Summary: Part 3 of a series; When Christ grows the church, we can expect opposition both inside and outside the church, illustrated in Acts 4 and 5.
Trinity Baptist Church October 27, 2002
How Christ builds His Church
In the Face of Opposition
I’ve used it with you before and I will again because it’s a zinger. It’s one of Chuck Swindoll’s: "Where there’s light, there are bugs." The point is, where truth, or light, or good things happen, somebody, somewhere won’t like it.
What we will discover today is that every time God works in a church, or a city, or through a group of His people, we can anticipate reactions from people. Some good reactions and some bad!
We began talking a couple of weeks ago about "how Christ builds His church". I’ve quoted for you the declaration that Jesus, the Church’s Founder and Head, made in Matthew 16:18 where He said, I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
We understand from that statement, that the Church therefore isn’t a cozy club or comfortable organization which we get the privilege of re-inventing or re-defining. By His Word, the Church is the building work of the Son of God, to which He invites us to participate. In every generation and in every place, it is Jesus Who builds His Church. What He has been about since He ascended to Heaven is building His Church in every time and culture on earth. Matthew 28 and Acts 1:8 instructed us that Christ’s commission for us who follow Him is to develop followers for Him in every culture and people group. His clear intent is that we intentionally develop more disciples --close followers of His.
Last time we saw in Acts 2 that Christ’s design for His church is growth: we are to grow deep, grow together, and grow larger. Jesus doesn’t commission us to chase numbers and fill seats, but He loves people and He does want more close followers. His design is that His church expand and be the movement of His Kingdom reaching into every facet of earth’s culture, like a secret army that invading a foreign land.
That’s what He’s about and that’s what we need to be about. The book of Acts has and will instruct us in that. Today we come to a couple of chapters in Acts which answer: what happens when God moves and His church grows? What happens when the kingdom extends in size and influence? The simple answer is there will be a negative reaction. Why? Because when Christ builds His Church, He’s invades previously held territory. And the former owner doesn’t like it. When Christ’s Church the church stands of the front lines of the spiritual battle. When God works, we can always anticipate a reaction.
What we discover from Acts chapters 4 and 5 is that the reaction will originate from two different quarters: it comes from the expected one--from the culture--but opposition also comes from inside the church. That?s where we begin.
When Christ grows the Church . . . first
. . . internal opposition results.
When we read the account of Ananias and Sapphira in context, we see that
1. Imitation spirituality opposes the authentic. (4:32-5:11)
Beginning at 4:32, Ed read out of Luke’s continuing account of the amazing events in the early church. Like in chapter 2, these new believers aren’t only spiritually unified, they exhibit again a deep concern for others in the family who don’t have enough to live. Remember, thousands and thousands of people have come to know Christ. And lots of them don’t live in Jerusalem, they were just there for the feast. So others sell what they own, voluntarily, and bring the proceeds and put them in the apostles’ hands to make sure the needs get met. In the midst of this amazing time of the church growing not only in numbers but growing together, we read in verse 33 God gives the apostles great boldness to preach Christ’s resurrection.
It says there, God’s grace was abundant on all of them; and that’s the motivation for the super generous spirit which is described. God is clearly at work in peoples’ lives. They’re not operating out of law anymore, they’re motivated and living out of grace. So they didn’t just sell small possessions, things they didn’t need, some sold houses and land and brought the money to the apostles for the needs in the family.
One man is mentioned by name: Joseph, also called Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement. God is going to continue to work in this man’s life: He will use him later to mentor and encourage the new convert Paul and then travel with him on missions trips.
But then another man, and his wife are mentioned beginning in chapter 5. At first glance, the story of Ananias and Sapphira might make you think, God disciplines people who don’t give what they said they’d give. But it goes much deeper than that.