Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus in the earth—the Church—as it was written and recorded by Luke in the book of Acts. More specifically, today’s passage begins with the twenty-first verse of the fourteenth chapter and continues through to the twenty-first verse of the fifteenth chapter. “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation eventer into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Paphylia. And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia: and thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples” (Acts 14:21-28).
“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversation of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were receive of the church, and of the apostles, and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees, which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15:1-5).
“And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God. Made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the graced of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them” (Acts 15:6-12).
“And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, after this I will return, and will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith, the Lord, who doeth all these things, known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: but that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood, for Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day” (Acts 15:13-21).
PREACHING THE GOSPEL! HEALING THE SICK! RAISING THE DEAD! CONFRONTING THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRITUAL REALM! WAXING BOLD AGAINST THOSE WHO OPPOSE THR GOSPEL! ENDURING HARDSHIPS! ENDURING SUFFERING! REHEARSING ALL GOD HAS DONE! When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the continuation and conclusion of the apostle Paul’s first missionary journey—one that would take him unto those places he perhaps wouldn’t have journeyed and traveled to. It is actually quite intriguing to read the words which are found in chapters thirteen and fourteen of the New Testament book of Acts for within it we find the apostle Paul together with Barnabas being separated by and unto the Holy Ghost unto the work which He had ordained and appointed for them. What’s more is that after this separation by and unto the Holy Ghost and after those present at the church at Antioch prayed and fasted they sent Paul and Barnabas forth to step into that for which they had been called and separated. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of what is found in these two chapters for within them we encounter the apostle Paul together with Barnabas being separated by the Holy Ghost in the midst of the brethren, in the midst of the prophets and in the midst of the teachers which were present at the church in Antioch. What’s more is that the church which was in Antioch would essentially be the base camp and the spring board from which ministries would flow forth into the earth. Of course we know that the church present in Jerusalem was indeed the earthly geographical foundation for the church, however, we cannot overlook the church at Antioch for it would play a key and crucial role in the history of the early church.
As you begin reading with and from the opening verses of the thirteenth chapter of this New Testament book you will encounter the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the apostle Paul and Barnabas and their being separated and sent forth. This twin reality of being separated and sent forth is actually remarkable when you take the time to think about and consider it for it calls and draws our attention to just how incredibly important both are within the life of one who would seek to step into a work within this earth. What we must needs realize is that this wouldn’t be the first time the apostle Paul and Barnabas would be sent forth from the church which was Antioch for at the end of the eleventh chapter we find the apostle Paul and Barnabas being sent forth from this church with a tangible manifestation and expression of the grace of God in the earth. You will recall in the final portion of the eleventh chapter the apostle Paul and Barnabas would be sent forth from the church in Antioch after the brethren which were there each according to their ability determined to send relief unto the brethren which were present in the region of Judaea. Earlier on during the days of the apostle Paul and Barnabas being present at the church in Antioch we find certain prophets from Judaea coming unto the brethren which were at Antioch. One of those prophets was a man by the name of Agabus who prophesied of a great dearth that would strike the whole earth. Eventually during the days of Claudius Caesar a famine and dearth would indeed strike the earth and would be a tremendous trial and trouble for the brethren.
