The Original Church
[Acts 2:41-47] (Part 2)
A. As we studied this morning, many are unhappy with the gospel message today, for one reason or another. I believe the same thing could also be said about people's attitude towards the church itself. Some say it is too narrow and excludes too many people; some say it is outdated and simply not relevant to today's society and culture; others say it is woefully insufficient and unappealing to the masses today. To those who make such complaints, the solution seems to be that we need to change the church by making it less exclusive, more relevant, and more appealing. To those who call for such changes, The Original Church is just not enough.
But, like those who appealed for a "different gospel," they are wrong. They are dead wrong. The problem is not the church it's in the hearts of those who come into it! Instead of being content to let the church of Christ be His, they want to remake it and remodel it into their church, what they want and doing the things that make them happy. Have you ever stopped to think about the popular admonition to "join the church of your choice"? Have you ever wondered why no one says, "Join the church of God's choice"?
B. The problem today is not that The Original Church is now inefficient or irrelevant; the problem is that the churches most people see are not The Original Church at all! Instead of the church truly belonging to the One who bought, it, it has become a mere facilitator of fulfilling the fleshly desires of those who compose it. No longer is Jesus the focus, but self. No longer does it have a spiritual goal, but an earthly, materialistic one that uses the appeals of the fleshly desires of man to make the constituents happy. Take those things away and the membership would simply evaporate, for the most part. The original plan for The Original Church has been set aside and men have followed in the steps of error and decreed it unworkable and insufficient and have added to it, changed the organization, changed the qualifications for membership, changed its focus, and even changed who they recognize as its head. No longer is it a true church of Christ (belonging to Him and for Him), but now it has become the church of ME.
C. With that in mind, and with the remembrance that the church is not the building but the people, let us look back to the Day of Pentecost when The Original Gospel was preached and The Original Church began. Let us look at what the word of God says about the church that began on that day and then let us compare it to the churches that exist today. Let us see what Christ intended His church to be from the beginning and throughout all time. Let us see what resulted from that original gospel message: The Original Church. Let's look
I. THEY WERE OBEDIENT [v. 41]
A. They Gladly Received The Word. It has been said that there could have been as many as 500,000 individuals who had come into Jerusalem for this feast and were present on the Day of Pentecost. From that large assembly of people, we find that some heeded the words of the apostles upon hearing the original gospel. Not everyone was automatically added to the church just because Jesus had died and certainly not because the gospel message was preached. Some rejected it! But, we find that some gladly received his word. Some were joyous at hearing the words of the new covenant and the message of forgiveness of sins, and they responded by welcoming it into their hearts as their own. They gladly received his word. If anyone claims they are a member of the church, not having gladly received the words of the original gospel, they may be a part of some church, but they cannot claim to be a part of the church Jesus established The Original Church!
B. They Were Baptized. And those who gladly received his word further manifested their obedience by submitting to the words of Peter. He had told them to repent and be baptized, so that is what they did. They did not argue from their traditional practices, what their parents had done or what their rabbi had told them; they accepted the word and obeyed. They were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. If anyone claims to be a part of the Lord's church and has not been baptized for the remission of sins, they may be a part of some church, but they are not a part of the church Jesus established The Original Church!
II. THEY FOLLOWED ONE DOCTRINE [v. 42]
A. Given By The Holy Spirit to the Apostles. These individuals who gladly received the words of the apostles did not stop heeding their words once they had believed and obeyed; it is said that they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine afterwards. In its literal sense, this means that they were adhering closely to the things the apostles taught. They were not each following their own beliefs and there is no hint that anyone was "doing what was right in their own heart" while claiming "it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you're sincere." They had heard the words of salvation and understood that if they were to continue in that saving power, they had to heed the commands. These were the Holy Spirit-inspired words they came from God! If the church you are a part of claims that "one church is as good as another" and "doctrine doesn't matter," then you may be a part of some church, but not The Original Church! The Original Church followed after one doctrine: the doctrine delivered to them by the Holy Spirit completely unified in teaching and practice and with no conflict of beliefs and no contradictions.
