I’ve always found it very interesting that the very first problem that threatened the Early Church did not concern theology or doctrine. It concerned racial prejudices! And it concerned food! Now, from first glance, it would seem that this would be a simple problem to resolve, yet finding that resolution was taking valuable time away from the focus of the Apostles on preaching, teaching, and praying. So, for the first time in the history of the Early Church, there is a transference of authority and accountability to someone else. Seven men, full of the Spirit and wisdom, were chosen to bring this problem to a peaceful resolution. This scene is important for us as we get insights into how problems can and should be handled in today’s church. As one pastor explained it: “Problems are the prelude to new discoveries if we simply ask the Holy Spirit to help us.”
Luke does not share with us how long the interval of time is between the close of Acts 4 and the beginning of Acts 5. There does seem to be a longer interval though, enough so that perhaps some apathy or complacency has begun to creep into the Church. When that happens, God gives a “wake-up” call to refocus us. In the case of the Early Church, this “wake-up call” involved an offering. Barnabas brought an offering from his heart; Ananias and Sapphira brought an offering from pretense. The former was blessed; the latter was judged, and the judgment was severe. Oh the impact that judgment had upon the Church. It was a cause for self-evaluation. The Church would need this “wake-up call” as the first vestiges of persecution began. Complacency would be a thing of the past; dependence upon God would be the demand of the hour moving forward.
As we gather for our annual worship in the park, our focus is upon God’s love. When was the last time that you sat down and just reflected on God’s love? How would you describe God’s love to someone who asked you? What words would you use? What should be our response when we think of God’s love for us? Oh the incredible, amazing, incomprehensible, powerful, infinite love of God toward us!
From its very beginning, one of the heart-beats of the Early Church was that of community. There was a fellowship that brought encouragement: they had a passion to learn the Word of God; they had a passion to do life together; they had a passion to remember Jesus Christ; and they had a passion to worship and to pray. They also had a message that they wanted to share with others about how God can change lives. And yet, they were willing to suffer for Jesus if that is what He asked of them. The strength of a local church is grounded in the strength of its sense of community.