I The Door: Salvation, Sealing & Power: (Acts 2:38 – 47)
Immersion into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, I Cor.12:13, Rom.10:9-10 (Evangelical)
Immersion into water by a minister of Jesus Christ, Matt.28:19, 1 Pet. 3:21, Acts 8:35-39, Col. 2:11-23, Acts 19 5-6 (Liturgical)
Immersion into the Holy Spirit by our Lord Jesus Christ. Lk. 3:16, Empowering and release of the gifts of the Spirit, 1 Cor. 12 (Charismatic)
As a result of Pentecost they Became:
l Submitted to Christ Jesus a LORD & SAVIOR (The only door)
II Steadfast in Apostolic Doctrine.
III Steadfast in Fellowship, A focus on unity and forgiveness.
IV Steadfast in Breaking of Bread , The Memorial of Christ for the real presence of Christ.
V Steadfast in Prayer, prayer for self, family, the world, authority, overview.
VI Ministry of the Saints, in the Holy Spirit to the Lord and each other. Body life ministry. A community in surrender to the Holy Spirit, in the fear of God, Holy Reverence. (1 Cor. 12:4-12) Time for the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Charismatics may call this time, “Body Life Ministry” as per James 5:16-19.
VII Ministry of the Elders, in the Holy Spirit: Release of power for the guidance, building and healing of the Church. Mighty signs and wonders and were done by the Apostles or “sent ones”, (Eph. 4:11-16, Acts 5:14-16, John 16:12-15 & 17:4, II Tim.3:5). A time for remaining issues to be resolved in healing and deliverance. James 5:14-15.
Early Church Lifestyle
Believers were together.
Believers had all things common.
Believers sold excess (houses/lands) and shared with the needy.
Believers continued daily in fellowship and breaking of bread.
Believers ate together with gladness and singleness of heart.
Believers praised God.
Believers had favor with all the people.
Believers were added to the church daily by the Lord.
In our generation we may not need to do exactly as the Early Church did as the results of our faith. But we should expect the same love for one another and that same example of deep concern for souls must be very evident in any healthy fellowship. Certainly the power of the Holy Spirit should be expected (faith) to “confirm the word with signs following”. Many ministries function today as an organization or fellowship club. They have even made up doctrines to preclude the need of the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul writes about this problem to Timothy, (2 Tim.. 3:5).
I. The Door
“Then they that gladly received his word”.
Conversion: The Holy Spirit (baptizes) places the believer into the Body of Christ and the new believer begins the process of becoming a new creation in Christ, of, “being saved”. (1 Cor. 12:13, Acts 2:47, John 3:16, Rom.10:9-10, Heb.6:1-9, 10:26-39). (Process can be aborted with loss of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior). When we make Christ Jesus, LORD, we begin the life time process of salvation.
Immersion: A Minister of Christ (baptizes) places the believer under water. (Acts 8:36 b – 40), This is a seal of spiritual death and separation from the world (burial) and the resurrection into a new life by Jesus Christ. The Early Church immersed three times, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Not that it make a lot of difference.
Empowering:Jesus Christ then baptizes “places” the obedient believer into the Holy Spirit(Acts 9:14-17, Luke 3:16, 11:13), to receive His power for His service and ministry in His Kingdom. And to explore the 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit, Gal. 5:22-23.
Saved, Sealed & Empowered
The believer is first saved through the Holy Spirit by faith in Jesus (Acts 8:35-38) or by family faith (I Cor.7:14b) the covenant is then sealed by Immersion (Baptism) or dedication (oil) and finally, the Holy Spirit empowers the obedient believing disciple to do the work that God has called him to do, by and for the glory of The Lord Jesus Christ. The Early Church was noted for the presence of the Holy Spirit in Power (Acts 5:16, II Tim. 3:5) The word was always confirmed with signs following.
In Acts we see in some cases where all three foundations of the faith (Love, Holiness, and Power) occurred at nearly the same time. In three cases we find that conversion and empowering were at totally different times. Baptism was nearly always administered very quickly after conversion. I tend to believe that this is the result of the faith or acceptance on the part of the convert and the witness of the community as to the instruction that was received at the time of conversion. We must enter by faith. We must ask, seek and knock in faith in order to find (Lk.11:9-13).
