Church Growth and brief preamble
…the apostles provide the foundation stones for the building of God that goes on until the end of the church age. The story of the church begins in the Book of Acts. Acts is the first volume of church history, and it is history, but it is loaded with theology because everything essential to the life and growth of the church was theological.
So while we say Act is history, we have to rush in to immediately say it is history based on the impact of sound doctrine and theology.
So this goes from the Day of Pentecost until the first imprisonment of Paul in Rome.
The process of the Book of Acts follows the promise of the Book of Acts. The promise is in chapter 1, verse 8, “You will receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the world.”
The Book of Acts then gives us the history of the apostles fulfilling their calling, being empowered by the Holy Spirit to go from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the world, preaching the gospel for the building of the church.
The main character in the book of Acts
The main person in the Book of Acts is God Himself because it’s the story of God’s redemptive plan unfolding. He continues His salvation, His redemptive saga, saving sinners through the gospel of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the apostles and those who accompanied them.
Luke is the writer
The unanimous testimony, by the way, of the early church is that Luke is the author of the Book of Acts. That is a uniform confession by the early church, that Luke was the writer. That is to say that the earliest church, the closest to the apostolic era, affirmed Luke as the writer, and they would have known. And so down through history, there has been no question about authorship, no legitimate question. Numerous times through the Book of Acts, you will find the collective use of “we”, the collective use of “we” such as in chapter 16, 20, 21, and from 27 into 28. That’s an indication that Luke is present. Luke is a part of Paul’s ministry.
The Apostles in weakness
…these apostles seemed like an unlikely group to be able to affect the world in any dramatic way. They were amazingly weak and vacillating and hard-headed, had seemingly repeated problems understanding what Jesus was trying to tell them. He castigated them on numerous occasions for the weakness of their faith. So if they were going to literally turn the world upside down, as they would, there was going to have to be a pretty dramatic transformation in those men.
The Apostles in power
They seem inadequate for any monumental task, but as the Book of Acts opens, they are a completely different group of men. Bold, powerful, clear-minded, effective, useful, and so last time we asked the simple question, what happened? Well, one of the things that happened was the resurrection and that energized them out of the sorrow that they were in when they thought that their hopes had been dashed in the crucifixion.
Yes, the resurrection had a massive impact on them, of course. And we could add the coming of the Holy Spirit empowered them. The resurrection let them know that their Savior was alive, and the Holy Spirit gave them the power to fulfill their responsibility.
They start quoting the Old Testament
But as I told you last time, there was one other critical element that shows up early in the Book of Acts that I think made a huge difference in these men, and it is this: they understood for the first time the unfolding plan of redemption from the Old Testament.
Up to this point, you never hear the apostles quoting the Old Testament. Read through the four gospels. They don’t seem to have an understanding of the Old Testament and how it applies or how it’s fulfilled in Christ. But as soon as you come into the Book of Acts, even before the Day of Pentecost in chapter 1, you find Peter quoting the fulfillment of the Old Testament, even as regards Judas.
…And then if you look at chapter 1, verse 3, it tells us that, “He presented Himself alive after His suffering by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of 40 days. And what did He do? He was speaking of the things concerning the Kingdom of God.
So, by the time they appear on the scene to fulfill their calling in the Book of Acts, they know Christ is alive. The Spirit will empower them, and they have a clear understanding of the Old Testament.
A pattern for church growth
Here is the true Holy Spirit-revealed, divinely-ordained plan for church growth. The first thing we noted last time was they had a transcendent message. They had a transcendent message. Whether they were in Jerusalem or whether they were in Rome or all the stops in between throughout the entire Book of Acts, the message never changed. It never changed.
Paul summed it up. “I’m determined to know nothing among you except Christ and Him crucified.” “I don’t come to you with human wisdom. I don’t come to you with superiority of speech,” he told the Corinthians. The message never changed. The message was never informed by the culture. It was never altered by the culture. It was never accommodated to the culture. They paid no attention to form, to tradition, to custom, to expectation.
The early church also grew because of, I guess what you’d call, a faithful perseverance, a faithful perseverance. It really never sought to be popular with the world. It didn’t seek to be accepted to the world.
It didn’t try to figure out how to accommodate the world, how to be popular It’s kind of what Paul talks about in II Corinthians 4:2 when he talks about, “Commending ourselves to every man’s conscience.”
They (the crowds) were in awe of their lives. They were amazed at their character, but they were outright offended by their message.
…“And verse 40, “With many other words, he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’” A very strong message. Narrow, exclusive, confrontive, condemning, judgmental.
The church doesn’t need secular wisdom. It doesn’t need corporate strategy. It needs Godly leadership.
It has to be desirous of purity and holiness meaning resentfulness towards sin. It has to be uncompromising with the world and with false teaching. It is counter-culture. It is an alien reality consumed with worshipping God. It must feel the weight and the gravity of identifying with Christ. It must be submissive to Him.