A local church is not a business establishment with a cross stuck on top. Rather, the church Jesus promised to build is a spiritual entity, and He alone is the Head. So what did the church look like when Christ began building?
Looking in on the Early Church Journey forward in our time tunnel about one year. We're no longer in Caesarea Philippi; we are now in the Holy City of Jerusalem. The religious leaders of Israel and the civil leaders of Rome have condemned Christ to death on a cross, but just as He promised His disciples, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day! Though His enemies did their best to explain away the empty tomb, there He stood; and His presence rejuvenated His followers.
Days later, just before the Lord ascended and returned to heaven, He told His followers to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5
). On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and transformed that small group of followers—a group of about 120 women and men—and they began to do what Jesus said they would do when the Spirit of God came upon them. Boldly and courageously, they became His witnesses in Jerusalem (Acts 1:8
, Acts 1:15
; Acts 2:5-11
). Their witness spread quickly. Soon followers of Jesus emerged hundreds of miles beyond Jerusalem. What was happening? Just as He had promised in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus had begun to build His church!
The apostle Peter stood up and delivered a powerful message to the multitudes of Jerusalem, introducing them to the Messiah Jesus. I love it that the Lord used Peter to share the message. Peter was the one who first called Jesus "the Christ, the Son of the living God"; he was the one to whom Jesus spoke when He first promised to build His church; and remember, it was Peter who had denied Christ just a couple of months before. What grace! Jesus used Peter's message to reach those first converts in Jerusalem on the day the church began. What a response: "So then, those who had received His word were baptized; and that day there were
added about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41
Notice that when the people heard the good news about Jesus, they received Peter's message. The original term means they recognized the truth for what it was and believed it. That's how a person becomes a Christian. That's how the church is built: You hear of Christ's death for your sins, and you believe in Him—you receive Him by faith. Those who believed Peter's message were baptized that day. We read that they numbered about three thousand people. Remarkable!
John R.W. Stott observed, "The body of Christ in Jerusalem multiplied 26 times from 120 to 3,120." Suddenly, there are three thousand brand-new sheep in God's flock.