Church growth

Talk Session 4 Acts 4 Building a church
Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin

Following on from our last session in studying the Book of Acts Peter and John had gone to the temple in Jerusalem at the entrance he had healed a crippled beggar. The people gathered round them and Peter had preached to them about Jesus and how they were responsible for sending Jesus, their Messiah to his death. He told them if they turned from sinning and sought forgiveness from God they would then be blessed as heirs of Abraham. The story now continues as I have summarised from Acts 4 (in italics)

Peter and John were confronted by angry temple leaders and put in jail. Many who had listened to their message that belief in Jesus results in life after death accepted it and the number of believers grew to about five thousand.

The message that we do wrong and need forgiveness is powerful for we know deep down what is right and what we should do, yet we do fail. Our human instinct creates a guilt in us that most will try to hide. Be careful as it is often this element that causes worry and stress in people, Jesus knows this and tells us to give all our worries to God because he cares for us

When you get home please read Acts 4 as I am paraphrasing these passages. Belief in life after death was a choice Jews would make and it caused arguments, it was the Sadducees who’s doctoring said death was final, – No life after death. We all need to be aware that priests and theologians just like politicians feel they are the only ones who know the truth. If we don’t believe exactly what they teach then we are not for them and so we must be against them and therefore labelled as heretics. We have those same choices and it comes down to who we believe as followers of Jesus, who we believe is The Son of God, we put our trust in him

To become a follower of Jesus, all we need to do is accept him as our Lord and the ramifications of that is then to try to do what he taught, to Love God and do what is right.

The 3 reasons why so many people who listened to Peter came to believe was
1, By knowing a cripple was healed the miracle proved these men were of God
2, Listening to Peter they just knew that God was working through him
3, It was also the Holy Spirit working in them prompting them to accept the message

Witnessing for Jesus and for God does not make for an easy life, this fist example of doing a good deed in the name of Jesus resulted in Peter and John being put into jail. When we tell people about our faith we can also expect some sort of opposition; one could almost say if hated by the world then the right thing is being done by Jesus

5. The next day Peter and John were put on trial and asked, “By what power or by what name did you held this man?” Then filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter, said, “Rulers and elders of the people! You ask how an act of kindness in healing a lame man was done, well you and all the people of Israel may know that this man stands before you healed by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, The Messiah, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. Jesus is ‘The stone which you builders rejected, and has now become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name by which people can be saved.”

Spending time in jail did not discourage Peter from speaking out, we hear all through the book of Acts of people standing out for Jesus, of putting their faith before their safety, saying what they believe God’s Holy Spirit encouraged them to say resulting in being hated for telling people what didn’t want to hear. Jesus was murdered, killed on a cross for telling people about God’s Word, and now Peter and John in speaking out for Jesus found many would hate them to.

So, what was so important that what was said had to be rejected? It was this, Jesus was raised from the dead by God and salvation can only be found in him and the proof was the healing was done in the name of Jesus, the Messiah who was crucified

13. They were astonished at seeing the courage of Peter and John knowing them to be followers of Jesus yet unschooled, ordinary men, but the crippled man who they healed was standing there with them. The Sanhedrin debated what to do for they understood the people living in Jerusalem knew a miracle had been performed and it could not be denied. They decided to stop this thing from spreading any further so Peter and John must be told not to speak anymore in the name of Jesus.

People are impressed when someone witnesses their faith, for it is a challenge to them, they have to stop and ask themselves questions about their own beliefs. This is where the choice is made to consider the seed of God’s knowledge to weight the sense of what is being said or done and decide to seek God’s word or reject it and try to stifle it. It seems most in leadership will try to supress it because it would mean admitting they got it wrong. Otherwise they would have to change their thinking and then their way of life. Leaders don’t like to be challenged since as it undermines their authority and also people in general don’t like it as they have to re-assess why they do things

18. Peter and John were commanded not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus but they replied, “We have to judge what is right by God, to listen to you or to him, we have to speak about what we have actually seen and heard.” As the people were praising God for miraculously healing a man who was over forty years old, the Sanhedrin couldn’t find a way to punish them and so after further threats they let them go.

