…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14
Was with a Chinese brother from an underground China house church recently, he said ….. only when he came out of the country to study, did he realise there were so many different types of church denominations and expressions.
Heard this from an advertisement ….
“A bottle of milk, thanks ?”
“Low-fat, no-fat, full-cream, high calcium, high protein, soy, lite, skim, omega-3, high calcium, with vitamin D and folate, or extra dolop ?” replied the grocery shop owner.
“Uh … I just like milk that tastes like real milk”, replied the man.
Sometimes church sounds like how milk is packaged nowadays ….
so many types, so many styles, so many expressions, etc, etc … so many choices
and with the rise of internet church webcast/podcast, 24-hr christian television, social media, ubiquitous on-demand internet ministries …
so what is church ?
Is church about being present at a meeting
at a set time, on a certain day, in a particular building ?
What does a state-of-the-art mega-church in the bright city lights,,
or a humble, simple house-church of a few people in a tiny remote village,
or a few believers thrown into a cold, dark prison cell in persecuted countries
share in common ?
Matthew 18:19-20 (NIV)
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where
two or three have gathered together in My name,
I am there in their midst.”
The Greek word for ‘agree‘ in this verse is symphōneō,
to be harmonious (Strong), … from which the English word ‘symphony’ is derived from,
A harmonious expression of love, through diversity & variety.
It’s interesting that before this verse Jesus said
15“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private;
if he listens to you, you have won your brother”
and right after this verse,
21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times,
but up to seventy times seven.
So, maybe …. a simple answer is …. where we find the presence of Jesus, when 2 or 3 believers come together and agree … to seek God the Father for His presence and His blessing. When 2 or 3 have reconciled, forgiven each other and love each other as family, warmly receiving each other as brothers and sisters. A family joined together by the blood of forgiveness and acceptance, experiencing and encountering Jesus.
… the kingdom of God is in your midst
Luke 17:21 (NIV)
… you yourselves are God’s temple
and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
1 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV)
The presence of Jesus, … the presence of the Holy Spirit,
the presence of the kingdom of God.
Once strangers …. or even enemies
or on opposing views,
laying aside our differences,
… reconciled ….
as a family, in agreement,
worshiping the Father
through the Son
by the Holy Spirit
Rather than an activity, … church is a forgiving, loving, caring community,
loving God and loving one another.
It only takes 2 or 3, friends, family.
Let’s not look at the numbers present, but to the ever-present Lord in our midst who draws people into His kingdom (Acts 2:47).
And when we are in agreement
….. He answers our prayers …
The presence, power and ministry of Jesus in our midst.
Interestingly, when Jesus sent out His disciples to minister, He sent them two by two.
Luke 10:1 (NIV)
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others
and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
Here’s how Jesus and Peter describes church,
Mark 11:17 (NKJV)
And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:
‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?….
Jesus quoted from Isaiah 56:7 prophecy,
6 “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord,
who serve him and love his name,
who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest,
and who hold fast to my covenant.
7 I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem
and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer.
I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices,
because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.
for all nations — everyone, anyone, … all invited, no one excluded,
foreigners, the last, the least, the lost, the sick, the broken,
… anyone who calls upon our savior Jesus.
1 Peter 2:4,5 (NKJV)
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
for all nations,
a spiritual house, a holy priesthood,
offering up spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Interestingly, the Hebrew & Greek word for house are bayith & οἶκος,
which mean either or both house and family 🙂
depending on the context.
a house of prayer for all nations,
a family of prayer for all nations
And every day,
in the temple
and from house to house,
they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Acts 5:42 (NASB)
46 Day by day continuing
with one mind
in the temple,
and breaking bread from house to house,
they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
47 praising God and having favor with all the people.
And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 2:46:47 (NASB)
While travelling the other day, … was passing through a culturally and religiously diverse neighbourhood,
was blessed to see a church & community services building with an inviting banner,
… “a house of prayer for all nations”
all our welcomed here.
The thoughts of agreement in prayer described in Matthew 18:19-20 are cinematically captured in the Old Testament … of God’s presence, anointing, and blessing when we agree as a family of God,
Psalm 133 (MSG).
How wonderful, how beautiful,
when brothers and sisters get along!
It’s like costly anointing oil
flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron’s beard,
flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon
flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing,
ordains eternal life.
And Jesus prayer before going to the cross,
John 17:21-23 (NLT)
21 I pray that they will all be one,
just as you and I are one
—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you.
And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.
23 I am in them and you are in me.
May they experience such perfect unity
that the world will know that
you sent me and that you love them
as much as you love me.
And in the disciples earth-moving prayer in Acts 4,
Acts 4:24,31 (NASB)
24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them,
31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
And Paul’s prayer for perseverance, patience and encouragement, … to be of the same mind with one another … with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 15:5,6 (NASB)
5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
… that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.
… And when they had prayed, … they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness
… with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
At the end of Mark’s gospel …
And they went out and preached everywhere,
the Lord working with them
and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.
they went … they preached everywhere,
the Lord worked together with them …
the Lord confirming His Word
Its interesting that in the Gospels, Jesus said very little about how to “do“ church or what should not be done in church. Furthermore, when we read the book of Acts and the Epistles in the New Testament, church is never described as a physical ‘brick & mortar’ building.
Rather the analogy of the body is used, many diverse gifted parts with one head – Christ. Each part of the body is uniquely useful, empowered to strengthen the rest of the body, in mutual submission to one another.
Ephesians 5:23 (NLT)
Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.
1 Corinthians 12:27 (NLT)
All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it
Ephesians 4:15,16 (ESV)
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
1 Corinthians 14:26 (NLT)
Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.
1 Peter 5:5 (NKJV)
Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for
“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
In fact, Jesus teaching focused on the Kingdom of God, rather than the church
— Kingdom of God mindset, a kingdom without walls or borders,
… God reigning in people’s hearts by the Holy Spirit through Jesus sacrifice for us.
“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons,
then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
Matthew 12:28 (NIV)
Romans 14:7 (NIV)
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of
righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
Romans 8:8,9 (NIV)
8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh
but are in the realm of the Spirit,
if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.
And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ,
they do not belong to Christ.
In the Gospels, Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God many times, he only used the word ‘church’ twice. In the New Testament, the Greek word used for church is ekklēsia, which simply means ‘called out or forth’.
Acts and the Epistles also do not give us a Church User Guide manual.
On the day of Pentecost,
Acts 2:5-11 (NASB)
5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven.
9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs
—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”
the mega-church of 3000 multicultural believers was instantly birthed by the Holy Spirit, … into the Kingdom of God, … with more and more added daily,
Pentecost – Feast of First Fruits of God’s Harvest
a foretaste of God’s great Harvest
Revelation 7:9-10 (NASB)
9 After these things I looked, and behold,
a great multitude which no one could count,
from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
… we read Luke’s description of
the “be“ church
Acts 2:41-47 (NASB)
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
and again in Acts 4 when the church grew to 5000 (men Acts 4:4),
Acts 4:31-35 (NASB)
And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.
… a tangible presence and blessing of the Lord confirming His Word
… a reverential worshipping, loving, giving, sharing, growing community,
there was not a needy person among them
light & salt, … the presence of Jesus
within the city, the nation, the world.
Lets, pause …
read the verses again, slowly
Holy Spirit come,
show us ….
Heart of Worship