And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18)
A few weeks ago, a good number of us went to place called Kima, near Salama along Mombasa road to constitute a new church called Community Baptist Church. Eight elderly people were baptized and with three others together with six of us we celebrated the Lord’s Supper together. The church was began! Please pray for them and their leader Donald Kivungi. What is the lesson for us here? That the Lord is building up His church upon the rock and He has promised that not even the gates of hell can prevail against His church.
Who builds the church? How is it built?
God is building His church and He is the Master builder. He has built it upon the rock and the gates of Hades cannot prevail against it. Jesus Christ is the Rock upon which is the church is built and He is the Head of the church. God is building His church by the means that He has appointed. He is using men who He has saved as the living stones to build His church with Christ both the foundation and Pillar. We are being built up into a spiritual house (1Pet. 2:5). The building of the church is both numerically and in quality. It is both local and universal. The building of the church is both physical and spiritual. This is what we see in every church, where members are being added and these members are growing in graces and are taking the gospel further to new places.
This means that we who have been saved have a role to play in the building of the church. There is not a single Christian who can say that he has nothing to do in the church in which He is a part And whatever you do in the church of God is what God is doing to translate into the building of His church. you should not despise what you are doing because that is what is enough to bring more people and to make those who are there stronger believers.
May we review this church that is being built up by the Lord from the first century todate and see what sort of people there were and how the Lord used them to build His church. Through this then we can identify what you could be doing and but also diagnose what more need to be done for the church. you are to personally identify what we you are not doing and seek to play your role more seriously to the advantage of the church of Christ.
How is the Lord building His church then?
The purpose of this series to consider the conversions in the book of Acts for our own instruction and building. Conversion is the basic means through the church is built. This is very clear in this book as we have already seen in the previous sermons. The church started in the day of Pentecost when by the power from God Peter preached the gospel leading to three thousand being added to the church (Acts 2:41). Later on we read that the Lord was adding to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). This is the tread in 4:4 where Luke records that, “many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.” And then, “more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” (Acts 5:14) and they were increasing in number (Acts 6:1). From there from the labours of Philip in Samaria Luke records that, “they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:12) then the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) and then Paul in Acts 9:1-25)
How about in this passage, do we see any new conversion here? Yes. There are at least three references to conversion in this passage that we read, look at verse 31, “So the church… multiplied.” And again, “And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon … turned to the Lord.” (Acts. 9:35) And again “… throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.”(Acts 9:42). From here we see the work of the Lord in adding new members to His church.
The words used here are very interesting for us. First of all we are told that the increase in the church in these three regions, Judea and Galilee and Samaria was by multiplication. This means that when one person got converted, he would seek to bring another and the other would do the same as the first one continued seeking more and more – that is how increase by multiplication works. We are being built together and so as we become part of the church of the church, we start to constantly bring more and more to the church. So conscience of the need for you to bring people to the church? And are you bringing people to become part of the body of Christ in which you belong? You are to make deliberate steps towards bringing your relatives, friends and colleagues to faith in Christ and to the church where you believe they will be profited.
In Lydda and Sharon we read that they turned to the Lord. Conversion is turning away from sin to serve the true and Living God. The people in these places were given to idols in whatever form. They did not serve the true God. they were sinful and wicked and delighted in it as all the sinners are. They were happy to be in sin until they heard the gospel of Christ, which unveiled their condition of sin to them and introduced the Lord Jesus Christ as the One and Only Saviour mighty to save. They saw His power in that the power of the Lord Jesus in the healing Aeneas who was bedridden for eight years, being paralyzed. By the way, you can well see that the name of the person healed is given so that you may know for sure that this is the truth which could be proved from this man himself for those who would have wanted to verify. If I may ask do you know personally a paralyzed person who was healed by any these televangelists? This is for sure not like the big claims made now which no one is able to prove. All you hear is, "A cousin of the mother-in-law of my friends brother was blind and was healed.” I was in the Pentecostal circles and I did not witness any blind person of paralyzed person that I knew before was healed. Miracles are meant to make the spiritual a tangible for the unbelievers, or profit believers like Dorcas or strengthen faith. Now we see the miracles that are to enrich the preachers! In this case unbelievers’ faith was wrought in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. He worked powerfully in their hearts and mind and regenerated them to cause them to trust upon the Saviour Jesus Christ.
Throughout the region of Joppa after the raising from the dead of Dorcas, many people believed in the Lord. Note that they did not believe in Peter, because they well understood that he was an instrument of the Lord. It was the Lord who just like He had done in Nain and to Lazarus and to the daughter of Jairus had raised this gracious lady back to life to be of more service to the church of Christ. If you compare this extra-ordinary miracle with the what happened in the house of Jairus then you would see that Peter was closely doing what He had seen Jesus Himself do. Jesus sent out all the people away except Peter, John and James and speaking in Aramaic told Jairus daughter, “talitha cumi “little girl rise up.” (Mark 5:41). Peter put everyone out of the house and prayed to Jesus (to do what he saw Him do) then told Dorcas, “Tabitha cumi”. This is what led to the people in all Joppa to believe in the Lord.
The Lord is building this church to be part of the universal church that He has ransomed by His blood and He is doing this by saving people. We are to pray for the salvation of people. We are to be actively involved in witnessing to bring sinners to the Lord. We are to be willing to be involved in the gathering of those the Lord is saving since we are the one’s being made part of this body.
