The Glorious and Powerful Church
THE BIG IDEA: Haggai said, “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former.” However, this last days’ church is not yet greater in power and glory than the church was in the Book of Acts. Therefore, we need to contend for signs and wonders to be restored to the church today!
“Faith’s supreme longing is for the return of the glory that has departed from the sanctuary…No longer do people go to the house of God to meet God; people go to the house of God just to hear a sermon about God.” (Leonard Ravenhill, Revival Praying).[i]
God’s Blueprint for the Church:
Do you ever ask yourself if this is as good as it gets? Is this all that you can expect for the 70 or so years of this journey called life? I don’t believe that this is as good as it gets. God has so much more for us – great adventures for us to experience in His Kingdom. He wants all of us to learn how to hear His voice, to go out and lay our hands on sick people and see them healed, to see lives transformed by the power of Christ in us, the hope of glory. There’s nothing boring about that!
We are going to begin by exploring the first two chapters of Acts, the foundation of the church. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega and He knows the end from the beginning. Therefore, we will look at the end of this section of Acts first, where God gives us a beautiful portrait of what the early church looked like. Then we’ll go back to the beginning to discover the steps they took to become that glorious and powerful church. Here is God’s Blueprint for the church:
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:41-47).
This is the picture that defines the glorious and powerfulchurchofJesus Christ:
- TEACHING (THE APOSTLE’S DOCTRINE)
- FEAR OF THE LORD
- SIGNS AND WONDERS
- SHARING AND GENEROSITY
- UNITY (ONE ACCORD)
- PRAISE AND WORSHIP
- DAILY SALVATIONS
Jesus said His church would be built upon the apostle’s doctrine, or teaching. The Word of God has the power to change people’s lives.Proverbs 4:20-22says that God’s Word brings life and health. The Bible brings transformation and deliverance! Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32). If we want to be the kind of church that will see the Lord adding daily those who are being saved – then we must be a church that is built upon the Word. Many preachers, in their effort to be more contemporary are laying aside the Bible in order to give the people things that are supposedly more interesting, new and fresh – like there’s anything better than the living, eternal, powerful Word of God! As a pastor, I have made a commitment that I will never compromise the timeless truths of God’s Word. My wisdom or counsel will not make a difference in people’s lives, families, relationships, marriages and finances. The Word of God will make the difference. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12). The church must be based on solid teaching. There’s an old Sunday school song that says, “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E!” May the words to that song ever be our anthem in the church today!
Jesus said His church would be built upon fellowship. The early church not only had weekly worship gatherings, but they also met in each other’s homes. They spent time together and got involved in each other’s lives. Church wasn’t just about going to a building on Sunday mornings to sing songs and hear stories. Christians in the early church prayed for one another and encouraged one another. The New Testament is full of all of the one anothers that show us how to be in fellowship together: bear one another’s burdens, share each other’s troubles and problems, comfort one another, and build each other up. These kinds of things don’t typically take place in a Sunday morning worship service, and this is why home groups are an important part of the life of a healthy church. We need to take the time to get together to form deep and meaningful relationships with one another. Fellowship is more than just the scheduled church programs or meetings. As Christians, we should do life together. That’s what they did in the early church.
Jesus said His church would be built upon prayer. The early church prayed together. I’m not talking about a little prayer before they ate their meals, “Lord, bless this food to our bodies.” The early church walked in daily fellowship with their loving Redeemer, and they prayed without ceasing. How can we be ‘saying our prayers’ all day every day? The Bible doesn’t tell us to say our prayers – it says to pray. This speaks about having a regular ongoing relationship with the Lord Jesus throughout your day. Practicing the presence of the Lord is enjoyable.
The early church was built on Christians who had a personal prayer life, but they also met together for times of powerful corporate prayer. Luke records that, “they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them… Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:24,29-31). If we want to be a church that sees people being saved every day, then we need to be a church that prays.
- Fear of the Lord:
Luke’s picture of the early church shows that fear came upon every soul. “So what is the fear of the Lord? First and foremost, it is not being scared of God… To fear God includes, but is more than, respecting Him. It is to give Him the place of glory, honor, reverence, thanksgiving, praise and preeminence He deserves.”[ii] Perhaps a better translation of this Scripture would be, “A deep sense of awe came over them all.” (Acts 2:43, nlt). There was a sense of awe among the people. When we become the glorious and powerful church that the Lord intends us to be, there will be a sense of awe restored among the people – both inside and outside of the church.
- Signs and Wonders:
A vital part of the early church was that many signs and wonders were evident. Therefore, we must contend for an increase of signs and wonders to be restored to the church today. The early church in Acts saw many signs and wonders, miracles and healings. Lives were changed. If we’re not seeing this in the church today, it’s not because God has changed His mind about the miraculous. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). If it’s not happening, it’s because we’re not believing or contending for it.
