June 18, 2023
The effect that the Early Church had on their world came from the witness of their community.
7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Acts 1:7–8 (NASB1995)
The early Church had a compelling influence on their world without any political power or social status or popularity. There is a way to reignite that influence.
A Church on Fire: 6 Distinctives of the Early Church that you could be, too:
Last week, we covered the first three distinctives:
1. You are a community of call and witness
2. You are a community of fire and Spirit
3. You are a community of healing and restoration
There are two that we’re going to get to:
4. You are a community of radical generosity
5. You are a community honored by suffering
Today, we will discuss number 6:
#6. You Are a Community of Irresistible Influence (Acts 4)
“… for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Acts 4:20 (NASB1995)
“13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”
Acts 4:13 (NASB1995)
29 “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence,
30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”
31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”
Acts 4:29-31 (NASB1995)
A Community of Irresistible Influence
1. What Is This Quality?
Is it confidence? That’s the word the text uses: “Confident.” So what does that word mean?
Translated “confident” and then “boldness”?
It can mean bold, it can mean “not timid”, or uninhibited But when you see it used in Acts, it has characteristics of being “bold, open, and effective” In Acts, it has the implications of being “convincing, compelling, and effective.”
And notice the contradictions:
In verse 13, the rulers couldn’t understand such confidence, skill, calmness, and clarity from such totally uneducated and untrained people.
These highly educated and sophisticated leaders were being confounded by ignoramuses.
The point is that the inner quality made them irresistible. This boldness, or confidence, or unashamedness, or joyful openness affected the world around them.
The quality was an irresistible influence that didn’t come from the usual sources, political power, or social standing, or just sheer popularity.
2. Where Did This Quality Come From?
In verse 12: “they began recognizing them as having been with Jesus”
They were deeply affected by Jesus, Himself.
They recognized that these people had been with Jesus.
They had been with Him. Walked with Him for 3 and a half years. Lived with Him.
Affected by His teaching.
Affected so much more by His life, His character, who He was when He was with them.
And then, their lives were set on fire, when they touched His wounds after His resurrection.
Their effect was because of the witness of their community:
There is a huge difference between a witness and a bystander If see something and you testify about it – you’re a witness of it.
If you see something, and close your mouth – you’re just a bystander.
This was a community marked by the presence of Christ.
3. How Did This Quality Affect Their Lives?
They became deeply committed to following Christ with their whole hearts
Like Stephen in Acts 7 – who gave his life for Christ as a martyr
Like James the Apostle in Acts 12 – who gave his life for Christ as a martyr
Like the hundreds and hundreds that were arrested and imprisoned by Saul the persecutor.
Like Paul – who was set out to be stoned to death and left for dead, but got up and went back to the city to share the gospel
Like Priscilla and Aquila in Romans 16 – who risked their necks for the gospel
Like Epaphroditus in Philippians 2 – who came close to death for Christ
And hundreds and thousands more in the early years of the Church.
It means they lived their lives completely for Christ.
It meant that they lived really distinctively.
They were different from the world around them.
They were under the rule of the Roman empire.
They were the complete opposite of the culture around them.
Their sexual ethics the opposite of Rome
They believe sex was a sacred gift given by God for the purpose of a man and woman to create oneness in marriage. So sacred that it was only for the marriage relationship.
The Romans thought sex was recreation and indulged in all forms of it in public places.
The way they saw the value of every soul was the opposite of Rome
The Romans thought if you had a baby and it was a girl and you didn’t want it, or it was one too many and didn’t want it, take the baby to an isolated place and leave it so that it would die of exposure.
This little group of Christ followers believed that every human was born in the image of God and every soul was of infinite value. So they saved babies from exposure.
Their value for what love is -- was the opposite of Rome
Roman culture thought love was a weak quality. The highest quality was if others feared you.
This little group of Christ-followers said that Jesus taught us to love others the way we love ourselves, to love each other, to love the stranger in need, to love our enemies.
Kindness, mercy, and compassion for other individuals was at the heart of their lives. No Roman or pagan religion agreed with that at all.
Their values and principles and lives were the opposite of the whole culture around them.
They were disparaged AND magnetic at the same time because of the effect of the way they lived their lives.
They were completely devoted to Jesus, Himself.
They were personally devoted to Him as the example, leader, and nourisher of their individual lives. They had been with Jesus.
It made them the fellowship of the unashamed.
“Fellowship of the Unashamed”
The origin of this writing is not crystal clear, but it is most often attributed to a pastor from the African continent from over 40 years ago who was about to be martyred.
I am part of the "Fellowship of the Unashamed." The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Christ Jesus. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future secure.
I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I now live by presence, lean by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.
My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.
I will not flinch in the fact of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I am a disciple of Christ Jesus. I must give until I drop and preach until all know. And when my time is up, He will have no problem recognizing me. My colors will be clear.
I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ… (Romans 1:16).
(source: Dr. Bob Moorehead, from his book "Words Aptly Spoken")