THE CHURCH THAT WAS, THAT IS AND THAT IS TO COME
There is nothing in the world important to Jesus than His Church. She is the object of his love and central focus of his work. Ephesians 5 describes his love for the church as the fervent love of a groom for his bride (Eph. 5:25) Why is the Church so important to Jesus?
The Church is God’s plan to rescue humanity from the oppression of satan and bring men into a love relationship with himself, to enjoy his blessings!
The Church did not just happen! The day after Pentecost, Peter didn’t say: “I’ve got an idea, let’s start a Church!”. The Church was planned (Mt. 16:18) “I will build my Church”.
Jesus spent 3 and a half years training the first group of Apostles to set it in order. On his assention he gave the Church five-fold gifts to enable it to succeed!
The book of Acts shows that the Church followed a consistent plan wherever it spread. God always has a plan! As long as the Church followed God’s plan, it prospered!
The world had never seen anything like the Church! On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell on 120 people. By the end on that day, God added more than 3,000 men and women to the Church! (Acts 2: from 120 to 3,000. In Acts 4, 10,000 people and in Acts 7, 20,000 people!
Within a year, the Jerusalem Church tripled in size, numbering more than 10,000. Some estimate by time Stephen was killed (Acts 6-7) the Church had grown to 20,000. Church eventually made up half of population of Jerusalem!
Explosive growth was experienced in every city. Acts 19 – The Church at Ephesus. Acts 19 indicates that Paul went to Ephesus started a Church, and remained there for two years teaching his converts.
* The entire city evangelized.
* All the cities surrounding province reached
* The Church grows so rapidly the economy in effected (idol makers) ultimately half of the city saved in the Church.
By the year AD 112 (Pliny said) “in the province of Asia Minor, temples to heathen gods are almost totally forsaken and Christians are everywhere a multitude.” = Harvest!
In the Dark Ages, the Church compromised with paganism and lost God’s power…but God had not given up on his Church. Beginning in the 15th century, God began an incredible work of restoration. That’s what we are seeing in the Church today! God is continuing the restoration!
The first decade of the 20Th century saw the restoration of the gift of tongues. As we moved the 20th century we saw healing restored, prophecy restored, and the apostolic restored. Already 21st century we’ve seen the return of apostolic centers. God’s goal is to have a Church that operates in the New Testament power! Where signs and wonders take place, believers live in God’s blessing, and the harvest is brought in!
This is an exciting time to be in Church, but God doesn’t want us to get complacent! We are not there yet!
To gain vision for where the Church is headed, it’s helpful to see where we’ve come from! The Church is still not restored. The Church today is still not operating at the level of power the early Church experienced!
Most Christians today assume they understand what Church is supposed to look like, but they are usually wrong!
Some Christians thinks, Church is “a building you go to once a week”, you go in and sing some songs, listen a sermon and give an offering. You come home and say: “I’ve been to Church!” That was never God’s plan for His Church!
The day after Pentecost, Peter did not rent a big building, put a steeple on top, and a big sign: “First Pentecostal Church of Jesus”. God gave apostles a different plan. To see God’s plan for the Church, the first place we want to look is Acts 2:41-42: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”…the Temple Courts and from house to house.
Church involved 2 different kinds of venues. First they met in the temple courts. As Jews, Jesus’s followers were free to meet and worship Jesus on the temple grounds. It were large corporate gathering. They began with 3, 000 people and it multiplied from there! These meeting was celebrations. Led by apostles who had just seen Jesus raised from the dead and ascend into heaven. They had also just been baptized in Holy Spirit. They were excited! They were watching the apostles perform signs, wonders and miracles! People were excited like a soccer match. They were excited about Jesus!
So the early Church had large celebrations from what we read in the New Testament these were exciting times! Enthusiastic praise and worship, apostolic preaching and teaching, signs, wonders and miracles, lots of people getting saved.
These gathering were incubators for faith. During Dark Ages, Church lost the concept of joyful celebration (solemn and mournful) but God restores the joy...but the early Church had another kind of meeting: they also meet from house to house. The huge congregation of people in the celebration, would also come together in smaller groups, meeting in homes.
The Church called these smaller gathering a sinaxis a Greek word that meant a “gathering, coming together, reunion”. It was a family reunion for their spiritual family. These “house church” meetings has a totally different purpose than the large celebrations. The clearest picture we have of a first century sinaxis is in 1 Corinthians. Describes several things that took place. The first thing they did was to share the Lord’s supper (1 Co. 11). That’s what the Church was doing here in Acts 2:46 “they broke bread”. Dictionary definition of sinaxis “a meeting of the early Church to celebrate the Lord’s Supper”.
The gathering would probably begin with a time of joyful praise, but after a time of praise, food was brought out! People found their seats and prepared for a meal. This meal is described by Paul in 1 Corinthians and by Jude and Peter. It was called the “love feast” or Agape. At the start of the meal, one of the leaders takes a cup, blesses the Lord, and passes it around so each can drink from it. He then picks up a loaf of bread and offers thanks. It also is passed from person to person. This is the Lord’s Supper in its original context. Taking Lord’s Supper together meant they were family! Covenant, committed to each other!
But a second purpose of their sinaxis is empowerment. I picture it like this: After the meals ends, worship continues until, at some point, a change begins to take place. There is a subtle shift in the atmosphere. A tangible sense of God’s presence comes and rests in the place. As the Glory of God came down in the Moses’s tabernacle and Solomon’s temple, his glory rests upon his Church! As the Spirit moves among his people his gifts and anointings are imparted. This is described in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. When we come together each one is given a manifestation of the Spirit: To one is given a word of wisdom, to another words of knowledge, to another faith, to another gifts of healing. So, as the believers meet together, Holy Spirit begins to distribute his gifts! While every believer has their own gift, in this context the Holy Spirit can manifest any gift through any believer. You never know who the Spirit will choose!
The “dancing hand of God” moves through the meeting! That’s what manifestation means! (“mani” = hand; “festus” = festive dancing) You never know when God might choose to use you to heal the sick or give a prophecy! That was the final purpose of the sinaxis. It was a time to exercise spiritual gifts and learn how to use them effectively! We see this in 1 Corinthians 14:26-31 “When you come together” everyone (v. 26); (v. 31) you can all prophesy in turn. This was a time when every believer was encouraged to exercise spiritual gifts!
These small house church meetings were every bit as important as the large celebrations. The large celebrations were incubators for faith. The small house church meetings have a different purpose: They are incubators for gifts! In a family context where everyone is encouraged to exercise gifts. Learning to use your spiritual gift is very much like learning to ride a bike. To ride a bike you don’t need a course, take written lessons, to study blueprints to see how bikes are made nor read books about bikes. To learn to ride a bike you need 2 things: 1. A bike, 2. Someone you trust to help get you started. The same thing is true for your spiritual gift. We need celebrations to build your faith; we need home churches to build your gifts.
God wants all of us to minister!
Acts 8:4 They all went and preached
Mark 16:17-18 All can heal and deliver
John 14:12 All can do miracles
1 Corinthians 14 All can prophesy
Hebrew 5:15 All should be teaching
God wants you to learn to do the things Jesus did. That means you have a call from God to minister! You will always find fulfillment in life when you do what God has called you to do!
The Church’s job is to equip you! That’s God plan for the Church!
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