Lesson 5 - The First Local Church

Our first view of a local church is to be found in Acts 2, where we see the first converts to Christ, following His ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit. We are told how they were converted and how they conducted their lives in that very first New Covenant church. There are principles of truth recorded here which are fundamental and are to be adhered to during this time.

A. WHAT ATTRACTED MEN TO CHRIST?

Our Lord had commanded His disciples "Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised" and "be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4,5). "But you will receive power" He said, "when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). They waited and were baptized! Prior to this they had not attracted too much attention. Upon being "filled with the Holy Spirit" a great crowd came to see them. Christ draws men to Himself through men whom He has filled with His Spirit. This is not the whole of the matter, but this is the beginning.

Acts 2:6 (Amp.) — " And when this sound was heard, A CROWD GATHERED, and they were bewildered because each one was hearing those in the upper room speaking in his own language or dialect."

B. WAS THE MULTITUDE UNANIMOUSLY RECEPTIVE?

Spirit—filled men will attract MANY but only convert SOME. We must not turn from God's method, which is Spirit—filled men, just because some do not respond to the Spirit's invitation.

Acts 2:12,13 (JBP)- "Everyone was utterly amazed and did not know what to make of it. Indeed they kept saying to each other, 'What on earth can this mean?‘ But there were others who laughed mockingly and said, 'These fellows have drunk too much new wine'!"

2 Cor. 2:16 — "To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume"

C. HOW WERE MEN CONVERTED?

1. HEARING THE WORD

Acts 2:37-39 — " Now WHEN THEY HEARD this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will CALL."

2. OBEYING THE WORD

Acts 2:41 (Amp.)- "Therefore THOSE WHO ACCEPTED AND WELCOMED HIS MESSAGE WERE BAPTIZED."

D. HOW WAS THE CHURCH FORMED?

Acts 2:41 — " ... were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all."

Acts 2:47 - "And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved"

Amp. "And THE LORD KEPT ADDING [to their number] daily those who were being saved."

Here we see the Lord "building His church". The "saved" are the "living stones" which He "adds" to the stones already in the building. The word translated "added" literally means 'to place forward'; that is, the placing of certain things next to things already in existence, for the increase of that which is already in existence. Therefore, those who "gladly received His word and were baptized", not only came into a saving relationship to God, but were also divinely "added" to their fellow believers, to become living members of the Church universal and the local Church in Jerusalem. They were added to the Lord and to one another. This blessed "addition" continued.

Acts 5:14 - "More and more believers in the Lord were added to their number, crowds of both men and women."

Acts 11:24 - "And a great many people were added to the Lord."

E. THE NATURE OE THE NEW LIFE AS A CHURCH (Acts 2:42-47)

1. THEY CONTINUED STEDFASTLY

These first believers came to stay, Perseverance has always been the mark of genuineness. There are several words translated "continue". This one is particularly strong and means "to be earnest towards, to persevere, be constantly diligent, to attend assiduously all the exercises, to adhere closely to, to be intently engaged in, to remain constantly in a place." The Lord Jesus had spoken about "continuing" as a mark of true discipleship.

John 8:31 — “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples"

Amp. - "If ye abide in My Word — hold fast to my teachings and live in accordance with them — you are truly my disciples."

The apostles constantly urged the new converts to "continue". Becoming a Christian is not just a temporary excursion into a religious experience, it is a permanent move into a whole new life. It is not just a single event, it is a whole life program.

Acts 11:23 - "When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord."

Amp. - "When he arrived and saw what grace (favor) God was bestowing upon them, he was full of joy; and he continually exhorted — warned, urged and encouraged them all to cleave unto and remain faithful and devoted to the Lord with (resolute and steady) purpose of heart."

Acts 13:43 (Amp.) - "And when the congregation of the synagogue dispersed, many of the Jews and the devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked to them and urged them to CONTINUE [to trust themselves to and stand fast] in the grace that is, the enabling power and blessing - of God."

Acts 14:21,22 - "And when they had preached the gospel to that city (Derbe), and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra (the place of Paul's stoning), and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming (establishing and strengthening) the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to CONTINUE IN THE FAITH, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."

