Webmaster's note: This is a Bible study how the early Christian's lived and operated after the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If you haven't yet read the book of Acts in the New Testament, it would help if you read the first 10 chapters of that book to be able to appreciate the lessons brought out in this article. Or you can grab your Bible and look up the verses in context to the others as you read this.
WHAT IS TRULY THE KEY VERSE OF THE WHOLE BOOK OF ACTS?-- Acts 1:8 ! "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be WITNESSES unto Me!" PTL! They were to start right there at home and go to the uttermost parts of the Earth!
While tarrying in Jerusalem, they were fasting and praying and serving the Lord. "And they continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women!" (1:14) "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." (2:1) They were united in mind and heart and spirit! If we're not going to be united in mind and heart and spirit, we'll miss the blessing! And why did He have them meet in Jerusalem?
(Family: He had them there for a WITNESS!) Exactly! He had them there so that, when the explosion came, they could win many souls! That was the main purpose of the day of Pentecost!--Not just the mighty signs and wonders and supernatural manifestations. The Holy Spirit was only a means to an end! Through Peter's preaching of the Gospel and the big crowd that the miracle attracted, they got tremendous results!
"Then they that gladly received his word were baptised: and the same day there were added unto them about 3,000 souls." (2:41) 3,000 souls were saved! That's the most important thing that happened on the day of Pentecost!--Not the pouring out of the Spirit, although that was essential for it! The one cannot do without the other. So I don't care whether you receive tongues or what you receive, as long as you receive power for witnessing!--That's the principal purpose!
ACTS 2:42 TELLS US WHAT THE FOUR THINGS NECESSARY FOR NEW CHRISTIANS ARE: "Doctrine"--good teaching, "fellowship"--live together for several months, then you'll really know what fellowship is! Then you'll also know what "breaking bread" is, to share your food and your material blessings. And 4th is "prayer." And what were the results?--"Fear, wonders, signs." (2:43)
"And all that believed were together, and had ALL things common"--they shared all things! The only way that true communism can ever exist is under the influence of the Holy Spirit, in love and patience with each other, where you're willing to give the food out of your mouth so that others can eat too! "And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need." (2:44,45)
"And they, continuing DAILY with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house!"--They didn't confine it just to the Temple! They went "house to house, and did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the Church"--every Sunday?--"daily, such as should be saved!" (2:46,47)
"NOW PETER and JOHN WENT UP"--separately?--In their own separate ways, whenever they felt like it? How did they go?--"Together!" (3:1) How did Jesus send them out?--Two by two! Why?--"One can chase a thousand, two can put ten thousand to flight!" And, "If one falls, the other will lift him up." God isn't partial to numbers, but He likes co-operation! He likes you to work together! (Lk.10:1 ; Deut.32:30 ; Ecc.4:9,10)
Then came another one of God's great set-ups: He picked somebody that everybody in town knew was a lame man and a beggar. Along came Peter and John, and a great miracle happened!--The man was healed, and the people were filled with wonder! (3:10) They were wondering what was going on and Peter was ready to tell them! (3:12) He took advantage of the opportunity to preach'm a sermon, like he did on the day of Pentecost.
The most important thing was NOT the man's healing, but that Peter saw the opportunity to WITNESS and preach the Gospel! He preached a pretty stiff sermon, and they got tossed in jail for their trouble! (4:1-3)--"Howbeit many of them which heard the Word believed!" (4:4) 5,000 people were so thrilled, they didn't care whether they went to jail or not!--They believed!
"Now when they saw the BOLDNESS of Peter and John, and perceived that they were"--what?--Highly-educated and learned men? Isn't this what the Church believes today?--That you have to have years of formal education to preach the Gospel? "They were unlearned and ignorant men!" (4:13) They were bold, despite the fact that they didn't have any education. They just went ahead and witnessed anyhow, and they had tremendous power! It was obvious they had been with Jesus! They had the Master's power to do the Master's work!
So the first crisis of the Church was Peter and John got tossed into jail. It was an outside attack--persecution. But the Lord won the victory, in spite of the Devil! "They prayed, and the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost; and they spake the Word of God with"--timidity? (Family: No!)--"With boldness!" (4:31)
There were some laws which the Apostles seemed to have a lot of trouble obeying and great success in defying and great blessing in breaking! What were they?--The laws that prohibited their witnessing, winning souls or preaching the Word! They just broke'm right and left, got tossed in jail time and again, and beaten and everything else for it! They said, "You judge and see which is better--to obey you or God? We'll obey God!" (4:17-20)
GOD HAD A MARVELLOUS PLAN FOR HIS CHURCH, DIDN'T HE?--THIS BOOK OF ACTS!--The blueprint for His Church! This is the pattern for missions. This is the way the Church ought to be, the way it ought to act and build and spread and evangelise. This is the pattern, the example!
But, "what shall we eat and what shall we drink and wherewithal shall we be clothed?" Don't you think God has a financial plan for the Church? We've already mentioned it in the 2nd Chapter. They lived and they shared together, and those that had possessions sold them and shared them with the others, as every man had need.
