Summary: God has given us in this text, three characteristics of what it takes to be an effective evangelistic church.
This week we are returning to our study in the book of Acts. The title of this series has been, “What a Church Should Look Like.” By now I hope we are beginning to see the structure of how Luke is writing. It seems as if he is flipping back and forth between two perspectives. One perspective is that he looks at the church from the inside. The other perspective is the church in its relation with those on the outside. On the inside he reveals to us continually the praying, the unity, and the generosity of those within the church. Concerning the church’s relationship with those on the outside he stresses their sharing the message of Jesus, their opposition, and their persecution.
In Acts 1 we see the apostles and the early believers alone with Jesus, being taught by Him and being told to go and wait for the Holy Spirit to come. Then Luke records how they were together praying, and how they chose someone to replace Judas. Chapter one is an inside look.
In Acts 2 we see the church out in the world. On the day of Pentecost the Spirit came and filled the waiting believers. Peter stood up and preached to the multitudes and 3000 people became followers of Christ.
At the end of chapter 2 Luke shifts the focus back to the church and we see the wonderful fellowship, friendship, and unity they enjoyed.
Beginning in Acts three all the way to chapter 4 verse 22, we see the church out in the world again. Peter and John heal a man lame from birth then use that as an opportunity to preach to a huge crowd. As they are preaching they are arrested by a group called the Sadducees. They are thrown in jail and then warned and threatened to keep their mouths shut concerning Jesus.
In 4:23-5:11 we go back to the church. We see them pray for God to empower them to continue sharing the gospel despite the warnings not to. We see their generosity and the willingness to help those in need. And we see the sin of Ananias and Sapphira dealt with.
You see, Luke has a reason for presenting his account this way. He is trying to fix our attention on two aspects of church life. The first is the gathering of the church. This is that “inside look” I was talking about. The church has to be committed to developing and caring for its members. There has to be an effort to encourage one another, while at the same time exhorting and challenging each other. There has to be times of worship and prayer. This is why we are to gather together. We need each other. That is what Luke is presenting.
That’s one aspect. The other aspect of church life that Luke is showing us is what I want to call the “going” of the church. He shows the church at work sharing the good news of Jesus and the great numbers of people being saved.
These are the two aspects of church life and every church ought to have a healthy balance of the two. Some churches go to one extreme and in order not to be like those churches, others hit the other side of the wall. But if you’ve ever played on a teeter-totter you know that when there’s not balance its not pleasant.
This leads us to our text today and for next week. This early church is back on the outside sharing Jesus. This passage of Scripture is divided into two parts.
1. The church at work in the community.
2. The church on trial in the courts.
Today we will look at the first part: The church at work in the community.
[Read Acts 5:12-16]
I can’t help but notice when I read about this first church and compare it with the life of Jesus found in the gospels, that these church members were living and ministering just like Jesus. They were healing just like Jesus. They were loving people just like Jesus. They were preaching and teaching in the temple just like Jesus. They were a “Jesus Church.” The only difference is that there was only one Jesus, but there were a lot of these “Jesus look a likes.” And with more workers more got done.
Many of you are probably familiar with the classic novel, "In His Steps" by Charles Sheldon. I highly recommend it. The whole book is about a church that has some members that commit for one year to not do anything without first asking “What would Jesus do in this situation?” It changed their lives and it changed their church. Or perhaps you have seen the WWJD bracelets. This is the way this early church operated. They didn’t have the bracelets to wear on their wrists, but they had the attitude fastened on their hearts. This is the way we have to think and work as well. This church was just like Jesus. As a matter of fact, Paul described in 1Corinthians 12:27 that the church was the Body of Christ. We are to act, work, and minister just like Jesus.