Throughout the past school year, our church has been studying the book of Acts. I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching through this exciting book. As we've been working through it, I have found myself being inspired by the early church and the way that they understood and lived their lives. Here are a few observations from the church in Acts of things that I hope will continue to develop in myself and our church.
1. Their commitment to the mission of God.
The mission of God is front and center and frames the entire story. The disciples seem to have a laser focus on their role to "be witnesses" for Jesus (Acts 1:8) no matter where they go. They have an understanding that their mission field is right where they are, no matter what they are doing. I wonder what it would be like if the church today had the same mindset.
2. Their expectation of the work of the Holy Spirit.
The book of Acts could also be called, The Acts of the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit is the primary character in the story (Acts 2:1-12). The Spirit is the one who convicts, changes hearts, grows the church, leads and directs the disciples on their mission. The Spirit is always present and at work furthering the gospel throughout the world. The early church relied on the Spirit moment by moment. Sometimes, I rely on my ingenuity, skill set, experience, etc., instead of first seeking the Spirit on what to do.
3. Their acceptance of the supernatural.
Between the signs and wonders of the Apostles, the miraculous escapes from prison, and the amazing manifestations of the Spirit, the early church expected God to do amazing things (Acts 5:12ff). As "modern" people, we can be skeptical about the supernatural. However, Acts reminds us that God is alive and active. Therefore, we should regularly be looking for God to break into our world and affect our lives.
4. Their courage.
From the get-go, the early church was faced with an uphill battle. The Jewish leaders were trying everything in their power to intimidate and hinder the growth of the church and the spread of the gospel. The early disciples stood their ground and stood up to the religious system of the day saying that they would continue to preach about Jesus even if it cost them their lives (Acts 4:8-20). As I read Acts, I wish for half of the courage that they had.
5. Their radical generosity.
People were wholeheartedly committed to the calling of God on their lives. It showed in the way they used their possessions and money. There are multiple stories telling of the way early church members sold pieces of property and homes to ensure that the church had the resources it needed to sustain and fund the mission (Acts 2:45, 4:32). Their prioritization of the community over themselves is extraordinary.
6. Their ability to enter into new territory.
As the story progresses, the gospel spreads all over the Roman world (Acts 13-19). But not only did the early disciples move into new geographic locations, they also moved into new spiritual realities. The inclusion of the Gentiles was a major shift for the family of God (Acts 10-11). As with any change, there was resistance, confusion, and opposition. But, calling on their courage, they were able to push through the resistance and step into a new reality with new boundary markers for who was included in God's family.
7. Their ability to persevere through suffering.
In some of his letters, The Apostle Paul details the suffering that he endured while spreading the gospel (2 Cor. 11). There's also a story in Acts 14 where he is attacked with rocks and left for dead outside the city gates in Lystra (v19-20). But it didn't get him down. He got up and went right back into the city, determined to carry on the work God had given him.
As I have spent a year reading, studying, and teaching this book, I hope that some of these characteristics will begin to surface in my life as well.
For those of you who have been following along with our series (or if you've studied Acts in some other context), what observations about the early church have impacted you?