The church, made up of Jesus’ followers, is his body on earth. It has been brilliant and influential at times, weak at other points in history, and increasingly divided over the years. Amazingly, the imperfect church is still God’s designated witness, his hands and feet, to accomplish his will on this earth.
The early church, the brand new body of believers, was stunningly focused. Her power seems to have been undiluted, and her actions, pure:
“And so the church enjoyed a period of peace and growth throughout the regions of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. The disciples lived in deep reverence for the Lord, they experienced the strong comfort of the Holy Spirit, and their numbers increased.” Acts 9:31 (The Voice)
There were no church organizations in those days, and no one compared budgets, buildings or how many people were on their benches. The disciples were leading the way, and they must have been astonished by the work that the Holy Spirit was doing through them. Like little children suddenly able to perform their parent’s tasks, they couldn’t help but joyfully attest to the glorious truth and power of Jesus Christ.
When I read these words I long for the numbers in today’s church to increase. Growth means that more people will know the peace of the love and grace of God expressed through the sacrifice and authority of Jesus Christ and the power of his Holy Spirit. For the early church, growth was the natural result of the two qualities mentioned in Acts 9: deep reverence for the Lord and the strong comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Deep Reverence for the Lord
The disciples had walked with Jesus for three years, and no doubt they had a profound reverence for him. They had observed stunning miracles, authoritative teaching, and they had countless personal interactions with Jesus. They loved him. They knew, or at least were starting to know, that he was God. They wanted to follow him.
The days of the early church only intensified their passions. They were experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit, doing miracles and teaching themselves, and their reverence for Jesus would have exploded. I imagine them astounded at what God was doing, and expressing their devotion to Jesus and thanking him for what he had given them the power to do.
Do believers today live in deep reverence the Lord, or as other versions translate it, the fear of the Lord?
I wonder if the deep devotion of believers has been dulled. After all, it has been two thousand years or so since the powerful days of the early church, and we may simply take it for granted. I love Jesus; I am thankful to the Father for everything he has done for me, and I have the power of the Holy Spirit, however, living in the fear of the Lord is not uppermost in my thinking.
Too often Christians are fearful of the future, of things beyond their control, and of other worldly powers when the fear of the Lord would overrule all of those fears.
When you or your church is facing financial difficulty, are you operating out of a deep reverence for the Lord or are you relying on prevailing human wisdom? When a loved one is ill, are you praying with a deep reverence for the Lord and depending on the comfort of the Holy Spirit, or are you panicking?
Fear is a normal emotion, but Jesus can help us see our fears from the proper perspective. Remember, when you are fearful, to trust with a deep reverence for the Lord.
Experiencing the Strong Comfort of the Holy Spirit
The early disciples were transformed from a small and rather clueless group of people praying and waiting in Jerusalem to a powerful and courageous force for the Gospel. On Pentecost, after receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter spoke to the crowds and concluded with, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Three thousand people were added to the church on its first day of existence because of the power of the Holy Spirit in people like Peter.
Interestingly, we’re told that they experienced the “strong comfort of the Holy Spirit.” This suggests that all was not rosy; they no doubt had problems within and outside of the church. The response was to depend on the Holy Spirit for comfort.
Are we experiencing the “strong comfort of the Holy Spirit” or do we turn to Twitter or Facebook in search of solace?
It is easy to give in to fear in this world, but remember to fear the Lord. If we are focused on fearing him, we won’t be nearly as fearful of anything else. When you need comfort, depend on the Holy Spirit, pray, read your Bible, and you’ll be amazed at the compassion and encouragement you will find.
Post credit: Unlocking the Bible