Today we will ponder this question: what church is good? What church is healthy?
As you recognize in today’s passage, there were so many changes inward and outward of the people who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord. The key of these changes in the believers was the Holy Spirit. Once they were filled with the Holy Spirit, the disciples received the powers from the Holy Spirit and also they were able to live as the witness of the Lord. The changes of Peter were dramatic. He became a warrior. He became a powerful person. His sermon made 3,000 people believe in Jesus Christ.
Let’s do a simple calculation. If one person is baptized within one minute, an apostle should spend 3,000 min (i.e. 50 hours). If 12 apostles baptized the converters, they needed at least 5 hours. It was amazing. The work of the Holy Spirit caused the changes inside and also outside of the people. The believers devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship to the breaking of bread and also to prayer. They became a big family. It would be natural to pray like this. “My Lord, would you change our church like this?”
However, we may realize that we are also studying the Bible; we are sharing our lives with other believers; we have a good fellowship; we do the breaking of bread and to prayer. All of the churches in the world do the same things. They also read the bible to know who God is; what God asks us to be. Nonetheless, many local churches seem to be different from the earlier church at Jerusalem. The contents in vers. 43-45 will explain the differences.
“Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need (Acts 2:43-45)”
This passage clearly shows that the life of people was changed dramatically. Because of the instincts of human, people tend to work for their own needs; to have more and more although they have enough. However, we can see that the believers seemed to abandon their desires. The apostles didn’t ask to live like this. They didn’t threaten them to live otherwise the believers would fail. The believers did everything through the Holy Spirit with joy and gladness. The rich helped the poor; the strong believers supported the weak believers. They wanted to see others every day. These were the changes of people who were filled with the Holy Spirit.
You can see these phenomena until the chapter 4. After this, it is not easy to find such a wonderful things at the churches. Therefore, some scholars explained that these things happened in the early church of Jerusalem. However, do we need to learn a principle found in today’s passage? If the church found in today’s passage would be ideal and also healthy, we need to follow it. What we need to do for that church is “to love”.
Let’s go back the question. Which church is good? Which church is healthy?
Of course, it is important for us to study the bible a lot; to receive gifts of the Holy Spirit; to serve others. All of these would give us a reputation to be a good church. However, we should remember that the good church is filled with love.
The commandments that our Lord asked to his people is to love.
Last week we read the chapter 22 of Matthew at the bible reading. The law teacher asked the question which commandment is the greatest in the Law. Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
What we saw in the early church at Jerusalem was to love God and to love their neighbors.
To love their God, they taught and performed the Holy Communion to remember Jesus; praised God; prayed to God. These things presented how to love God. They shared what they had, which was the love for their neighbors. It is not easy to share our possession without love. It is not easy to take care of the poor and weak people. It would be not easy to give up their own profits, however, they did, which was favor to the people in Jerusalem. It is natural for people to want to be member of that church. This is the result of love. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47)”
It is a good church to love God and also to love our neighbors.
One of churches found in the bible is Corinthian’s church. Paul described this church like this:
For in him you have been enriched in every way--in all your speaking and in all your knowledge-- because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
This is from another reading: I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, it seemed that that church was a nice and growing and even mature. They had all of gifts from the Holy Spirit and they were enriched in Him. However there were some conflictions at that church. There were quarrels; they were divided because of their favors: “I am of Paul,” and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, I of Christ’
Thus Paul recommended them like this, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
As you seen, people at the early church in Jerusalem had the same minds. That was a reason why they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They come together with glad and sincere hearts.
Thus, this was the evaluation of the church in Corinth.
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? (1 Cor. 3:1-3).”
Paul treated them as a baby although they had all of gifts from the Holy Spirit. Why? What they needed was “love”. Thus, Paul instructed them, “but now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Let’s ponder what happened at the church of Jerusalem. They loved each other. They had hearts to love the Lord and their neighbors. Without love, we could not explain these phenomena.
Which church is good?
You may see some church has a specialized cooker; they have state-of-art facilities and convenient and clean place. They are full of programs that people love to attend. Maybe it would be a good church. No it is not a good church in terms of the biblical language. These churches may be called as a weird church.
The church should love the cross of Jesus and follow the commandments that our Lord teaches us. Then, our church will be good and also healthy. We need love.
Love is like water that we pour out in the pot with holes. We feel sometimes that to love is to waste our strengths and resources. However, we will learn what happens when we love.
When I was young, I saw that how my grandmother nourished bean sprouts with water. She poured out water and flowed through the pot that had holes at the bottom. However, the bean sprouts grew up, which means that water was not wasted.
The church needs your love. Your home needs your love. Your love will make the church good and healthy. Your love will make your home good and healthy. I hope that we all get gifts from the Holy Spirit. However, we should long for the greater gift, which is love. What church is healthy and good? It is the church where people who love each other. The reason why God allows us to come together here to love God and to love our neighbors. Without love, everything is vague. We should do everything in the church with love. Then, our Lord will give praise to us. The Lord will grow us good church and also healthy church is our church. Please pray for our church. What happened at the early church at Jerusalem will happen here also. Let’s love God and our neighbor.
Let’s sing together: ‘Love is”