ARReviving the Apostolic ChurchWhether it was a record of a miracle performed or of a sermon spoken, the theme and focus of the early church never strayed from the work of saving souls. Today, are all our church activities truly rooted and motivated by the same commission of the Lord?Whether it was a record of a miracle performed or of a sermon spoken, the theme and focus of the early church never strayed from the work of saving souls. Today, are all our church activities truly rooted and motivated by the same commission of the Lord? This article urges us to look back at the acts of the apostolic church, which can be summarized as a record of how the earliest believers relied on God to accomplish what He commissioned. Knowing the place of God’s power today will help the revived true church of God exhibit even greater glory than the first true church did during the apostolic times–the glory of God.
When the Lord Jesus was on earth, He personally chose twelve disciples,
eleven of whom later became the key players in the earliest stage of the
history of the church. The church in the first century, during the times of
the apostles, is, without dispute, the model church. They preached the set
of doctrines that were imparted to them personally by the Lord, complete and
perfect. Their daily living attested to the zeal and purity of their faith.
Soon after the apostles passed on, heresies crept into the church, and the
church degenerated. What became of the original church of Jesus Christ is to
be found in the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Old Testament—that in
the last days, God would raise up His church again. "On that day, I
will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its
damages; I will raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of
old" (Amos 9:11). This latter church is to be greater than the early
church, for "the glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the
former" (Hag 2:9).
The True Jesus Church is the revival of the apostolic church. The church
preaches the complete gospel of salvation (Gal 1:11-12; 2 Jn 9), miracles
and signs testify to the truth that we preach (Heb 2:4; Mk 16:17), and the
Holy Spirit of God abides in the church (1 Jn 3:24). These facts, however,
should not be cause for complacency, but a motivation for us to zealously
carry out God's commission.
The acts of the early church were recorded during the times of the apostles,
giving rise to the book of Acts. This book sets the standard by which we
measure our own acts today, both as individual believers and collectively as
a church. If our acts were to be recorded today as a sequel to Acts, what
kind of a record would it be? Since we are the revived apostolic church, our
acts ought to follow in the pattern left behind by the early Christians.
Hence, it is necessary that we take a look at Acts again and use it as a
guide and gauge for what we are doing and where we are headed.
THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES AND OUR ACTIVITIES TODAY
Right before the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven, He commissioned His
disciples to go forth and "make disciples of all nations . . . teaching
them to observe all the things" that He commanded (Mt 28:19-20). The
disciples were to be "witnesses for [the Lord] in Jerusalem, and in all
Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). We know
that the earliest disciples did not for a moment forget this great
commission. The entire plot progression in Acts pivots on this one
commission. Whether it was a record of a miracle performed or of a sermon
spoken, or of how the early believers were strengthened in fellowship, the
theme and focus of the early church never strayed from the work of saving
Today, are all our church activities truly rooted and motivated by the same
commission of the Lord? We sometimes hear workers say that doing work for
God is not the same as before. Times have changed. The world has moved on,
and so church work must keep up with the times. One example that comes to
mind is the method of large-scale evangelism. Holding evangelical services
today just isn't the way it was when Peter stood up, spoke, and converted
about three thousand souls. Without doubt, our societies today are far
removed from those during the times of Peter and Paul. We no longer get a
crowd gathering around us to observe us praying in tongues, and hence we
have no chance to be like Peter, to stand up and speak a sermon that
converts thousands of listeners. Even in other aspects of church work, there
seem to be so many things that are necessary today that the apostles did not
have to do during their time.
This brings us then to one very important question. It is a question that
every worker of God, especially those in the position of planning and
organizing, ought to consider. Are the activities we engage in today in the
name of divine work really necessary in the sight of God? Or are we merely
involved in some "much ado about nothing"? We have heard much
exhortation to work while it is day, for when night comes we cannot work (Jn
9:4). That is true. But a potential danger is that we stretch and
overgeneralize this teaching, resulting in the misconception that any work
done in the name of church work is acceptable in God's eyes. What follows
then is that time, money, and energy are channeled into the wrong places
without our realization.
Going back to our earlier example of evangelical work, it has become a trend
in many church locales to have choir presentations. If a church at a
particular locale does not normally have a choir, chances are we will see
them forming an impromptu choir, sincerely thinking that this is the way
things should be. And because it is an ad-hoc choir, the enthusiastic choir
members find themselves spending a large part of their effort and time
struggling to learn some new songs. For all their good intentions, these
members fail to realize that their time could have been better spent
witnessing to their friends and relatives and inviting them to hear the
In other areas of church work, such as the work of religious education,
teachers are often worried that they do not provide enough novelty to the
lessons and activities and that, as a result, the students may not be drawn
to God. The focus on novelty surpasses the concern for spiritual input.
Some members become stressed out by the work involved in spiritual
convocations. As a consequence of the kind gesture of providing good meals
for the attendees, they find themselves more concerned about physical food
than about spiritual food. Is it any wonder, then, to hear people comment
that working for God is not easy?
On one occasion, when the Lord Jesus was preaching at Bethany, two sisters'
actions set up a contrast by which the Lord illustrated a very important
teaching. While Jesus was preaching, Martha, the older sister, was busy
playing the good hostess. Instead of helping Martha, the younger sister,
Mary, sat down at the feet of Jesus to listen to His word. When Martha
complained that Mary did not bother to help her out, Jesus told her that
Mary had chosen the good part, the part that is needful (Lk 10:38-43). Jesus
does not say that the work of serving food is not important. But he does
identify and distinguish between two categories: what is needful and what is
It is not the purpose here to generate a list of the activities that are
needful and those that are not. Situational and locality variations will
inevitably call for different sets of needful activities at different times.
