Summary: The church of Acts shows us what the church of today should be like
What the Church Should Be
The city of Long Beach, California, looks upon the Queen Mary, docked at a quay on the ocean front, as a floating white elephant. Since 1967, when the city bought the ship from Cunard, $63 million has been spent on its conversion into a tourist spot with a museum, shops, restaurants, and hotel. Voices are calling for the doughty old Cunarder to be scrapped. It seems that with no possibility of sailing the seas the Queen Mary serves no real purpose.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galillee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers living in the fear of the Lord. Acts 9:31
I. The church should be at peace
A. The persecution was stopped
1. The persecution was intense
a.) There was a deep desire to see the church destroyed before it could get off the ground. Literally the desire was to stop the movement.
b.) The Jewish leadership saw the church as a dangerous cult that could undermind the whole of Jewish society
2. Christ stopped the persecution
a.) The persecution was stopped by the work of Christ.
1.) Jesus Himself transformed the great persecutor into Paul the apostle
2.) God used the work of evil men to divert attention. The Roman emperor declared that a statue of himself be placed in the temple and that the Jewish people worship him. The Jews now had bigger fish to fry
b.) The divine intervention saved the church from an early destruction
B. The purpose of peace
1. The peace offered the church rest
a.) The persecution had indeed cost the church a great deal and many early disciples were killed for their faith
b.) The church had lost one of it’s great leaders. James the brother of John and disciple of Jesus had been killed. The attack on the church had spread also to the deacon level of leadership and Stephen was also killed.
2. The peace offered the church rebuilding
a.) The persecution forced the church away from the area of Jerusalem. The church had up to this point been highly localized in the Jerusalem area but now was spreading far beyond the city into the rest of Israel and beyond
b.) The peace allowed the church to rebuild their working structures and redevelop their organization
II. The church should be strengthened
A. The meaning of strength
1. The word for strength
a.) The word is also translated edify
b.) The literal meaning is to build up, to grow, to establish or to confirm
2. The deeper meaning
a.) The church was coming out of a time of great trial and distress. Now they needed some time to heal and to regain the strength that they had lost.
b.) The church was now going to have a time of spiritual growth and renewal. This is amazing that Christ gives the church the time they needed to recover, regroup and re-deploy. The great thing is that the early church used this “down time” to its fullest.
B. The process of strength
1. The strength gained is gradual
a.) The church was not back at full strength over night but rather this took some time for the church to recover. Recovery was not a passive event but rather an active process
b.) The church regains its strength through a variety of ways
1.) The Word of God
2.) The worship of God
3.) Prayer to God
4.) Service for God
2. The personal growth takes time
a.) The growth was on an individual basis
1.) No two people can grow at the same spiritual rate and Christ works in our lives as individuals
2.) The rate of our growth depends on our desire, our dedication and our devotion
b.) The growth required an investment
1.) Growth doesn’t just happen but it is an active and intentional process. Growth that does not occur without your effort but the good news is that when we make the effort Christ steps in to help
2.) If you want to grow deeper in your walk with Christ it is going to cost you some time, some energy and expense.
3.) “People stop growing when price gets too high.” – John Maxwell What about you are you willing to pay the price to go to the next level in your relationship with Christ?
III. The church should be alive
A. The reverence for Christ
1. The term fear
a.) The word that we translate fear does not mean to be afraid or to be terrified.
b.) The word fear means to be in awe or respect of God
2. The deeper meaning
a.) The simple fact of this makes a deep impact on the lives of believers because the fear or the awe of God changes our lives.