As some of you know, the title for our podcast, “Fire On Your Head” comes from the second chapter of the book of Acts when the Holy Spirit came down on the believers in the upper room and they were baptized in the Holy Spirit for the first time, spoke in new tongues, and Peter got up and preached to those who came out to see what was going on, and the result was that 3000 onlookers got saved and the community of believers [ who were not yet called "Christians”] grew.
They multiplied, they grew exponentially and that’s just in that one day. Nevermind the movement that went on in the years to come of the early church.
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Some thoughts I hashed out in more detail in today’s episode
It’s easy for many Christians to talk about returning to New Testament Christianity, and point out something in the New Testament that they feel we aren’t doing enough of in the modern Church. They might zero in on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and say because they themselves flow in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, they are a New Testament church. Meanwhile, others might have those gifts too, but instead focus on the aspects of the book of Acts where believers shared all things in common, such as their possessions, and how they ate meals together regularly and then they say “ah! see, we do this, because we want to be a New Testament church”, but they may have absolutely no power of the Holy Spirit. They might not even believe in the gifts of the Spirit!
I’ve noticed that every time I hear someone say they’re seeking to return to New Testament Christianity, they usually just mean getting back to one particular aspect, or a handful of points, but not necessarily all of the conditions which surrounded the NT in Acts and the epistles.
It won’t do to turn to passages like Acts 2 and only focus on just the gifts of the Holy Spirit, specifically tongues and being filled with the Holy Spirit after “tarrying” in prayer, but then neglect to include the other aspects that the end of the chapter talks about that the believers were also doing.
Likewise, it won’t do to just focus on the end of the chapter that talks about all the things they had in common and were doing and sharing all their stuff, but then neglect to have the power and flow in the Spirit like the early church did. I notice people who emphasize one aspect can easily fall into the ditch on the other side of the road and neglect the other stuff that the other camp is doing exceptionally well.
It’s one thing to focus on Mark 16 and talk about the signs that accompany believers, but that’s not all there is to restore. For those who don’t know it off-hand, Mark 16:14-20 says:
14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.
Notice that in Mark’s account of the disciples being given the great commission he includes the signs that are to accompany the spreading of the message, no argument from me there! I think the Gospel needs miracles, signs and wonders.
But did you notice that verse 14 says Jesus appeared to them as they were “reclining at table” or that’s fancy Bible language for sitting around after having eaten a good meal. They had unbuckled their belts and were digesting the pizza they just ate (OK it probably wasn’t pizza, but you get the point). They were sitting around doing something that again, extended families may be found doing together.
They had shared a meal!
I’m starting to see this everywhere in the New Testament, not so much that they were found eating meals together when something important happened in the early church, but that they tended to eat together regularly.
More on that in a moment.
But later on in Acts chapter 2, after 3000 were added to their number, it says in Acts 2:42-47:
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ESV)
The subheading in the ESV says The Fellowship of the Believers.
There are a few indicators of what was going on in the early church according to this passage:
- They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (42)
- The fellowship (42)
- To the breaking of bread (42, 46)
- Prayer (42)
- Many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles (43)
- All who believed were together and had all things in common (44-45)
DAY BY DAY are key words here. Attending the temple AND breaking bread in their homes. Not one over the other, but there’s “a both/and” here. The Lord also added to their number day by day.
It’s very difficult not to notice a pattern in these initial chapters of the book of Acts that show us how the early church met and related to one another and it wasn’t a weekly temple meeting. They were quite frequently in each others’ homes and I would posit, in each other’s lives.
If you want to tell me the only way to have church looks like ______ and then fill in the blank with whatever it is you do or where you attend, I’ll be polite and listen to you. I don’t personally care about the structure as much as some may think. We’re just doing what is working for us and helping us to fulfill the great mandate, the great commission to make disciples, which for me is specifically to my neighbours.
I may live in Peru and over the course of years to date have been a missionary here, but I don’t use that word with my neighbours since, I’m their neighbor, right? But if you are making disciples, people are getting saved and you’re helping water that seed and see them deepen their roots in rich soil, then I rejoice with you and congratulate you on a job being done well, no matter the “structure” you’re doing it in.
But if you have the so-called right formula, whether you feel that’s in an organic and/or house church network, or in a liturgical or well-organized denominational church, but yet there’s no fruit, then I’m not impressed either way.
Join me for the next episode, “If Any Man Defile God’s Temple”. If you’ve not subscribed to the podcast make sure to do so so you don’t miss it.
Blessings and fire on your head!