First Steps - The Story of the Infant Church
Acts Chapters 1-13
The book of Acts is "part two" of Luke's great story. He begins his Gospel with the birth of Jesus and finishes Acts with Paul under house arrest in Rome. This covers a time span of roughly sixty years. We pick up the story as Jesus is preparing to leave the disciples, not this time for the brutality of crucifixion but for the glory of heaven. Although Peter and the others did stand gazing upwards for a little while they were, perhaps surprisingly, by no means distraught. They had been given the assurance that Jesus would always be with them (Mat 28 v 20) and there were important things to be done! The story of how the Christian faith reached the four corners of the earth begins here. There was just a short wait before the Holy Spirit arrived with a rushing wind and lit a flame that has never been put out. The 120 people who were in that fairly anonymous house somewhere in Jerusalem when the Spirit came found their lives transformed. They couldn't help but speak about what had happened to them! The church of Jesus Christ was well and truly born.
The first steps of this infant church have much to teach us twenty centuries on. Let's allow ourselves to be challenged by a church that was brand new, tiny in size, had no buildings to call its own, suffered fierce persecution and yet spread like wildfire through the Roman world. It was a church that was:
- Spirit-led. There are many instances of the Holy Spirit "directing operations" such as Philip's experiences on the desert road (e.g. Acts 8 v26-40). The Spirit "fell" at Cornelius's house (Acts 10 v 44); we're not given all the details but it sounds awesome! The church was able to hear His voice and respond. So how do we hear his voice today and how should we respond? What "awesome" things should we expect from God's Spirit today?
- Very human. The early Christians were not superstars; they were fragile and fallible in many ways. In these early chapters of Acts we will see infighting, division and even fraud! This is not propaganda, it is the honest truth!
- Vibrant. There is expectancy that God will do great things; there is rapid growth; there are miracles, healings and visions; there is fervent prayer, fellowship and a desire to take God at his word. All this in the teeth of persecution. It was a dangerous thing to become a Christian yet people were converted in their thousands.
This is the beginning of the story; a story that is still going on and of which we are a part. There are, worldwide, still many thousands of people turning to Christ every day - how exciting is that!