We want to see many signs and wonders restored to the church. We don’t just want to take up time by having a little church meeting on Sunday mornings, singing songs and hearing stories about what God did thousands of years ago. When the church ceases to be a place where lives are transformed and people are made whole, then shut it down. But I don’t believe that’s God’s desire. If we wander off from God’s blueprint for the church, let’s do a course correction. We are His church, called to be a lighthouse and a beacon of hope in our communities. We’re here to provide hope, healing and restoration through God’s Word.
Some people would ask – why signs and wonders? What is a sign? The simplest definition of a sign is a posted notice bearing a designation, direction, or command. If you were to drive to our little home town in Manitoba, and you saw the sign outside of town that said, “Beausejour – one kilometer,” it would be very foolish of you to pull over your car on the side of the road and say, “Oh boy, this is one cool little sign here. It’s got a nice green background with fancy white letters!” You’ve missed the purpose of the sign, which is there to point to something else. It shows you where to go. When a supernatural, miraculous sign takes place, it is a sign that points to Jesus. Miracles are also called wonders in the Bible – why is that? Because a miracle causes people to wonder: “How did that happen? That’s impossible!” Exactly. A miracle points to the reality that God exists. We need to see signs and wonders restored to the church.
- Sharing and Generosity:
The people in the early church were very generous. Luke tells us that, “all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” No one in the church had lack. The early Christians knew that they had a responsibility to love and care for one another in very real practical ways. Many times our church family has rallied together to care for single parent families or for others who were struggling financially. That’s being the church. You will find people in every church who have a lot, and people who have little. God’s desire is that we would come to such a place of family relationships and generosity that those who have much can help those who lack.
“If you are really eager to give, it isn’t important how much you are able to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean you should give so much that you suffer from having too little. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help them. Then at some other time they can share with you when you need it. In this way, everyone’s needs will be met. Do you remember what the Scriptures say about this? “Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.” (2 Corinthians 8:12-15, nlt).
Let’s remember to be generous and share what we have with others.
Luke tells us that the early church continued daily with one accord in the temple. Those in early church weren’t fighting with one another all the time. “I hate your stinking guts, Brother Bob, but God bless you anyway!” No! They were in unity with one another. They loved each other, they accepted each other, and they forgave each other. They didn’t keep offenses. They knew how important it was to guard the unity if they wanted to see God’s blessing in their midst. King David made it very clear how essential unity was in Psalm 133: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious anointing oil… For there the Lord commanded the blessing–Life forevermore.” If we want to see God’s anointing, blessing, and salvation, we must walk in unity with one another. The Apostle Paul also emphasized the importance of unity when he wrote, “Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace.” (Ephesians 4:3).
The early church was full of joy. Christians need to get a little happy about salvation! We need to stop being sad, depressed and miserable all the time, looking like we just got baptized in pickle juice. How can we be depressed when Jesus is the Lord and Savior of our lives? When once we were lost, now we’ve been found. When once we were on the road to hell, now we’re on the road to Heaven. Do we go through hard times in life, even as believers? Absolutely. I’m not talking about denying or pretending we don’t experience hard times. But Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). If you’re a Christian, then God is your Father, Jesus is your Savior, and the Holy Spirit is your Comforter. Jesus wants you full of joy. John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” So rejoice in the Lord!
- Praise and Worship:
The early church was a body of believers who praised and worshiped the living God. Over and over in the four Gospels, we read stories of people whose lives were transformed by Jesus, and their immediate, spontaneous response was to praise the Lord. “So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.” (Matthew 15:31). Wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached and lives are being changed, you will find a people who are passionate about praising God.
- Daily Salvations:
The ultimate result of God’s favor and blessing upon the church was that people were coming to faith in Jesus every day. If church was just an event that happened once a week on Sundays, then how were they able to see people getting saved every day? This happened because this church realized that every member is a minister. Jesus said, “Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, msg).
This is a picture of the early church in Acts: Teaching, fellowship, prayer, the fear of the Lord, signs and wonders, sharing and generosity, unity, gladness, praise and worship, and daily salvations. How do you think your church is doing with these ingredients? I don’t share this picture with you to get you discouraged and say, “Our church isn’t as good as the early church was in the Book of Acts.” This picture is to give us a vision of what God has called us to be, and where we need to be heading. Let’s admit that we’re yet not all that Jesus wants His church to be, and journey together towards becoming the glorious, powerful church.
Look at this portrait the Apostle Paul gives us of the church inEphesians 5:25b-27: “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
Lord Jesus, help Your church to become everything that You have destined us to be, amen!
[i] Leonard Ravenhill, Revival Praying. (Bethany House Publishers, 1962).
[ii] John Bevere, Extraordinary. (WaterBrook Press, 2009).