Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 1 Jesus the Master Builder ..The nature of a healthy church (part 1)

..The nature of a healthy church (part 1)

Acts 2:41-47 (NIV) 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

On the first of January 2012 Logos Community Church started gathering formally as a local representation of the body of Christ. So in one sense this date was the birth of this congregation, even though our formal opening will only be on the 4th of March. Now instrumental to the starting of Logos were a handful of people who were meeting in my house for Bible study last year.

This is not the first birth of a local congregation. Two thousand years ago, another church was born on the day of Pentecost. Instrumental to the starting of this church were 120 disciples who were gathered on that day when 3000 were added. We started with 18, but at their opening they had 3120.  The original idea of the church however was not the brainchild of either the apostles in Acts 2 or us. We read in Matthew 16:18 that Jesus says: "18 And I tell you that you are Peter,b and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hadesc will not overcome it.d" I unpacked this verse as our first sermon in this series: “Jesus the Master Builder” and I invite you to go and read it on our website. What Matthew 16 does not do is to tell us what the church will look like. It does not give us any part of a blueprint by which we could model the church today. This we however find in Acts 2:41-47 and for this sermon I want to highlight 8 design characteristics of the first church which should subsequently serve as a model to us as far as healthy church life is concerned. Even though you will not find the total blueprint in Acts 2:41-47 you cannot go to a better church than the church in Jerusalem to see what the church that Jesus builds looks like.

Now remember, this church was close to the fire, they were still living in the heat of Christ’s physical presence on earth. I guess they were as pure as you could get. They were not yet affected by any traditions, human ideas or denominationalism. They have not learnt from the experts at church growth conferences or other seminars. This church did not even have the New Testament; they purely had direct revelation to the apostles and the Old Testament. All they had was the power of the Holy Spirit in their midst, with the apostles teaching them the Scriptures. And let me immediately say this. While they were the first church and while they are a model to us, they were not perfect. They had hypocrites in the life of the church, they had cultural and racial tensions, they had sinners just like we do and they even had doctrinal errors which you see later in the book of acts. Why did they have errors? Because like us they were saved from the power of sin, but not the presence of sin.

So let’s look in short at what this first church looked like, as I firmly believe that this church is still a model for us today.

Firstly, A healthy  church is made up of the redeemed.

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”  And verse “47 And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

The only church that will ever stand up against the gates of hell is when its members are truly redeemed. The gates of hell according to Old Testament references generally refer to death, and it is this final power that the death of Christ has conquered, and Satan has no power over it. In Acts 2 Peter preaches under the power of the Spirit and 3000 people believe and are added to the 120 that already made up the true followers of Christ. What was remarkable on this day was the pure response to the word of God. Unlike today where many people bargain with the truth because of outside influences or tradition where some say well – membership is not for me, others say baptism is not for me and so we can go on. On this day 3000 believed, 3000 were baptised and 3000 were added and 3000 continued steadfastly. They were real disciples. According to verse 38 they were Spirit filled disciples. Remember the words of Christ in John 8:30-31 30 Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” True faith is not just a simple statement about ‘believing’, it is about “continuing”. The true church is made up of people who continue in Christ.

What do we say of people who leave the faith, people who do not endure? John is clear in his first 1 John 2:19 (NIV)19They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” If Logos is in any way going to be the true church that Jesus intended us to be according to this blueprint in Acts 2 it has to be a church made up of redeemed people. While we at all times will welcome unredeemed people into our services because we want them to hear the gospel of Christ, we will not adjust our services to entertain them and our preaching will not be aimed at them in spite of the fact that the gospel is always central in our preaching. I grew up in a church where every Sunday evening was an evangelistic service. However in attendance were the most faithful people in the body. So 50 % of the Word ministry was focused at people not present.  Our services at Logos are aimed at the equipping of the saints while we know that God by His grace in the same services can save sinners. But when it comes to membership a church made up of sheep and goats does not work because they do not go well together. God and Satan do not function well in the same body. Goats like to bump heads, don’t they? While I know that we cannot always perfectly police who belongs to the church as far as being redeemed or not is concerned, I pray that God will greatly protect us from being a church that is made up of too many tares among the wheat.

