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Ministry In The New Testament Church

THIRD QUARTER 2019

SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #9

AUGUST 31, 2019

“MINISTRY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH”

 

andiOur lesson this week, covers the ministry of people in the New Testament with whom we are very familiar, Peter, James, John, the Apostle Paul, all whose stories have blessed us. The lesson draws our attention to two passages in Acts 2 and 4 which describe uncommon and unusual behaviour.

The two passages were Acts 2:40-47 and Acts 4:32-37. The passage in Acts 2 reads, “42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

The second, Acts 4: 32-37 says, 32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. 36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

My first thought was “Isn’t that amazing!!!” But this was followed very quickly with a thought. “Oh no. This is a hard saying” Imagine working hard to secure your future retirement and then giving it all away or saving for a fabulous trip or home, only to realize, “the Lord has need of them”. 32 “…Neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.”  This begs the question, what was it that brought about this response in their thinking and experience? What is it that made them tick?

Context is important. At first glance these accounts seem to support communism or socialism. Certainly, in our current political climate, we hear these terms tossed about. “In political and social sciences, communism (from Latin communis, "common, universal") is the philosophicalsocialpolitical, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classesmoney, and the state.” Socialism: “Originating within the socialist movement, social democracy has embraced a mixed economy with a market that includes substantial state intervention in the form of income redistributionregulation, and a welfare state.” But are either of these what we see going on in Acts 2 and 4. Was there some sort of mandate in the book of Acts, that they sell all and equalize society? I think not.

Our lesson looked at these two passages in isolation and the fallen side of us wants to say, yes, we need and must do this and more of that. However, Acts 2 and 4 have a context and the context is found in Acts 1: 13,14 where it says “13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” Acts 2:1 Continues: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”  The chosen passages in Acts 2 and 4 follow the account of the upper room, Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Something happened in their thinking, their minds and hearts that caused them to, of one accord, give of themselves and their possessions.

As Ellen White put it, “The Spirit came upon the waiting, praying disciples with a fullness that reached every heart. The Infinite One revealed Himself in power to His church. It was as if for ages this influence had been held in restraint, and now Heaven rejoiced in being able to pour out upon the church the riches of the Spirit's grace. And under the influence of the Spirit, words of penitence and confession mingled with songs of praise for sins forgiven. Words of thanksgiving and of prophecy were heard. All heaven bent low to behold and to adore the wisdom of matchless, incomprehensible love. Lost in wonder, the apostles exclaimed, "Herein is love." They grasped the imparted gift. And what followed? The sword of the Spirit, newly edged with power and bathed in the lightnings of heaven, cut its way through unbelief. Thousands were converted in a day.”  {AA 38.1}

So, when Peter got up to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified in Acts 2:14-41, he preached out of an experience with Jesus Christ that evoked a response in all who heard it. Space does not allow a rehearsing of that sermon here. But certainly verses 36-39 bare reproducing. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Peter was bold because he had been with Jesus and had finally come to know and understand what His mission and ministry were about. As the apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:3 3 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”  It is important to note the elements in Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:38,39, the preaching of the cross, a call to repentance (which was heeded), and a message for all people (“all who are afar off” is a reference to the Gentiles). So, Pentecost came and 3000 plus “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

How about Paul? Two days are devoted to him in this week’s lesson. The lesson points us to Romans 12. In the first two verses of Romans 12, we find these words, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which I is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” How are our minds renewed? Paul says in verse 1 that it is by dwelling on the mercies of God. This is what brings about the resetting or renewing of our minds that causes us not only to share but to look forward to sharing all we have with others, esteeming others more worthy. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” This defines the difference between what is happening in Acts 2 and 4, and communism and socialism. Titus also helps us: “when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” He was motivated by a self-emptying love. This is what motivates us and shows our grateful response of service in contradistinction to communism and socialism.

So, what about us as the Seventh-day Adventist church, those who “love His appearing”, who are “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God”, who are longing for the outpouring of the latter rain? I will let the servant of the Lord, Ellen White speak, “More than eighteen centuries have passed since the apostles rested from their labors, but the history of their toils and sacrifices for Christ's sake is still among the most precious treasures of the church. This history, written under the direction of the Holy Spirit, was recorded in order that by it the followers of Christ in every age might be impelled to greater zeal and earnestness in the cause of the Saviour.”  {AA 593.1}

     “The commission that Christ gave to the disciples, they fulfilled. As these messengers of the cross went forth to proclaim the gospel, there was such a revelation of the glory of God as had never before been witnessed by mortal man. By the co-operation of the divine Spirit, the apostles did a work that shook the world. To every nation was the gospel carried in a single generation.”  {AA 593.2}

     “Glorious were the results that attended the ministry of the chosen apostles of Christ. At the beginning of their ministry some of them were unlearned men, but their consecration to the cause of their Master was unreserved, and under His instruction they gained a preparation for the great work committed to them. Grace and truth reigned in their hearts, inspiring their motives and controlling their actions. Their lives were hid with Christ in God, and self was lost sight of, submerged in the depths of infinite love.”  {AA 593.3}

“What was the result of the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost? The glad tidings of a risen Saviour were carried to the uttermost parts of the inhabited world. As the disciples proclaimed the message of redeeming grace, hearts yielded to the power of this message. The church beheld converts flocking to her from all directions. Backsliders were reconverted. Sinners united with believers in seeking the pearl of great price. Some who had been the bitterest opponents of the gospel became its champions. The prophecy was fulfilled, "He that is feeble. . . shall be as David; and the house of David . . . as the angel of the Lord." Zechariah 12:8. Every Christian saw in his brother a revelation of divine love and benevolence. One interest prevailed; one subject of emulation swallowed up all others. The ambition of the believers was to reveal the likeness of Christ's character and to labor for the enlargement of His kingdom.”  {AA 48.1}

     "With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all." Acts 4:33. Under their labors were added to the church chosen men, who, receiving the word of truth, consecrated their lives to the work of giving to others the hope that filled their hearts with peace and joy. They could not be restrained or intimidated by threatenings. The Lord spoke through them, and as they went from place to place, the poor had the gospel preached to them, and miracles of divine grace were wrought.” {AA 48.2}

Neither communism nor socialism are operative in Acts 2: 42-47 and 4: 32-37. The love of Christ constrained them. Love was the motivating force. In closing, these two quotes from Ellen White, sum up these verses and likely what God is hoping for in our church so that He can return to claim His likeminded children, “All who would bring forth fruit as workers together with Christ must first fall into the ground and die. The life must be cast into the furrow of the world's need. Self-love, self-interest, must perish. And the law of self-sacrifice is the law of self-preservation. The husbandman preserves his grain by casting it away. So in human life. To give is to live. The life that will be preserved is the life that is freely given in service to God and man. Those who for Christ's sake sacrifice their life in this world will keep it unto life eternal.”  {DA 623.5}

“Christ's followers have been redeemed for service. Our Lord teaches that the true object of life is ministry. Christ Himself was a worker, and to all His followers He gives the law of service--service to God and to their fellow men. Here Christ has presented to the world a higher conception of life than they had ever known. By living to minister for others, man is brought into connection with Christ. The law of service becomes the connecting link which binds us to God and to our fellow men.”  {COL 326.3}

I look forward to the day when we as a people fulfilling the will of our Father in heaven,continue daily with one accord in the temple, breaking bread from house to house, eating food with gladness and simplicity of heart.” Acts 2:46

 

~Andi Hunsaker