I love the book of Acts! It chronicles the genesis of the church all the way through Paul’s missionary journeys and final arrest. If ever there is a potent book on churchology, Acts is it. Acts 2 gives, in my opinion, the “sweet spot” of productivity. All the ingredients are present for productivity, and we see the church quickly flourish and thrive.
Certainly conditions were right for this kind of initial growth, but it’s the sustained growth that is also impressive. In Acts, the common theme among Christians is commonality–everyone had all things in common. This is incredibly rare in divisive environments. But in Acts, the Christians didn’t lay claim to their own possessions and their foundation was built upon sharing. They shared meals together. They shared possessions and gave to the needy. They shared their time together. They were the polar opposite of possessive.
Luke records it this way: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. . . And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:42, 44 ESV). They were glad, thanking and praising God! They were genuinely thankful to be in one another’s company. This really is the perfect combination of factors that lead to productive growth and sincerity in faith.
While it’s very important to equip people for works of ministry, it’s just as critical to equip people to be selfless and to devote themselves to fellowship, instruction, and prayer.
If we actually go through the gospels and look at the glaring consistency of Jesus, we see that he was far more interested in healing than following traditions. Each gospel writer arranged their books with a specific purpose in mind. The stories aren’t necessarily chronological as much as they are thematic. In Matthew’s gospel, he arranges his stories to fit mathematical equations (he was a tax collector, after all), the discourses of Jesus to mimic the first five books of the Old Testament, and demonstrates how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.
Within that structure, Matthew focuses heavily on Jesus’ ministry to heal and preach. As the stories unfold, he sprinkles in stories that interrupt the flow of Jesus’ ministry. These stories are about religious leaders. For example, right after the healing of all who were sick in Gennesaret, The Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat” (Matthew 15:2 ESV).
Rather than get into a full on argument or debate (which in churches can last for long periods of time), Jesus rebukes them and goes back to healing people. He had no interest in winning arguments. That was a waste of time and kept him from ministering to people in need. The very next things Jesus did were healing a woman’s daughter from a demon, healing many along the Sea of Galilee, and feeding a hungry crowd of 4,000. To say Jesus was busy serving was an understatement.
Enter the Pharisees and Sadducees. “And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven” (Matthew 16:1). Testing Jesus. Let that sink in. He was exercising the greatest form of compassion on mankind. He was healing, feeding, and redeeming people–setting the captives free and treating them with dignity and respect. And the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test him. They couldn’t help themselves. They were deconstructing what Jesus was accomplishing.
Jesus was clear that followers of him must do all that he commanded. We all are essential workers in the kingdom of God. Jesus’ clear example to us demonstrates that serving others in need takes priority over everything else. This is the fulfillment of the Law. Loving our neighbors requires service to others.
God is a God of revival. Joseph’s brothers hated him. They let jealousy take root and became very corrupt-to the point of throwing him in a well, selling him into slavery, and telling their father Jacob that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. This lie was perpetuated for decades.
Meanwhile, Joseph rose to power in Egypt. He was made second in command to the Pharaoh himself. Joseph interpreted a dream where there would be 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine. During the 7 years, storehouses were build and grain was piled up throughout Egypt. When the famine was at its worst, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food for their starving family. They didn’t know that the man they were speaking to was Joseph. Later Joseph revealed himself to them and they all wept bitterly.
Joseph forgave his brothers and they brought Jacob and all his siblings into Egypt to live. When Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers feared that Joseph would retaliate and kill them. So they lied one more time to say that Jacob left this command: “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you (Genesis 50:17 ESV). Joseph’s response reflects his integrity: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones” (Genesis 50:19-21).
Joseph spoke kindly to them. This story is powerful on so many levels. Joseph’s brothers repented. They not only begged for forgiveness, but they laid themselves down at Joseph’s feet and said, “Behold, we are your servants” (Genesis 50:18). God redeems horrific patterns of deception and sin when there is repentance. The story of Joseph is our story. Even when we sin, God is working His purpose. When we repent, revival can take place. Joseph’s family became well established in Egypt. They were fruitful and multiplied. Through God’s mercy they were spared.
Photo by Amaury Gutierrez on Unsplash