Today’s Reading: Hos 6:1–7:16, Acts 2:42–3:26, Job 15:21–35
Today’s Theme: The church or marks of a biblical church
Today’s theme is the church, we read about the marks of a biblical church from the account in Acts of the earliest church and the works of the apostles. We explore God’s plan for His people in our Old Testament reading which is manifested as the Church of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. Hosea 6:1 (ESV)
This is a call to repentance, we must like Hosea recognise that the purpose behind God’s discipline for his children is remedial.
God wants us to be reformed, never forget that God desires for you to grow and flourish.
Persevere as God’s Saints
Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3 (ESV)
Hosea calls us to perseverance in seeking and knowing God, we can do this through His word.
We have been called to perseverance as Christians, our walk is not for the faint hearted. We need to press forwards with courage and zeal.
If you do not have an appetite for God and His word then you need to examine yourself and realign your priorities by the centering of your delight on God.
Love, the active ingredient
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6 (ESV)
Again this cuts to heart of Hosea’s message. God wants love not sacrifice and to be known rather than to be given offerings. This means that God has no desire for external observances without inward truth.
This is why those that teach that even the ungodly and backsliding / rebellious Christians can benefit from tapping into divine principles are simply wrong. This sounds more like the new age… NO ..our God is a God who delights in genuine love and relationship. In fact love for and in God is the active ingredient that makes the “divine principles” and “promises” of God work.
None of this is possible aside from the knowledge of God found in the special revelation of His word… it is not acquired by relativity because the truth is absolute and settled.
Deal with it today
For with hearts like an oven they approach their intrigue; all night their anger smolders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. Hosea 7:6 (ESV)
Like Paul said, we should not let the sun go down on our anger in Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,”
If we hold on to things overnight, it will smoulder and a root of bitterness and anger will start to take root. We have been called to live in peace and freedom.
What is taking your strength?
Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not. Hosea 7:9 (ESV)
What is it that is taking your strength, be sure to know and prioritise accordingly?
We need to take personal inventory of our lives, where is our time, our thoughts, our money and our energy being used?
We need to plug the leaks and take hold of the reigns. Don’t go into a drift and be taken along by the busyness of life.
Don’t be silly
Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria. Hosea 7:11 (ESV)
Lord keep us from being silly and without sense. Help us to run to you and not to the apparent help of this world.
Jesus calls us to wisdom in Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds; for grain and wine they gash themselves; they rebel against me. Hosea 7:14 (ESV)
It seems that the heart of rebellion amongst God’s people is our lack of desire for Him and the strength of our desire for other things. Lord help us today to have joy filled, healthy desires for You and the things that please You.
4 Marks of a biblical church
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42 (ESV)
It is just wonderful to have this record of how the first of the early churches functioned, it should be remembered that all the members of this first Christian community were Jewish.
Here are 4 marks of a biblical church. The first is sound doctrine, followed by active fellowship, keeping of the sacraments and finally commitment to prayer.
Devoted to Apostolic Teaching
They were first of all devoted to apostolic doctrine. For us today we should be devoted to the bible and the sound exposition of it by our pastors and by tried and tested men in church history like Spurgeon and others God has raised up today like Piper. As they seek to build us up as God’s people that we might know God and live for Him, growing in the Lord daily.
There is no new doctrine in the church only cults come up with new things all the time. This is why our doctrine should be driven by the teaching of Jesus and the apostles of the New Testament.
They engaged in fellowship, this is one of the unique qualities of the church, without heartfelt, sacrificial and loving fellowship the church would be little more than a college of learning. The fellowship is what makes the church community into a family of believers living out their lives on mission together in accountability and mutual care.
Those who say they do not need fellowship break with the pattern of this the first ever church and the admonitions of scripture.
Keep the sacraments
The breaking of bread means they were keeping the sacraments that Jesus instituted at the last passover meal with the disciples which is the Lord’s supper and later we see the sacrament of baptism. These two are crucial to a church, they are rituals of faith and identification with Christ that MUST be practised by a church that professes to follow Jesus.
I think God gave us sacraments to humble us and remind us that we can’t do things just the way we want to and there are some things that should unite us all. Also, just like the sacraments of the Old Testament, they would display our faith and obedience, although doing them without faith and love are without effect as mentioned earlier and is in fact dangerous.
Commitment to Prayer
Finally the church was marked by a commitment to prayer. The church could do with reminding of this today, God has called us all to engage in corporate prayer. I would go as far as to say that if we are not praying we are committing a sin of omission. Jesus quoted the Old Testament and said His Father’s and His house is a house of prayer.
Also when we look at the pattern of Christ’s life it was marked by prayer. As a church we must pray. Notice it says “the prayers” it is likely the apostles wrote prayers that people would pray like the Psalms and we should not neglect this practice privately and corporately today.
