Summary: bearing one another’s burdens... the early church was united, generous, and powerful witnesses
The Safest Place On Earth
Experiencing Biblical Community: Acts 4:23-35
For the last several weeks I’ve been talking about our need for community – for a place to love as Jesus loved, and to be loved for who we are. I’ve shared that I’ve been feeling lonely, like there is no one outside of my immediate family with whom I can share my life deeply. And so as a church we have been talking about getting together in smaller groups, called “family groups” not so much because they are groups of families, multi-generational groups of people in a geographic proximity – but because our vision is that these groups would become a “family” for each of us – a place of safety and care and authenticity.
So last week we began a bunch of family groups, and praise God we had 151 people involved in the introduction last week!! And there are still a few groups that haven’t yet started, and a number of people who have not yet been contacted – and as an aside, if you have NOT been contacted and invited yet, please please please take this little sheet of paper in your bulletin, fill it in and hand it to me at the back door. Even if you don’t want to be a part of a group, please do this anyway so that we can be sure you have been invited and included as much as you choose.
Because let me say it again: Jesus commanded us to love one another deeply. We have been created with a need to be surrounded by people who will love us and who we can also love – places where it is safe to be ourselves, to let down our pretensions and carefully crafted images making it look like we have it all together, when in fact we each carry burdens and pains – which God intended us to be able to share with one another.
Community in Acts:
So if we really have this inner need to be connected to one another, to really love one another deeply, we should be able to find God’s solution to this need in His Word. We are walking through the book of Acts, as a kind of weekly case-study in Biblical Community.
Last week we looked together at chapter 2, which begins with the 120 disciples of Jesus experiencing the incredible outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, then seeing 3000 people moved to accept Jesus as their Lord. And then we saw what their relationships were like – they were devoted to teaching, to building deep relationships with each other, to the Lord’s Supper, and to prayer.
I want to look at the later part of chapter 4 today, but I can’t jump there without summarizing what happens in chapter 3. Peter and John head to the temple for the afternoon services, and on the way in heal a man who had been a cripple from birth. This man is excited, and runs around the temple praising God and drawing a large crowd. Peter seizes the opportunity, and starts to preach another fantastic sermon about Jesus and how He can save them, which upsets the temple religious leaders who seize Peter and John and throw them in jail overnight. The next day they stand in front of the Sanhedrin, and the end result is a very stern warning not to preach in Jesus’ name any longer. They are released, and that is where I want to pick up the story: Acts 4:23-35.
Immediately after their release from jail, Peter and John return to their community. It makes sense – we know that place was safe, it was full of people dedicated to the same cause and sharing in its effects. Peter and John reported what had happened, and then immediately they prayed. Notice that they prayed Scripture – basically they prayed the words of Psalm 2 and applied it to their own situation.
Bear one another’s burdens
This is a great reminder for us – when in trouble, pray. They took their burden to God immediately, they cried out together – note, in community – to God. I want us to notice that Peter and John did not bear this burden alone, the community bore the burden.
(illustrate with a sidewalk block - I had one strong young man come up and pick up a 150lb sidewalk block. As he struggled to hold it, I asked him to dance. Then I asked 3 more strong men to come, and each took a corner. The point sunk in well!)
Luke, the author of Acts, records the result of their prayer in vs 31. The Holy Spirit comes again, and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit”, and were filled with boldness again. It is worth noting that the infilling of the Holy Spirit was not a one-time event at Pentecost for the disciples, but that it occurred at least this second time.