Acts Early growth

Acts 2 Early growth

Our second session on Acts covers chapter 2:4 – end

Jerusalem 33AD Pentecost & the first few weeks after the coming of The Holy Spirit the followers of Jesus have just experienced being filled with God’s Spirit they went into the street and started proclaimed God’s Word speaking in many languages, showing their excitement and their praise. No doubt shouting Alleluias, telling of the teaching, and life of the risen Jesus although not done in the temple, passersby’s were attracted to listen. The area must have been where many could gather, a market place or city square

This is how Luke reported it:- There were God-fearing Jews from many nations staying in Jerusalem When they heard their own languages being spoken, a crowd gathered in bewilderment. They asked: “How can these Galileans be declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues! What does this mean?”

For all the Jewish festivals Jews would come to the Temple in Jerusalem the visitors increased the population from 200,000 to sometimes over a million. These were devout Jewish worshippers who had come with the express purpose of being close to God. The temple was seen by people where they could meet with God it was a place to glorify God, to learn more about his ways and to give their offerings to him.

Imagine being in a strange city and hearing your own language being preached, not by priests in the temple but by seemingly ordinary men and women. It would be like being in Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, London. These disciples had authority, speaking in a way that was easy to understand, it was interesting and relevant for it was concerning their expected Messiah

That is what God Spirit working in us can do when we go and witness Jesus, give us the right words to use and the encouragement to speak out. Thinking of doing it might seem too challenging but once we do, it becomes a joy and everyone can witness by speaking out for The Son of God.

Yet we are told that some in the crowd made fun of them saying, “They’re drunk.”  Witnessing Jesus will not be easy since they will always be some who mock us. We have to act so that Jesus will be pleased with the way we responded when we are mocked? But they will also be others who will want to hear what we have to say so we have to overcome any fear and do what we were asked to do and witness God’s Word

What to do in those situations is to just say what we feel in our hearts, the words will come and it is by continuously trying that we become proficient. What is so important is that we try and in the trying God sees it as a success. The world may laugh and mock us just as they did to the disciples and if they do then we can consider it our own Spirit led victory for Jesus.

Luke writes down for us Peter’s very first sermon spoken to non Christians 14:- Then Peter standing with the Eleven addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews, let me explain this to you. These people are not drunk, what’s happening was said by God to the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Peter had taken charge, backed up by the other disciples it would have been easy in the mocking for the disciples to have gone back indoors but God’s Spirit was working within them they were fired up to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, and now was the time, God’s Spirit had overcome Peter’s fear and the first thing he quoted was scripture

Let us be clear that it was not The Holy Spirit working them like puppets on a string the disciples were willing allowing God’s Spirit to encourage them to speak. It’s this partnership that is so powerful, men & women in conjunction with God. The people listing were able to relate to the scripture of wonders and signs knowing that 40 days ago the sun had turned to darkness and the Messiah was proclaimed

Peter now starts to witness Jesus’ work:- Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was proved by his miracles, wonders and signs to be sent by God, and this was witnessed by you. God knew wicked men would put him to death by nailing him to the cross. God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, since death could not hold him.

The details of Jesus’ life would have been known by many in the crowd with his preaching and healing in the temple and then being crucified. This would have interested people and they would have wanted to know more. Jews had been waiting for centuries for The Messiah to appear, and once again miracles were happening in front of them they were being told Jesus had been raised from the dead and it was in their scripture which then  allowed them to recognise Peter as a prophet

Peter now has their attention and now backs this up with more scripture:- David said about him: ‘The Lord is always before me, he is at my right hand,  I will not turn from him, for my heart and tongue rejoices; and my body rests in hope, as The Lord will not abandon me to Hades, Nor will he allow His Holy One see decay

In quoting David, Peter shows this impossible resurrection is possible through God. Everything he says is backed up by prophesy and Jews believed God’s scripture. Without prophesies, Jesus death and resurrection would be far less credible. Indeed without those prophesies why would anyone believe such statements. It was David has told them that God’s Holy One, The Messiah would live beyond death