Before I delve any further into that which is found in chapters thirteen and fourteen I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the fact that here in the final verses of the eleventh chapter we continue to find the brethren living in community with each other. Even though the church which was at Antioch we separated and removed from the churches and brethren which were present within Judaea they would still answer a clarion call to send relief unto the brethren which were present in Judaea. Perhaps the brethren and those who were at Antioch realized the tremendous abundance and blessing they had received at the hand of the living God and according to the ability within themselves as well as according to the blessing which had been bestowed in their lives they would each give of their own ability that which would be delivered as an offering unto the brethren which were in Judaea. WHEN CHURCHES MINISTER TO EACH OTHER! WHEN CHURCHES MINISTER ONE TO ANOTHER! Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize and realize when reading the New Testament book of Acts it’s that no church dwelt and abode on an island separated and removed from each other. In fact if you take the time to read the words which are found in this New Testament book you will find that each of the churches which were established in the earth were not only directly and intrinsically connected to each other but they were also connected to the church and brethren which were present in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for one of the greatest truth surrounding the church in the book of Acts is that not only was it made of many individual members but it was also made up of several bodies which were present throughout the region.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the churches which were established in the midst of the earth during the days of the apostles and brethren and I can’t help but be captivated with and by the awesome truth surrounding just how connected the churches are. In fact, if you read through this book you will find that there would be countless churches which would be established in the midst of the earth—churches which would be established by the apostle Paul as well as the brethren which had been sent forth from the city of Jerusalem. After the death of Stephen by the hands of those in Jerusalem and the persecution which rose up against the Christians as a result we find all but the apostles being scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria preaching the word everywhere whithersoever they journeyed and traveled to. This reality is expressed once more in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book where Luke records of certain of those who were sent forth by the early church and who would preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Luke would take this opportunity in the eleventh chapter to describe certain regions beyond simply Judaea and Samaria where those who were scattered from the city of Jerusalem would journey to as they preached the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. As a direct result of their preaching the Lord would add unto their numbers such as should be saved. This would lead to churches being established in the midst of countless cities, towns and perhaps even villages as men and women would gather together for the breaking of bread, for fellowship and to hear and listen to the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus being preached in the midst of the earth.
What I find so absolutely fascinating when reading the words presented here in the eleventh chapter is not only how the churches themselves continued to live in community and fellowship with each other but also how interconnected they were. You cannot read the book of Acts and think—even for a moment—that each of the churches which were present within the earth would have their foundation from the work which would take place in the midst of the city of Jerusalem but would also be directly connected and linked together with the other churches throughout the earth during those days. NO CHURCH WAS ESTABLISHED ON AN ISLAND! NO CHURCH WAS FOUNDED ALONE TO STAND ALONE! CHURCHES WERE NEVER DESTINED TO STAND ALONE IN THE MIDST OF THE EARTH! Oh what I so absolutely love and appreciate when reading the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the eleventh chapter is that the churches which were established in the earth during the days following the great persecution which would break out against the church in the city of Jerusalem would not only be separate bodies unto themselves but would also be bodies which were directly linked and connected to each other. You cannot read this New Testament book and not encounter just how linked and connected the churches were—not only to the other churches which were present in the midst of the earth but also with the church present in Jerusalem. The entire book of Acts reveals, proves and demonstrates the early churches which were established in the midst of the earth being directly linked and joined together with each other. What’s more is that not only did each individual member within those churches need to learn how to live in community and fellowship one with each other but so also did the churches themselves need to learn how to operate in fellowship and community with each other.
There is and there has been a great emphasis placed on the individual members of the body of Christ learning how to live in community and fellowship with each other, however, what we also learn within the New Testament book of is that it was about more than simply the individual members of the body being joined together in fellowship and community. The more you read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts the more you will encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the individual members learning how to live in fellowship and community with each other. With this being said you will also learn and discover how the churches themselves needed to learn how to live in community and fellowship with each other. Just as the individual members of the church bodies needed to learn how to live in fellowship and community with each other so also did the churches and bodies of believers themselves need to learn how to live in fellowship and community with each other. Just as no individual member of the body was destined to live their lives on an island unto themselves as they walked with and followed the Lord Jesus so also would the individual churches not be formed and established as an island unto themselves. Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in the book of Acts it’s that the churches which were established in the midst of the earth during those days were established to be directly linked and connected to the other churches which were present in the midst of the earth. The churches which were established in the midst of the earth were indeed established that they might not be an entity unto themselves but might also be directly and intrinsically linked and connected to the various other churches which were present in the midst of the earth.
The more I read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the individual churches which were established in the earth during those days. A great deal of language has been spoken and a great many messages have been taught and preached in the earth surrounding the individual members of the body being fitly joined together to comprise and make up the body of the Lord Jesus in the earth, however, it is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand the wonderful truth surrounding the various churches and bodies of believers which were present in the midst of the earth. It is indeed true individual members were added unto the church daily such as those which should be saved, however, those individual members would themselves be joined and connected to each other in community and fellowship one with another. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the strong and powerful truth surrounding the various churches and bodies of believers which are and were intrinsically linked and connected to each other. There is something to be said about individuals who learn how to live in fellowship and community one with each other but there is also something to be said about churches themselves which learn how to live in fellowship and community with each other. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how incredibly important it is for it forces us to acknowledge that neither the individual members of the body nor the individual bodies of believers themselves were intended on being an island unto themselves and living separate and apart from fellowship and community with each other.