However, as people who have received the blessed calling from God to work
for Him, we must always make sure that we are using God's resources wisely.
Life, time, money, and abilities are but God's resources distributed to
different individuals, so that each may have a part in His holy work. These
gifts must not be mishandled through our ignorance and misconceptions.
If God was able to save thousands in one day during Peter's time, then
surely He is able do the same today. The apostolic church was a
"no-frills" church. Yet they accomplished the Lord's commandment
and successfully preached the gospel to all Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth (which at that time was the furthest ends of
civilization known to them).
When we find that we put in a lot of effort but harvest no true spiritual
growth, we should not be quick to jump to the conclusion that the devil is
foiling our work or that it is but the natural course of things. The first
question to ask, more appropriately, is whether we have done things the way
God really wanted us to. Are we adding all the frills that God never
intended, at the expense of the things that God means for us to do?
CHURCH AND CHURCH BUILDINGS
The early apostolic church may seem "primitive" to some of us.
Even the places of worship did not seem an issue that warranted the kind of
concern that we have today. In contrast, our chapels today are getting more
and more opulent. Endeavors to find a new chapel sometimes take years to see
fruition because some of us set out to find or build a physical building
that exudes enough grandeur so that it can bring glory to God's name.
Or, in other cases, we pride ourselves on being able to dedicate a chapel
that is almost a landmark on the street where it stands, again hoping that
God's name is thus glorified. Some chapels and church offices have the most
modern and impressive interior decor and furniture. Thousands of dollars are
spent on newfangled lighting systems, expensive flooring, and even designer
Such well-meaning efforts in the work of chapel building are certainly
admirable. But, alas, God's name is never glorified as a result of any
physical building. The archetype of modern-day chapels, Solomon's Temple,
far surpassed any of our chapels in the excesses of grandeur. Our most
magnificent buildings today all pale in comparison to the temple furnishings
laden with pure gold.
Yet even the temple built by Solomon was not enough as a source of glory.
Solomon himself acknowledged this: "Will God indeed dwell with men on
earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much
less this temple which I have built!" (2 Chron 6:14). The beauty and
glory of God's creation abound on earth and up in the heavens. God does not
need His children to construct any building to add to His glory.
Chapel building, or which location to use as a place of worship, was never
an issue with the believers in the apostolic times. The book of Acts records
instead how the believers lived in fellowship with one another, and how
their numbers grew.
As the apostle Paul explains, the church is the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27;
Eph 1:23). Individual believers are each the temple of the Holy Spirit of
God, and we should glorify God in our bodies and in our spirit (1 Cor
6:19-20). It is the quantity and quality of believers that can bring glory
to God, not the chapels that we buy or build.
We must be wary of the folly of measuring God's delight in us and our
spiritual advancement in the terms of success defined by the world. Just as
we should try to keep to the essentials in our activities for the service of
God, we should practice parsimony and not waste resources on material
things, such as facilities that far exceed the basic purposes of utility and
THE PLACE OF GOD'S POWER TODAY
Up to this point, some of the things discussed seem completely
counterintuitive to the modern believer. Living in societies that prize
novel plans and advocate being forward-looking, we find it inconceivable
that God actually does not require us to do many of the things that we are
already doing. This feeling is exactly a reflection of the phenomenon that
may have stealthily crept into our consciousness and infiltrated into the
way things are being done in church: we do things in church the way we do
things out in the world.
In the choice of workers for church work, some of us may unconsciously look
up to people who are capable and successful in the world. Of course, being a
worker approved by God and being someone successful in the world are
definitely not mutually exclusive conditions. What is to be noted is a risk
that exists today.
In some church locales, the membership is large and it becomes difficult for
members to know one another on deeper levels than being mere acquaintances.
When it comes to having to choose workers for certain areas of work, we may
lack knowledge about the personal lives and spiritual qualities of fellow
church brethren, and so we tend to believe that someone who is successful in
the world will also be a good worker of God.
A second risk then follows. If a person is successful in the world but is
far away from God as a Christian, that person will bring into the church the
ways he or she handles affairs and situations in the world outside (albeit
unintentionally). Before long, the language and the organizational
strategies of the corporate world may become something everyone thinks is
the way to go.
However, that really is not God's way. Search the whole Bible through and
through. God never relied on worldly methods or worldly advantages to
execute His will. In fact, the way of God often runs contrary to
conventional wisdom and logic. True, there are great men of God who had been
great men in their careers. Joseph, Daniel, and Paul are some names to note.
But as far as bringing about God's purposes, their worldly abilities were
Daniel was not delivered from the lions' mouths because he was learned and
was the premier in his country of exile. Paul explicitly says that
"Christ did not send [him]... with wisdom of words, lest the cross of
Christ should be made of no effect" (1 Cor 1:17). In fact, if Paul had
not put off all the trappings of being a learned Pharisee, God's power would
not have been so mighty upon him.
The Acts can be summarized as a record of how the earliest believers relied
on God to accomplish what He commissioned. The majority of the key players
were uneducated fishermen (Acts 4:13). The educated ones, if God worked with
them, never once relied on their worldly education and abilities. The work
of these believers gave rise to a golden period in the history of the
church, a period in which the Holy Spirit worked mightily. They effected the
words of God: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit" (Zech
Can we say the same for ourselves today? Are we cluttering the church with
principles and ideas of the world? Are we adding frills and extras, making
the cross of Christ and God's power of no effect? These are the very things
that will take away God's glory. It is not too late to do a thorough
introspection of the revived apostolic church now. If need be, we must have
the courage to change and make way for God's power. God's church can never
be God's church if there is too much human noise and human ways.
May the revived true church of God exhibit even greater glory than the first
true church did during the apostolic times—the glory of God.