Oct 28, 2016 Words of Grace – The Battle Begins
Repentance, faith, and public identification with Jesus through baptism are the beginning of warfare for the Christian and the church. This is a reality that must be recognized if we are to live faithfully to Christ in the world.
Acts 2 is filled with the good work of the Holy Spirit. We see the Spirit filling the followers of Jesus and they praise God by declaring his mighty works. The people of the city hear them and gather around these disciples. Peter stands to preach the good news of Jesus to them. The Spirit empowers this preaching and pricks the consciences of the people and they are brought to repentance. They turn to Jesus in faith and identify with him in baptism.
Immediately these people who are made new by the Spirit are gathered into the new community of Christ. They are a church. The Holy Spirit orders the church around the teaching (Scripture), the fellowship (spiritual encouragement of one another), the breaking of bread (communion), and the prayers. The Holy Spirit activates them for ministry among themselves and in the world. Each day more people are coming to faith in Jesus and are being added to the church.
Acts 2 ends with heaven on earth, so it seems. But soon the attacks begin. By the third chapter of Acts the church is facing persecution from authorities wanting to stop the spread of the name of Jesus. After that, moral compromise threatens to creep into the church in the form of dishonesty and deception (Acts 5). The effect would be to discredit the message of the gospel in the minds of people watching to see how the church lives its new life. Then there is a situation of potential division among the church that would distract them from the word of God and prayer (Acts 6). (1)
As we read we become aware that each attack is an attempt to weaken, distract, or silence the church to stop the spread of the name of Jesus. We realize that Satan has declared war on Christ’s gospel and his church.
We must understand and accept this reality. Renouncing the flesh (sinful self), the world (a system of thought and way of living apart from God), and the devil (a real spiritual being opposed to Christ) is not the end of the battle, but the beginning. Identifying with Jesus through baptism is the commencement of war. The life of a Christian and the church is lived on a battlefield. The enemy is always on the attack.
We are to never be surprised by the attacks, but always watchful for them. We are to be filled with the Spirit. It is the Spirit that gives the church boldness when threatened, the fear of the Lord when tempted to sin, and the wisdom to live in unity for the purpose of the gospel.
This Sunday at Grace we will consider the three attacks on the church in Acts 3-6. Take some time this weekend to read these chapters. Find someone to read them with you.
I hope you are praying for our nation in this election season.
(1) John Stott, The Message of Acts, pg. 88-124