Summary: A Wednesday evening devotion which teaches us from the 1st Century church in Jerusalem, we can discern some of what it means to be a Spiritual Congregation.
The Characteristics of a Spiritual Church
* One of the most sobering passages in all of New Testament scripture (at least for me) is found in Acts 5:1-11. To remind you, this is the story of Ananias and Sapphira. When they lied about their gifts to the church, they were struck down by God in front of the Apostles and the entire church.
* Have you ever wondered what it would be like if God exacted that kind of judgment on us? What would be the outcome? It demands our thoughts.
* Verse 11 is sort of a transition verse which gives us a clue, a hint into the impact of this type of judgment inside the household of God. (Read) Think about the “great amount of fear” which permeated this church and culture. This married couple had sold land, brought money to the church, and now lay dead. In fact, they had died in while talking with Bro. Peter about their gifts. What would happen in this congregation if one of our members sold a piece of property, brought money, and then died on the spot after being rebuked for dishonesty? Can you imagine the gossip which would ensue? I can hear it now, “how unfair”, “how could God”, and “What Kind of God is He, I mean, they were giving money!” Or better yet, “What did that preacher do”, “How did this happen,” or even “We may need a business meeting.” Yet for these people, they understood who did it, why it was done, and they were afraid.
* It has long been said that the church under persecution becomes the purer church. While that is true, this passage leads me to believe that the church under the judgment of Spiritual & powerful church. From this text, let us discover 4 characteristics which are present in a spiritual church.
1. MIRACLES – Verse 12 tells us that “many signs and wonders were being done among the people.” I begin with this question; “What do you believe about God?” Do you believe He was powerful in days past or do you believe He IS powerful is days present? If we believe He still is powerful, why would we be surprised at Him performing miracles today? Why should we not expect Him to work through His church today? Some would respond that God did miracles only in the past, and I would counter “He is still in the miracle working business because it’s a miracle every time He saves a lost soul, every time a child is born, & every time a sick person is made well.” The intellectuals of our day want to explain away God using His miraculous power by saying, “He doesn’t work that way anymore.” I suspect that the reason God may not do miracles in the church today is the same reason Jesus couldn’t do any miracle in Nazareth. Mark 6:5 is one of the saddest verses in scripture. For the spiritual church miracles become the natural because to walk in the spirit is to be filled with the spirit, and to be filled with the spirit is to receive power. This is a promise of our Lord Jesus in Acts 1:8.
2. MEETINGS – One of the things we seem to miss today is that the church of the 1st century located in Jerusalem assembled on a daily basis. Although they had no building, they met from house to house on a daily basis. Why? They connecting point was their total and complete faith in Jesus. The last part of verse 12 gives us a picture of the group, “By common consent they would all meet in Solomon’s Colonnade.” First, it seems that Solomon’s porch was located on the east side of the outer court of the temple and was some 400 cubits long (a cubit is commonly the measure of a man’s forearm, somewhere between 17 and 24 inches). But the size of the porch is not the important issue. The truly important issue is that their faith called them to such deep and utter unity that the sharing their possessions seemed as natural as breathing. Unity and harmony was the order of the day. By common consent (or in one accord, unity, or having the same purpose) they ALL were together. This is important. It was not some of them or a part of them; it was, just like we find in Acts 2, ALL of them. This is a principle of scripture which we miss. When we agree to gather, God expects all to be present. When the miracles & meetings fall into place, the next level follows very easily.
3. MISSION – Of all the things I personally see in the American church of the 21st century the one thing which stands out is this; “The loss of being on mission.” Churches have mission statements, go on mission trips, and give to mission offerings; but in point of fact have little concept of a mission given them by their faith in Jesus. Contrast verse 14 with verse 13 and reconcile how this might happen. It would seem to me that the deciding factor in fulfilling their mission is found in the last part of verse 13, “but the people praised (esteemed, regarded, magnified, celebrated) them highly.” Here is the key; these believers lived lives that honored Christ, lived out His principles, and could speak words about Him because people knew how deeply they believed. Their lives had been revolutionized by their faith in Jesus, the Christ. The result was that people would not attend the meeting until they received Jesus. They were fearful, fearful of being hypocrites, & at the same time, fearful of not being in the family.