will commit her with trivial issues, quarrels, division and politics.
Furthermore, the gospel was not just preached to fulfill all righteousness, it was preached with power and demonstration of the Spirit. (See 1 Thess.1:5; 1 Cor.1:24; Col.1:27 etc). It is a sin for a church to lack the power of God or to preach the gospel of God as if it has no power.

• A Church Committed to prayer: We equally notice that the church was a praying church. Jesus once threw away the money-changers out of the temple telling them that the temple was supposed to be a house of prayer. (Lk.19:45,46). The church is not a place where emphasis on money and earthly success should take upper hand. It must be made up of a people who have both private and cooperate altars – people that pray as individuals and together as a church. The apostles once decided on issues of priority saying “it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables…we will devote ourselves to prayer” (Acts 6:2, 4a. Also see Acts 12:5,12; 3:1; 16:13 etc). Paul gave testimonies of what his prayer life and that of those who worked with him was like. (See 2 Thess.1:11,12; 1 Thess.1:2,3; Col.4:12; 1:3,4; Eph.1:16-23 etc). In line with the Lord’s admonition in Luke 18:1, “Men ought always to pray and not to faint”, Paul urged the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”. (1 Thess.5:16). The early church was a praying church and members were involved. No wonder they experienced the power of prayer.

• A church committed to the Word of God: In Acts 6:2-4 as we noted above, another issue of priority the apostles decided was the Word of God. They said, “we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of God’s Word”. Christians were not lazy to study doctrines (See Acts 2:42). They were committed to both teaching and exhorting each other in their homes, house fellowships and in the temple. Many of the people following the apostles were determined to confirm what they were being taught by themselves like the Boreans (Acts 17:10-12). Members of the church were not slothful as we see today in most of our churches. They were not swallowing hook line and sinker what the preachers tell them. They were both individually and as a church committed to the study and obedience to the Word of God. Paul instructed Timothy, “Till I come, attend to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching, to teaching”. (1 Tim.4:13). There are plausible words of wisdom, the so-called ‘prosperity’ gospel, and peddlers of God’s word (2 Cor.2:17). Unfortunately, none of these can save a man from hell nor change his eternal destiny. The apostles majored on the things that matter. 1 Cor.2:12; 1:23-25. They preached the full gospel. If the Bible is not the sole guide for faith and practice for a church and its members, man-made traditions and vested interests will dominate and they will not be able to accomplish anything tangible for God.

To be continued...

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