B. Allowing Them to Have Fellowship. Because these people were unified in doctrine, they could then have fellowship with one another on that basis. Imagine the confusion that would have existed if all those who heard the same message of repentance and baptism then all decided to follow their own ways! What fellowship would they have had if everyone followed something different? None! But, when we read about these believers, we find that they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. They did the things that like-minded people would do, people who had just heard and obeyed The Original Gospel. When we look around at the religious world today, especially the religious world that is fragmented and divided over different doctrines, we must admit that these divisions did not come about because they were all following the same doctrine and we must also then admit that there can never be fellowship with these sectarian groups as long as that is true. When we see the denominational church of today, we must admit it is not The Original Church at all, but something vastly different than what was intended in the beginning.
III. SIGNS AND WONDERS DONE [v. 43]
A. From The Beginning of the Church. A few people today say they are just like The Original Church and make great claims to have all the powers and abilities that church had when questioned about their belief and apparent practice of healings and miracles. They point back to Acts 2 and point out that there was speaking in tongues and the fact that many wonders and signs were performed at that time. They point to verses 38 and 39, which say, you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call and they say, "See! The Holy Spirit was promised to them and everybody!" They would have us believe that the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit (and nothing less than this) is expected for all who come to Christ. Well, let's look again at Acts 2 and see what the reality is, shall we?
1. Who Spoke in Tongues? Yes, it is true that certain people spoke in tongues on that day, but who was it? And what were those tongues? We find that it was only the apostles (1:26/2:4) that spoke in tongues on this occasion not everyone. You will find no reference to anyone other than the apostles speaking in tongues in this entire context. You will also find that it was only through the apostles that these wonders and signs were done (v. 43). In fact, you will find that the only time anyone received the Holy Spirit in any miraculous measure, it was either because the apostles had laid their hands on them (cf. Acts 6:5-6/8:6; 8:15, 16) or a special instance where God wanted the witnesses to know He approved of the event (cf. Acts 10, Cornelius and his household). If the church of which you are a part teaches that they perform miracles because that's what the first church did, you may rest assured that they are in error. They may be some church, but not The Original Church.
2. What Were the Tongues? Here again, is where there seems to be a difference in what the Bible says and what man defines as "tongues" today. Then, it was merely another language (see. 2:4 & 2:6). Now, it seems to be just a bunch of unintelligible gibberish that no one can understand. If the church of which you are a part claims to be speaking in tongues, but it is not any known language on this earth, they are in error and cannot rightly claim to be The Original Church.
B. Confirming The Word. To properly understand the place of these wonders and signs in The Original Church, we need to understand the purpose for any of the miracles done at that time. And when we consider that they were done to cause belief that Jesus was sent by God (cf. John 11:4, 38-44), to cause repentance (cf. Matt. 11:20-24), and to confirm the word that was being preached (cf. Mark 16:19-20; Acts 14:3). Some today are teaching that it is the unquestionable sign of one's salvation and, unless you can demonstrate some miraculous power given to you after your baptism, then you are not really saved. Such was never the case in The Original Church. It was never said to be a sign of anyone's salvation, as some are now teaching. If the church of which you are a part teaches that the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit is necessary and a sign of your salvation, they may be some church, but they cannot rightly claim to be The Original Church.
IV. THEY WERE UNIFIED [vs. 44, 45]
A. Having All Things in Common. These people who had come from all corners of the civilized world had nothing more in common with one another other than the fact that they had all come to worship God in the way He had commanded. That alone was a powerful common factor for them coming together and looking out for one another. Friends, may I emphasize here that this is true fellowship? It was not, as some would have us believe, coffee and donuts and spaghetti and chocolate pies. It was not board games and cake walks and basketball and aerobics. These people were together and had all things in common. They did not just come together to eat or play or be entertained in the same building! The idea of fellowship as some are promoting today is a far cry from what these people did then. If the church of which you are a part defines fellowship in any other way than the common belief and obedience to the words of Jesus Christ and the relationship they have with one another that comes as a result, they may certainly be some kind of church, but they cannot rightly claim to be The Original Church!
