|The Church An Extension of Christ
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
In our last study of the early church, as we examined chapter 3 of Acts, we discovered that God used the healing of the crippled beggar as a means of drawing a large crowd to hear the gospel message from the lips of Peter and John. Now as we turn to the fourth chapter of Acts, we discover that the Sandedrin, the leaders of Judaism, become very unhappy at what was transpiring. Note how they reacted. Acts 4:1-3:
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.
These same priests and captain of the temple had once demanded from Christ Himself what sign He would give them to prove that He was from God and had the authority to cleanse the temple of the money changers. Jesus pointed to His resurrection as the sign. John 2:18-22:
Then the Jews demanded of him, What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this? Jesus answered them, Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. The Jews replied, It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days? But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
The resurrection of Christ was, therefore, the greatest evidence God gave to the Jewish nation that Christ was indeed the Messiah. Consequently, when Peter and John preached the resurrection of Christ to the crowd who had come to listen to them, this was a very sore point to these leaders of the temple who had deliberately rejected Christ as their Messiah. To shut the mouths of the two apostles, they had Peter and John put into prison. But note what the outcome was. Acts 4:4:
But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
In the days of the New Testament, women and children were not counted (sorry, ladies). Therefore, the number that were converted to Christianity by that one sermon Peter and John preached could easily be doubled. That is what happens when the church becomes a Spirit-controlled church.
The following day, Peter and John were brought before the leaders of the Sandedrin for questioning. These leaders could not deny the fact that these two men had miraculously healed the crippled beggar. So they demanded of them, By what power or what name did you do this? (verse 7b). I would like you to note what happened next. Acts 4:8-12:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
Wow!!! Here is Peter, who not so long ago denied that he ever knew Jesus when questioned by a single woman. Now, before the leaders of the Sandedrin, he speaks boldly in defense of Jesus Christ. What made the difference? The record tells us he was filled with the Holy Spirit. That is what makes the difference between a human-controlled church and a Spirit-controlled church.
The Bible tells us that, when Solomon was building the temple in Jerusalem, where now the Dome of the Rock stands, it was built in silence. The reason for this was that the stones for the temple were cut to the precise shape and size needed at the quarry itself, underneath where the temple stands. However, due to lack of communication, when the Capstone was delivered to the builders of the temple, they did not know what it was for so they rolled it out of the way, down into the Kidron Valley.
That Capstone, Peter now tells the leaders of the temple, represents Jesus Christ, whom they have rejected. But God has made this Christ the rock of our salvation. Notice how these theologians of Judaism reacted to Peters declaration. Acts 4:13-21:
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. What are we going to do with these men? they asked. Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.
Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, Judge for yourselves whether it is right in Gods sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.
After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.
Not by human wisdom or might, nor by theological training, these unschooled ordinary men were turning their world upside down. This is what happens when Gods church is controlled by His Spirit.
This brings us now to our Scripture reading, Acts 4:31-35:
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the aspostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the aspostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
This is Biblical Communism. For 75 years, Russia tried to produce this kind of communism, using the humanistic ideas of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The result, as you all know, has been absolute failure. Why? Because no human method, no matter how good it sounds, can solve the sin problem we inherited from the fall of our first parents. Mans only solution is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Isaiah 53:6:
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
This own-way-ness is mans fundamental problem. Because of the Fall, all of us were born with a self-centered nature, what Scripture calls the flesh. And no amount of human effort can solve this sin problem. Only God can take away our stony hearts and replace it with hearts of flesh.
What we just read in verses 32-35 of Acts 4, is what the power of the gospel is all about. But the question we must ask is, why was such a demonstration so short-lived? The answer is found in what Paul wrote to the believers at Thessalonica. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3:
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Dont let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.
The falling away from the true gospel and replacing it with legalism resulted in the church becoming self-reliant rather then Spirit-controlled. Yes, it grew in numbers, but it became another human organization that behaved no differently then any other human institution. This is how the apostle Paul expressed it to the churches of Galatia. Galatians 3:1-5:
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
The formula of the gospel is NOT I BUT CHRIST. When we turn our backs to this formula, we have to depend on our human resources and the result is a spiritless church. That is why the history of the early church has been recorded. As long as the believers of the early church were totally God-dependent and lived by faith alone, they manifested the power of the Spirit. But the moment they became self-dependent, the church became corrupt and lost its saltiness.
That is why, as pointed out in our last study, the only solution for the problems our denomination is facing today is to restore the pure gospel preached by the apostles of Christ. God did not raise the Advent Movement to add another denomination to the already long list of denominations that existed in the 19th Century. This Church was raised to restore the everlasting gospel and proclaim it with a loud voice before the end comes.
The prerequisite for being a Spirit-controlled church is twofold:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
Obeying the gospel means we must deny self and take up the cross of Christ and follow Him daily. Luke 9:23:
Then he said to them all: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Once we meet these two requirements, the Holy Spirit will take over and use us to turn this world of ours upside down by the power of the gospel. This is what God is longing to do. For a long time now, we have been studying what constitutes the true everlasting gospel. Now the time has come for us to surrender to its demands.