The Secret to the Early Church
The real power at work in Acts
Acts 4:7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Author J.B. Phillips, after spending 14 years translating the New Testament, sat back and reflected on his most lasting impressions. He kept returning to the book of Acts and its portrait of an infant church. “The sick are not merely prayed about,” said Phillips. “They are healed, often suddenly and dramatically … Human nature is changed. The fresh air of Heaven blows gustily through these pages.
“The early church lived dangerously, but never before has such a handful of people exerted such widespread influence … To put it shortly, the lasting excitement which follows the reading of the book is this: The thing works!”
Who Was Behind the Success?
Why did it work? Acts points decisively to the power of God, through his Holy Spirit. Luke carefully notes that every major decision of the young church was made under the Spirit’s guidance. Indeed, some have suggested that Acts should really be titled Acts of the Holy Spirit because of his dominant role. Luke mentions the Holy Spirit 57 times in Acts.
The disciples waited on the Spirit in Jerusalem before beginning to preach (see Acts 2:4). According to Luke, the Holy Spirit fell on each new group of believers: on Jews (see Acts 4:23,31), then on Samaritans (see Acts 8:14–17), then on Gentiles (see Acts 10:44–45) and finally on John the Baptist’s disciples (see Acts 19:1–6).
For Their Good
As the church grew, the disciples gradually began to understand what Jesus had meant when he said, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Although Jesus himself departed, God became present in each one of them, making his activity in the world more widespread than ever before.
The Spirit personally directed each major advance of the church. He sent Philip into the desert to meet an Ethiopian (see Acts 8:26–29), set apart missionaries in Antioch (see Acts 13:1–2), guided the first big church council (see Acts 15:1–29) and helped plan Paul’s itinerary (see Acts 13:4; 16:6). As presented in Acts, the Spirit was no vague mist but a living person who spoke, guided in decisions and fueled the church with the energy of faith.
How is the Holy Spirit active in your life?