The Way in Which the Church of Jerusalem
Grew (Part 1)
Holy Spirit Monthly – Issue 286
After Jesus’ resurrection, He
repeatedly appeared to the disciples for forty days. He showed Himself to these
men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He also spoke about the kingdom of God to re-establish the weakened faith
of the disciples.
Before Jesus’ ascension, He
especially instructed the disciples to stay in Jerusalem
to wait for the promised Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit would empower
them to be witnesses for the Lord in Jerusalem,
in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the world.
So according to Jesus’ words the
disciples gathered together in constant prayer. As Jesus had spoken, the Holy
Spirit came down on the day of Pentecost and deeply moved the hearts of the
disciples, and many Jews from abroad also witnessed this unforgettable event.
There were about one hundred and twenty believers when the first church was
established in Jerusalem.
Immediately following the downpour
of the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up and delivered a magnificent speech. He used
the Old Testament Scriptures and the miraculous signs of Jesus to explain how
God established Jesus as the Lord and Christ.
The Spirit deeply pierced the
hearts of many as they came to realize the way to salvation. And on that day,
three thousand were baptized and added to the fold.
One would foresee the onset of
many problems in managing the believers, such as the lack of space for worship,
and conflicts among people and such—especially with the exponential increase
that they experienced.
But instead, the expansion of the
church created a special style of spiritual living that brought harmony among
the believers, who came from places all over Europe, Asia, and Africa (Acts
2:9-11). They became the seeds of the gospel and were significant to the birth
of the gentile church later on.
Looking at our present-day church,
we can identify many difficulties related to church growth, and if a church
does grow there are other challenges in pastoring the members and administering
the work of the church. Therefore, we need to observe and learn from the
spiritual characteristics of the early Jerusalem
church in order to benefit and edify the faith of the believers today.
The goal of our church should
focus on how to revive the same spiritual qualities and lifestyle that once
existed in the early church in Jerusalem.
The remainder of this article will analyze these characteristics and how they
are crucial to the development of the church.
Be Diligent in Learning the Word—They Devoted
Themselves to the Apostles’ Teachings
After the Pentecost, faced with
such a large number of new believers, the apostles actively pushed forward the
work of teaching the members to break through their old beliefs and to truly
understand the salvation of Christ.
Together, all the believers
devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and submitted to their
authority—which laid a beautiful and solid foundation for the way of the truth
A solid education in God’s word,
and especially at the beginning phase of one’s faith, is a crucial factor for
the development of the church as a whole, and it becomes a good motivation for
the growth of all believers.
Build Up the Faith of New Believers
For a new Christian, especially
one who has been converted from another religion, he or she often continues
under the influence of old beliefs, which can mire the growth of his or her
faith. One such example in the Bible is the reaction of the Israelites at the
foot of Mount Sinai, where they took things into their own hands because of
their impatience and reverted back to their worship of a golden calf (Ex
Therefore, to ensure that every
believer’s faith starts off on firm ground, the church should emphasize the
teachings of biblical truths, because the Bible testifies about the Lord Jesus
and possesses eternal life. Therefore, one should come before Christ to
diligently study the Scriptures (Jn 5:39-40).
Studying the truth should begin at
the early stages of seeking the truth. The church needs to encourage seekers to
learn from the example of the Bereans, who received
the gospel with great eagerness and daily examined the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).
This way, all who come to seek the Lord will recognize the need to rid
themselves of all their immoral ways and humbly accept God’s words.
Over time, they will shed the
newness of their faith and become strong and mature Christians—ones who can
live out the truth and receive the blessings of the Lord (Jas 1:20-25).
Submit to Authority
The unity of the church leaders is
also a key factor in the effectiveness of the work of teaching and spreading
the gospel (Acts 2:1,14). Also, the believers should
respectfully acknowledge those who lead them as men who must give an account to
God (Heb 13:7).
Even though some leaders within
the church may not be better than the believers in terms of their social
status, education, or abilities, the message that they deliver is of the Bible
and according to the truth, and it should be accepted not as words of men but
God’s word, which is working in those who believe (1 Thess 2:13).
Among our predecessors, there have
been many church leaders who have received spiritual authority from God. They
might have been uneducated, ordinary men like Peter and John, but they displayed
astonishing courage and were recognized as men who had been with Jesus (Acts
God also used miracles and wonders
to confirm the words they preached and to mark them as apostles (Acts 2:43; Mk
16:20; 2 Cor 12:12). How shall we escape if we ignore these testimonies because
of our own personal prejudices (Heb 2:3-4)?
In comparison to these
predecessors, the church leaders today in fact have more advantages. Therefore,
they should put more effort into spiritual cultivation, prayer, and training to
serve, in order to receive the same authority as the apostles and be worthy of
the respect of believers.
