A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity-- all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. -- Acts 2: 43-47 (NLT)
It seems sometimes today that we can confuse things that God intended to be simple. His Word, prayer, worship, even the design for the church are all explained in simplicity in the Bible if we would just be willing to actually follow the blueprint. The key verses today come from the second chapter of the Book of Acts at the inception of the church. Pentecost had just passed and God had just added three thousand people to the early believers. So the above verses did not apply to some small band of rag tag followers -- it was in effect the first mega-church! Yet they did not have the same problems we see today in the modern churches. The key verses outlines some principles God intends for us to follow to truly be the church.
First from the key verses we see that a deep sense of awe came over them all. The dictionary defines awe as: "an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear." I think this needs to be the starting point for the church. Everything that we do needs to be born out of a sense of awe in who God is. There needs to be reverence in the actions of a church. There needs to be reverence in the worship and the handling of the Word of God. This is not some 9-5 job that you can always move on from if you don't like something. The Bible teaches us:
"I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment. All who fear the Lord will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech. -- Proverbs 8: 12-13 (NLT)
The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fearing the Lord will cause us to hate evil. By contrast, not fearing the Lord will cause compromise. This is the leaven Jesus warned about infiltrating the church and we see it all around us today. The church model intended by God must always start with a deep sense of awe in who it is that we are serving. Without that it becomes works of man and God will not maintain it.
The next attribute of the church model is that miraculous signs and wonders should accompany the church. The early believers would simply lay their hands on people and they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit! When Peter's shadow fell upon people they would be healed. Mere aprons that had touched Paul were taken to the sick and they were made well. When Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth he elaborated:
When I was with you, I certainly gave you proof that I am an apostle. For I patiently did many signs and wonders and miracles among you. -- 2Corinthians 12: 12 (NLT)
It seems in the modern church we take signs and wonders to two equally unbiblical extremes. Either we see none or we invent new types of signs and wonders based on worldly logic and values. Miraculous signs and wonders are when people are truly saved and regenerated. When there is an outpouring of the gifts of the Spirit. When there are healings and real deliverances. In the Gospel of Mark when Jesus comes back after the resurrection He instructs His disciples to go out and preach the Gospel and signs and wonders and miracles will accompany them! Preaching the uncompromised Gospel, anointed by the Holy Spirit of God, should produce signs and wonders. A saw a sermon recently where the Pastor said if there aren't signs and wonders accompanying the preaching"it is time to get a new preacher.
If not this then we see the opposite where signs and wonders are simply reinvented. Gold dust and gemstones to astound the congregation delivered by angels who leave feathers behind! I am not making this up -- this is what passes for theology in many churches. False signs of revivals. False movements of the Holy Spirit like uncontrolled laughter, getting drunk in the spirit, or writhing around on the ground have all been greeted with open arms by the apostate church. These may be moves of A spirit but it is not the Holy Spirit. The church was modeled to deliver true signs and wonders of God to His people. True miracles in our midst.
The third attribute in the key verses teach us that the modern church was not supposed to be money focused but rather, need focused. Remember it is three thousand people selling their property and sharing with those in need. It was no longer about them, but about everyone. The number one theme in the Bible after salvation, is taking care of the poor and needy. Yet in the modern church we see the opposite values instilled. I actually heard a sermon where the Pastor said the number one topic in the Bible, even before heaven and hell, was money! What a load of heresy! The entire Bible is a story about God redeeming us from hell! And what did God teach us about money?
But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. -- 1Timothy 6: 9-10 (NLT)
We cannot serve both God and money because we will love one and hate the other! Yet churches across this country are clearly serving mammon before God, which means they are not serving God at all. They are preaching earthly prosperity instead of eternal salvation. I have heard the lame; "God doesn't want me to be uncomfortable" theology. Really? To quote a sermon I saw recently -- God allowed His only spotless, sinless Son to be crushed, brutalized, whipped, beaten and crucified for you but you think He doesn't want you to be uncomfortable? It is time we got over ourselves and realized that our best life is not now. God cares about your eternal condition not your temporal comfort. The church was NOT supposed to be focused on money.
The fourth attribute listed is corporate worship. God did not intend for this to be a solo walk. We are supposed to be a tight knit community concerned about each other. We are supposed to gather together corporately to worship God. It is not the plan of God to have home churching. Yes the individual people are the body of Christ but there was supposed to be a public gathering. Remember, it is the enemy that seeks to separate us and get us alone:
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. -- Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 (NLT)
We are meant to be together. To praise God together. To hear the Word together. To grow together in the Lord. Unfortunately, this is also where false calls for unity arise from in the modern church. We hear all the time the unity Scriptures abused over and over again as a way to cull the masses. But note the key verses here do not say they hung out at the temple each day. They did not put on plays at the temple each day. They did not run bake sales at the temple each day. They worshiped at the temple each day. So the unifying force behind any call for unity has to be Jesus Christ and the uncompromised Gospel. That is what we worship. We do not worship acts of men. We do not worship whitewashed tombs. We do not worship worship. We worship the one true God and His son Jesus Christ. You should already inspect the first three attributes to judge whether you wish to be "unified" with the body that is calling you to unity. Is there a real sense of reverent awe in who Christ is? In everything the church does? Are there accompanying signs and wonders. Are people healed and delivered? Are people being truly regenerated and saved? Is there real discipleship going on? Is their focus on the needs of the people or the needs of the church? How prominently is money the focus? Is guilt, intimidation, or schemes used to generate money? If these first three are answered correctly to glorify Christ than bring on the unity! Bring on the corporate worship!
The fifth attribute listed in the key verses is fellowship. They shared meals and the Lord's Supper where? In homes. At church is where we corporately hear the Word and worship but God did not intend for it to end there. Oh and fellowship is not merely going out to the diner after service! It is talking about the things of God at the diner. It is about edifying one another.