Peter and John’s actions goes to the heart of the commitment we have to God and to his Son, Jesus. Do we listen to The Holy Spirit prompting us or do we accept the authority of those in both our society and our church. 2,000 years ago the priests had got it wrong, Jesus came to put them right and they wouldn’t listen. They were convinced of their theology they wouldn’t re-assess what God’s Word really meant

It’s why there are so many churches now-a-days people look for their truth not God’s. Some say I can’t worship with you because you don’t baptise babies, I’m not going to your church because you pray to saints and not directly God or because you have bishops, or because you have women preaching, or because you believe Jesus is equal to God, or because you want to dictate what I believe and in order to worship together you have to believe what I believe else you’re wrong!. This is often because people wear God’s Word as a straightjacket that stops them reaching out in God’s love

Jesus commanded us to love one another, it is the leaders of our churches that have shown us just how not to share God’s love. We all know the core reason we call ourselves Christian; we Love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, we acknowledge that Jesus is God’s Son and our Lord, we are to live to God’s ways loving one another. We should never not love another who also loves Jesus for we cannot use man’s interpretation of God’s teaching to turn us against one another

The Believers Pray
23. When released, Peter and John went back to their friends and reported what happened. The followers raised their voices in prayer to God saying, “Sovereign Lord, creator of all things, as you spoke by the Holy Spirit through our father David:
“‘Why do nations rage and peoples want worthless things?
With rulers gathering against the Lord and his anointed one.
It was Herod, Pontius Pilate, Gentiles and the people of Israel whom conspired against your holy and anointed servant Jesus. Lord with your ability to know beforehand what happens and knowing the threats against us, enable your servants to speak your Word with great boldness, in performing healing, showing signs and preforming wonders through the name of your holy son Jesus.”

Back to Acts, Peter and John are released and the followers first action is to communicate with God. They pray and they recognise prophecies written in the Psalms of David, applying them as proof that God does knows and can influence the future. I said earlier that theology can cause people in the churches to disagree, and now I have to be contentious and trust you will think on what I’m about to say

The problem is, is love or theology at the core to our faith and do we follow the same God if we do disagree with one another. As they is only one God we must be. We must keep in the forefront of our faith those core values already mentioned; to love God, be followers of his Son Jesus and witness to his Word and ways.

Theology can often revolve around a particular word and how it has been translated rather than the true meaning of what the speaker/writer is trying to get across. This area need a talk in its own right but let me touch on it now taking the words from the prayer the followers used which certainly was not in either old or modern English.

Four versions of Acts 4:28 and what will later be call predestination in Paul’s letters. The question here is does God determine what we do, or do we have total freewill and choose to do right or wrong.

King James – For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done
GNT – They gathered to do everything that you by your power and will had already decided would happen.
TLB – They won’t stop at anything that you in your wise power will let them do.
NTM – Lord with your ability to know beforehand what happens.

Well for myself you now know my own conclusion, but for those who think differently at what point do we need to disagree to say we can’t share our love of God together. As to this subject of predestination I will deal with it more fully at another time for it does have an important influence on how we understand Our Heavenly Father and our relationship with him.

As an aside, I’m a preacher not a prophet. A prophet is someone who has directly been given words by God to speak whereas a preacher tries to explain the Word of God trusting God’s Holy Spirit to guide them in what they say. Those listening use their freewill to decide what they are to believe enabling them to build a personal relationship with God through his Son Jesus The Messiah.

We like those early followers, should be looking to speak God’s Word with great boldness performing healing, showing signs, preforming wonders through and by the name of God’s holy son Jesus.

Let’s move on verse 31. After they prayed, the meeting place was shaken and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power. All the believers were one in heart and mind and they shared what they had so there were no needy people among them. Some who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, as Barnabas did when he sold his field, all giving was distributed to anyone who had need.

Prayer, prayer and more prayer, earnest and continuous prayer will bring results. Jesus tells us when a group prays it becomes far more powerful as can be learnt from this example when the first group of Christians prayed. What action God takes to help encourage those praying is between them and God, but some sort of result will occur, on that we can depend

The leadership of a church need to come together in prayer giving direction and purpose to the membership in what needs to be asked of God and so members need to back this up showing their commitment to join together and pray earnestly for what the church needs remembering that it should be in line with what Jesus would want.
If you are a church member that wants to see your church grow then consider this prayer.
Heavenly Father send your Holy Spirit to us in power. Help us to know your will and be open to be guided to enable us to use the gifts and skills you have given us to your glory, so your church here may be of one heart and mind to grow in faith and love doing those things that will please you, we ask this in the name of your Son Jesus, Amen