Summary: Pretended religion doesn't work, but where believers come together in unity and pray, the anointing of God comes and the demonic powers are on the retreat.

15th of May 2011

Readings: 1 Peter 2:19-25 Acts 6:1-7

Theme: ‘The increase of the word.’

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

We are reading the book of Acts of the apostles, which should be rather called the Acts of the Holy Spirit through the apostles and others; or is could be also called: ‘Chapter one of the mission and ministry of the church’ – with the idea that chapter two followed and we, the believers of 21st century are writing chapter No 225, or something like that. We are part of this amazing story. We are participating today in God’s plan of salvation that started long time ago and won’t be finished until Jesus comes.

Last week we have learnt about the newly formed community of believers of 120 men, with the 12 apostles as leaders. This new legal body within the Jewish society was growing day by day. These believers were still all Jewish believers in the Messiah and they saw themselves as the Messianic Jewish congregation. They did not need to learn about their Jewish roots because there are no other roots. They did not need to be taught that the word of God is BOTH the Old AND the New Testament, because there was nothing else but the Old Testament, the New wasn’t written yet. They did not recognize any denominations, they only knew that Jesus is the Messiah and everything that has something to do with the Messiah had everything to do with their ‘Jewish-ness’, with the Old Testament, with their traditions, customs and their nation.

But this is the where the book of Acts steps in and makes this amazing discovery that Jesus, the Messiah is the Messiah, Saviour of all and for all. All the nations, all the peoples of the whole earth saved in the same manner.

Interesting parallels between the OT and NT stories of the new communities of believers emerging:

Old Testament New Testament

- God descended at Mt. Sinai to take up - God descended through the Holy Spirit to take up

the residence among His people. the residence among His people.

- God’s presence came through a storm - Holy Spirit came with a noise like the rushing

cloud and fire. Wind and tongues of fire.

- at the tower of Babel the nations were - at the coming of the Holy Spirit all nations

scattered, fragmentation began. came together in united community.

- a Jewish legend stated that 70 tongues of - at Pentecost people spoke many different

fire appeared on Mt. Sinai representing 70 languages; God was reversing the events of

nations of the world the tower of Babel

- Israel became a new nation at the - Jesus instituted HC as a symbol of this new

Passover believers’ community

- they spent 40 days in the desert before - Jesus stayed with them 40 days before He

they got to the Promised Land ascended into the Eternal Promised Land

- 12 tribes gathered around God’s presence - 12 apostles (with Matthias added instead of

in their midst Judas

- events at Mt. Sinai took place 50 days - the Holy Spirit descended on the faithful 50

after the Exodus from Egypt days after Jesus’ rescue event at Golgotha

- as a punishment for the idolatry 3000 men - on the day of Pentecost 3000 men became true

died (Exodus 32:28) worshippers (Acts 2:41)

All of these parallelisms are pointing to the fact that the new church was here standing firmly on the foundations of the word of God, the law and the prophets but saw them as fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, the word incarnated.

Jesus made it very clear at the time of His departure that the disciples are sent out to preach the gospel to the whole world, beginning in Jerusalem. The book of Acts is showing how this instruction of Jesus was being worked out.

- first we have a story of Peter and the twelve preaching in Jerusalem (Acts 1-7)

- secondly we read about ministry in Samaria (8:4-25)

- thirdly Gospel was preached, received and taken to Ethiopia (8:26-40)

- fourthly, Saul was converted and took the gospel throughout the Mediterranean world (9…)

We can call this progression of the gospel the church growth but we can as well label it as an increase of the word of God.

In our reading from Acts 6:7 we have heard:

“And the word of God continued to increase” – or some versions say: “The word of God grew”, “the word of God spread”, “preaching of the word flourished”.

And I want to point just to this one phrase today in a little more detail. Since at this church we are together as a family reading through the New Testament this year, we are trying to increase in our understanding and knowledge of the word of God. We want the word of God to grow within us. The word is the seed, as Jesus said in a parable, and we want to see a plentiful harvest.

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