Summary: How the early church used a time of peace to prepare for even greater effectiveness.
A Study of the Book of Acts
Sermon # 18
“The Characteristics of an Effective Church”
“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and (walking) in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. (NKJV)
Our text this morning is a very interesting verse of Scripture, one which I have discovered that most of the commentators quickly pass over. I am convinced that this passage holds some deep truth that we need to slow down and allow the Holy Spirit to apply in our lives.
Luke begins the sentence by saying, “THEN the churches enjoyed peace, were strengthened , they lived in fear of the Lord, they were encouraged by the Holy Spirit, and they grew in numbers.” We need to first remember what happened before the “then” of verse 31. If we look back we will remember that the church had been through many hard times back “then.” Remember that “then” the church had to chose a new disciple because of the defection of Judas. “Then” Peter and John were arrested and threatened. “Then” there was the death of Ananias and Sapphira for lying. “Then” there was opposition from the Pharisees and Sadducees. “Then” there tension in the church about the some of the widows being neglected. “Then” Stephen was killed. “Then” Christians were being driven from their homes. “Then” that madman Saul was hounding Christians from city to city arresting them and putting them in prison. Back “then” times were tough.
But you might say, “Weren’t there good times too?” Yes, Of Course there were. There was Jesus’ appearance to His follower is Acts 1:8. There was the Pentecost experience of the and Peter’s preaching and 5,000 giving their lives to Christ. There was the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch and Saul’s conversion. Now in the light of all that had happened back “then,” the church was to enjoy a time of peace. The question remained how they would use this time and how they used it gives us unique insight into the characteristics of an effective church.
1. THE CHURCH ENJOYED PEACE
“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace”
The KJV translates this word as “rest.” But this was a time of peace not of rest. It was not a time of complacency because as we will see the church grew both spiritually and numerically. They did however seize the opportunity to strengthen and build up the church in preparation for whatever may come next.
The church should make use of times of calm and peace, bearing a stronger testimony than ever before. All to often times of peace and quiet, rest and comfort are too often used for reveling in the blessings of the fellowship, and the church becomes complacent and lethargic. This should not be the case. Calm and peace mean the gospel is now unhindered and unopposed. Therefore, opportunity for proclaiming the gospel freely should be used to the fullest.
2. THE CHURCH WAS EDIFIED
“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified.” The word “edified” (oikodomeo) simply means “built up, to grow spiritually, to promote spiritually growth, to strengthen, to establish, to confirm in the faith.” Jesus used the same word when he said “On this rock I will build by church.” How does Jesus build? Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:11 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, (12) for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, (13) till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (14) that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, (15) but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—(16) from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (NKJV)
The church was using the time of peace to continue to grow spiritually. They were building up themselves and they were actively involved in building up each other. The church far to often seems to be actively involved in tearing each other down and in the process tearing the church apart. Gossip and character assassination are two of the negative ways, but we can be guilty even if we have not done these things if we are not doing anything to help ourselves and others grow.