David Platt brought another deeply authoritative and challenging message from scripture on Tuesday night. It was after this message that I approached David and Landon and asked for a visit which they so graciously gave.
David launched from Acts 3.1-10:
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (ESV)
He shared three main thoughts about the passage that revealed characteristics of how the early church ministered:
- Radically concerned about the needs of those around them.
In context, there had been phenomenal growth. In the chapter previously, thousands had been converted over the preaching of Peter. They were meeting house to house and studying the scriptures and the apostles’ teaching. Platt said it was a dynamic contrast to imagine this instant megachurch of thousands waiting on Peter and John in the temple and to see them STOP to pay attention to ONE man.
Platt said, “Those most effective at reaching the many are those most passionate about meeting the needs of the one.”
In the Roman Empire, Christians met the needs of folks who weren’t Christians as well as their own believers. Platt had shared a handout on Monday which contained the words of Aristedes, a second century believer who was writing to the king in defense of Christians:
Now the Christians, O King, by going about and seeking, have found the truth. For the know and trust in God, the Maker of heaven and earth, who has no fellow. From him they received those commmandments which they have engraved on their minds, and which they observe in the hope and expectation of the world to come….
They refuse to worship strange gods; and they go their way in all humility and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them. They love one another; the widow’s needs are not ignored, and they rescue the orphan from the person who does him violence. He who has gives to him who has not, ungrudgingly and without boasting. When the Christians find a stranger, they bring him to their homes and rejoice over him as a true brother. They do not call brothers those who are bound by blood ties alone, but those who are brethren after the Spirit and in God.
Platt’s point was that Christians in the Roman Empire sought to meet each other’s needs in such a radical way that they were known by their love for one another. Their caring also spilled over into the community, where they took care of the sick and dying, the abandoned and the outcast.
Platt showed a Sarah McLaughlan video (watch it below) and then read the article about Brad Pitt (make sure you read it).
His conclusion? “Why is the world looking to Hollywood to see a picture of Jesus?
Because Hollywood is more concerned about the world than the church of Jesus Christ.
He shared that in a recent Baptist newspaper, side by side story headlines were about a First Baptist Church of Somewhere that had recently completed building a $23 million sanctuary. The other story detailed that after a state-wide offering for the hurting people of Darfur, an offering of $5000 had been collected.
“Our dogs and cats are eating better than our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Sudan,” he said.
- They were radically confident in the Name of the one who saved them.
The name of Jesus Christ and the church’s faith in His power and authority is the key to the book of Acts. Consider the following verses which detail what the church did in the Name of Jesus Christ.
Acts 2.38, 3.16, 4.7, 10, 12, 17-18, 30; 8.12; 9.27-28; 15.26, 16.18, 19.13, 17 (33 times in the book of Acts is the Name of Jesus Christ mentioned).
Platt declared that there are believers around the world today who are demonstrating and living out a radical confidence in the Name of Jesus Christ today, while we in America are embarrassed to mention Him outside our safe “Christian” bubbles. Is it any wonder that we don’t experience the power of God like Third World Christians are?
So confident and devoted to the name of Jesus Christ are they that one seminary overseas requires for graduation that students plant a church in a Muslim community with 30 baptized believers!
“2000 years ago, there was a name that performed miracles, and that name is still good today. We must be confident in the power and the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
A study of the passages mentioned earlier will provoke any lukewarm believer to either put up or shut up. Study what they were doing in full confidence of the Name of Jesus and begin to pray and act in confidence that Jesus is STILL Lord today.
- They were radically committed to exalting the Word committed to them.
Platt shared that service projects and good deeds alone in themselves are NOT the Gospel. It’s a “both/and” strategy. There is a content to the Gospel that must be shared, and through Scripture it’s obvious that the early church put the Message and Word of God first in all they did. Compare that to our half-hearted attempts at reading the Word of God today, much less speaking it to our neighbors, co-workers, and family.
In Acts 3.16-26, Peter is preaching (radical commitment to the Word of God) and “many who heard the message believed.” (Acts 4.4) It was not a result of seeing the miracle being performed but as a result of hearing the message.
Also investigate Acts 4.29, 5.20, 6.7, 8.4, 40; 9.20, 28.31. In Acts 12, the Word spreads; in Acts 15, Paul and his missionary teams begin a pattern of teaching the Word of God first in synagogues. In the final commentary on Paul’s life while in prison in Rome in 28.31, Paul is preaching the Word boldly and without hindrance.
Why don’t we see miracles here, Platt asked? Is is a lack of faith? Probably. However, signs and wonders always accompanied the proclamation of the Word of God when the Word went out to new places. The signs and wonders occurred first as verification that the message was true. When the Word began to be believed, signs and wonders diminished, because the Word of God was the power and source of transformation.
Like Paul told the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (1.16)
The power will come when we believe in the power of the Word of God that has been entrusted to us and when we are faithfully proclaiming it.
The power of God’s Word even controls the destiny of mankind. In Matthew 24.14 it says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Declare the Word and then display the Word in your life!
So, the early church were radicals. They were:
- Radically concerned about the needs of those around them.
- Radically confident in the Name of the One who saved them.
- Radically committed to exalting the Word committed to them.