God’s glory and order in the church
And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. Acts 2:43 (ESV)
This tells us that those observing the church stood in awe of what God had done, this should still be the case.
Also notice that many signs and wonders were done, but not just by anybody, they were done by the leaders, the apostles.
The church would not be a safe place if it was a free for all and any untried and untested person could lay hands and perform miracles in Jesus name. In the same way the church would be unsafe if the pulpit were open to novices to lead the church into heresy.
God has order in the church, elders (including pastors) are there to minister to the people in order that God gets the glory, these are men that must be qualified through a tried and tested life.
Called to generosity
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, Acts 2:46 (ESV)
This gets to the heart of this passage about having all things in common. Some take this model too far and make it like a communist idea while others ignore it as a fad of the first church.
The fact is that this shows another great principle of any church and its people and that is the necessity of generosity. Notice there is no prescription of tithes, weights and measures here like in the Old Testament, instead this giving is done with a joyful, willing heart of generosity… we must be generous and give.
If (as in modern days) we want to use the OT principle of tithing (10%) as a guide to what we give that is fine although it does raise a danger of heartless, joyless and frankly unwilling and ultimately ungenerous giving by following the principle without our hearts being in it and our affections in giving remaining unmoved.
So we should give all we have with a generous, grateful and joy filled heart.
The Church, God’s project
praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:47 (ESV)
A reminder at the end of the chapter that this first church in Jerusalem was the Lord’s great project, not Peter’s or anyone else. Also it reminds us that the Lord saves us and draws us into fellowship with the church.
Work in Jesus name
But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Acts 3:6 (ESV)
Peter did this in the name of Jesus, so this miracle would bring glory to Jesus because it was done in His name.
The church must minister in Jesus name, not our own name.
Also notice that these men were not wealthy, contrary to the teaching of prosperity gospel proponents.
Preach the gospel
And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? Acts 3:12 (ESV)
The miracle was a draw for the people to hear the preached word. The bold and public declaration of the Gospel is a distinctive mark of the true church.
If God performs a miracle through us we should use it as an opportunity to preach the Gospel.
Preach from the Bible
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. Acts 3:13 (ESV)
Peter relates to the audience of Jews in the temple, by calling on the name of God in a way that they were familiar with “God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers”.
We should also use this method today to reach both Jews and Gentiles. The Old Testament is where we find the rich roots of our faith. The Old Testament was the only bible Jesus and the New Testament church had.
The principle is that the church should preach from the bible.
Jesus, Author of life
and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. Acts 3:15 (ESV)
What an awesome title, Jesus is the author of life, that means He started life, He wrote the book of life, He is God.
Power in Jesus name
And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. Acts 3:16 (ESV)
Lord help us today to have faith in the name of Jesus, there is power in the name of Jesus… but not in a magical way, there is power when we call upon his name in faith.
A biblical church will trust in the name of Jesus
The call to repentance
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, Acts 3:19 (ESV)
The great imperative, the call of the gospel, to repent. Peter makes it very clear (for the Easy Beliveists of our day) that repentance means we need to turn back to God, it is only when we repent that our sins which are many will be blotted out.
A true church will call people to repentance in mind and actions. Repentance and saving faith are inextricably linked.
Living in the gap
whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Acts 3:21 (ESV)
This is the gap the Jews did not foresee, we are living in the gap now. Jesus is in the heavens and will come again at the restoration of all things when He consummates His kingdom.
While the church is in this age we are called to be the light of the world, ambassadors of the King and His kingdom proclaiming the good news.
The exclusive gospel
And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ Acts 3:23 (ESV)
There are no grey lines here, Jesus is the only way. Anyone ( Jews, Gentiles, rich, poor, educated, religious etc) who does not follow Jesus will be destroyed in the ultimate judgement of hell.
Our gospel message is exclusive, any church that does not hold to the core doctrine that Jesus is the only way to salvation is no church at all.
Love the sons of covenant
God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” Acts 3:26 (ESV)
Appealing to the Jews as sons of the covenant and reminding them that God sent the prophets and Jesus to them first is a great way to reach them today.
God loves His people the Jews and wants them to repent and be saved.
A biblical church will love Gods people the Jews, seeking their salvation in Jesus, not seeking to replace them.
The trap of emptiness
Let him not trust in emptiness, deceiving himself, for emptiness will be his payment. Job 15:31 (ESV)
Although the basic assertion that the wicked have terrible lives is not true, this statement really is true because Paul picks this up in the New Testament reminding us that the wages of sin is death.
Also as saints we need to recognise what emptiness can represent for us. It could be a film, television, a conversation, a book, a website. What is it in our lives that is empty because we will reap nothing good from it.
Replace emptiness by living for God and His people, the Church of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said in John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.
The Gospel Coalition on Acts 3