on the sermons of 10.29.06

Unlike the wave of Reformation Sunday postings I see from my friends (well, two of them [1, 2]… I guess that count’s as a wave…) I stuck with the Bible for our preaching this week! [joke, joke!!]

Today we moved from the Synoptic Gospels to the Acts of the Apostles. Our reading for this series will become much more straightforward now, no more two verses here, ten verses there, and back to another three verses in a third Gospel.

Our first message centered around The Day of Pentecost. Our proposition: The arrival of the Holy Spirit as the indwelling gift of God to every believer changed everything about obedient, scriptural religion. We talked about the paradigm shift of Pentecost, the ‘mother of all paradigm shifts’. Chapter 1 of Acts was treated as Pentecost in Anticipation, then the description of the arrival of the Spirit and the tongues that followed as Pentecost in Realization. Peter’s sermon is Pentecost in Explanation, and the last few verses of Acts 2 that describe the life of the incipient church is Pentecost in Application. Pentecost changed everything then, and it should change everything now. The change is what must most be seen.

The second message covered the Intensifying Opposition the church experienced in its first two years between Acts 3-5. I noted the crackdown on evangelical schools in Quebec last week in our introduction (see earlier post). The proposition was: The world’s opposition to the church centers on the extent to which the name of Christ is propagated by the church. This sermon only had two points: the central feature of apostolic work and ministry, Jesus the Messiah; the central focus of the antagonists to the work of Christ, Jesu the Messiah. I traced the references to the name of Jesus Christ as Peter healed the lame man, preached to the crowd, was arrested by the Sadducees, confronted the chief priests, was prohibited from speaking in ‘this name’, defied the prohibition with increasing numbers being added, the second arrest (of all twelve apostles) and Peter again confronting the priests with their guilt in slaying Christ, the beating they endured, and joy they experienced for suffering for the name of Christ. In all of this, Christ is central. If the apostles had been starting soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and so on, the name of Christ would have little offense. But since the apostles were preaching repentance and conversion in the name of Christ, it was a different story. It will be a different story for us today if we preach Christ as the grounds for repentance and conversion with the same force and conviction.

Last, we had a message that picked up little portraits of church life scattered through Acts 2-6, in a message entitled Infused with Joy. The proposition: The spirit that characterizes a healthy, living church is joy. First the last few verses of Acts 2 speak of the Joy of First Love. Part of this is the newness of it all, but more is the priority Christ plays in the life of the church, especially the devotion to the apostles teaching, to ‘the fellowship’ (article in the Greek), to the breaking of bread, and prayers. The main emphasis of the word ‘First’ in the point is to priority of place, not order of experience. The second vignette comes from 4.23-5.17 as the Joy of Effective Ministry (in spite of the negative example of Ananias and Sapphira). Except for one pair of frauds, the work progresses as the church exercises effective prayer, powerful personal testimony (Barnabas), fear in the face of discipline (A & S), and increasing numbers the result. Last, we looked at 5.41-6.7 as the Joy of Enduring Trials – this comes with the rejoicing after the beating and the wisdom of overcoming internal dissension by appointing deacons. Ac 6.7 summarizes the situation very well at this point: “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” Even Priests (mostly Sadducees!!) were believing! What a transformation! If our churches today are going to be healthy, we need this kind of joy in our assemblies.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

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