On October 1st, 2023, we will be joining our brothers & sisters at True Vine Ministries for Sunday morning worship. The service begins at 10:30am, and the address is 3701 N Spencer Rd, Spencer, OK 73084.

One Heart and Soul

August 15, 2023 Speaker: Ben Janssen Series: Crosstown Basics

Scripture: Acts 4:32– 5:11

32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. 7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

‌We are in a series we do every year called Crosstown Basics in which we discuss what we consider to be the three essential components for making disciples of Jesus: gospel, community, and mission. We believe that disciples of Jesus are made by the gospel, in gospel community, and on gospel mission.

‌Last week we discussed the gospel and said that the gospel is the story of how the creator God has come to rescue his world through his Son, Jesus of Nazareth. Through Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection he accomplished this rescue mission. And he has ascended to the throne and now reigns as the undisputed Lord of the world.

‌This week, we turn our attention to gospel community. We are talking about the renewed people of God who are united by faith in Jesus and marked as his disciples. We are talking, in other words, about the church, what Galatians 6:16 calls “the Israel of God.”‌

These days, the church is well known but not always well respected. And many people who call themselves Christians, who claim to be disciples of Jesus, seem not to care too much about the church. Some of this is understandable given the pain that many have experienced within the church. But some of the problems we have with the church are due to ignorance about what the church is and why it is indispensable to the Christian faith and to Christian disciples. I want to argue today that we can no more forsake the gospel community (the church) than we can the gospel itself and still be faithful to the mission of disciple-making.

I want to argue that the church, by its very presence, in its distinctive practices, and in its unique power, is a sign that the gospel is true, that Jesus is Lord.

The Presence of the Church

‌First, the presence of the church is a sign—the church is evidence—that Jesus is Lord. The church, by its very existence, demonstrates that the kingdom of God has arrived, that Jesus really does reign over all creation as its undisputed Lord. To say it another way, if the church did not exist, we would not be able to prove that Jesus is Lord.

The Birth of the Church

‌Set aside for a moment what you might think of the church today, and let’s go back to when the church was born. The first 13 verses of Acts 2 give us that story.

The disciples of Jesus at the time of Jesus’s death and resurrection, totaled about 120 (Acts 1:15). This group was on the verge of extinction, snuffed out by all other failed messianic movements in that day. But by the end of chapter two, the Bible says the group swelled to about three thousand.‌

What we are reading here is an account of how the early Christian movement went from a small band of Jesus followers on the verge of extinction to a much more public and notable force. And something has to explain the phenomenon. There has to be a reason why this messianic movement survived when so many others did not.

Or, again, to say it the other way around, it would be impossible to claim that the kingdom of God had arrived in the person of Jesus if the church did not exist. If Jesus achieved the establishment of God’s kingdom, then there should be some indication that the king has his citizens. The church of Jesus is evidence that he does.

On the Day of Pentecost

Luke’s telling of the church’s birthday indicates that he wants us to draw meaning from the timing of it. It happened on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1). Just as Jesus’s death at the time of Passover clearly has significance (see 1 Cor 5:7), so the birth of the church on Pentecost has great significance as well. Remember, Christianity is rooted in ancient Israel and the great Jewish story.

Pentecost, an annual Jewish celebration occurring seven weeks after Passover, was a harvest festival. The first fruits of the yearly harvest were brought to Jerusalem for a one-day celebration (Lev 23:15-21). Jews from all over would come to Jerusalem on this day; as Jews of the diaspora, they did not all speak the same language.‌

But on this Pentecost celebration, something remarkable is happening.

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:2-4).

‌When asked in verse 12 what this all meant, Peter declared in verses 16-17 that it was the arrival of the long-awaited “last days” that the prophets had spoken about.

The “last days” is one of those expressions that has unfortunately taken on meanings quite foreign to Jewish expectation and hope. The last days are not, from the perspective of first-century Judaism, the time when God brings to an end the space-time universe. The last days are the time when God renews his covenant with Israel, putting them at the center of the space-time universe and for the sake of the universe. The last days are when God returns to his temple, brings an end to Israel’s exile, and lives with them forever. The last days are the transition from the old creation to the long-awaited promise of new creation.

And the festival of Pentecost pointed forward to the arrival of that day. Pentecost was a commemoration of the giving of the Torah to Moses at Sinai, a month or two after Passover and the exodus from Egypt.[1] So, consider the timing here. In Luke’s Gospel (Lk 9:31), he uses the word exodus to describe what Jesus accomplished in his death and resurrection. A new and decisive moment of liberation had come. And now he tells us that fifty days later, as we might expect, comes the covenant renewal for God’s newly-liberated people.

