Table of Contents

When the church was founded in Acts 1, it is easy to conclude that the church functioned much differently than it does today. Obviously this is a very general statement including all churches under a Biblical authority, including different denominations and ethnic groups. However, I think a broad picture can be painted in answer to this questions after observing what the New Testament church looked like and what God required of them. The New Testament church in Acts is one of love, unity and complete devotion to the Word of God. Acts 2:43-46 states that, ‘everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.’ The words ‘all’ believers, ‘every day’, and ‘sincere hearts’ stand out the most from this passage. All the believers, not some, but all the believers participated in the above acts of service and fellowship. Everyday they pursued the Lord through the listening of His Word taught and fellowship with each other. They had glad and sincere hearts in praising Him.

What was the rationale behind the early church's decision-making? They asked, 'what does God want?' and 'what does His Word say?' No allowance was made for personal or cultural influence on the decisions that were made. It was God's way or no way at all. The rationale was complete obedience. Nothing less was expected (see the account of Ananias and Saphira in Acts chapter 5). Acts 5 addresses the issue of sin within the church and explain how it was settled and the immediate response that God desired and the disciples gave. The direct response was very grave and demanded full repentance and immediate obedience. Ananias and Sapphira were struck down for lying to the God and the apostles. Acts 15 also shows the importance of immediate obedience in relation to the adding of the Gentiles to the church. This would have been very foreign and difficult for many Jewish believers to accept but God left them no choice but to welcome the Gentiles with open arms which we see beautifully exemplified by Peter and the rest of the disciples.

Acts 6:1-6 is an amazing example of how the things that are important to God were also vastly important to the church leadership. This led them to not just send anyone to take care of the widows but to send men that were ‘known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.’ James tells us that ‘religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…’ [1].

How does the church today (overall) measure up to what God designed for the church and what He asked of the church in Acts? What is missing? Simply from the examples above we can be humbled that we have a long way to go and constantly keep Scripture before us as a witness to what we are called to be. As stated above, this is a gross generalization to say that every Bible-believing church today is missing what God is saying. However, I think it can be frankly stated that many are missing much of what God intended for the church. This is seen in simple ways such as the way church has become an ‘act’ instead of a living, breathing, fellowshiping, encouraging, body of loving people who are living out Christs love towards each other. There will always be sin in the church, which is clear in Acts and the epistles. However, we need to spur each other on to love and good deeds and not just talk about doing it but go and do it!

There are a few examples in Acts that exemplify the difference between the way our churches today make decisions and the way the church in Acts makes decisions. In chapter 6, “The Choosing of the Seven,” the twelve apostles gathered all the disciples together and explained that they could not “neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables.”[2]. So, as they were all gathered together, the apostles asked the disciples to choose seven men who are “full of the Spirit and wisdom” [3]and have them wait on the tables while the apostles continued their work. The disciples eventually chose Stephen, who was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit...”[4] and Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas to be the seven appointees to wait on tables. The disciples (collectively) presented the men to the apostles where they laid their hands on the seven to pray for them. In summary, the apostles just didn't choose anybody to 'wait on tables,' but rather, thought the disciples should choose the seven most godly men to do so and then they prayed for the seven; acknowledging that God was in control of the choosing of the seven and thanking Him for His decision.

In Acts 13, the church of Antioch was in a state of complete worship and fasting before the Lord when the Holy Spirit came upon them. The church contained prophets and teachers; including: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen and Saul. As they were worshiping, the Holy Spirit of God came upon them and told the church to “set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” [5]. So the church immediately prayed and fasted again before they laid their hands on the two to send them off. What is interesting is how Barnabas and Paul already received a calling from the Holy Spirit when the Holy Spirit came before the entire church because in verse two it says 'called' them, being past tense. Paul and Barnabas already knew what they were to do once they were sent off by the church, and they did exactly that. We cannot send any and everybody because they “want” to go somewhere, but should rather be looking for the most effective way to further the kingdom by being in a state of closeness with the Lord so that they can be attentive to what He has to say to us. I am not saying that if we are constantly in Word and prayer that the Holy Spirit will come down to us and tell us what to do audibly because that wouldn't be necessary for us.

Another example is in Acts chapter nine when Saul was converted. After Saul went to the high priest to get the letters to the synagogues in Damascus, he started on his way to Damascus where he would take all those who were following the “Way” [6] as prisoners where he would then take them back to Jerusalem. But, then a sudden light from heaven flashed around him where he fell to the ground and was questioned by Jesus as to why Saul was persecuting Him. Saul acknowledged He was Lord and was then ordered to go into Damascus where Ananias would find him and restore his sight (for he went blind from the light). Then the Lord called to Ananias in a vision telling him to go and put his hands on a man named Saul from Tarsus who will be praying in the house of Judas. At first, Ananias was hesitant, but was obedient. After Ananias met with Saul, he introduced him to the church where he began teaching in the synagogues immediately. It goes without saying that we (the flesh) would never want to help a man who has been persecuting our fellow believers his entire life; that is completely unheard of! Much less introduce him to the church (in other words, leading him to a house full of believers while Saul's mission was to imprison as many believers as he could)!

We understand what their rationale was, but why did they have that particular rationale? The early church developed a need for God's will. There really wasn't any other option to turn to. They witnessed the power of God day in and day out; this kind of miraculous power was not to be trifled with. Therefore, they wanted to please God with their work in the church, after all, it was His plan. When Jesus established the church in Acts 2:1-4, He included specific and detailed directions as to where He wanted the church to go. After Jesus ascended, how were they to know what to do? They knew the only way for the church to survive going into Gentile grounds was complete and utter obedience to God's will, therefore, every decision they made was in tune with the Spirit and it was all about Christ and how to establish His church. The apostles did this with a needy heart for God's approval.

F.F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of The Acts. Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing CO., 1973.
John B. Polhill, The New American Commentary: Acts. Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1992.
Jerome D. Quinn and William C. Wacker. The First and Second Letters to Timothy. Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company. 2000.
Ronald A. Ward, Commentary on 1&2 Timothy & Titus. Texas: Word Books. 1974.
John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 2 Timothy. Illinois: The Moody Bible Institute. 1995.
Philip H. Towner, 1-2 Timothy & Titus. Illinois: InterVarsity Press. 1994.

[1]James 1:27
[2]Acts 6:2
[3]Acts 6:3
[4]Acts 6:5
[5]Acts 13:2
[6]Acts 9:2