Nearly two thousand years after its inception, the church continues to flourish. Throughout the centuries God, in His goodness and grace, has seen fit to pour out His blessings upon His elect. And though the church is constructed with the lives of imperfect people, we proceed in growth. How is it that we’ve come this far?
In his book on church history Bruce Shelley remarks that Christians “have insisted that the death of Jesus on the cross, His resurrection from the grave, and the empowering mission of the Holy Spirit are the foundational realities of Christianity.” And we may observe in Acts Luke’s account of the cultivation of these foundations.
In our text today we see the fruits of Peter’s Spirit-filled preaching at Pentecost and the foundations the apostles laid that would sustain the church to the present and throughout the ages. What does a healthy church look like?
I. A Healthy Church Is a Devoted Church (
Occasionally Luke stops to give us a glimpse of the progress of the early church. Here is our first, and here we may observe the marks of a healthy church – both then and now.
A healthy church is devoted to teaching. The early church “continually devot[ed] themselves to the apostles teaching.” Their teaching was Christ-centered and biblically focused. There were thousands who placed there trust in Christ and desperately needed to understand more His nature and how their new relationship should affect their lives.
A healthy church is also devoted to fellowship. There was a real sense of community and shared values in this early gathering of believers. This wasn’t just a pot luck dinner; these early Christians shared true intimacy and depended on their fellow saints.
A healthy church is devoted to celebrating the Lord’s supper. A church that teaches Christ and lives Christ in community will long to remember His sacrifice.
A healthy church is devoted to prayer. This early assembly understand their dependance on God for all things. They knew the necessity of communing with the Giver and Sustainer of life.
II. A Healthy Church Is a Giving Church (
As the author goes on he mentions that these early believers were in awe of what was taking place. There were many miracles validating the message of the apostles. The greatest miracle was the changed lives of those who placed their trust in Christ.
Can you imagine the scene? These people were giving away their possessions according to the needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ. They were experiencing the blessings of a community of faith truly dependant on God. What they once considered theirs was now understood as God’s.
I know I’d do anything for my physical parents or siblings, but would I have the attitude of these early Christians towards my spiritual family?
III. A Healthy Church Is a Joyously United Church (
“Day by Day continuing with one mind . . . .” We could learn much from the unity exemplified here. This wasn’t grumbling submission to the majority; it was joyful fellowship with “gladness and sincerity of heart.”
IV. A Healthy Church Is a Worshiping Church (
This fellowship of believers was intent on praising God. Christ was the focus and desire of their hearts. The text says that they had favor with all people. Jesus said that we will know we’re His disciples by our love for one another. And He taught that the greatest command is to love God with our whole being, and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves.
This body worshiped God with their whole lives. They were devoted, giving, joyously united and worshipers. By the grace of God we have a wonderful legacy. May we do our part to maintain that legacy by continuing to develop these qualities of a healthy church.
1 Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd Edition (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1995), p. 16.