Summary: Are we really the church or a faded glory of a church which once was?
Faith in Action
It has been said: Preach the Gospel; if necessary use words.” This is one of those statements that are pretty self-explanatory. There is all too often a wide gulf between what we preach and what we do. We find preachers and teachers who can explain the text in an orthodox matter, and then think that the work is done. We can then sing our song of commitment like “I have Decided to follow Jesus” and then rush out the doors to get to the restaurant before the Baptists do. Whereas I do feel that it is absolutely necessars to use words when we preach the gospel because people need to know what we believe and what we should be doing, I must say that any sermon is incomplete until faith is put into action. What does “faith in action look like?” Fortunately we have the acts of the early church recorded for us in Scripture alongside the words and deeds of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the gospels. In fact we have the words and actions of God in all of Scripture which is given to us for our teaching. So if we want to see what we ought to be doing today and why, we need only look at Scripture. Today we will be examining a few verse from the book of Acts in the fourth chapter, verses 32-35.Please open your bibles here and let us examine the passage.
This passage comes from the life of the early church, not long after Pentecost. We celebrate Pentecost as the day the Holy Spirit came down to empower the church in its mandate to continue what Jesus began to do and to teach (Acts 1:1). The life of the early church was a time of great joy and excitement. We had just heard of a lame man who had never walked be instantly healed in front of the beautiful gate. What power was demonstrated through the apostles by the means of the Holy Spirit. Miracles such as these certified that the message the apostles brought concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. If we only could have miracles such as these in our church today, it seems, our task of bringing people to Christ would seem so much easier.
We also read that not all responded well to the healing of this man. Peter and John were arrested along with the lame man and threatened not to preach and teach in the name of Jesus. Peter and John refused to heed the warning and preached Jesus all the more boldly and got arrested again. This time they were beaten and warned again. Only the intervention of the angel in prison and the Lord’s using Gamaliel saved them. But this bold witness to the resurrection also certified the truth of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. One must never underestimate the power of suffering. This is faith in action.
But we might say that today, at least here in America, we aren’t suffering for our faith – at least not yet. And although I do believe that God performs miracles today, these are rare, and much of what we see that appears to be such are counterfeit. The devil through his agents has done all that he can to destroy the witness of genuine miracles though a legion of fake ones. But Jesus consistently upheld that His teaching and preaching were more important than his miracles. The world sough signs and miracles from Him to prove that He was the Messiah. But He would have none of this. Nevertheless, He did perform miracles, signs, and wonders anyway at His bidding and not that of the Scribes, Pharisees, Herod, or the Sadducees. He worked signs and wonders through His apostles according to His will. And He is free today to do such, if He wills. But we must be careful not to build our faith on such, but rather upon the Word, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit which confirms the Word.
In today’s passage, we read of another way the church witnessed to the power of God and the truth of the gospel. This is a means which is not limited in time or to a special occasion. The truth of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is to be demonstrated in the life of the church. We see how this was done in this passage. First of all, it say the large multitude of believers were of one heart and soul. They demonstrated the truth of the gospel in their unity. At this point, the believers were Jews and Jewish converts. The Gentiles had yet to hear the gospel. It would seem easier to unite people of a common race and religion that to unite people from different cultures and times. But this was no easy task. The Jews were broken up into all kinds of sub groups and sects. There were Pharisees who believed in the resurrection of the dead and Sadducees who staunchly denied it. The Pharisees held that the Torah, the Writings, and the Prophets were authoritative Scripture; the Sadducees only held to the Torah. The Pharisees were influenced by Persian culture and Sadducees, the Greek. The Pharisees emphasized the written Word and the synagogue, the Sadducees the Tempe cult. They were as divided as night and day, and Paul used this fact to separate them into fighting each other when he stood before the Sanhedrin. When you add other groups like the Dead Sea Community and Hellenistic Judaism, we can see how shallow their unity was.