This summer, my church is studying the book of Acts, and I am super excited about it! We’ve titled this series, “Acts: We Are The Movement“, and it has been so powerful thus far! I had the honor of preaching this last Sunday, and I couldn’t get away from seeing how unity was such key componant to the success of the church we read about in Acts.
In case you didn’t know, the book of Acts was written by the same man who wrote the gospel of Luke – Doctor Luke. He researched and retold in elaborate detail how the church was birthed, empowered and inspired to spread the good news of the gospel throughout the world. It’s so inspiring to read about the acts of the early church, knowing that the church today has the same marching orders! But what are those marching orders? Let’s see if we can answer this question.
Habakkuk 2:14 NKJV says, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
How is that going to happen? – Through the Church! Isn’t that exciting!
Pastor Steve (who happens to also be my brilliant husband!) said in one of his messages recently, “As the church, we are the continuation…the conclusion to the story in Acts.” He also asked the question, “Are we going to run our leg of the relay race well?” I think this is such a great question to ask ourselves. Are we speaking boldly about Jesus? Are we proclaiming the good news? This is our baton that has been past to us, and the beautiful thing about this assignment is that we are not by ourselves to accomplish it. WE HAVE HELP! And I, for one, am so thankful for that.
I was given Acts, chapters 5 and 6 to discuss, but to understand what was going on we must keep it in context with what has happened previously to the events we read about in these two chapters. So let’s do a little bit of a review.
At the beginning of Acts, we see about 120 people waiting in an upper room in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised them. After the Holy Spirit was given to them, a large crowd of people that had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost (a Jewish festival), heard the 120 speaking in their native languages and were amazed at how these uneducated people were able to do this. Peter, being empowered by the Holy Spirit, stood before this crowd and proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah that they had been waiting for, and 3,000 people believed in Jesus! What an incredible moment!
Look at what the believers did, in response to accepting Jesus as their Messiah:
Acts 2:42-47 NKJV “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
All I can say is WOW!
The next major event we read about is Peter and John going to the temple to worship, and they come upon this man who has been lame his whole life. He was sitting at the gate to the temple, asking for alms. Peter and John tell this man to give them his attention. As he does, Peter declares to him that healing belongs to him because of what Jesus did. It’s such a powerful and emotional moment! If you’ve never read it, I encourage you to go and look at it. You can find it in Acts 3.
Well, as you can imagine, this miracle caused quite a stir and drew a crowd around Peter, John and this man who was known to be lame by this community. Peter, once again preaches to the crowd that Jesus is the Messiah they have been waiting for, and this time 5,000 people believe! The Jewish leaders did not like Peter and John’s message, so they commanded them to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. Something that amazes me is that the threats that they gave to Peter and John did not discourage them at all! Instead of being discouraged and afraid, they went back to the other believers declaring what had happened. Look at the believers response to the threats they received:
Acts 4:23-24 NKJV “And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,”
Act 4:29-35 NKJV “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may by done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
Do you see a pattern here? Power is present, but how? It’s because they are in unity!
Unity, What A POWERFUL Thing
Look at this!
Psalm 133:1-3 NKJV Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing —Life forevermore.
Look at the prayer that Jesus prayed:
John 17:20-23 NKJV “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
What is the purpose of the Glory?
1. To Unify Us
2. To Make Jesus Known
3. To Proclaim Love
We need the glory of the Lord on our church! And guess what, Jesus said that He has given it to us!
For me, Chapters 5 & 6 are tools to use to check the motives of our heart. We see:
1.) What it looks like to not be in unity
2.) What it looks like to be in unity.
Chapter 5 is what it looks like to not be in unity. If you’ve never read it, take moment and do so. It’s amazing to think that the stories we read actually happened!
At the beginning of Chapter 5, we read about a husband and wife named Ananias and Sapphira who lied about their offering. They told the church that the money they were giving was all of the money that they had earned from selling something they owned (remember people are selling possessions to make sure there is plenty of money in the church to provide for EVERYONE). However, the truth is, they were only giving a portion of what they earned from the sale. Remember, they didn’t have to sell the item, and they didn’t have to give all of it to the church! They chose to do this, and then tried to deceive the church.
Peter asks in Acts 5:3 “why has Satan filled your heart…” My answer, they were NOT in unity! This moment had nothing to do with the love of God in their hearts. They were not in love with God or with his church! This moment had everything to do with how it would benefit them, and this decision destroyed them!
Listen, we do not have to buy our way into relationship with God or the Church! Jesus paid all that was ever needed for us to have these relationships. He will ask things of you, but it is not your payment for salvation. When we are obedient to our Heavenly Father and His Word, we are not doing these things for man – it is all being given to God. And it is our honor to do so! We love because the truth that God first loved us has become so real to us. We can’t help but love!
Take away = YOU ARE NOT GIVING TO MAN, YOU ARE GIVING TO GOD.
I would call this moment with Ananias and Sapphira unnecessary drama in the church! Have you ever experienced unnecessary drama? Maybe in the church, or your family, or your place of work? In those moments, I admit, I can become discouraged and wonder how God can move in these types of experiences. But look at this, in the midst of this unnecessary drama, great things were still happening!
Acts 5:12-16 NKJV “And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
WOW! Unity, what a powerful thing!
Here we find a group of people who had one heart and focus, and as we move to chapter 6, we find the church leadership needing help in taking care of the people’s needs. So, they appoint men who had a good reputation and were full of the Holy Spirit to serve the people! One of them, was a man by the name of Stephen.
Look at what is said about him:
Acts 6:8 NKJV “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.”
Why was Stephen full of faith and power? Because he was unified with His God and with the Church!
Stephen, full of faith and power, had hands laid on him to wait on tables at their church gatherings… and was used by God to do great wonders and signs and became the first martyr of the church! Stephen had a real relationship with Jesus!
Here is a man who did not have hands laid on him to be an Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor or Teacher. He had hands laid on him to serve tables. And it is said that this man did great wonders and signs among the people! Listen, as a believer, you and I are called into THE ministry of our Lord, Jesus. You have a part to play! And it is powerful and so needed. If you are standing at the doors of your church greeting – you are anointed to make a difference, serving in hospitality – you are anointed to make a difference, skilled in song – you are anointed to make a difference, opening up your home to host a life group – YOU ARE ANOINTED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE! You, yes, you, have a ministry! How exciting is that!
If unity is such a powerful thing, let’s look at the 4 areas the early church was unified in:
Acts 2:42-47 NKJV “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fel- lowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
These are our four mile markers of growth at Highway Community Church:
1) Unity – Apostles doctrine, fellowship, one accord in the temple
2) Community – Breaking of bread from house to house, prayer
3) Generosity – sold possessions and gave to any in need
4) City – Had favor with all the people, the Lord added to them those being saved
This is our lane to run, this is the baton that has been passed to us! To be in one heart and one mind, to proclaim Jesus and declare that God loves us – as much as He loves Jesus!
We do not focus on these four areas out of religious duty or because other churches do it. We do this because this the example left for us to follow by a powerful, thriving church! And the catalyst for it all was UNITY.
Unity, What A POWERFUL Thing!