In church relationships, conversion should never be taken for granted. Many church members are not really converted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ many have only joined a lodge or club in the past. A true shepherd of a flock will know His sheep by name and have an intimate and certain knowledge of their spiritual state. A pastor must know His Lord’s flock, entrusted to His care, to be able to keep the flock together. A pastor must be effective in the watch and care of lambs, sheep, strays or goats. He must also know a wolf when he sees one. He must live in Psalm 23 with Jesus and the flock. Pastors will surely be held accountable in the Day of The Lord concerning their ministry to the flock over which God has given them charge. This can not be done in a Mega Church without cell or home Churches.
Pastoral care, Counselor, Shepherd
The first concern in a new testament worship should be the door of the sheepfold (Jn.10:7-18), the care and health of the Lord’s sheep entrusted to the Shepherd’s care. The collection of offerings for the needs of the Lord’s house or ministry might best to have a place of deposit near the entrance so that money matters will not later interfere with the ministry of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 16:2). Important announcements of sharing should be covered in a bulletin and distributed after the conclusion of the meeting. The offerings may be offered to the Lord at the time of the “Lord’s Supper Memorial 1 Cor.11:20-34” with the wine, bread. The Shepherd should have no other interest at this time than the greetings, observation and the calling of the Master’s sheep by name. The Master was the door to the sheepfold, the shepherd, bishop (overseer) is there for Jesus the chief shepherd. This is a time of great importance, it must not be underestimated. Many members of the congregation (flock) will have only this short time of contact, recognition, and inspection for the whole week. Prayer for the service is commendable but it must not compete for this special ministry time of the shepherd. Others must see to the needs of the fellowship. The teaching inspiration may come at this time by the Holy Spirit drawing the shepherd’s attention to an overview of the needs of the gathering. The Pastor must be at peace, observant, receptive and in the Spirit. He should not be caught up in the sermon texts, organization, logistics or the politics of the meeting. The ministry support and/or the processional should be supervised by others. The entrance into the courts (presence) of the Lord should be with heart felt, abundant, honest, joy, praise, victory, and thanksgiving. This may take time to achieve in the Spirit. It can not be legal, phony or contrived. And it certainly is not a time for Christian Entertainment or hyperventilation. Some of the Saints have no idea how distracting they become from behind when caught up in “Christian” rock music.
II. Apostolic Doctrine
The Old and New Testament truths of God in Scripture, teachings, corrections, The eternal Word of God’s prophets, in song, readings, and liturgy to affirm the eternal truths of The Eternal God, concerning:
1. His nature, His creation, our rebellion, His redemption, His return. The public reading of the Word of God in faith. The more we saturate ourselves with the Word of God, Bible, the more like HIM we become.
2. That Christ Jesus IS the Creator God (in the Father) of all things, born of a virgin as the second Adam, died for our sins, rose for our justification and is coming again in great glory, for the restoration of all things. The very living Word of God. The basic authority of all scripture, 2 Tim.4:16. Basic foundations of the Christian faith.
3. Basic foundations of the Christian faith. must include the balance of affirmations in the doctrines of the balance and nature of God in love, holiness, and power. Singing should progress during a fellowship meeting from popular church songs to praise to worship to high-worship “In The Spirit”..
Fellowship should be a time of reinforcement of who we are in Jesus Christ: “By the blood of His covenant I am a new creation”(Cor. 5:17), old things are passed away.” “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (Phil.3.9).” “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil.4:18).” “I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me (Rom.8:37)”; or some other positive acclamation to confirm our new nature and our placement within the Body of Christ as clearly supported by the Holy Scriptures. We should not give our buried carnal flesh nature any further support, faith or consideration. Unless we are convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit. We are to consider ourselves dead to the world, the flesh and the devil. We should confess and live in Romans 8 and not in Romans 6 & 7. A comprehensive New Testament confession of who we are in Christ Jesus is very important. What we put in our hearts is where we will live. Out of our hearts will proceed with the issues of our lives. Out of the abundance of our heart (id), we will speak and so we will be. We need to confess the victory we have in Jesus in His Kingdom. By our heart-faith in His words-of-faith by His mighty works through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are assured of victory.
