The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker
THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH
- After a brief interruption, I will attempt to pick up where we left off in Acts 2.
- In the book of Acts we see the Lord Jesus Christ is up in heaven directing the church, while the Holy Spirit is here with us carrying out His plans. ("The Acts of the Holy Spirit" -- A.T. Pierson)
- In Matthew 16:18, the Lord Jesus said, "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
- And our Lord said in John 16:7, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you."
- This means that today our Lord is building His church through the Holy Spirit. The apostolic church began with believers going out and winning souls in the power of the Holy Spirit (1:8).
- This is still God's program.
APOSTOLIC DOCTRINE (2:42).
- Bible doctrine must come first. We must continue preaching and teaching Bible doctrine.
- In the apostle Paul’s three “Pastoral Epistles,” he stresses “sound (healthy) doctrine” (cf. I Tim. 1:10; II Tim. 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1).
- Paul told Timothy, "Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine...Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them" (I Tim. 4:13, 16).
- "Continue in them" -- that is what the Bible emphasizes. "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine" (Acts 2:42).
- Doctrine simply means teaching based upon the Word of God. The same Greek word translated “doctrine” is also translated as “teaching” in Romans 12:7, and “learning” in Romans 15:4.
- These words, translated “doctrine” or “teaching” are found more than 140 times in the NT. This indicates the importance of Bible doctrine. Sadly, many churches have turned away from sound doctrine.
- Recently the media reported that the Washington National Cathedral will begin performing same-sex marriages. This is not surprising when we consider most churches today are apostate.
- The "Very Rev." Gary Hall, the cathedral's dean, said, "I read the Bible as seriously as fundamentalists do. And my reading of the Bible leads me to want to do this because I think it's being faithful to the kind of community that Jesus would have us be."
- What a liar and what a hypocrite! How can this wolf in sheep's clothing say, "I read the Bible as seriously as fundamentalists do," when the Bible says, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination" (Lev. 18:22)?
- Romans 1 says homosexuality is unclean, dishonorable, vile, unnatural, unseemly, reprobate, and not convenient.
- Acts 2:42 says, "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine..." We should also.
- The great doctrines of the Bible include the inerrancy of Scripture, the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, His vicarious death, His resurrection from the dead, and His second coming.
- People who deny these doctrines cannot rightly be called Christian.
BLESSINGS OF CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP (2:42, 46)
- Our fellowship is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ. First Corinthians 1:9 says, "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
- Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines fellowship as, “mutual association of persons on equal and friendly terms.”
- But if a man rejects Christ, we cannot be on “equal terms.” “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).
- This fellowship includes "breaking of bread" (2:42). This refers to the Lord’s Supper. Our Lord said, “This do in remembrance of me” (I Cor. 11:24, 25).
- The apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 11:26, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.”
- The fact that breaking of bread is listed along with doctrine, fellowship, and prayer indicates that we should have the Lord’s Supper regularly.
IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER (2:42)
- Our Lord referred to the temple as “the house of prayer” (Matt. 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46). In this dispensation, the church is “the house of prayer.”
- There are many references to prayer in the book of Acts.
- “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14).
- “And when they had prayed, 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 boldness” (Acts 4:31).
- The apostles said in Acts 6:4, “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”
- “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him” (Acts 12:5).
- “And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them (Paul & Barnabas), they sent them away” (Acts 13:3).
- There are many other references to prayer in the book of Acts. Romans 12:12 says, "continuing instant in prayer."
- First Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing."
- Our Lord said "that men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1).
A SOULWINNING CHURCH (2:47)
- “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). Proverbs 11:30 says, “He that winneth souls is wise.”
- William Evans told a true story about a farmer near Milton, Pennsylvania, whose boat got caught up in a strong current and was being swept rapidly down the river.
- William Evans said, "When the ice was breaking up, the farmer got into one of his boats, purposing to pull it out of the river. A floating mass of ice struck it, breaking it loose from the bank, and carrying it and him out into the current. A neighbor, seeing the danger, mounted a horse and with all speed rode down to Milton. The people of the town gathered all the ropes they could secure, went out on the bridge, and suspended a line of dangling ropes from the bridge across the river. They could not tell at just what point the boat with the farmer would pass under, so they put a rope down every two or three feet clear across. By and by the farmer was seen, wet and cold, standing in the boat half full of water, drifting down the rapid current. When he saw the ropes dangling within reach, he seized the nearest one, was drawn up and saved. Now, one rope might not have answered the purpose. The pastor hangs the rope of salvation from the pulpit, and sinners present do not seem to get near it; but if the business men will hang out ropes, and you young men and women, mothers and wives, hang out ropes, sinners will certainly be saved" (Personal Soul-winning).
- Evangelist R.A. Torrey gave several advantages of personal soulwinning (How to Work for Christ: A Compendium of Effective Methods):
- All can do it.
Any Christian can do personal work, and all Christians can learn to do it effectively. Torrey said, "How enormous and wonderful and glorious would be the results if all Christians should begin to be active personal workers to the extent of their ability! Nothing else would do so much to promote a revival in any community, and in the land at large. Every Pastor should urge this duty upon his people, train them for it, and see that they do it."
- It can be done anywhere.
Torrey said, "We can do personal work on the street, whether street meetings are allowed or not. We can do personal work in the homes of the poor and in the homes of the rich, in hospitals, workhouses, jails, station houses, and all sorts of institutions—in a word, everywhere."
- It can be done at any time.
Personal soulwinning work can be done seven days in the week, and any time of day or night. Torrey said, "Those who love souls have walked the streets looking for wanderers, and have gone into dens of vice seeking the lost sheep, and hundreds upon hundreds of them have thus been found."
- It reaches all classes.
There are large classes of men that no other method will reach. There are the shut-ins who cannot get out to church, the policemen, railroad conductors, firemen, hospital employees, store clerks, the very poor and the very rich, people of different religious backgrounds, etc. Some cannot and others will not attend church but personal soulwinning can reach them all.
- It hits the mark.
Whereas preaching is general; personal work is direct and personal. Torrey said, "There is no mistaking who is meant, there is no dodging the arrow, there is no possibility of giving what is said away to some one else. Many whom even so expert a Gospel preacher as Mr. Moody has missed have been afterwards reached by personal work.
- It produces very large results.
There is no comparison whatever between what will be effected by good preaching and what will be effected by constant personal work...A church of many members, with the most powerful preaching possible, that depends upon the minister alone to win men to Christ by his preaching, would not accomplish anything like what would be accomplished by a church with a comparatively poor preacher, where the membership generally were personal workers.
- Our Lord said in Matthew 9:37, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few."
- There is nothing wrong with the harvest. The problem is with the laborers. Let's get out and win souls -- "The harvest truly is plenteous..."
- We have concluded our study in this great historical chapter, which records the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the beginning of the apostolic church.
- There is a great emphasis these days on church growth, and much of it involves worldly gimmicks and worldly music and worldly methods, etc.
- For my part, I think churches would be much better off if they attempted to follow the example set forth by the apostolic church.