The Growth of the First Century Church

Acts 2:44-47

I. Their United Effort

    A. “Together” / “Common” / “With one accord” (Acts 2:44-47)
    B. NOT unity in diversity! Unity in the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 1:10; John 17:20-21)
    C. Striving for peace (Acts 6:1,7; Romans 14:19; Ephesians 4:1-3)

II. Their Steadfast Nature

    A. Steadfast in doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 16:13)
    B. Danger of not being steadfast (Galatians 1:6-9)
    C. Self-discipline (Romans 12:1)

III. Their Belief in the Message

    A. “Into all the world” (Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23)
    B. Unafraid when opposed (Acts 4:18-20; Galatians 1:10)
    C. Despite persecutions, they believed (Acts 8:1-3; 2 Cor. 11:24-27; Acts 12:1-2; 8:4)

“Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say”

An American website recently reported that the media in the United Kingdom was shocked by singer Adele’s obscene language during her Glastonbury concert. According to the article, the singer of the popular song “Hello” cursed more than thirty times. It was further reported that “the average adult curses once every eight seconds.”

Brothers and sisters, this is one area in which we must strive to be well below average! Is the average adult so poorly educated that he can find no better way to express himself? I am not suggesting that controlling one’s tongue is a simple task; James makes that clear in his epistle. However, he writes, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10).

Paul says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). Obviously, this refers to more than just obscene language. This can include gossiping and lying, sinful uses of the tongue that have destroyed many relationships—both in and out of the church—throughout history.

Paul expands on this in Colossians 3:8-10, “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.”

I will never cease to be amazed at the things I hear and read coming from self-proclaimed religious people. Claiming to be Christians, they will commit the very sin that James condemns in James 3:10! As the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we must be setting a better example for those around us.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

Be Strong and of Good Courage

As Moses neared the end of his life, he told the children of Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, because God is with you.” Then he said the same thing to Joshua, who would be his successor as the leader of God’s people. “Be strong and of good courage, because God is with you.”

When God spoke to Joshua after Moses’ death, the Almighty repeated the same thought three times to his new mouthpiece: “Be strong and of good courage.” God made a promise to Joshua and to the children of Israel, that if they were strong and courageous, He would take care of them and they would prosper.

Certainly, it took a great deal of strength and courage to accomplish what the Lord commanded, but knowing that God was on their side, Israel took possession of the land that was promised to them. At the end of his life, Joshua again encouraged the people to continue with these attitudes of strength and courage in the Lord.

Sadly, Israel turned from God several times. Throughout the book of Judges we read of several occasions that the people disobeyed God and needed to be restored. God would raise up a leader to bring them back, and they would be faithful for a while before failing away again. The cycle repeats over and over, not only in the book of Judges, but throughout the Old Testament.

This still happens today in the church. There are some people that will disappear for weeks or months, then will come back for a little while, then leave again. What can we do when we notice this happening? Have you called your missing brethren to encourage them to return? Have you asked what you can do to help them? Sometimes, showing that you are concerned is encouragement in itself.

We must develop strength and courage in order to lead others to Christ, and to bring others back to God. The words that were spoken to Joshua still apply to us today: “Be strong and of good courage.”

As Christians, where do we find our strength? The apostle Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Peter writes, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10). Our strength comes not from ourselves, but from God the Father and Christ Jesus.

And what of the courage? It is in Christ that “we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him” (Ephesians 3:12). Just as He promised to be with the children of Israel in their battles against the nations around them, He will be with us as well. That knowledge should motivate us not only be courageous, but content with our portion in life as well. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

Are you strong and of good courage?

Just Because We Don’t Know…

Brother Wayne Jackson once wrote an article in which he stated, “As far as I am able to determine, medical science has yet to find out any purpose for the appendix.” Since that article was written, some evidence has come to light showing that the appendix plays a role in the function of the human immune system.

So what? Just because we don’t (or didn’t) know the exact reason for the appendix, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t doing some work for us. Likewise, in the body of Christ, the fruits of one’s labors may not be evident to us, but that doesn’t mean they are not laboring.

There are many who do their work in the kingdom behind the scenes, privately encouraging those who need encouragement through cards, calls, and visits. It would be foolish to suggest that such things are not needed, or that those who perform such tasks are not important in the kingdom of Christ.

Just as the different members of our physical bodies have different functions, so the different members of the spiritual body of Christ have different functions. Not everyone serves in a public way as an elder, or a deacon, or a Bible class teacher—but everyone must function in some way! Consider carefully Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:21-22, and respect and support your fellow workers in their tasks.

Always keep in mind that what you do, even if it is not seen by men, is seen by God. “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). For this reason, we should be diligent in our service for the Lord. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).

Whether you are a hand, a foot, an eye, an ear, or even an appendix, you do have an important function in the body of Christ. Be sure you are fulfilling your duty.

Guard Against Apostasy

It has been said that, at any given time, the church is only one generation away from apostasy. We see it happen time and time again in the Bible, and in congregations around us. Others have suggested that because of Biblical ignorance, some Christians are only one sermon away from apostasy. The apostle Paul warned, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

God reveals several things that can lead to apostasy, including materialism (Deuteronomy 6:10-12), boredom (Deut. 6:13-15), disobedience (Deut. 6:16-19), and the assumption that faith and values are being passed on (Deut. 6:20-25). The responsibility rests with each one of us to make sure we are not being led away, and to encourage those around us to continue in the old paths.

