Summary: With the Pentecost Sunday on the anvil, to focus on the factors that contributed to the resounding "success" of the Early Church with the primary focus on responsibilities of the laity.
It’s time, we got our “Acts” together -2
As I pointed out in Part I of my sermon, both the Early Church clergy and laity together worked for building up the Kingdom shaking the sinful world to its core in the process. While, we had focused on the unequivocal success of the Early Church leadership, let us in the concluding part of this sermon train the spotlight on the reasons for effectiveness of the laity, the building blocks of their spiritual success, as it were…
First of all, in response to Peter’s instructions following his thunderous message, they admitted their sinfulness, received the Saviour into their hearts and took immersion baptism in full acknowledgment of the transformation the Redeemer had wrought in their lives (Acts 2:38-41).
Admittedly, Christians come in all shapes and sizes (there are so many physical, mental and emotional differences’ amongst them) but if there is a CONSTANT amongst them then it is their universal acknowledgment of the fact that they are sinners in NEED OF A SAVIOUR (Philippians 3:3 TLB). Let it be said that ONLY those who have tasted Christ’s redemptive love would VOUCH FOR ITS TRANSFORMING POWER! Oh how many drug addicts, alchoholics, people given to so many other vices’ have become Saints post their own personal encounter with the Lord!
By the same token, even the respected “good” people of the Society need to have a Saviour, for all of us are sinners by virtue of our births and connection to the original Adamic sin (Romans 3:23/5:12). That would explain why even the “respectable men of the society” such as the Treasurer of Ethiopia (Acts 8:26-39) and Cornelius, the Roman Centurion given to charity received the Saviour into their lives (Acts 10). In this context a Biblical Scholar remarked, “Good people DO NOT go to Heaven, only the PERFECT PEOPLE DO!”. Only those perfected by the conclusive atoning sacrifice of Christ on Calvary (Heb 10:14)!
Now coming back to the Early Church laity, even as they were received into the fold of the Church, they submitted themselves wholly to the teaching and instructions of their leaders (Acts 2:42). This paved the way for their wondrous spiritual growth, which led to their other profitable “Kingdom” activities. Let’s always heed the call to submit to wise, godly leadership (I Peter 5:5).
So wondrous was their spiritual growth, they saw the world for what it was (Colossians 3:1-3), just a temporary abode what with a better, permanent, celestial home awaiting them. No wonder they were loosely attached to their materialistic wealth, with many selling their properties in order to help their poor brethren with the said proceeds (Acts 4:32-37). Virtually they committed their wealth into the hands of the Lord, who would pay them wonderful, heavenly dividends (Luke 12:33).
They did not leave the task of transmitting the Gospel, only to their leaders. As they had grown in their spiritual lives, they could speak with authority about Saving grace of Christ. As such, we see them “transmitting” the Good News not only with their words (Acts 8:4) but also actions (Acts 19:18-20).
How true is the maxim that “actions speak louder than words”, for when the Christians who were hitherto magicians, sorcerers burned their costly incantation books in a public bonfire at Ephesus, the whole region was profoundly impacted for the Lord. That is why a wise saint remarked underscoring the significance of life-style evangelism “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words only when necessary”!
Billy Graham that great and uncompromising preacher once in a Revival meeting held at Los Angeles, shared a passionate message on the Early Church, outlining what needs to be done for the Churches of modern era to become more effective. While many were moved by it, some “cannibal” Christians (apparently a misnomer really, however refer Gal 5:15) criticized him of taking Christianity back by 100 years to which he is said to have replied with wisdom borne out of long, enduring relationship with Christ "I did indeed want to set religion back, not just by 100 years but 1,900 years, to the Book of Acts when first century followers of Christ were accused of turning the Roman Empire Upside down."
Oh for the First Century fire and passion of Christians! In conclusion, I would like to ask the Christian leadership (Evangelists and Pastors) and the Laity- are we imitating the Early Church by being World shakers or is the World shaking us up?
It is said that the Book of Acts is the only Book in the Bible with no formal conclusion. Even today, are we not witnessing the stunning works of servants of Christ, propelled by the Spirit? If I may add, even the work of yours truly (a sinner saved by His grace), however significant or insignificant (the good Lord alone is the best judge- I Cor 4:3,4) would figure under the Divine aegis of this Book. Now shouldn’t this fact that our works for the Lord are STILL FIGURING IN THE BOOK OF ACTS (Boy, we are still being given an opportunity to make history!) inspire all of us (ordained full-timers or laity) to GET OUR ACT TOGETHER FOR HIS GLORY?