Col. 1:23 (Amp.) - “(And this He will do) - ('present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight' - K.J.) provided that you CONTINUE to stay with and in the faith (in Christ), well—grounded and settled and steadfast, not shifting or moving away from the hope (which rests on and is inspired by) the glad tidings (the Gospel), which you heard ...."

1 John 2:19,24 - "These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us. ... So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father."

2. "THEY CONTINUED STEDFASTLY IN THE APOSTLES' DOCTRINE."

a. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS

Eph. 2:2O - "Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself."

b. THE DISTINCTIVE PLACE OF THE APOSTLES
1. CALLED

Luke 6:12,13 - "One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles."

2 TRAINED

Mark 3:14 — "He appointed twelve (whom he named apostles), so that they would be with him .... "

These twelve were to be something more than travelling companions or menial servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were to be Christ‘s chosen trained agents for propogating the faith after He Himself left the earth. From the time of their being chosen, the twelve entered on a regular apprenticeship for the great office of apostleship, in the course of which they were to learn, in the privacy of an intimate daily fellowship with their Master, what they should be, do, believe, and teach, as His witnesses and ambassadors to the world. Henceforth the training of these men was to be a constant and prominent part of Christ's personal work.

3 INSTRUCTED AND COMMISSIONED AFTER OUR LORD'S RESURRECTION

Acts 1:1-5,8 (NET) - I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. To the same apostles also, after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. While he was with them, he declared, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. ... But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.”

In addition to the training and instruction the apostles had received from the Lord in the days of His pre—resurrection ministry, they were "instructed and commanded" during the "forty days" between His resurrection and ascension."

4 THE FOUNDATIONAL "WITNESS" OF THE APOSTLES

Acts 4:33a - "And with great power gave the APOSTLES WITNESS OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD JESUS"

Acts 5:29-32 - "Then Peter and the other APOSTLES answered and said, we ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers RAISED UP JESUS, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And WE ARE HIS WITNESSES of these things; and
so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him."

Acts 1O:39—41 - "And WE ARE WITNESSES of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree; Him GOD RAISED UP the third day, and showed him openly; NOT TO ALL THE PEOPLE, but unto WITNESSES CHOSEN BEFORE OF GOD, even to US, who did eat and drink with Him AFTER HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD (Acts 1:4 - Marg.)."

Acts 13:30,31 - "But God RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD, And He was seen many days of THEM WHICH CAME UP WITH HIM FROM GALILEE TO JERUSALEM (the apostles) WHO ARE HIS WITNESSES unto THE PEOPLE."

Acts 22:14,15 - "And (Ananias) said, the God of our fathers hath CHOSEN thee, that thou shouldest know His will, and SEE THAT JUST ONE, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth. For thou shalt be HIS WITNESS unto ALL MEN of what thou hast SEEN AND HEARD."

Acts 26:16 — (Paul before Agrippa recounting the Damascus road experience) — "(And Jesus said,) rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I HAVE APPEARED UNTO THEE for this purpose, to MAKE THEE a minister and A WITNESS both of these things which THOU HAST SEEN, and of those things IN THE WHICH I WILL APPEAR UNTO THEE."

1 John 1:1,2,4 - "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and BEAR WITNESS, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)...And these things WRITE WE UNTO YOU..."

5 THE FINALITY AND AUTHORITY OF THE (APOSTOLIC) WORD

2 Tim. 1:13 - "Hold fast the form (pattern, or outline} of sound words, which thou hast HEARD OF ME...."

1 Cor. 14:37 - "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that THE THINGS I WRITE UNTO YOU ARE THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD."

STUDY QUESTIONS FOR LESSON #5

  1. Where was the first church formed in New Testament times?
  2. What was the power of attraction in the first church?
  3. Did all who were attracted become converted?
  4. What are the two major factors in conversion?
  5. According to Acts 2:41,47 who is building the church?
  6. What is the recorded characteristic of the new community?
  7. How did the apostles come into their office and ministry?
  8. What was the nature of their training?
  9. List the Scriptures which describe the apostles' ministry as witnesses.
  10. Is there any authority beyond the word?