To prevent apostasy, we must stand fast in teaching the Word of God. True, Biblical faith is only produced by the Word—nothing more, nothing less (Romans 10:17). It is in the gospel that God’s power to save resides (Romans 1:16). When we depart from the truth, we put ourselves and those around us in eternal danger (Galatians 1:6-9).

Take a moment to recognize and be grateful for the blessings that we receive from God, especially for our deliverance from sin. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

We need to realize how dangerous Satan really is. Yes, he “walks about like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8), and we know how dangerous a beast like that can be. But the Scriptures also tell us that he “transforms himself into an angel of light,” and “his minsters also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). We must be grounded in the truth to protect ourselves from seemingly innocuous attacks from the father of lies.

Love One Another

We are commanded several times in the New Testament to “love one another” (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 4:8 etc.). The Lord says our love for each other is an identifying mark of our discipleship. As we are given all things that pertain to life and godliness, God provides several examples of how to love each other.

Toward the elders, we should show obeisance. Paul tells us to remember them, to follow them, to obey them, and to be submissive. We are to do all of these things as they “watch out for your souls,” and we should strive to make their service as elders joyful (Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Toward the deacons, we should support them. If our ultimate goal is to get to heaven, and our secondary goal is to take others with us, should we not also be striving to help each other every step along the way? Paul says that “those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:13). Let us do whatever we can to assist our deacons in their various tasks in the church.

Toward the preachers, we must recognize the sacrifices they make in their lives. It is true that many preachers feel a need to proclaim the truth that they cannot quite explain, but that does not mean they have not made sacrifices to fulfill that desire. Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah, saying, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15). If God inspired one of His prophets to call a man’s feet beautiful, should we not support that man in his work?

Paul tells the young preacher how to treat others in the congregation, and his words should ring true for all: “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2).

Remember, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).

Gatlinburg fires destroy church building and members’ homes

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

Gatlinburg church of Christ

Fire has destroyed the meeting house for the Gatlinburg church of Christ (above). According to the congregation’s website, all members are safe and accounted for. The following was posted on Facebook by a friend of Rod Rutherford, who preaches for the church in Gatlinburg:

“Since last talking on the phone with you I have learned the three members have lost their homes. A friend called a friend in the Gatlinburg fire department to ask about the church building. He was told that everything on Reagan Drive was destroyed, either burned down or badly damaged beyond use. This would include our church building. We plan to worship with the Sevierville church Sunday and then have a congregational meeting to discuss our future. Our building was fully insured. If anyone wants to help those who lost their homes, we ask them to send a contribution to the Gatlinburg church of Christ and mark it For Fire Relief. We will use it to help our members first and then others as funds permit. The address is: Gatlinburg church of Christ, P.O. Box 361, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. Thanks for your interest, prayers and concern.”

Personal Responsibility in Evangelism

2 Timothy 2:2

I. BRINGING OTHERS TO JESUS

    A. Andrew brought Peter to Jesus (John 1:35-42)
    B. Andrew brought the lad with loaves and fish to Jesus (John 6:5-9)
    C. Andrew (and Philip) brought the Greeks to Jesus (John 12:20-22)

II. EXPLAINING THE SCRIPTURES

    A. Apollos was: (Acts 18:24-28)
            1. Eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures
            2. Spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord
            3. He only knew the baptism of John
    B. Aquila and Priscilla demonstrated gentleness in correction
    C. Aquila and Priscilla demonstrated patience in teaching
    D. Aquila and Priscilla understood the audience

III. KNOWING THE SCRIPTURES

    A. Take what you have learned, and teach others, so that they can teach ohers, who will teach others, and so on (2 Timothy 2:2; Matthew 28:19-20)
    B. Know how to rightly divide/handle aright (2 Timothy 2:15; Ephesians 6:17; Romans 1:16)
    C. Give Christ a special place—the HIGHEST place—in your heart (2 Peter 3:15; Colossians 3:1)

IV. NEVER GIVE UP!

    A. In due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9)
    B. The example of David Lipscomb, J. W. Shepherd, and the mother of the Douthit brothers
    C. You don’t know what kind of seed you are planting

Prepare Yourself to Lead (Lessons from Joshua)

Joshua 1:1-9

I. Good leaders are humble

    A. Joshua first made himself a servant (Exodus 24:13; 33:11)
    B. Even as a leader, Joshua was willing to serve
            1. He was exalted by God (Joshua 3:7; 4:14)
            2. He still served One who was greater (Joshua 5:13-15)

II. Good leaders put their faith and trust in God

    A. Spying out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:27-28, 31-33; 14:6-9)
    B. The fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:1-5; Hebrews 11:30)

III. Good leaders are men of God’s Word

    A. One can only follow the Word if he knows the Word (Joshua 1:7-8)
    B. Joshua’s commitment to God’s Word is shown:
            1. When he reminded the 2 ½ tribes of their responsibility (Joshua 1:12-15)
            2. When he renewed the covenant at Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim (Joshua 8:30-35)
            3. When he encouraged the people to obey God, even at the end of his life (Joshua 23:6,14-16)

IV. Good leaders put God first

    A. Following God’s command is more important than following human wisdom (Joshua 8:1-2, 30-35; 9:1-2)
    B. Care about what God thinks about us more than what people think about us (Joshua 24:14-16)

But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. (Acts 8:12)