It is with this in mind I feel pressed to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the first New Testament epistle written unto the church which was at Corinth at the hand of the apostle Paul. What’s more is I feel it necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi as well as the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints at Ephesus. Moreover I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of this New Testament book as well as the words which are presented in the eleventh chapter. Even the words which we find in the final verses of the fourteenth chapter and the opening verses of the fifteenth chapter call and draw our attention the tremendous truth surrounding the churches which were established in the midst of the earth. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in each of these portions of text found within the sacred Scripture:
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble are necessary. And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body: but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all works of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts; and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:28-31).
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all k knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to fee the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Chariy suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth. Not behave itself unseemly, seeketh. Not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus ever knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but not much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run. In vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:1-18).
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the statute of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: ;from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which is every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:1-16).
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be no conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. For I say, through the gracae given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members now the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differeing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our minister: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity: he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:1-8).
“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; ;continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles; doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).
“And in those days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:27-30).
I fully realize that was a lot of Scripture presented in this passage of Scripture, however, I am absolutely convinced it was necessary to highlight the words written by the apostle Paul together with the words which we find in the New Testament book of Acts. As you read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture you will quickly be brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding there being one body and how that body is made up of many members. We cannot afford to miss that which is present in this particular reality as it calls and draws our attention to the reality of there being present in the midst of the earth one single body which was established in the earth on the day of Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost there was one spiritual body of the Lord Jesus which was indeed formed by the arrival of the Holy Ghost. From that moment on—not only was there daily added unto the church such as should be saved but also on that day were many members being added unto the one body. We must needs recognize and realize this for it calls and draws our attention to how within the earth there is indeed one body which was formed and fashioned by the person and presence of the Holy Ghost and how that body is made up of many members. The apostle Paul eloquently painted this picture in the epistles he wrote unto the churches and we see it in action in the book of the Acts of the apostles and of the brethren. In all reality I can’t help but be captivated with the fact that this book is rightfully called “Acts” for within it there is example after example of the acts which were performed by the apostles as they not only preached the name and gospel of the Lord Jesus but also as the Holy Ghost gave powerful witness to the preaching of the gospel by and through works which were done at their hands. Moreover the New Testament book of Acts is a powerful picture of the acts and actions of the apostles and brethren in the midst of the earth as they were accompanied by the person of the Holy Spirit.
There is something which must needs be recognized and realized when reading this New Testament book for within it we are brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth surrounding the many acts which were done—not just by the apostles but also by the deacons ordained in Jerusalem, as well as the brethren which were present throughout all the churches during those days. There is a great need on our part to focus and direct our attention to the awesome and powerful truth surrounding the early church and how the early church was indeed characterized by “acts”—and not only “but also works.” With this being said it is absolutely necessary for us to call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding this reality for the New Testament book of Acts is about so much more than simply the “acts” and “works” of the apostles as they preached the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus and wrought healing and miracles in the midst of the earth. We would like to think that the “acts” which were recorded within this book deal exclusively and primarily with the acts and works which the apostles themselves had engaged in the midst of the earth. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply is not the case, for within this New Testament book we find the church and body of believers themselves engaging in acts. With this being said we must needs recognize that “acts” which we find and read in this book is not limited nor is it relegated and confined solely to the working of miracles and healing among men in the earth. Oh there is a great need within our hearts and lives to understand that “acts” simply isn’t about healing, miracles, signs and wonders but is also about the works which we do in the earth among the brethren as well as among those to whom we are being called. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle written by James as found in the New Testament:
“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him: But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:1-13).
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou. Know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26).