Emphasize Holy Spirit and Truth
Every person who has received the
Holy Spirit and tasted the goodness of Him is able to regard the priceless
treasure that is this gift from God, and to feel the joy and wonderment of this
guarantee of heaven.
Imagine the spiritual excitement
of the Jerusalem
church when they first experienced the Holy Spirit. Everyone must have rejoiced
in praying in tongues and being immersed in the joy of the Spirit. It is just like what many of us have
experienced before—in dance, in laughter and weeping, and in miracles.
The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit
of truth, and He comes to guide us into all truth and to reveal to us the
things that are to come (Jn 16:13), for the Spirit searches all things—even the
deep things of God (1 Cor 2:10).
However, if spiritual experiences
are not based on the truth, then it often leaves room for Satan to work. It
causes people to become proud, allows the evil spirit to infect prayers, and
even corrupts the mind from the simplicity that is in Christ to change the
gospel (2 Cor 11:3-4). There are numerous examples of such incidents throughout
church history, and they should serve as warnings to us.
Be Filled with Love—They Devoted Themselves to
Now all who believed were together, and had all
things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among
all, as anyone had need. (Acts 2:44-45)
Here we can see how the early
church displayed such a beautiful image of unity and harmony among the
believers. They had fellowship with each other and lived according to the order
of love. Not only did they comfort and help one another, but they also had all
things in common.
This was not an institution of
communism; rather, everyone voluntarily shared with one another what they had,
based on their love for each other. They understood that their possessions were
only entrusted to them by God and did not belong to them. So they were willing to
offer according to the needs of each one.
Such fellowship of love tightly
knit the hearts of the believers and resulted in the formation of a special
spiritual bond. And great grace was upon them all—none amongst their midst was
found lacking (Acts 4:32-35).
In modern society, many churches
have become like the Ephesian church of the early
days and have forsaken their first love (Rev 2:4)—becoming estranged from the
church. They no longer feel they are a part of the spiritual family and
naturally lose their connection with others. This is why the church needs to
actively promote the establishment of a life of fellowship and encourage
believers to show love and support for one another.
A Life of Fellowship
Philippians 2:1-2 provides us with
a great setting of this kind of fellowship lifestyle. Fellowship allows us to
receive consolation in Christ and to be comforted by His love. When everyone
fellowships within the Holy Spirit, there exists an affection and mercy among
the believers—everyone is able to be like-minded, having the same love, being
of one accord, and of one love. Apart from material things that we can share in
fellowship, we ought to share the perfect life that we possess and eventually
become one with God (Jn 17:21).
Today, our church life is a life
of a larger fellowship. It is something that every believer should devote
himself or herself to in participation. No one can alienate themselves from
this fellowship unless they do not belong to Christ and are not part of
Within this larger fellowship,
smaller fellowships can be formed based on specific needs such as age, racial
background, common interests, etc. These fellowships are established to address
believers’ varying needs.
However, they are all for the sole
purpose of helping us learn how to live a life of
community and to help us experience the spirit of love within the church. As
members of one body, we can have communion with one another, learn to give,
learn to receive, and learn to share in joy and suffering. Not only is each
individual edified in love; ultimately, the body of Christ will be built up (1
Cor 12:25-27; Eph 4:16).
Have All Things in Common
Many believers have seen the needs
of the church and made offerings of land, possessions, and great sums of money.
They do this because they themselves have experienced God’s grace. Some offer
to help with the building of a new church structure, while others offer
themselves to do specific work within the church. But all offer willingly and
sincerely out of their love and gratitude towards God.
Apart from such love and
generosity, every household’s regular tithe offering, as well as the same type
of offering as the widow’s two small coins, are all great contributions that
further holy work in church. After receiving these offerings, the church then
effectively and efficiently utilizes them so that every member can share in
them, which is the true spirit of “having all things in common” within the
What is the Bible referring to
when it describes how the believers “gave to anyone as he had need”? Some
suspect that the church was so eager for the second coming of the Lord at the
time, that they no longer emphasized worldly pursuits. So they met together
every day and stopped working, and everyone was living off of the offerings
that were made to the church through the selling of their possessions.
The Bible does not detail exactly
what happened, but even if that were the case, it must have been to fulfill
God’s wonderful will so that the workers of God at the time could preach the
gospel without worrying about their families.
When applying this description to
the church today, it contains a special meaning. How can the church, based on
various church plans and budgets, use the money that it receives from members’
offerings to fulfill the needs of different groups, fellowships, and the growth
of each member within the church?
The church has the responsibility
to utilize the resources it receives from members, to properly manage its
finances, and to ensure that yearly work plans are implemented, so that the
church is not advancing without a clear or constructive direction. Ultimately,
everyone can enjoy the goodness of being in God’s household and be spiritually
We are also reminded to “give to
anyone as he has need,” for Christian fellowship is also about Christian
caring, and Christian caring is about Christian sharing. It is the
responsibility of a spiritual group as a whole to take care of the members’
needs so that no one lives in poverty.
