Summary: The effectiveness of the early church was not because of profound individuals, but ordinary people utilizing their gifts for ministry.
The Gift of Faith and Evangelism
As your read through the Bible, you will find just a few occasions in which God employed signs and wonders. These were used as an attention getter. They were tools by which God would signify to humanity that He was working in a specific way. These signs and wonders were His personal stamp of approval or certificate of authenticity. It is very important to note that in each case, the use of signs and wonders were time limited. We do not find them in the book of Genesis, but they are present in the book of Exodus with Moses and the induction of the Law. Signs and wonders are also found with Elijah and Elisha during the era of the prophets. Of course as you enter into the New Testament, we see the Lord Jesus, who also came with signs and wonders signifying that He was the Christ, the Promised Messiah. Keep in mind all of these signs were specifically for the Jew (1 Corinthians 1:22).
In Acts 2, we see the empowerment of the church and the concentrated ministry of the Holy Spirit. During this period we also see signs and wonders –a sign to the Jew and a testimony that God was working through this new institution called the local church. Again, it is important to note that these signs and wonders were time limited and specific to the apostles.
Consider what the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 12:12
Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
Signs and wonders were the distinguishing marks of an apostle. But exactly who were these apostles? As we have made our way through this series, we have tried to use men and women who, for the most part, would be considered insignificant or minor characters in the book of Acts. The individuals possessed and utilized an assortment of gifts in the work of the Lord. We have seen Tabitha and the gifts of ministry, helps and giving. We have considered Aquila and Priscilla and their gifts of exhortation and discernment. We have purposely tried to avoid the more distinguished members of the cast, because we have a tendency to place them on a pedestal. We automatically assume they were immensely superior in their walk with God and therefore we could never aspire to be used like they were used. Somehow it is easier for us to identify with the nameless, faceless multitude than with James, John, Peter or Paul.
But as we consider this passage this morning, we will take a closer look at Peter and the apostles because there are important lessons we must learn from them. There are three things I want us to give attention to this morning. The first thing I call your attention to is:
1. Their Participation: The participated in the work of God
Like every believer, God had given to these men spiritual gifts. The simple fact is, we must never forget, these men were ordinary men. The apostles were fisherman and tentmakers by trade. Apart from Paul and Apollos, all the recognized characters were not well educated or trained in the Scriptures. As we have already pointed out, they were ‘ignorant and unlearned men’ who did not have either ‘silver or gold.’ When we see them in that light, it is easier for me to identify with them! The apostles were not super-saints. They were not an elite force of uniquely qualified individuals. They were ordinary men empowered and gifted by the Holy Spirit for a unique ministry. That is the point that we must lay hold of: the only thing unique about the Apostles was the ministry God called them to and equipped them for.
Consider this passage in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.
There are Christians here this morning who hesitate to serve and get involved because you feel you are not intelligent enough, or winsome enough, or outgoing enough or whatever it may be that genders feelings of inadequacy. But the shocking truth is –your sense of inability is the greatest qualification for service you have!
God is looking for ordinary people who will yield themselves as instruments of righteousness. God is looking for willing vessels through whom He can work. As it has been said, “The greatest ability is availability.” Our sense of inadequacy forces us to rely upon God in a greater way, so that God receives the glory.