And so to begin with, the church must be redeemed. What fellowship has light with darkness? What agreement has Christ with Satan? If you want from these verses to develop a definition of the church, you can simply say the following. The church is those called out of the world who have believe the message, followed the Lord in Baptism, who are filled by the Spirit and who are continuing in Christ.

Let me just say this regarding Baptism. Because of 400 years of people being exposed to infant baptism, we are merciful and patient with people who have not been baptised as believers. You are welcome to join as long as you are in Christ. But at Logos we only teach believers baptism. It is the only baptism in Scripture. There is not a hint of infant baptism, or any theology that drives you towards it. Zwingli was the first theologian in history to ever attempt a theology on the matter and there are major errors, presuppositions and holes in his thinking. Our desire is that all will be baptised but we want the Spirit to do the convicting work in people’s lives through His word.  My prayer for Logos in 2012 is that God will keep on redeeming people unto Himself and that He will add them to this body.

Secondly,  A healthy church is a studying church.

“42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”.

I was first going to entitle this point that the true church is a teaching church, something we have can emphasise over and over. However look at where the verse puts the emphasis. It is really saying that the people were devoted to learning, studying or acquiring knowledge and understanding. While I will remain committed to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, the emphasis here is on the desire of the church to learn.

Now we are not off target especially if we model ourselves after the first church. They were a church that taught the word of God. The word of God was not yet fully written. They didn't have a Bible in terms of a New Testament. But the apostles' doctrine was the word of God. As much as you had revelation by the Spirit through the Old Testament authors so the apostle’s doctrine which eventually became New Testament for us carried the same authority. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:37 (NIV) 37 If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.” Jude 17 (NIV): "17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold."

Our duty as pastors is not to preach a whole lot of practical sermons on a whole lot of Christian stuff with a whole lot of personal opinions based on a whole lot of personal experiences, no – it is to preach the Scriptures, the whole of Scripture and nothing but Scripture. Our duty is to preach the word of God accurately knowing that Hebrews 4:12 (NIV) teaches: “12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Paul over and over says to Timothy the pastor of the Ephesian church to teach the word in season, out of season, not getting into arguments and old wives tales, but just teaching according to sound doctrine. Let me challenge us all early in 2012 that if you want to regard yourself as part of the church that Jesus is building that you will commit yourself to learning.

Thirdly, A healthy church is a fellowshipping church.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship,

46 ………….They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

Fellowship is more than two fellows in a ship. Two fellows in a ship have no choice but to speak to one another. Our Fellowship is in Christ. The word of God is clear that it is through Christ that even Jews and Gentiles became one. Fellowship in a real sense of the word Biblically speaking is ‘common participation in God because we are in God.’ 1 John 1:3 (NIV) 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

When you become a Christian, guess what? You don’t just join a local church because that is the thing to do. You cannot be part of the body of Christ if you are not part of its local manifestation. You join the local church because it is an expression of what Christ has made you. You are a member of the body of Christ and therefore being united with Christ means that you automatically become united with the local representation of the body of Christ. The same bonds that link the individual to Jesus also link us to the members of the body of Christ. You are therefore in union with fellow believers and one of the ways in which this union is expressed is our fellowship. In spite of the church in Jerusalem having 3120 members at least, they were a fellowshipping church. So there were over 3000 in this ship, and I promise you it is not the one that sank in Italy recently as the church of Christ has grown over the centuries to flood every country in the world, whether believers have to worship underground or in the open.

