Summary: The Book of Acts gives a clear indication as to how the church should operate. How do we measure up?
September 21, 2003
Text: Acts 5:12-16
Subject: Church Growth
Title: Planting the Seed – Watching it Grow
Do you ever get up on Sunday morning and not feel like going to church?
A husband and wife got up one Sunday morning and the wife got dressed for church. It was just about time for the service to begin when she noticed her husband hadn’t even started getting dressed. His wife was perplexed. She asked, "Why aren’t you getting dressed for church?"
He said, “Cause I don’t want to go.”
She asked, "Do you have any reasons?" He said, "Yes, I have three good reasons: First, the congregation is cold. Second, no one likes me. And third, I just don’t want to go. The wife replied, wisely, "Well, honey, I have three reasons why you should go: First, the congregation is warm. Second, there are a few people there who like you. And third, you’re the pastor! So get dressed!"
As we observe churches all around us, I have come to the conclusion that there are two basic reasons that churches grow. The first reason is that, just as the apostle Paul foretold, “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, the will heap up for themselves teachers and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” There are churches that are appealing to the masses because they do not require any commitment. If you say the sinner’s prayer God will just take everything away from you that, He doesn’t want you to have. That is a nice thought but what does that do to the doctrine of personal responsibility? Being a Christian in those churches is easy, and people flock to them. The second church, though, that is seeing growth, is the church that preaches the whole counsel of God without compromise, is taking the word of God out into the community, and is seeing the word confirmed by signs and wonders. That is the biblical example of what the church is to be.
If you are one of those who have to make the decision to come to church, be encouraged. As we look at the early church today we will see a perfect example of the kind of church that God wants First Assembly of God Palmyra to be.
I. The Hands of the Apostles. (Verse 12)
A. Work is done through the hands of the apostles. I want you to notice that at this time Jesus has chosen to work through those who had been closest to Him during His earthly ministry. We know that it is the power of God at work. However, He has chosen certain people to be vessels of His operation at this time. Does this mean that only those with an apostolic ministry today can work signs and wonders? If we just look to the next chapter, we see a list of men selected to serve. The only requirements for them were that they had a good reputation and were full of the Holy Spirit. One of those men, Philip, went on to do mighty things in Samaria. We also see miracles listed as one of the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12 that are available to all who are baptized in the Holy Spirit. Now let’s go back to the source of the power. We know God is the giver, the Holy Spirit is the source and the church is to be the contractor. So, anything that is to happen in the church is to come through God’s people. This is what Paul is writing about in Colossians 1:24 when he says, “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.” The only thing lacking in the afflictions of Christ is that there is still work to do and He is not here to do it. We are to continue the work that Jesus began by allowing Him to work through our hands. What is it that is being done through the hands of believers?
B. Signs and wonders. Before Jesus returned to heaven he told those who were with Him, “These signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. “ Mark 16:17-18. Verse 20 goes on to say, “and they went out and preached the gospel everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen!” The signs and wonders were occurring because the people were obedient to Jesus’ last command. “Go and preach the gospel!” How do we know that?