A People and a Place

‌What more might this tell us about the church? Well, when Moses received the Torah, there were two main things we note about its content. The torah of course contained the law, instructions for how God’s people were to live. The Torah also contained the blueprints for the Tabernacle, the place where God’s presence would abide with his people.

So also here at Pentecost: the filling with the Holy Spirit of all of the disciples of Jesus is how the church was born. And we should see why it is indispensable to Christian discipleship. The church is a people and a place. The church is where God’s people learn to live as God’s people in his kingdom and the church is where God himself dwells in their midst, tabernacled among them by his own Holy Spirit. It is God-with-us that makes the church and proves Jesus is Lord.

The Practices of the Church

‌So, the church, simply by its presence, gives witness to the gospel reality that Jesus is Lord. But now notice that the church, by its practices, also testifies to this gospel reality. When we come to the end of Acts 2 and the end of Acts 4, we see some of the central habits and practices that shape and form disciples of Jesus within this new covenant community. And the key here is to see that they are entirely communal. Disciples of Jesus are not made in isolation. Christianity is a public faith, not a private religion. Those who want to talk primarily about “me and God” might have a religion, but that religion is not Christianity, because Christianity is communal. To be a Christian means you belong to a community. You are not your own. Others have a claim on you, as you do on them.

A Common Faith‌

Now notice here in Acts 2:41, at the end of Peter’s gospel sermon in which he proclaimed how it is that Jesus is now Lord. “‌So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Baptism is the sign of our common faith, and it is required of all Christian disciples. There is no biblical warrant for a so-called unbaptized Christian. Do you believe that Jesus is Lord? Then you must be baptized.

‌Baptism is the practice that marks the entry point into the new covenant family. No one gets to opt out of it. Because there is only one Lord and one faith, Ephesians 4 tells us, there is also one baptism. Baptism is a sign of conversion, of one’s profession of faith, to be sure, but it is every bit as much a sign of inclusion. The idea is that all who are baptized properly belong to the family of God.

Of course, today we have a problem on both fronts. We have baptized people who want nothing to do with the church, and we have churches that readily admit into their membership unbaptized people. We have much to clarify about the significance of baptism, and it is the church’s job to make this plain. Because of the confusion today, our church does not practice spontaneous baptisms which we think have the effect of separating baptism from church membership. The point here is that baptism tells the story that all who are in this family are here because of their union with Christ in his death and resurrection. That’s why we belong. We have a common faith: Jesus is Lord!

Common Doctrine‌

In verse 42, we are told that these Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” Christianity is not an evolving faith. We do not invent new teachings; we earnestly seek and “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). It’s why we say the Apostles’ Creed each Sunday. We are anchored to the historical realities of the triune God who made the world, who came to redeem his world, and who is now filling his world with his power and presence.

So, we are always trying to go back to the apostolic teaching so that we might learn the faith. And, because Christianity makes a claim about all creation, we need local apostolic teaching in order to learn together how to live as disciples of Jesus in our own generation. We must learn, not just the bare facts of the faith, but also its worldview, its way of being in the world.

Common Table

Verse 42 says these disciples of Jesus were also devoted to “the fellowship.” Again, we see the communal realities of Christianity: we share a common faith, a common doctrine, and a common table.

Fellowship, at the very least, is about one’s real, physical presence in which the last two things are meant to further define what one does in this fellowship.[2] There is the breaking of bread, which could refer to sharing ordinary meals, but definitely includes the observance of the Lord’s Supper meal. No solo Christianity here. When you go to a restaurant, there are always at least two chairs at each table. You aren’t supposed to eat alone. What if, at least on the Lord’s Day, you made sure no one ever did? Invite someone out to eat with you, or even better, have them over to share a meal at your home.

We can see how far we’ve fallen from apostolic Christianity when professing Christians think of church the way they think of their neighborhood association or their local gym. They might belong, they might even pay their dues, but no need to actually show up. If an “unbaptized Christian” makes no sense, neither does an “unchurched Christian.” These make as much sense as an unpublished author.

And, by the way, since you can’t “fellowship” alone, you aren’t meant to pray alone either. Prayer ought to mark Christian fellowship, both when we gather for worship in the church or in our homes.

Common Concern

‌And then notice, in verse 44, that Christians also share a common concern for one another. They “had all things in common” and “were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” In Acts 4:34, we are told that “there was not a needy person among them” because of this radical generosity. They were committed to each other. You know what? They actually lived like they were a single family.[3] That’s how they thought of themselves.