This goes to the heart of the disagreement between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. It was only the Pharisees who believed there was life after death and you live beyond death only by the will of God. People want to live beyond their physical death. No one wants to die and with everyone believing in something beyond human existence, so people would want to know about getting on the right side of God

Peter continues; Fellow Israelites David died and was buried. He was a prophet and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, God raised Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of this. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has poured out on us the promised Holy Spirit which you now see and hear. Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

For the Jews who were listening, Peter used the best argument possible, scripture. First Joel then David, knowing the Jews expected the Messiah would be appearing. The Jews knew their scriptures and could understand the flow of argument Peter told that he and all the followers had witnessed Jesus had been raised to life. When spoken with absolute assurance people know it’s true and we need to show that same assurance

Peter names Jesus as The awaited Messiah giving personal proof of his resurrection, he reminds them at the trail of Jesus they all shouted crucify him, crucify him, thus he blames the crucifixion of the Messiah on the people listening. Knowing in their hearts and minds it was true, they would have to accepted it and linking this to prophesies that showed God’s hand upon it the listeners had to respond

Next to learn of the reaction by those listening and the challenge Peter gave them:- The people were distraught and wanted to know what to do? Peter replied, “You must all repent and be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you, your children, those who are far away, indeed for all whom the Lord our God calls.”
He continued to warn and plead with them saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” That day around three thousand accepted his testimony, were baptized, and added to their number.

There are times when the truth hits & people have to see ourselves as they really are. This is evangelism at its best, telling people about Jesus from our own experiences, using scripture to back up what is said and then to challenge them. Save yourselves from this corrupt generation is as true today as it was then. Our role is to point the way, then it’s up to the person to react to God’s Word and we all know everyone sins, sin is doing what God doesn’t like, to stop sinning we can ask ourselves, is what we do and say pleasing our Father in heaven, are we putting that smile on God’s face?

Following the facts of the talk, Peter gives the key challenge to the crowd and to us. Recognise we’ve been created and need to act to the purpose we’ve been given. We must accept Jesus as the Son of God and our Lord, receive the forgiveness given to make us acceptable in God’s sight followed by a commitment to use the gifts inspires within us by The Holy Spirit

The people we now witness to have different barriers than those the disciples spoke to. With atheists having wide influence and living in a ‘Multi-faith society our western society has seen the belief in the existence of God diminishing People seem to the mind-set of, Love yourselves first, then help your neighbour if it is convenient and let’s not bother with God.

Our tasks are how should we witness Jesus, how do we reach out to others. Well if we are to live in the love of God, we are to do the things that please him, become a team working together with one purpose, putting God first, Studying God’s Word, praying and encouraging one another, standing up for Jesus and being unafraid of giving our testimony. It is expected we will becoming unpopular when showing we’re followers of Jesus, not being part of this secular world means we are showing we are part of God’s world

3,000 people came to believe on Jesus that Pentecost day, so then the church had to start dealing with the practicalities of church life and Luke tells next of the Fellowship of the Believers:- The followers were devoted to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. All were filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. The believers shared what they had, selling property and possessions to give to those in need. Every day they meet in the temple courts, they would break bread in their homes, sharing meals with joy and praising God, enjoying the favour of all the people. Each day the Lord added to their number.

What things can we take from this passage about the growth of the early church. They joined together with a purpose, studying, sharing and praying tirelessly. To grow closer to God, we must want to work with that as our purpose in accepting all who believed we will naturally grow closer to one another being in God’s family we can use his gifts given to every one of us. Family’s need a willingness to accept different needs, likes and dislikes. Have a balance of diversity in order to satisfy all the people some of the time

In growing the numbers in a church there’s a call to handle a wider diversity of needs however we worship, what songs we sing, prayers we say, what we study, we are to encourage one another to step out in faith and power to do God’s work

When we have our own house in order then we will see others wanting what we have, it is then people will want to join us and come to know more about knowing Jesus. As a team we need to be inclusive of everyone accepting change in growth yet not forgetting the most important element in church growth – Prayer – Including God in our lives with constant, sincere and earnest prayer.