"From each according to his ability"--whatever he had--"unto each according to his need"--whatever he needed! That was God's financial plan for the Church! "Neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own! But they had all things common." (4:32) They shared all things!
"Neither was there any among them that lacked!" (4:34) They may not have had all they wanted, but none of them lacked anything he needed! "For as many as were possessors of lands or houses, sold them"--they got rid of their possessions. "And brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the Apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." (4:35)
THE SECOND CRISIS OF THE CHURCH HAPPENED AS A RESULT, IN SOME WAYS, OF THIS VERY PRINCIPLE: A couple of people wanted to get the glory and credit for forsaking everything they had. No doubt there was a certain amount of glory in it, or Ananias and Sapphira wouldn't have dared try to deceive the people and the Lord into thinking that they were giving up everything. (5:1-10) But God slapped them down real quick! He didn't want any deceivers, any liars, any people pretending to forsake all--like the Church people today!
"And great FEAR came upon all the Church, and upon as many as heard these things!" (5:11) It struck fear and terror into the hearts of the Church and the people around, so that "no man durst join himself unto them"! (5:13) But "the Lord added to the Church!" (5:14)
The second crisis of the church--Ananias and Sapphira--was an INSIDE attack. The first crisis was persecution; the second crisis was hypocrisy. What was the remedy for the first crisis, persecution?--They had a lot of prayer and bolder witnessing, and the result was more souls! In this second case, great fear on the Church was the remedy, and strict discipline! But strict discipline brought results, and the Lord added multitudes!--More souls!
THEN THEY HAILED'M TO JAIL AGAIN and said, "You've filled Jerusalem with your doctrine!" (5:17-28) They answered, "We've got to obey God rather than man!" (5:29) They were brought to trial and the judges started criticising them. So they turned around and they gave the judges the works! "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree!" (5:30)--The best defense is an offense!
God usually raises up a FRIEND somewhere, in some odd place--maybe on the panel of judges, maybe in the court. He did in this case--Gamaliel was there, a wise man and a great teacher. He said, "If this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God!" (5:38,39)
So the judges took his advice, called the Apostles and beat'm up!--They just had to get a little satisfaction! "And when they had beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the Name of Jesus, and let them go." (5:40) "They departed from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name!" (5:41) So the Devil couldn't lick'm! In fact, the end result of that was that famous 42nd verse : "Daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ!"
THEN CAME THE THIRD CRISIS OF THE CHURCH: MURMURING!--Another inside attack! "There arose murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministrations." (6:1) The best thing to do in such a case is to get it out in the open, deal with it, and they did. The twelve Apostles' or Elders' major responsibility was spiritual, to be overseers of the spiritual welfare of the Church, teaching and praying. So they picked some good businessmen to take care of the material affairs of the Church! And this is the difference between elders and deacons: The elders are the spiritual leaders and deacons are the material leaders. (6:1-8)
Stephen and Philip had spiritual talent and ability, and they ministered spiritually as well. Stephen preached his famous sermon in the 7th Chapter and he got along pretty well for 50 verses--they listened. But then he got to that 51st verse : "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye! Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of Whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers!"
He said, "Your fathers killed the prophets, who predicted that Jesus was coming, and now YOU'VE killed Him personally!" "Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it!" (v.53) Whew! That was it! He'd had it! "This guy's of the Devil! He says we're not good! Pass me some rocks quickly, and let me toss'm! We'll get rid of him fast! He's exposing us!"
In fact, they were so mad and full of the Devil and so angry at being exposed before the whole public, that they rushed on him and bit him!--And stoned him to death! But, praise God, he had a glorious death! "They were cut to the heart...but he, being full of the Holy Ghost, saw the glory of God!" (7:54-60) Hallelujah!
YOU do GOD'S Will and be bold and preach the Truth, and it won't matter WHAT happens to you, you shall SEE the glory of God! Hallelujah! Amen? And what was the result of this death?--There was a young man standing there, holding the coats for the guys that threw the rocks, who saw the way he died, and it ate at him and ate at him. (7:58) He kept kicking against his conscience and against conviction, but he couldn't get over the way Stephen died! That was the next crisis, again an outside attack--persecution. And the result was that the Church was scattered "throughout the regions." (8:1)
SAUL, BREATHING OUT SLAUGHTER, TRIED TO KICK AGAINST THE PRICKS; BUT HE WAS FINALLY WONDERFULLY SAVED in that 9th Chapter! And as a result, many people got saved. He witnessed and witnessed like a house on fire! Souls were saved and miracles were performed!
In the 10th Chapter we have another problem: PREJUDICE and tradition! All these new Gentiles were getting saved but they weren't getting circumcised! They were eating the wrong kind of meat and they weren't observing the Sabbath. It got the Church all upset, but they finally came to an agreement and the Holy Spirit got it all worked out!--They had to get rid of a lot of their prejudices and their traditions to follow the Lord! Amen?