I pause here just for a moment to ask you, brothers and sisters: how might we need to improve here? Where do you see opportunity for us to grow into this kind of community together? What will it take? And how can you contribute?‌

The Power of the Church

‌If we are thinking like Christians, this should be very exciting. Something is really off if you hear all of this and feel like the doctor has just told you that you can no longer eat your favorite food or you will die. The church is not to be dreaded like you do your dentist. You see, the church has been given the unique power that demonstrates to the world the reality that Jesus is Lord—and it is our great privilege to be a part of it!

Joyful Power

Let’s just take in these words together. First, listen to Acts 2:46-47.

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.

What is the impression you get from those words? Notice it says they were “glad and generous” not “sad and obligated.” And the word favor here is the word for grace. It describes the experience that one has in relationship with another.[4] Why do so many professing Christians think of the church as something that makes demands on them rather than giving them the opportunity to find joy and to experience grace? Perhaps the fault lies with the church, but isn’t it just as likely the fault lies with our unbiblical expectations about what the church is and why it exists?

In Acts 4, the Christian community is described as being “of one heart and soul.” Christians do not all think the same about everything, but that’s the beauty of true Christian community. Jesus brings together all kinds of people with all kinds of different perspectives, who learn how to come together in ways the outside world can only dream of. That’s why we are told, in verse 33 that the apostles, “with great power . . . were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” The secret to the church’s power is the gospel of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and the fruit that comes from this power is “great grace”—favor, goodwill, help, healing, hope.

Satanic Attack

Now, who wouldn’t want that? I’ll tell you who: Satan. The devil. Our adversary.

You see, if you think of the church as some kind of utopia, where there are no problems to face, no dangers to avoid, then just hang around for a little bit. Or, just keep reading your Bible.

In Acts 5, we read about this disturbing account of Ananias and Sapphira. It certainly wakes us up a bit, doesn’t it? What’s going on here? It is not an account of church members who don’t tithe but of the devil who doesn’t subside. Verse 3 clearly points to the dark power of evil intending to wreak havoc on God’s people. The fact that the devil does not leave the church alone is not a sign of the church’s impotence but of its power. The devil doesn’t care about that which doesn’t threaten him.

This account points again to the reality of the kingdom of God now come. The future judgment, like the future vindication, comes rushing into the present, and since the church is God’s new temple, it is also a dangerous place. We see hints of this in a few other places in the New Testament. One is found in 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul warns against taking the Lord’s Supper “in an unworthy manner” and thereby bringing “judgment on himself.” In verse 30, he says, “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

I guess we had better take the church seriously. The devil certainly does.

Confronting the Lie

How should we do this? Notice that at the heart of the Satanic attack is a lie. “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 5:3). The one thing we in the church must do is tell the truth. The Washington Post wants to warn us that “Democracy Dies in the Darkness,” but something far more important than democracy is at risk in shadowy places.

That’s why the church is called to shine the light of God’s truth in every place. “You are the light of the world,” Jesus proclaimed over his new community (Matt 5:14-16).

I’ll leave it to Pastor Jad to speak next week to the light-bearing reality of the church to the outside world. Let me close this morning by speaking about it here, inside the church. We must not let Satan wreak havoc by living in the darkness of lies in our life together. You know where some of those dark places in your own heart are, so find a Christian brother or sister whom you trust and confess your sins one to another, as the Bible instructs us to do (Jas 5:16). Not everyone needs to know everything, but someone does so they can minister grace to you and you can find the help you need to walk in the light.

Your pastors are committed to you and to your spiritual health and growth. It is our business to know you so that we can serve you well. That includes how you are doing financially, and though we do not know specifics about how much you are giving to the church, we do ask the Treasurer to let us know of any member families who give nothing in a given quarter or whose giving has significantly dropped over the previous year. I do hope you do not find that threatening. We are not doing this because we need your money. We are doing this because we want to make disciples.

And let us all be committed to one another. Let’s spend some time in our Missional Families talking about our church covenant and the commitments we have made to one another for our mutual joy and edification.

And, as long as our Lord lets us do life together, let us eagerly seek to be “of one heart and soul” as we serve him and his kingdom day by day.

And remember our Lord’s promise: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).


[1] N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1992), 234.

[2] Ben Witherington, III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 160.

[3] Tom Wright, Acts for Everyone: Part 1, Chapters 1–12 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 45–46.

[4] Walter Bauer et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1079.

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