After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.Acts 4:31-37
But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest. Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.
About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?” “Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.” And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.” Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened. The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade. But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them. Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. ()Acts 5:1-14
There is a pattern here:
- An outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurs
- Followed by an anointing to preach the Word boldly
- There is a resultant effect on the Church accompanied by signs and wonders
- A sense of awe at what God is doing comes upon believers and unbelievers alike
Remember the overall thrust of Acts is to tell us of the spread of Gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. How did it happen? What were the keys to the evangelism of the world? At the heart of it were 12 men with the Holy Spirit living inside them in a powerful way. Then those twelve men became 120, then 3,000, then 5,000 men not counting women and children (see Gems 1413) -the early church was rapidly growing. When the right mix of factors are present, the church grows. Many of the nations which have been based on Christianity for centuries, are currently seeing declining church attendance. Many of the traditional sending countries for missionaries have gone through a decline in church numbers. Does that mean the church growth has come to an end? No! The church worldwide is alive, vibrant and growing; just not in the traditional centre. God is alive and well and reigningon planet earth. His Kingdom is growing and reaching more and more people.
Here are the most recent statistics:
On average, around the world, 178,000 people convert to Christianity every day.
Daily 35,000 conversions occur in Latin America. There were 50,000 believers reported in Latin America in 1900. By 1980 therewere more than 20,000,000. Thatnumber is now 480,000,000. Daily 28,000 conversions occur in China. When China was closed to missionaries there were reportedly a million Chinese Christians in total. Today’s estimate is nearing 100,000,000. India has more than 85 million believers and it is reported that there are on average 100,000 conversions monthly. In 1900 it was suggested Korea was impossible to penetrate with the gospel. Today South Korea is reported to be more than 40% Christian, with more than 7,000 Christian churches in Seoul alone. More people have come to know the Lord in Iran in the past ten years that in the previous thousand years combined. Thriving churches are found in almost every Iranian city and village. Daily 20,000 conversions occur across the African continent. 40% of Africa is now said to be “Christian”.
Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world with an annual growth rate of 6.9 % compared with 2.7% for Islam, 2.2 % for Hindus and 1.7% for Buddhists.
Our church in country here has problems – problems related to growing pains. Each year it grows significantly more. When the church proclaims the Word of God with boldness, learns to worship God in Spirit and Truth (and not lose themselves in performance), becomes a caring body looking after its members and others, when the members count others more highly than themselves and are concerned for their city (Jerusalem), the surrounding region (Judea), the despised (Samaritans) and all points beyond (ends of the earth – I.e. become mission-minded) all at the same time, then growth has to occur. Many churches like to say we are missional. We are just focused on our Jerusalem. No, Jesus said Jerusalem AND Judea AND Samaria AND the ends of the earth. Become a world Christian and care about it all. Jesus said they will know you are my disciples by your love. Just stand back and take in what Luke is telling us about this early church. They preach the Word with boldness. They tell it like it is. They don’t mind if the leaders or the authorities don’t like what they hear – they preach it anyway. You can’t make them stop. They worship the Lord, they spend time together and they care to the point where they use their surplus to care for another’s lack. Now you have to admit that is impressive. You take care of the basics and God will take care of the rest. These people are ends-of-the-earth-bound.
The point of the book of Acts is the witness given to the role of God in all of this. This is not happening because some person has a wonderful plan of evangelism. It happens because God’s people were connected with their God. The power of the Holy Spirit turned a meek, timid Peter into a bold, forthright, rock of strength in God’s hands. He now stands up boldly before the Council and proclaims God’s message, whereas before he slunk away from a slave girl. There has been a dramatic change come over this man. That is what it is all about. God’s people coming alive in Him and learning to depend on Him for their strength. “It is not by might, nor by power but by My Spirit says the Lord.” That is the story that Luke is relating to us. It starts with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Pause and ask yourself, under what circumstances does the Holy Spirit get poured out? When the believers are of one mind and one heart and earnestly seek God for His Presence, things happen. When they earnestly seek boldness to be His witnesses, God’s Spirit shows up in power with signs and wonders. When that happens the Bible is proclaimed clearly and boldly in Truth and miracles occur. Then there is a resultant effect on the believers who believe even more, God is among them. Following which, there is a sense of awe and wonder at the fact that God is alive and well and moving on planet earth.
No friends, God is not dead; He is very much alive and manifesting His presence. I had a radio programme in NZ for a number of years telling What on Earth is God Doing. You can imagine there are a number of ways to interpret that title. Yesterday I came across the most amazing story on the internet. (At this point I make the assumption it is true but I am aware the “internet” is not necessarily synonymous with “true”.)
There’s a story of young soldier in the army in the former Soviet Union who was constantly humiliated because he believed in God. One day the captain wanted to humiliate him before the troops. He called the young man and told him to take the keys and go and park the Jeep in front of the troops. The soldier said that he could not drive! The captain told him to “ask for assistance from your God! Show us that He exists!” The soldier took the keys and walked to the vehicle and began to pray. Then He parked the jeep as the captain wanted. When the soldier got out of the jeep he saw the troops all crying. They all said together, “We want to serve your God!” The young soldier was astonished, and asked what was going on. The Captain opened the hood of the jeep to show the young man that the car had no engine. Then the soldier said, “See. This is the God I serve.”
In the Gems ahead, we have to deal with the interface with the verses before verse 36 and those after it. How in the world do these verses fit together? I will deal with the interface in the following few Gems. I will connect the pieces together for you and then leave you to look at Chapter 5 for yourself. For the moment consider how these two segments go together. How do Chapters four and five fit together?
The Church: a bunch of nobodies, loved By Him and who therefore love everybody and serve anyone and don’t care about becoming somebody.Marny Suntono
Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.Aristotle
Even if we don’t agree with someone, we can disagree agreeably!Joyce Meyer
The happiest people don’t worry too much about whether life is fair or not, they just get on with it.Mick Jagger