Please do not miss the point that is being presented by James here in this passage of Scripture for not only does he speak to the nature and reality of partiality and favoritism present within our hearts and many of our churches but he also points to the tremendous truth and reality surrounding faith without works as being dead and abiding alone. It is necessary that we call and draw our attention to this particular truth—especially when reading the words found in the New Testament book of Acts—for the entire book is a book that is not only centered around “acts” but also “works.” What’s more is that the New Testament book of Acts is not solely about the “acts” of the apostles which they wrought in the earth. This New Testament book is not centered upon healing, miracles, signs and wonders alone but is also a book about acts of community, acts of fellowship, acts of hospitality, and acts of the many members which make up the body of Christ. It would be very easy to get caught up in this book and focus solely on it being a book about the “acts” which the apostles themselves wrought in the midst of the earth and yet I am absolutely and completely convinced that this book is about so much more than simply that which the apostles themselves had performed and completed in the midst of the earth. This New Testament book is centered upon the reality and concept of “acts,” however, I would dare say this book might very well be considered a book of works and deeds among men as being performed and wrought by the brethren. With this being said I feel compelled to draw and call your attention to the awesome and tremendous truth surrounding this particular book and how it is incredibly easy for us to get caught up in it being solely about the acts of the apostles—and not just about the acts of the apostles but also about healing, miracles, signs and wonders. To think and believe such a way would be to diminish the necessity of the body of the Lord Jesus which is made up of many members in the earth.
I sit here today thinking about and considering this particular truth and I am brought face to face with the fact that to read the book of Acts simply and solely based on it being about the “acts” of the apostles entirely and altogether diminishes the role the body with its individual members played during the days of the early church. What’s more is that if we diminish the role the individual members played during the days of the early church then we also diminish the role each individual member plays during our own generation. Oh dear reader we must needs recognize and understand the church is not made up of many “superstars” which are present in the midst of the earth. It would be very easy to think that the church is simply and solely about those select “generals” or elite members in each generation who have been known by those before and all around them. It would be very easy to focus our attention simply and solely on those individuals who perhaps are in the limelight and spotlight as being the ones who acts, deeds and works are wrought through. The truth of the matter is that the church has never been and will never be about a select few who engage themselves in works in the earth. The church has never and will never be about the few who have been ordained and appointed by the living God as His ambassadors which are present in the midst of the earth. The New Testament book of Acts is incredibly necessary to focus our attention on for what we find within it is a powerful picture of the apostles working great works and “acts” in the midst of the earth, however, it wasn’t simply and solely about the apostles themselves, nor even the works which they wrought in the earth.
There have been and there are still those who would read the book of Acts and think of it as simply and solely being about “the acts of the apostles.” In fact there are certain translations of the Scripture that will have the word “acts” in all capital letters contained within the phrase “The ACTS of the Apostles.” I am absolutely and completely convinced that this is in all reality a misinterpretation and misunderstanding of the book itself. With this being said I would dare say suggest that to read the book of Acts simply and solely as a book about “the acts of the apostles” is to play an incredibly dangerous game with the vital role the body with its many members plays in the midst of the earth. The second, the fourth and eleventh chapters of this New Testament book calls and draws our attention just how critical and vital a role the body with its many members played in the midst of the earth during the days of the early Church. It cannot be overlooked that what we witness and what unfolded during the days of the early church was about so much more than simply the acts and works which the apostles wrought in the midst of the earth. We do know that the apostles were those who walked with and followed Jesus for three and a half years but we must needs recognize that there were others who followed and walked with Jesus during those three years. Even Matthias who was chosen from among the brethren to step into the office which was vacated by Judas who forfeited it through his transgression was chosen according to lot having been one of those who had walked with them from the time of John’s baptism until the time of the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is not a doubt in my mind that Matthias wasn’t the only one who walked with and followed the Lord Jesus from the time of John’s baptism unto the time of His ascension unto the right hand of the Father in heaven.
With this reality and concept before us it is absolutely necessary we call and draw our attention to just how incredibly vital it is when thinking about and considering the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus. We must needs realize that this New Testament book is about so much more than simply the acts and works of those twelve apostles who walked with and followed the Lord Jesus. To think and believe such a lie and falsehood would be to negate the works and ministry which Stephen and Philip engaged in during the days of the early Church. Both of these men were called, chosen and ordained from among the brethren which were present in the early church as two of the deacons who were ordained and appointed to serve in the midst of the brethren. What’s more is to focus our attention on the book of Acts solely as being a book that is about the acts and works of the apostles is to miss out on and lose sight of the works which the members of the body and those of the early church themselves engaged in during the days of the early church. Oh it is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand this particular truth as it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth that the book of Acts is not merely about those acts and works which were wrought at and by the hands of the apostles but were about the works which the body of the Lord Jesus wrought as one body in the midst of the early church. The New Testament book of Acts cannot be limited, relegated and confined solely to an understanding of the works which were wrought at and by the hands of the apostles alone. The book of Acts must needs be recognized and understood as being one that is about the collective, combined and united works of each of the members of the body of the Lord Jesus in the earth as they learned to live in community and fellowship with each other.