This church was not only growing in numbers but was also growing in its quality from within. We are told that, “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit…” The believers in this Lydda and Joppa are called ‘saints’ (v32, 41). And if you would like to point to the spirituality of one of them, this is how the inspired Word of God describes one of them called Tabitha or Dorcas, “She was full of good works and acts of charity.” This is seen in the way Tabitha worked hard to provide for the Christian widows among them, being an industrious and prosperous. She used her wealth to the advantage of others. But we also see that upon her death other Christians were greatly concerned, not simply because their benefactor had died, since we read that it was the disciples who sent two men to Peter. Then Peter presented her alive to both the saints and the widows (v.41). saints refers to the believers in Christ – a title that is used here of living people and not dead godly and gracious people, as the church of Rome would have us believe.
Believers in Christ are to grow in faith and in all the graces so that the church is strengthened as it is built up. So how does a Christians grow? First of all after one has been saved, like Saul, he must try as much as possible to be part of a local church. When a person has been saved he ought to identify himself with God’s people so that he may be counted with them and with his Saviour and Master. This is what Paul did – he wanted to be part of the disciples in Jerusalem, although they were very suspicious of his motive. Therefore they rejected him and rightly so. I believe that the apostles were right in being afraid of bringing upon themselves unnecessary danger of a man who was such a threat to the church And this is where we see the work of being of use to others and more so the new believers. We are so fast in midwifing the converts, though not as swift in following them up and providing the spiritual care that they need.
Therefore the growth of Christians in holiness is twofold – believers are to give themselves to the means of grace that the Lord has given us as outlined in Acts 2:42, it is devotion to the ordinances such as the biblical teaching or study of God’s Word, the fellowship of brethren, and breaking of bread, the prayers. Secondly, it is by avoiding and hating and killing sin constantly so that there is growth in holiness. Then after that we are to try to make others grow as well.
Barnabbas took up this responsibility, risking his own life to introduce Saul to the apostles. He introduced to them as one who had an encounter with the same Saviour. Some have tried to speculate that Barnabbas and Saul knew one another from their youth. It is possible that they knew each other but where is the evidence in the Bible? It does not matter that they knew one another or not. All that is important here is that Barnabbas, the son of encouragement sought out Saul on his own initiative and vouched for him to the apostles. What would have happened, humanly speaking if Saul had no one to care for him? Probably he would have left the faith!
You can be an encourager to others by talking with to find how they are coping with the newfound life in Christ. Find out from the brethren who have joined us how they are adjusting to the church and seek to make sure that their needs are being addressed in a good way. Ask them if they are reading their Bible or how they are exercising their gifts. Introduce them to some of the work that they can do for the building of the church so that all believers can be edified.
The church began during the day of Pentecost in the upper room in Jerusalem, with conversion of 3,000 men (Acts 2:41); then Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). Then we read that, “more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women”(Acts 5:14) and that the disciples were increasing in number (Acts 6:1). Remember that the great commission is being carried out in Jerusalem only up to this point. The church in Jerusalem has grown in numbers and in quality and so there is a need to move. They did not seem to realize that the commission was not to grow enormous number of believers in only one place but to take the gospel as far as possible. Therefore, a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and they (except the apostles) were scattered the region of Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1).
One of the deacons called Philip the evangelist went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ (8:5). He did not go to Samaria to seek asylum or his safety only but to preach and that is what he did so the church is established beyond Judea. Samaria was the third step, after receiving the Holy Spirit, towards evangelizing the world and its nations as in the Great commission (Acts 1:8). New lands must be flooded with the gospel truths, because it is the Gospel which is the Power of God unto salvation and no one can be saved without it. Therefore the commission is not just to reach out to our next door neighbors but also to missional in going to other new places.
It with this mind that the gospel is taken by these brethren to different places mentioned here by the disciples. Let us look at the places mentioned here to see the picture: Christians are in the whole region of Jerusalem and Judea, then Phillip went to Samaria and many there we converted, including a very influential man from Africa! Then there are disciples in Damascus like Ananias and the disciples, because that was why Saul was going there. Saul Himself is saved on his way to Damascus and he starts preaching that Jesus was the Christ.
After Damascus Luke records in this inerrant account that, the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up… and …it multiplied.(Acts9: 31). He proceed to point out to us that there were saints living in Lydda and that the residents of Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord after Peter preached the gospel to them. Then there were very good Christians in Joppa including Dorcas who were saints and disciples.
Are we living? Providing the spiritual life to the dying world by pointing the Lord Jesus to the so many sinners? Do you have a young believer that you are discipling? Are we seeking to promote the church to others by caring and edifying other believers in need in love and compassion by providing for them and visiting them? Do you have some special people among the unreached that you would reach out with the gospel by either going there yourself or by sending someone? Do you give towards the missions over and above what you give to this church?
Make special effort towards your own personal growth in faith by devoting yourself in prayer and study of God’s word personally. Set particular time when you can read the Word of God and pray. Identify a person to disciple and do exactly that like Ananias Barnabbas to Saul. Pray for the person and encourage them to read God’s word and pray and come to the church early either texting them or phoning them. Other chat engines like Facebook® and Tweeter® are good for long-distance discipling. Use them to build the church of God rather than aimless chatting.
Brethren, the Lord is building His Church, its cornerstone and Pillar is known – Jesus Christ. The foundation is the apostles and the prophets (Ephesians 2:20). We are ourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1Pet. 2:5). Praise the Lord because His church is growing and being built up and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18) AMEN!