Following the ascension of Jesus Christ in heaven (Acts 1:6-11) and the replacing of Judas as a disciple with Matthias (Acts 1:12-26), the disciples were waiting for the Holy Sprit’s arrival on the Day of Pentecost for enabling to fulfill a mission given to them by Jesus while He was still on earth – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
When the Spirit arrived, they were ecstatic! Outsiders who witnessed this had no idea what was going on. Some assumed the speaking in tongues was really just early-morning drunkenness; others wanted to know how these disciples were now speaking in a language they didn’t know a few minutes before.
So, the leader of the disciples – Peter – addressed the crowd. He preached a “turn or burn” themed sermon (Acts 2:22-39). The people were convicted. The call to action was this: repent! Peter told them to turn from their sinful ways and call upon the name of the One they killed. They did! 3,000 people “came forward” that day to become Christians.
This was the beginning of the organized church. When the Gospel was preached on the Day of Pentecost, it produced something. The Gospel made a certain kind of people – a certain kind of community. What we read in these early chapters of Acts is our story; these are our foundations – our roots.
Acts 2:42-47 is a description – not a prescription – what the organic church looked like.
This church was a learning church (vs. 42a). When the Gospel saved these people and they came together, they came together to learn the Bible. They were looking for teaching…and more teaching…and more teaching. The church must never be content with what it knows of God and His word, but must continue to press towards the upward call of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:12-16).
This church wanted to be together (Acts 2:42b). Here were 3,000 people who did not know each other well eagerly eat with one another. Many had come from other parts of the world to Jerusalem for Pentecost. But now they were one in Christ, and they loved each other, talked to each other, and shared their problems and burdens and needs. There was a wonderful sense of community, of commonality, of belonging to each other. That is the fellowship which is the intended life for the body of Christ.
When this church gathered, God was the focus (Acts 2:42d-43). The first church was a praying church. They continued steadfastly in prayers. And it should be no surprise to us that reverence filled the place. Fears are reserved for occasions when people are struck with an awe that is based on something powerful, something divine, something beyond their ability to explain or to handle.
Needs were regularly met (Acts 2:44-46). They had a very loose attachment to the things of this world. They lived by the idea that “what’s your is mine and what’s mine is yours.” When one had a need, somebody sold something and supplied that individual’s need. They had a “common purse.” And this kind of living is the very kind of thing that the Apostle John would say validates one’s profession of faith – “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (I John 3:17).
And yet, the early church was not perfect. As the church evolves in the Book of Acts you learn of the dysfunction and sin. Galatia flirted with a false gospel of works righteousness. Ephesus lost their 1st love. Philippi was almost destroyed by 2 fighting women named Euodia and Syntyche. Corinth was prideful, sexually immoral, and divisive. Pergamum was allowing false teachers in their congregation. Thyatira was flirting with deviant sexual cultic practice. Sardis became a dead church. Laodicea was growing apathetic towards serving the Lord.
But, here is the encouraging news: the imperfect church is still God’s church. It is God’s saved mess.
Theology equips us to refute error. You can spot the bad by studying the good (Titus 1:9). If you want to identify a false gospel, study the biblical gospel. In the Secret Service, they invest time studying authentic currency in order to identify the counterfeit.
Theology gives help on understanding modern issues. A theology of manhood and womanhood will inform you on the debate over transgenderism and homosexual marriage. A theology of creation will inform you on the place of science in our Christian faith. A theology of authority and governments will inform you on the role of Presidents, the military, local law enforcement, etc. To defend the faith (Jude 3) is to know the faith given to us in His Word.
Theology is part of the Great Commission. Jesus commands us to teach everything He has taught (Matthew 28:16-20). Jesus was a theologian who taught from the O.T.
Theology leads to spiritual growth. Orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy. Doctrine leads to duty. Application is preceded by right interpretation. True spiritual growth is built upon the right belief system.
Theology synthesizes Scripture. When you are asked, “What does the Bible teach about angels?”, the only way to give a confident answer is to look at all passages that reference angels. That is what we might call systematic theology. This enables us to know what the Scripture has to say on any given topic.
Theology tells us what we need to know about God. God wants us to know Him and He has told us about Himself (Hebrews 1:1-2; II Peter 1:20-21). But to know Him, we must read of Him. And to read of Him is to read theologically.
Theology unifies the church. When we can agree on doctrine, we share an intimacy that is un-worldly (Ephesians 4:1-16).
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
Having a “broken heart” refers a spirit that is crushed over their sin.
Warren Wiersbe illustrates brokenness over sin this way: “Will Rogers was known for his laughter, but he also knew how to weep. One day he was entertaining at the Milton H. Berry Institute in Los Angeles, a hospital that specialized in rehabilitating polio victims and people with broken backs and other extreme physical handicaps. Of course, Rogers had everybody laughing, even patients in really bad condition; but then he suddenly left the platform and went to the rest room. Milton Berry followed him to give him a towel; and when he opened the door, he saw Will Rogers leaning against the wall, sobbing like a child. He closed the door, and in a few minutes, Rogers appeared back on the platform, as jovial as before.
“If you want to learn what a person is really like, ask three questions: What makes him laugh? What makes him angry? What makes him weep? These are fairly good tests of character that are especially appropriate for Christian leaders. I hear people saying, ‘We need angry leaders today!’ or ‘The time has come to practice militant Christianity!’ Perhaps, but ‘the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God’ (Jas 1:20).
“What we need today is not anger but anguish, the kind of anguish that Moses displayed when he broke the two tablets of the law and then climbed the mountain to intercede for his people, or that Jesus displayed when He cleansed the temple and then wept over the city. The difference between anger and anguish is a broken heart. It’s easy to get angry, especially at somebody else’s sins; but it’s not easy to look at sin, our own included, and weep over it.” (The Integrity Crisis, pgs. 75-76)
“We gather because we cannot stay away from each other. We gather because it is our joyous custom to obey all injunctions to gather. We gather to celebrate a diversity that goes beyond mere cultural groupings. We gather to learn in common and to bring our daily learning into each other’s conversation. We gather as the body of Christ, his bride, and our continuing worship turns to a gathered feast. We understand that the power and experience that comes of true worship rises above the everyday and the profane. We gather to learn of the entire counsel of God through the structures and liturgies we devise. We gather as one body-young and old, feeble and strong, rich and poor – undivided by the little things of life like style and music. We gather around the unifying power of the Word and bring our praise to the King of Kings and Lord of lords.” (Unceasing Worship, pg. 76)
- “4 Methods That Won’t Help Your Spouse Overcome Porn” by Jen Ferguson (Covenant Eyes). This company regularly generates resourceful helps on a growing epidemic of lust.
- “PCA Sides with the Nashville Statement Over Revoice’s Approach” by Kate Shellnutt (Christianity Today). Not everything in the modern evangelical church is going bad
- “The Secret to Breaking Free From Habitual Sin” by Jon Bloom (Desiring God). It is often a mater of what we believe and don’t believe that forms habits.
- “This Is Not Your Grandparents’ Church” by Tim Challies. A thoughtful blog post on the need for active, elderly saints in the church.
- “What the New Testament Teaches about Divorce and Remarriage” by Andy Naselli (Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal). So helpful! File this way; you will use it some day…and another day…and another day.