Summary: This sermon describes the unity believers had in the early church of hearts and minds.
Calgary has a new piece of public art. It used to be in Vancouver, where it was temporarily on display, and now it has moved to Calgary for the next little while. It is officially part of the Glenbow museum, on display in a park close to the Saddledome. The piece is entitled, “Device to Root Out Evil”, by a sculptor named Dennis Oppenheim, and it looks like this:
Apparently, in Vancouver it got quite a reaction. Some felt it was offensive towards Christianity, others saw more positive messages. What do you think?
A Biblical Picture of a Church: Acts 4:32-37
Let’s read the scriptures for another picture of a church: Acts 4:32-37 (NLT):
32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.
36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. 37 He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.
This fall we’ve been studying the book of Acts, beginning with Jesus raising up into heaven in chapter 1, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in chapter 2, and the last few weeks hearing the story of Peter and John healing a man who had been lame from birth, causing a ruckus in the Jerusalem temple, getting in trouble with the authorities and being threatened, and then their response and prayer. Newly “induced” pastor Garret led us through the middle of chapter 4 last Sunday, where we saw how in the face of intimidation, threat, a night in jail, and impending persecution during which they no doubt expected to receive crucifixion like Jesus had, they prayed a remarkable prayer: it wasn’t, “Dear Lord, protect us!”; it wasn’t, “Dear Lord, save us!”; it wasn’t, “Dear Lord, change those bad guys’ minds so we will stay safe!”; it wasn’t even, “OK Lord, we’ll follow but please protect our families and loved ones”. Their prayer – again, in the face of intimidation of the highest order, and a future they reasonably expected meant their own death – their prayer was not for safety, but for boldness. Yes, boldness. They prayed that in the face of this intimidation and threat, they would not back down, cower, hide, be subtle, hint, gently influence – they prayed. “now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.” (vs. 29).
The Way The Prayer Is Answered:
Today’s passage, vss. 32-37, shows us how God answered their prayer for boldness. The result of this refusal to hide, this refusal to never again preach in the name of Jesus as the Sanhedrin had commanded, was the continued maturity of the early church. There is a growth in commitment and loyalty and care to one another, a report of “testifying powerfully”, and an example of sacrificial giving. This example of sacrificial giving is contrasted with an example in the next chapter of giving which was accompanied by deceit, so next week we’ll contrast Barnabus with Ananias and Sapphira, and this week we’ll concentrate on this brief general description of the early church.