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 (quickview)
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