The Early Church in Jerusalem

“Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
Acts 4:29-31 NKJV

When the going gets tough, the tough come together and pray in unity for boldness. And a literal shakening happens. Don’t you know the devils learned quickly from this and worked on division from then on!  Still to this day. Sometimes you have to separate to come back later when not emotional and restore. Meanwhile, the church should be gathering together in complete agreement every Sunday and the place should be shaking! You see the fullness of the Holy Spirit with boldness and tongues doesn’t happen just once in Acts chapter 2 – it was not for just that first moment – and we should still seek unity, boldness and a shaking!

Dear Heavenly Father – As always, please open eye to see and our ears to hear what you are saying! Lord – open our understanding that we may know you and give us wisdom. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Today’s reading is from the book of Acts, chapters 4-6 (embedded below the image below for your convenience).  I am a bit of a history nerd – you might see it come out a bit here. But spiritually, these moments of the early church and the abundance of grace as they tried things, figured it out, and managed through the calling, are the same awkward unsure methods we go through as Christians.

Early in chapter 4 the Pharisees say “You are doing it wrong” and toss Peter and John into jail for the night. And they come out and assemble together praying for boldness and shake the church. In our modern church there is still the “you are doing it wrong” voices but bathed in the justification of “well intentioned motives”.  Many a ministry was destroyed by good intentions. I started to propose yesterday and we will explore it more today – that most of this early church’s actions were not in complete obedience to God. Yet – God moved. Yet – people were saved. Yet – the kingdom moved forward! Despite man’s flaws – God loved them and took them as they were and grew them and turned them into who they needed to be to fulfill His purpose. AND God didn’t wait until that were ready. He sent them zealously out into the ministry and supported them as they floundered. Now a days – the elders tell those of us who are zealous and untampered to wait until we are “ready”.  And God can still use those lives, belated – it is still disobedience in the elders to inhibit God’s work.  God is able to protect His ministry and His anointed, even while bringing them through trials that will make them better in the future – as we see here with Peter and John.

Imagine if the others said to John and Peter – ok, settle down – maybe only speak in private – speak only to those who already believe – etc.  If that was the case the boldness and power of godliness would have waxed cold right there and this wouldn’t have happened:
“Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”
And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught.”
Acts 5:17-21

An angel freed them from prison. – If we let God use people as he wishes – they may end up in prison but angels can then release them. Stop trying to prevent the prison trials.

These chapters show lots of trial and error – actual trials – and developed a need for a more formal structure in the ministry. At first they had all things in common, like the disciples did when they were traveling and living off of faith. But quickly they discovered it doesn’t work among those in homes, with jobs, and other responsibilities besides the ministry. First they went broke way too fast and started selling off assets. Then, the widows became neglected. 
“Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” Acts 6:1
I am sure Peter and John were surprised by this. They forgot what it was like in the early days of following Jesus when they needed structure in the camp and the lessons Jesus taught them.  This was a larger scale – so they set up 7 men to oversee the service ministries.
Soon we will see the institution of offering and tithes come into effect, and they left the socialistic “all things in common” behind. That socialistic way did not work and left the door open for sin. So when someone says that socialism works and Jesus and the early church were socialistic – remember it only worked in a camp while Jesus miraculously provided. And it did not work for the early church – resulting in the death of Ananias and Sapphira and the neglecting of ministering to the poor widows. Yes – just because it says they tried it – doesn’t mean it worked. It fell apart spectacularly.

This, juxtaposed to the lame walking, people being healed, and thousands turning to Jesus. We are so imperfect and it is so beautiful how God uses it all anyway.  

34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and …..  38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” Acts 5:34, 38-39

And we see the parts done by man, crumbling and parts done by God flourishing.

By the end of today’s reading, we see the disciples have fulfilled the great commission – they have gone ye therefore into all corners of Jerusalem… wait… that isn’t how that goes! But that is all that our beloved boys have done.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV

They have hung out in Jerusalem for too long and they needed some motivation to “go”.  Let me introduce you to Stephen. Tomorrow we will learn more about this man, but by way of introduction, Acts 6:5 says, “Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit”. And Acts 6:8 introduces him again as, “Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.”

This is not one of the Disciples – he was assigned over one of the ministries in the church. He was not a “somebody”.  He could have been like me or you. Yet – see how he is introduced in history! Oh Lord – that is what I want!!! Remember me as someone full of faith and the Holy Spirit!!! Remember me as a Stephen.  But, Stephen ministry, was more powerful than many anticipated – and the price of being that kind of person is great. His ministry catapulted the church into ALL the nations! The price is high – I say here I am lord send me, and fall apart at the little trials. I try and try, I learn the lessons slowly. Someday maybe I can handle jail – will I ever be as bold as Stephan?

Thank God – it is His will that we just work on getting closer to him daily. That is it. Just have a relationship with Him – bubble and stumble through it, learning and growing and just seek him.

RELATIONSHIP:
Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen

MEMORY WORK: This month we have another powerful verse to pick up and swing when you need a sword in your hand! Knowing the Word is our Sword and Jesus is the Word! Jesus accomplishes what He set out to do. Quoting this verse is therefore the very act of walking in the victory!  

Isaiah 55:11

NKJV – “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
NAS – “So will My word be which goes out of My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the purpose for which I sent it.”
ESV – “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
AMP – “So will My word be which goes out of My mouth; It will not return to Me void (useless, without result), Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
NIV – “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Thank you for reading.
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

BIBLE READING: Acts 4-6 NKJV

Peter and John Arrested

Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

Addressing the Sanhedrin

And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The Name of Jesus Forbidden

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a [a]notable miracle has been done through them is evident[b] to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”

18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

Prayer for Boldness

23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who [c]by the mouth of Your servant David have said:

‘Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’

27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”

31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

Sharing in All Things

32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

36 And [d]Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of [e]Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Lying to the Holy Spirit

But a certain man named his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.

Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?”

She said, “Yes, for so much.”

Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.

Continuing Power in the Church

12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. 13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. 14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. 16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

Imprisoned Apostles Freed

17 Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with [f]indignation, 18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”

21 And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the [g]council together, with all the [h]elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.

Apostles on Trial Again

22 But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, 23 saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing [i]outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” 24 Now when [j]the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. 25 So one came and told them, [k]saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”

26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”

29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

Gamaliel’s Advice

33 When they heard this, they were furious[l] and plotted to kill them. 34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: “Men of Israel, [m]take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, [n]joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for [o]His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Seven Chosen to Serve

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists,[p] because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.

Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Stephen Accused of Blasphemy

And Stephen, full of [q]faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak [r]blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” 15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.

Footnotes

  1. Acts 4:16 remarkable sign
  2. Acts 4:16 well known
  3. Acts 4:25 NU through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father, Your servant David,
  4. Acts 4:36 NU Joseph
  5. Acts 4:36 Or Consolation
  6. Acts 5:17 jealousy
  7. Acts 5:21 Sanhedrin
  8. Acts 5:21 council of elders or senate
  9. Acts 5:23 NU, M omit outside
  10. Acts 5:24 NU omits the high priest
  11. Acts 5:25 NU, M omit saying
  12. Acts 5:33 cut to the quick
  13. Acts 5:35 be careful
  14. Acts 5:36 followed
  15. Acts 5:41 NU the name; M the name of Jesus
  16. Acts 6:1 Greek-speaking Jews
  17. Acts 6:8 NU grace
  18. Acts 6:13 NU omits blasphemous

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