Sunday, February 16, 2014

Some marks of God's church

Acts 2:40-42 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Today's post will feature the very first church service ever recorded in the New Testament. The day was the Day of Pentecost. It was a day that the Jews celebrated to mark off the gathering in of the Wheat harvest and to commemorate the giving of the Torah or Law on Mount Sinai in Exodus 19-20. However there was an event that forever eclipsed those two events that occurred in Acts 2, the coming of the Promised Holy Spirit per Jesus' statements in John 14,15,16. 

When the Holy Spirit came, the church was born and the New Covenant Age was inaugurated. In Acts 2:37-47 we see the beginnings of the early Christians coming together.  What they did characterizes some of the chief marks for the church to follow throughout the remainder of the New Testament.  Furthermore, we could say that what we see here in these verses are indeed some mark's of God's church.  In short order we will list some of these marks of God's church and discover what is to be an ongoing, ever intensifying pattern of church life in God's church.  Note some of the following mark's of God's church:

1. Missions.  Acts 2:37-39
As Peter's audience was "pierced to the heart" (NASB) or as it states in the original language "shocked deeply in the heart" in Acts 2:37, we see them ask the question: "Brethren, what shall we do?"  Peter then urges them to respond to the Gospel.  Peter's first sermon here in the Book of Acts aimed at explaining the events surrounding the coming of the Holy Spirit so that He could then evangelize His audience. Missions is not only the first purpose or mark of the church mentioned here, but it is also referred to again in Acts 2:47 

2. Preaching. Acts 2:40 
Acts 2:40 states - And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” It was to be by the vehicle of Apostolic preaching that the Lord would strengthen believers and convert sinners. 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 reminds us - "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe."

3. Making Disciples. Acts 2:41
In Acts 2:41 the Holy Ghost says - "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls." Notice how the early church began fulfilling Jesus' Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20.  Such a commission is not just an apostolic commission, but also the Great Commission to His church.  We see: reception of the Word by faith (compare Ephesians 2:8-9), followed by the converts getting baptized.  Thirdly we see some measure of church membership, being that the rolls were kept and "3,000 souls were added". Every ministry in the local church needs to be about making disciples not only in the church, but also in preaching and doing missions to make disciples of all the nations. 

4. Ordinances. Acts 2:41,42,47
What do I mean when I write that term "ordinance"? An ordinance is a pattern commanded by Christ directly to His church in the Gospels, preached upon and practiced in Acts and explained in the Epistles. In the New Testament Church we have two such rites that qualify under that description: water baptism and the Lord's supper. Wherever God's people are gathered together to hear the preaching of the Word, practice the ordinances and are about the Father's business of doing missions, that dear friend marks the existence of the local church. More could be said but we will move on to two more marks of God's church here in Acts 2.

5. Loving fellowship. Acts 2:43-46
When you walk through Acts 2:43-46, you discover just how joyful and loving the early church must have been. These people were "feeling a sense of awe" (2:43); "who had believed were together and had all things in common" (2:44); "were sharing" (2:45); "one mind" (2:46); "taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart" (2:46). Pastor Rick Warren has noted that the Biblical mandate for the church's fellowship is two-fold: "temple courts" or large group worship and "house to house" or small group fellowship. Thus the local church must needs have both preaching services whereby God's people can worship in song and word as well as have occasion to come together in small groups, whether in Sunday School on Sunday Mornings, some time of small groups in homes or small group Bible studies. Both patterns engender loving fellowship in God's church. 

6. Worship. Acts 2:47
Here we see the mark of worship. Worship is ascribing "worthship" to God by way of singing and preaching. Worship is rooted in grace and is aimed towards giving glory to God. Where is it that worship aims? Worship is vertical in its heavenward focus on the Triune God and it is outward focused in energizing people to share Jesus in missions. Amazing isn't it? The Holy Spirit here in Acts ends this chapter with missions and reminds us that from beginning to end, the church should be all about missions. These then are some of the marks of God's church.

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