Text: Acts 2:41-47
What a tragedy that precious truths of God are trampled over by the muddy boots of controversy! What it means to be a Spirit-filled church is just such a truth. But here we see:-
1. The church’s inward life
(a) ‘They continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.’
The Spirit-filled church is a well-instructed church.
Mt 28:20 ‘…teaching them to observe all things whatsover I have commanded you.’
Jn 8:31 ‘If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.’
Do we continue stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine? As Stott points out, the Holy Spirit opened a school in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, its teachers being the apostles whom Christ had appointed, and with 3,000 pupils! The fullness of the Spirit does not lead to a mystical anti-intellectualism. Nor does it mean that we can regard the Holy Spirit as our only teacher and dispense with human teachers. These new converts sat at the apostles’ feet, hungry for instruction, and they ‘devoted’ themselves to it.
(b) ‘They continued stedfastly in the fellowship,’ v44.
There is a two-fold fellowship: firstly, there is what we share in – fellowship with the Triune God,
1 Jn 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
1 Cor 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
Secondly, there is what we share out. The Christian Church has seldom, if ever, imposed common ownership upon its members. But we are all called to a generous and voluntary sharing of our material possessions.
Jn 13:35 ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.’
(c) ‘They continued stedfastly in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.’
The Spirit-filled church is a worshipping church. This worship was not limited to formal times and places, but extended to their homes. ‘It is always healthy when the more formal and dignified services of the local church are complemented with the informality and exuberance of home meetings. There is no need to polarize between the structured and the unstructured, the traditional and the spontaneous. The church needs both.’ (Stott).
2. The church’s outward witness
The Spirit-filled church is not only strengthened in its inward life. It also has a powerful and compassionate outreach to the world.
(a) ‘And fear came upon every soul.’
This is our proper reaction when God comes with power, cf Jacob,
Gen 28:16 ‘And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.’
(b) ‘Many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.’
‘Wonder’ – that which is distinctive or wonderful. ‘Sign’ – that which is meaningful or significant. ‘Do we who claim to believe in God and in the Lord Jesus Christ still believe in miracles?…Do we believe in God coming in and doing things that we not only cannot do, but cannot even understand, nor control, nor explain. Yea, I ask ask you, do you long to know such things? To see such things happening again today? Are you praying for such a visitation? For believe me, when God hears our prayers and does this thing again, it will be such a phenomenon that not only will the Church be astounded and amazed, but even those who are outside will be compelled to listen and to pay attention, in a way that they are not doing at the present time, and in a way that men left to themselves can never persuade them to do.’ (Lloyd-Jones, Revival, 117)
(c) ‘And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.’
What does the idea of evangelism conjure up? Images of strident, perspiring preachers? Pictures of odd characters standing on street corners, urging passers-by to repent? Here is another view of the way God adds to the church: by filling his people with his Spirit and then causing them to overflow. But it is the Lord who adds to the church.
Notice that two things go together here: being saved and being added to the church. No nominal church membership on the one hand, or solitary Christianity on the other hand.
Notice also that it was a continuous (‘daily’) adding to the church. It was not left to the occasional evangelistic foray.
The great secret of success in evangelism is not found in the methods we adopt, nor in the experts we hire. It is found in ordinary Christians devoting themselves to God’s word, to fellowship, to worship and to prayer.
Here then, are the marks of a Spirit-filled church: biblical teaching, loving fellowship, living worship, and an ongoing, outgoing evangelism.