Let us not love with words or tongue
but with actions and in truth, because only the kind of love that is
accomplished by actions has true value (Jas 2:15; 1 Jn 3:18).
The Breaking of Bread and Prayer
The pursuit of the truth focuses
on personal establishment of a genuine faith, and a life of fellowship of love
emphasizes giving and receiving between individuals. But the most basic and
precious thing about faith is how one establishes a close relationship with
To have a close relationship with
God depends on how we fear Him and interact with Him through daily activities.
These activities include singing hymns, praying with thanksgiving, worshipping
at church, having meals with other believers, partaking of the Holy Communion,
building good relationships with others, etc.
We can see how the members in the Jerusalem church devoted
themselves to worship and lived a life of faith. Every day, they continued to
meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate
together with glad and sincere hearts—praising God and enjoying the favor of
all the people (Acts 2:46-47). A great spiritual power tied everyone closely
together and helped the church operate smoothly and grow rapidly without losing
harmony or direction.
Similarly, today’s church should
also stress more than sermon preaching and teaching of the truth; she should
emphasize helping the believers’ growth in body, heart and spirit, so they
might know how to worship God in their lives and in every corner of society.
The church should emphasize the
A balanced and diverse style of worship
As we consider the way the members
of the early church worshipped, we see that there were some who taught, some
who gave testimonies, and some who sang hymns as they broke bread and prayed
together. They also had long sessions of service, and their service activities
included many different styles. There were prayers and evangelism in the temple
as well as fellowships in their homes.
In the same way, the church today
should avoid inflexible styles of worship, especially when faced with diverse
congregations in which people have different needs yet desire to have more
interactions with each other. If church service only consists of unidirectional
sermon listening, it is insufficient to satisfy people’s empty spirit.
Therefore, the church should make
use of the regular scheduled service time and other annual events such as
spiritual convocations and special services to plan different types of services
that target different groups of people, and encourage every member to participate
in the preparation of these events.
However, no matter what kind of
service it is, preachers along with other ministers should lead the whole
congregation in worship to create an atmosphere that is both reverent and
joyful. Consequently, everyone who comes to church can naturally experience the
true joy and love that “the Lord’s tabernacle is among the people.”
But there are also erroneous
concepts that we need to correct. For example, some people consider eating and
chatting in church unspiritual, so they always rush in and out of services and
refuse to have meals and converse with other brothers and sisters.
between church members is part of our life of worship. As long as we are
not gossiping, speaking things that are not beneficial to others, and we are
not like the Corinthian church in creating divisions, arguments and mixing Holy
Communion with regular meals (1 Cor 11:17-31), then God is among us in
everything we do.
God is willing to share His
blessings with those who belong to Him and love Him. In Old Testament times,
people were able to eat and enjoy their offerings after they gave sacrifices to
the Lord (Deut 12:6-7). Some suggest that in such a corrupted social culture,
where recreational activities are polluted with immorality, the church can
provide a healthy recreational environment for the believers, where they could
enjoy activities without having to find them elsewhere.
Therefore, apart from planning and
pursuing a higher quality of worship, church leaders should not neglect to
create a healthy and pleasant church environment so that believers can have
more opportunities to mingle with others and unite in God’s love.
The importance of both church and family service
After many Jews were converted to
believe in the Lord, they no longer participated in the rituals of sacrifice in
the temple, but continued to join in the regular temple prayers and preached
the gospel. At the same time, they also held less formal, freewill services in
their homes to substitute for the rituals in the temple.
Even though we also focus very
much on chapel worship today, and we have many regular services scheduled, we
should also not neglect the importance and value of having family services.
Family services provide a more
informal and friendly atmosphere, and allow believers an opportunity to be more
relaxed and open about their feelings and thoughts. This format is especially
suitable for fellowship sharing and getting to know visitors and those who seek
the truth. Also, family services provide
a conducive learning environment for all.
During family services, we can
focus on becoming good mediators between the church and our unbelieving family,
friends, and relatives. At the same time, we can make use of this opportunity
to train more pastoral workers by giving them a place to practice the things
they learn. Furthermore, it is an excellent way to allow the believers to know
and understand more about each other, and help them learn how to live a life of
Each local church can divide the
members into small groups according to their geological locations, and arrange
to have family services in each area. If there are families with special needs,
then the church can arrange to have special family services to address their
In addition, having family services
in each other’s homes is a good way to establish family altars. It gives the
children an opportunity to learn about the words of God from a young age, so
that their faith can grow steadfastly. It also helps to nourish good family
A healthy and complete life of
faith must be a balance of a more formal and reverent worship at church, as
well as a more informal and dynamic worship at home. Neither should be