Summary: The church under persecution
Jeff Hughes – April 6, 2003
Calvary Chapel Aggieland
a. The church at Jerusalem was going through many changes. Thousands of people had accepted Jesus as their Savior and become a part of the fellowship. These people were one big community of believers, loving one another, sharing with one another, and fellowshipping with one another.
b. We also see that they were being taught God’s Word by the apostles, and they were fervent in prayer. They were a vibrant and flourishing fellowship because of this. God’s grace was simply abounding in Jerusalem. But as we saw in our last study, all was not perfect in this fellowship, we saw that in the example of Ananias and Sapphira.
c. In the church today though, people tend to forget that Jesus promised us more than just blessings. In John 16:33 he also promised, "In the world you will have tribulation." Anyone who sees the Christian life as one unbroken victory is being naive. They will also end up being shallow.
d. According to William Barclay, the Arabs have a proverb that says, "All sunshine makes a desert."
e. Everyone enjoys the sun, but if the sun always shines everything will dry up and die. There are certain things which only the rains will produce, and there are certain experiences which only sorrow can bring about. These times will come into your life, and if you’re going to grow, they have to come.
f. I’ve entitled today’s study Growing pains, because we’re going look at some tribulation in the early church, as we continue our study today, but first, let’s have a word of prayer.
a. As I was studying these scriptures, I came across the following article that gives us some insight into the early church, with a modern example. It was written about the church in China.
b. There are three basic reasons why the Church is growing so rapidly in China. First, there is an ideological vacuum in China. People no longer claim loyalty to any kind of faith, not even to communism. Because of the more open policy of the Chinese government, there is more contact with the Western world, and people are fascinated by different ways of thinking, including other religions. Religious fervor has been high the past ten years, and Christianity has benefited most.
c. Second, Christianity provides people with an intimate social experience: love, caring, concern, and fellowship. After a long, repressive era in which you didn’t dare reveal what you really felt and thought, this is an exciting option.
d. Third, there are the miracles. Missionaries that travel to the interior of China report that the Christian communities all claim they’ve experienced miracles. Here is one typical example: A Christian woman decided, after her eightieth birthday, to start preaching the gospel. She went to her daughter’s village and began preaching. Some villagers with incurable diseases, like cancer, came to her. When she prayed for them, many were suddenly healed. Then two more people came and were healed. Then three more families. After the woman left, the villagers decided her God was very good. So they abandoned their idols and decided to believe in this Jesus.
e. They sent one person to nearby towns to look for a place where people worshiped Jesus. When they finally found such a church, they told the pastor, "We have 80 people in our village who want to believe in Jesus. But we don’t know how to believe in Jesus." After that, a new church was started. WOW! An evangelist’s dream!! Somebody pinch me!
f. As we will see, the church at Jerusalem was very much like this. The people were eager to hear the gospel, and miracles were happening. People were getting healed, and their faith built up.
g. Our study today comes from Acts, Chapter 5, verses 12 through 25. Acts is just past John and right before Romans in your Bible. We’ve provided an outline for you to take notes on, and if you need a Bible, just raise your hand, and we’ll get you one. Follow along with me starting at verse 12 -
i. 12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. 13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. 14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. 16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed. 17 Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, 18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 "Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life." 21 And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, 23 saying, "Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!" 24 Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. 25 So one came and told them, saying, "Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!" 26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!"