By Landon Peterson
As I was thinking about how crazy it is that we are unable to meet as a Church each Sunday, God brought the early Church in the book of Acts to mind. Specifically, chapter 2:42-47 (which is one of my all-time favorite passages) and Acts 4:32-35, 8:1-4
2:42 “They (the believers in Jerusalem) devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Again two chapters later Luke reiterates it again.
4:32 “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”
I always think of these passages as the golden age of the Church. The devotion to the Gospel, the love for one another, the selfless generosity, and the deep fellowship with one another. It would have been wonderful to witness.
But God also kept bringing to mind the verses in the beginning of chapter 8, right after the stoning of Stephen.
8:1 “...On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.”
Just like the early church was scattered that day in Jerusalem by persecution we, as a body, have been scattered away from the building on 1701 Birch Ln that we all love and know as House of Prayer. But then we read the next verse. It's short but meaningful! It lays the foundation for all of us who have heard about Jesus. 4 “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went!”
The men and women of the early Church were scattered in fear of either imprisonment or death because of their faith. In the midst of it they took the gospel with them and proclaimed it everywhere they went! They didn’t abandon their faith when it got difficult. They faced trials but they took what they had been taught by the apostles and used that foundation to minister to those they encountered in the new circles. They found themselves in spreading the good news of Jesus and the hope that we have in him to all those that would listen!
Now it's our turn to imitate them. We have been scattered from our normal circles of fellowship but as we scatter we need to take the gospel with us, just as they did during the persecution in Acts. We are the Church- we need to take the gospel with us and proclaim the truth that Jesus saves, that in him we can have fellowship with God, and that we longer have to fear sickness and death because we have the knowledge that we are His children. We will spend eternity with Him! This is worth sharing!
The world is anxious and many are looking for a ray of hope. We as Christians have it! More than ever people are willing to listen. It is our privilege as believers to share the gospel so that the whole world hears the good news of Jesus, who saves us from our sins. In this time, look for people that God is putting in your life for you to minister to and share your faith with them. At work, in the grocery store, and talking to your neighbors across the fence.
In John 13:35 Jesus says, “Everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” Now is a time that we can show that love to the world! Even for those that are stuck at home, we are at a unique time in history- we now have the ability to communicate with people in ways never before imagined! Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, text, email, and phone calls just to name a few. Use them to check in on one another. FaceTime that friend from high school you have not talked to in years, message your neighbor that you are friends with on Facebook, call the elderly that are shut in their homes. This is our time to live out what has been preached in our churches- the love that we read about in our Bibles.
So what do we do?
Pray- The Church in Acts devoted themselves to prayer. Ask God for eyes to see the good deeds that you can do and to show you opportunities to share your faith. (James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”)
Think- 1 Peter 3:15 says to always have an answer ready for any one who ask for the hope that you have. Take time to have an answer prepared for when opportunities present themselves but remember to “do so in gentleness and respect.”
Give- Just as the believers in Jerusalem gave generously to the apostles so that they could disperse it to the needy, the different churches in our communities are each doing what they can to help those that are facing hard circumstances. Many people need that help and they need us to continue giving our tithes and offerings. (God asks us to give not because he needs our money but because it blesses others and it helps us to rely on him- not on what is in our bank account.)
Love- They loved one another in such a way that they had favor among all the people in Jerusalem. So be intentional to love those that are around you. We are all more isolated than normal and it’s difficult for most of us but please make time to stay in touch with more than just your closest friends. Call and pray with people, read the Bible together, listen to what they are going through. If we only love those who love us, what good is that? Even evil people take care of those that look out for them. Jesus said love your enemies- how much more so should we love our acquaintances?
I will leave you with this encouragement from Paul's letter to the Church in Rome.
18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Take care and God Bless!