This reality must needs be recognized and understood for when we read this New Testament book we must not think or conclude that the works and the acts which are found at the very heart of this book are healing, miracles, signs and wonders. The New Testament book of Acts is not a book that is centered simply and solely around such works being wrought in the earth and I am convinced to focus our attention on such realities is to entirely and altogether miss the point of what is truly presented within this book. It would be very easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in this book being about signs, wonders, miracles and healing and yet the truth of the matter is that it is about so much more. In fact if you take the time to read the words found in the second, fourth and eleventh chapters you will encounter that part of the acts and works which were wrought in the days of the early church were indeed and were in fact acts and works of compassion, of hospitality, community and fellowship. We dare not think and believe that it is simply and solely about healing, miracles, signs and wonders and that the Church can be established and built on such manifestations alone. What’s more is I would dare say that the church cannot be founded, built and established on healing, miracles, signs and wonders alone and to think in such a manner would be to do a great disservice to the body of Christ. Even more than this we must needs recognize that not every member of the body of Christ is actively engaged in healing, in miracles, in signs and in wonders. Take a look at any individual church and any individual body of believers and you will quickly discover that there are very few who are actively engaged in healing, in miracles, in signs and wonders. In fact, tell me when the last time was you personally witnessed healing, miracles, signs and/or wonders being performed in the midst of the church and body of believers you have been a part of.
There is a great need within our hearts and souls to recognize and understand this truth for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous reality surrounding the “acts” which were done during the days of the early church were so much more than healing, miracles, signs and wonders. There must be absolutely no confusion regarding this particular truth for if we fail to understand this part—not only do we fail to understand the book of Acts but we also fail to understand our own purpose and role in the midst of the body of Christ. The New Testament book of Acts is one that describes the arrival of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit and with that being said the apostles and brethren who were present in the upper room spoke with other tongues as they were given utterance. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the fact that while tongues is indeed a mighty manifestation and demonstration of the Holy Spirit I firmly believe it is not the greatest work and manifestation within the life of a believer. In fact you will recall that when those in the upper room spoke with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance, however, in the very same chapter you will see the greater work that was wrought on the day of Pentecost was not necessarily granting the ability to speak with tongues but rather the ability for more than three thousand souls to live in community and fellowship with each other. There is not a doubt in my mind that perhaps the single greatest work wrought by the Holy Spirit was causing three thousand souls to be united together in community and fellowship with each other in the body of the Lord Jesus. The second and fourth chapters highlight and underscore how the early church which was comprised of thousands of members lived in community and fellowship with each other and had all things common.
The more I read the words which are found within the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the “acts” and “works” which were wrought during the days of the early church and how not every believer and follower of Jesus operated in gifts, healing, signs, wonders and miracles. Although all might have spoken with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance I would dare say that there were a vast majority of those who were part of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus who were actively engaged on a daily basis in works of compassion, hospitality Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must needs recognize and understand is that no individual member of the body is an island unto themselves and has been called to be joined together with other believers. This same reality is true of churches as well as individual members for just as much as individual members are joined together so also are churches and bodies of believers joined together. One of the greatest truths found within this New Testament book is just how interconnected the individual members of the churches were as well as how interconnected the churches themselves were. In all reality the church which is represented in the book of Acts is not only one body made up of many members but also one church made up of several other churches and congregations of believers. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it can and will help us to truly understand how we have not only been called to a life of “acts” and “work”—and not just signs, wonders, gifts, healing and miracles—but also a life of acts and works of compassion, community, fellowship and hospitality. Moreover, we must needs realize and understand that when we speak of the church we are speaking about the church as being made up of many individual members as well as many individual bodies of believers which are gathered together as a group and congregation but also gathered together as part of a much larger fellowship of churches. THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE CHURCH! THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE CHURCHES! ONE CHURCH MADE UP OF MANY CHURCHES! ONE CHURCH MADE UP OF MANY BODIES OF BELIEVERS!