At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, the Jews were distraught and confused. They had hoped for a Messiah who would free them from Roman domination and persecution. The disciples were especially distressed and filled with grief. Jesus had died. He was gone. They felt lost. Then, Jesus reappeared to them (and to others as well.) Their disappointments quickly turned into joy. Jesus showed them the scars on his hands and feet, He asked them to share their meal with Him, and then reminded them of the Old Testament prophesies that foretold the events of His life and death. He opened their minds, and they understood. He promised them a baptism of the Holy Spirit and put forth directives to begin a movement to spread the Word to the ends of the earth. A new normal had begun. They knew they had Jesus once more and forever, and their lives would never be the same again. Once their hearts were captured, they had to yield their lives.
After 40 days, Jesus ascended into heaven. Now it was time for the apostles to earnestly begin moving forward to carry on everything Jesus had begun. It was the beginning of a new movement. The church became an active body which required commitment and sacrifice. The Book of Acts is the account of the development of the church.
The Greek word for church is “ekklesia.” When translated, this means a gathering of people around an idea. This is what the first church was; a movement of people dedicated to carrying the word of God to every outreach possible. It could be compared to the Pro-Life Movement today. People who are involved promote the protection of unborn babies with rallies and demonstrations and letters to influence others of their belief. It is active and involved. It is not stagnant. The early church was movement around the idea that Jesus is the Savior and Lord of all. In Acts, this message was embraced by many, and the Word was taken to places as far as possible. The early church had begun.
Then, about 400 AD the Dark Ages began. During this period, people began to associate the idea of church as simply a place where you sat through a religious service. This was a time of spiritual darkness. The church became an institution. It was a place where powerful people manipulated and controlled the minds of others. The fundamental way people related to the church shifted from a movement of the idea of Jesus’ atoning work to an event you just sat through. Church was a place where people were influenced by church leadership. Most people were uneducated, and their lives were controlled by the mindset of others of authority. People had little opportunity to grow in their faith and knowledge. It was a dark period in every aspect.
In the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation began. God raised up a group of people called ‘Reformers.” Men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingle, a Swiss reformer who opposed the Catholic Church, began to express their views. A key figure during this period was William Tyndale, an English spokesperson. He stated, “The church is an assembly built around a movement. If followers were going to be devoted to that purpose, they had to understand the message and its power.” Most of these men died as martyrs. Tyndale did as well. His last words before his execution in 1536 were, “LORD, open the eyes of the king of England.” The LORD did. Work on the King James Bible began in 1604. For the first time, common people had a copy of God’s word available to them. This began a desire to be educated, and many people learned to read so they could read the Bible.
In every age, there are dangers, past and present. This happens in a church when it ceases to be a movement. If it exists just to minister to people through service, that is not enough. While good in part, the main purpose of the church is to spread the Word of God. What’s worse is for a church to simply become a place to attend. Sitting in a pew is a passive activity. A passive church is not moving forward. If you are part of a movement, you move!
This was the concept of the Acts Church. The inception of the church was a movement of people. They were empowered by the Holy Spirit. Their lives were built around the conviction that Jesus died as a Savior of all. He was raised from the dead. This proved He was who He said He was. He now is the LORD over all the earth. He commands repentance and obedience, and He invites us to His heavenly home. This was the message delivered to all who heard the Word of God at that time.
In Acts 1:6, Jesus had gathered together with the apostles. They asked, “Lord, is it time for you to restore the kingdom to Israel?” In the next two (2) verses, Jesus said the timing was of God. Their mission was to receive the power of the Holy Spirit which would equip them to be witnesses of Him throughout all of Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth. A witness is one who has seen and heard the events about which he testifies. The apostles were to spread the news of all they had experienced in their journeys with Christ.
Then Jesus ascended into Heaven. The broken hearts of the apostles became burning hearts. Once they had been fearful runaways. Now they were to become bold stepping stones.
What changed them?
1. It was the message that captured their minds and hearts. Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
2. Jesus died as a substitute for our sins. He was not a prophet. He was God, Himself. His death was a sacrificial payment for our sins.
3. Jesus rose from the grave. The apostles saw it. They had proof.
4. Jesus was their only hope. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
5. Their lives were yielded to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. They realized Jesus was their only hope. They believed His message, and it moved them. Luke told the skeptic, Theophilus, in Acts 1:1, “I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach…..”
In every chapter of Acts, the church is simply following the Holy Spirit. He is the mover of the followers. He empowers them to speak. They are filled with the Holy Spirit.
1. Acts 2:4 –“the Apostles at Pentecost declare God’s praises.”
2. Acts 4:8 – Peter preaches to the rulers.
3. Acts 4:31 – The disciples speak the Word boldly despite persecution.
4. Acts 9:20 – Paul preaches in synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
What are our excuses that keep us from witnessing??
1. I don’t have what it takes. The Spirit of God is constantly at work around you preparing their hearts. The same Spirit uses you to speak the Word of God.
2. It’s not my gift. Sharing Jesus is more of a responsibility than a gift.
3. I don’t have time. As you go through life, share what you know about Christ.
4. I witness with my life. The gospel is not about a good example of you, but the message of what Jesus has done.
Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive the power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you………..”
Say to yourself: But, (insert your name) will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon (your name) and (your name) will be my witness.
Our challenge is to do it! We should be so grateful that the apostles embraced this message and carried it to others.
When Gary was 16 years old, he had a dream that impacted his life. He was standing in line in Heaven, and some of his friends were not in line. They were headed another direction. It was to Hell. It impacted his life. He thought about a friend who had drowned. He felt horror because he had not witnessed to him. A movement moves. He became who he is today.
Charles H. Spurgeon said: “ If Jesus is precious to you, you will not be able to keep the good news to yourself. You will be whispering it into your child’s ear; you will be telling it to your husband; you will be earnestly imparting it to your friend; without charms of eloquence you will be more than eloquent; your heart will speak, and your eyes will flash as you talk of His sweet love.
EVERY CHRISTIAN IS EITHER A MISSIONARY OR AN IMPOSTER. You will either try to spread abroad the kingdom of Christ, or else you do not love Him at all.
It cannot be that here is a high appreciation of Jesus and a totally silent tongue about Him…. If you really know Christ, you are like one that has found honey; you will call others to the taste of sweetness; you are like a beggar who has discovered an endless supply of food; you must go tell a hungry crowd that you have found Jesus. And you are anxious that they should find Him too.”
MOVEMENTS MOVE! IF YOU ARE NOT MOVING, HAVE YOU REALLY BELIEVED THE MESSAGE?