Last week we began looking at the subject of the early church and how they carried out their mandate of taking the Gospel to all of creation. Today, we begin looking at the characteristics which made them an extraordinary people of God.
Let’s look at Acts 4:33. “And the apostles were giving testimony with great power to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them.”
The Early Church Leadership Possessed a Dynamic Power
The early church possessed such a dynamic power that they change the entire world and produced some of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. It is from this vantage point that the church made its greatest impact.
Jesus promised, “And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, even to the remote as part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In Acts 4:33 Luke wrote, ”And with great power, the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.” The power those early believers possessed dominated their lives to the extent that they were totally involved in the evangelistic thrust of the church. So overwhelming was the power that when the invitation was extended 3000 people were saved in one day. The natural question is, how does one receive this power?
This kind of work cannot be done apart from the Holy Spirit.
Consider the progression of Acts 1:8. Jesus stated that the Holy Spirit must come first. This is now known as conversion. Then the believer will receive power. After the spirit comes and the power is received then those who make up the church would be His witnesses. He did not declare “You may hope to be witnesses,” or “You may train to be a witness.” He did not even suggest you will desire to be a witness. He said, “You will be my witnesses.” Consider this possibility. If your church is not winning the unsaved, baptizing believers, and reaching the unchurched, it may powerless to do so.
Point of Emphasis If workers and members do not depend on the Holy Spirit they will be powerless to reach people.
Do you see your workers display a power like Jesus describes in Acts 1:8? The power of the Holy Spirit is a mark of excellence in developing Leaders. The church, particularly its pastor, staff, and key leaders must possess the power of the Holy Spirit. A display of such power will cause the church to become involved in reaching out to the unsaved, unconcerned, and un-enlisted. The dynamic of the Holy Spirit will even improve the training of leaders.
Notice again in Acts 4:33, “And with great power, the apostles were giving witness.” As you read that verse, stop and ask these questions:
- Are these the same disciples who were asleep in the garden while Jesus agonized over His upcoming death?
- Are these the same disciples who disappeared while Jesus was being crucified?
The difference between the disciples of the crucifixion and the apostles in Acts is the power of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2). It was this mark of excellence, this power they had received, that gave them the boldness to proclaim the gospel and to develop believers.
But how did they receive the Holy Spirit? They were all together in one place (Acts 2:1). Literally, the church was of the same mind. Not only was the church in the same place, but the members also wanted the same things. They were of one mind, in one place, in prayer. And because the church was together the Holy Spirit came upon them with power.
A hundred and twenty were in the upper room. It does not always matter how many are in the room. Jesus made it plain, “where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20). When the church gathers in his name, he has promised to be there.
Churches need to realize one all-important truth. Just because the church meets on Sunday does not guarantee Christ’s presence. Revelation 3:20 reveals that Christ desires to be a part of every church. How are we to know Christ is in the church? The church is carrying out his commands and mission, they are possessed by the Holy Spirit.
The church possessed the purging power of God. “And there appeared unto them tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:3). Isaiah experienced the purging power of God’s presence (6:1). The holiness of God is so powerful, the believer is never the same after he experiences the presence of the Lord.
God gained control of the church. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). The opportunities are limitless to the church under the Lord’s divine control. Jesus spoke to the church at Philadelphia, “I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut because you … have kept My word and have not denied My name” (Rev. 3:8).