So what is fellowship in a church according to the real sense of the word? The word fellowship comes from the word “koinwni,a (Koinonia) which comes from the root word Koine which means ‘common’. The Greek language in those days was called Koine Greek which means it was the Greek spoken by all people in common because it was the universal language of the day. Therefore if I as a believer choose to have fellowship with only two or three people I am actually going against the meaning of the word Kononia as we all as believers gathered here today have Christ and the Father in common.

So what is true kononia? I believe that it is simply sharing our lives with one another, loving one another, praying for one another, edifying one another, rebuking one another, reproving one another, exhorting one another, laughing with one another, weeping with one another, giving to one another, picking one another up when we fall. Not slandering one another or backbiting one another, and always believing the best of each other, and so the list goes on. Fellowship can happen anywhere. It's whether you're committed to loving and sharing your life with others. One thing we must understand is that as soon as we are born again we become family of one another. We all have the same common eternal life. We all have the same Spirit of God. We all have the same power surging through us. We all are going to spend eternity together. We all have the same Christ, the same God, and the same church. And it's time we all experienced that with each other and shared it. If you just intend to come and sit in lonely isolation you will forfeit this fellowship, and then the church will not be built Jesus' way. I can bang away at Biblical doctrine here every Sunday morning, but if we sit here in indifference and isolation, with no mutual ministry to one another that will forfeit the promise of Jesus that Satan will never be able to overpower the church. All the parts have to be there.

God's design is for his people to fellowship. I was tempted to make the following statement part of a separate point, namely that the true healthy church is a church who shares in communion. But I believe the statement that they broke bread together fits right here because our fellowship is in what Christ did for us on the cross of Calvary. Because we are redeemed we share in fellowship around the Lord’s Table. There is even a thought that the breaking of bread from house to house was communion and not just scoffing a meal.  Our point of unity is the cross, it is the very relationship we have with Christ. Let me tell you what I have seen over the years. The stronger your vertical fellowship is with God the stronger your horizontal fellowship will be with man.  Normally when you see someone who refuses to fellowship with God’s people it tells you something about their fellowship with God.

Let me just share a few practical thoughts relevant to Logos as I close out on this point. We will then continue with the other characteristics of a healthy church next Sunday. We want to encourage you to use the opportunities given to fellowship with each other. If at all possible. Don’t run home after the service, stay for coffee and tea and enjoy seeing people eye ball to eye ball rather than just the back of their heads. If at all possible, let’s eat together. Let’s share our food. Let us fellowship in small groups. The men are already together every Friday morning from 06:00 to 06:30. The ladies will get together, the seniors, the youth, the children etc.  The gates of hell cannot prevail against a fellowshipping church.

Can I ask you today? Do you consider yourself as part of the redeemed or not? If you are not a child of God, I want to remind you this morning that Jesus came to this earth to live a sinless life; He was born from a virgin, died in our place on the cross of Calvary. He literally took our sins upon Himself so that He in turn can clothe us with His righteousness. He rose from the grave to complete the work started on the cross so that He can justify us. He has ascended on high and is preparing a place for those whom He has redeemed. This morning He is inviting you to put your faith in Him alone for your salvation.

Do you consider yourself this morning as someone who is willing to learn? Like the apostles we are here to teach Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, but it is of no benefit to you if you do not commit yourself to the teaching that goes out from here. I want to encourage you to bring your Bible, bring your notebook, pray that the Lord will give you a prepared heart and gather every moment you can so that you may learn and become rooted in your faith.

Are you in fellowship with your fellow believers? By being in Christ you are one of them. Are you using the opportunities to chat, to encourage one another and all the other ‘one another’s that I mentioned in my third point? Or are you running away from fellowship. Do you simply prefer to fellowship with the 2 or 3 that you already know, or are you willing to walk past them to a stranger and to get to know them. Can I encourage you again? Exercise the privilege of true ‘Kononia’, because against a church like that the gates of hell will not prevail.


Logos Community Church – 12 February 2012

b Peter means rock.

c Or hell

d Or not prove stronger than it