B. Looking Out For Others' Interests. And the fellowship that they had with one another caused them to look out not only for their own interests, but for the interests of others (cf. Phlp. 2:3, 4). They saw that many had come from far away and did not have homes or a regular source of income while they were away, and they looked out for their needs and some sold their possessions and goods and divided them among all, as anyone had need. Those people knew it was their responsibility to personally take part in the fulfillment of the needs of their brethren. If the church of which you are a part does not practice this or if they have handed it over to some other organization to do the work for you, then while they may certainly be some kind of church, they cannot rightly claim to be The Original Church!
V. THEY LIVED THEIR FAITH DAILY [v. 46]
A. In The Temple And House To House. And these people took to heart the commands of their Lord in that they were not "Sunday morning Christians," daily living their faith before all. They went to the temples and they brought their faith house to house in the effort to further spread the borders of Christ's kingdom. They did not hide it away and they were not ashamed for others to know they believed in Jesus as the Christ. They may have suffered persecutions and exclusions because of this, but they persevered and they did not shrink back. They believed they had to be lights in a world of darkness and salt in the world of spoil and rottenness. If the church of which you are a part does not or if you do not practice daily manifestations of their faith, then how can we claim to be a part of The Original Church?
B. With Gladness and Sincerity. As they went about their daily lives, they also manifested a joy that had come because of their obedience to Christ. They did these things with gladness, not remorse and drudgery. They were truly happy to be a part of the body of believers and were not ashamed to show their joy to any and all who would see. They also did these things in complete sincerity, and not hypocritically. They did not put on a face of faith and happiness just to put on a show. These people were genuine! They followed God out of a sincere heart, desiring nothing more than to be pleasing in His sight. If the church of which you are a part is made up of hypocritical people who are not living with gladness and sincerity or if you are not then how can we rightly claim to be a part of The Original Church?
VI. THE LORD ADDED THE SAVED TO THE CHURCH [v. 47]
A. Not By The Vote of Men. It is significant to note that when these people obeyed The Original Gospel, the Lord added them to the church. We should note that we do not find a group of religious leaders listening to the testimony of each professed believer, and we do not find them reading a letter of recommendation from another church so they can then take a vote on whether or not a believer would be voted into the church. What we do find is the Lord adding to the church daily those who were being saved. That's how it was done then and that is how it done now. If the church you are a part of votes people into its membership, or claims you can be saved without being a part of the church, or if they teach that anyone other than the Lord is needed to add the saved to His church, then while they may be some kind of church, they cannot rightly claim to be The Original Church.
B. Not By Personal Testimony or by an Experience. We also hear today many churches that say the only factor in church membership is some kind of personal "experience." I have not ever gotten a satisfactory answer as to what that means, but many people, especially in this part of the country, believe that is all that is needed to convince others they are a part of the true church. The only problem with this is you will not find such anywhere in the Scriptures! Nowhere do we find examples of people relating their testimony of their religious experience, like the proverbial "blue light in the field" or that "warm feeling inside my heart." Nowhere! What we find is, people had gladly received the word and had been baptized, and the Lord added daily to the church those who were being saved. If the church of which you are a part teaches and practices anything other than the Lord alone doing the adding, they cannot rightly be called The Original Church!
Friends and brethren, the church that was begun almost 2000 years ago is not what we see for the most part today. Is it any wonder that people who are searching for the truth are so confused when they look at all the religious division and contradiction? Is it any wonder that some simply give up trying because they think they cannot comprehend which church is the right church?
But there is a way to know which church is right, and we have done that today. By looking at The Original Church and seeing how they were identified and what they did, we can know whether or not we are a part of The Original Church or just some other false hope. Only by doing what they did and being who they were can we claim to be the same church as The Original Church the church for which Christ died and the only one that is made up of the saved.
Are you a part of that church? Are you a believer? If not, why not? Won't you come?
By Steven Harper
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