III. Fellowship of the Saints
This is the time of fellowship, “Passing of the Peace,” a time for restoration of relationships (if broken). This is the preparation time for the breaking the bread with Jesus our Lord in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Early Church enjoyed a meal together called, “Agape” or “Love Feast.” The Church came together, washed each other’s feet and shared a common meal in which they also had communion or the breaking of the bread. The 20th Century Church has altered things a bit, but I wonder if we should not visit the Early Church from time to time for some real close fellowship? The Early Church met in home fellowship meetings on the 1st day of the week (Saturday night, sundown). This was the custom of the Early Church, and it does have some great time advantages for ministry. Also, time must be allowed for the Holy Spirit to bring a true spirit of repentance in allowing the Saints to leave their gift before the altar and to make true restitution and reconciliation and receive the forgiveness that there may be a True Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I found the list of sins from the Roman Catholic Church to be a most thoughtful reminder of sin. But it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn.16:7). Conviction and forgiveness of sin must be explicit from person to person and not general (I Jn.1:9). Sins that are private (unknown to anyone else), should be confessed privately to the Lord or to another who is trusted (James 5:16). Sins against another should be repented of to that person in private, but only if that person has the knowledge of the sin (Matt 18:15). Open sin against The Lord and the Body of Christ must be repented in an open meeting or congregation so that the church may know of the issues, extend forgiveness, absolution, love, covering, reconciliation with the restoration of fellowship. Without this true and pure foundation of faith and unity, the Holy Spirit will not have the freedom to minister in power. The balance of the service may be nice, liturgical, Biblical, and perhaps even truthful but most likely it will be mechanical, powerless, boring and largely unprofitable. This time of fellowship may include times of praise in music and testimony to the mighty works of God (preparation for the King’s presence in the great mystery of the Eucharist). This unhurried time is absolutely foundational to the release of the Holy Spirit during the meeting or fellowship. If this time is only religious, mental, surface, shallow or superficial then the rest of the time of fellowship will probably be the same (Jn.17:22-23). There is absolutely no substitute for true peace and unity in the Holy Spirit, this it is a must or all may as well go home.
The leadership of the Church must wait upon the Lord for this step to be complete. Just one Achan (Joshua 7) or Ananias (Acts 5) in the camp will cause God to withhold His blessings. Without His powerful presence, we will only have a theater. We are as dust, and our efforts will merely be a show of wood, hay, and stubble. Without His presence we will do much more harm than good and end up with show-time, having a form of godliness (2 Tim.3:1-4:5) and many disciples finding and using the back door.
IV. Breaking of Bread, Eucharist
In the First Century Church there was often a separation in the meeting prior to the breaking of the bread (Didache). At this point in time, the unsaved may have been excluded from further ministry. I am not sure that this happened in the Church of the Acts or if it was due the painful results of the early persecutions. If all is in order to this point and our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit is truly justified in Jesus then we should begin to enjoy the mighty experience of the high presence of the Holy Spirit in the mystery of our Lord’s “Real Presence” as He has promised that where two or three are gathered, in His name, that He will be in the midst of them. As to the blessing and/or consecration of the Bread & Wine, I do not believe that the words of our Lord can be improved upon: If available, the bread should be of one loaf and the grape wine should be Kosher concord grape, with natural fermentation. The head of the house, fellowship or ministry presently available should preside. Communion should not be under the control of any tradition but ministered out of the freedom of the scriptures alone. The use of Historical words is beautiful if they are confirmed with scripture and our Lord’s presence. Great care should be given in the consideration of the beautiful and ancient words. Many no longer convey their original meanings and in some cases, the doctrine may be misleading or even incorrect. We can not support tradition when it is misleading and/or incorrect. We should never, ever allow any tradition to supplant the Rama (living presence) of God’s word. The Church (brethren) should be reminded that the Lord’s Supper may be a matter of life or death (I Cor 10, 27-32) and is not to be taken lightly or thoughtlessly. This is an excellent time to ask if any would like to make Jesus Christ their Lord and King. This is the time when we begin to enjoy the very real presence of Our Lord Jesus in His body, the Church. A wonderful, holy and special time when shared with Brethren and the Holy Spirit. Out of this experience, we come to faithful prayer.
Prayer in the open community is a very precious and sensitive experience. If the previous four steps have been fully ministered then and only then is the Church on praying ground. The believer/disciple needs to feel, and be, totally safe from gossip, recriminations, condemnation and judgmental attitudes. For prayer to be real there must be a holy heart contact of trust and unity with and between each member of the Body of Christ; freedom in the vertical contact with the Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. It is not by accident that prayer is positioned in the liturgy after the breaking of bread. Only a Believer in Apostolic Doctrine, with True Fellowship, in Holy Communion can be a united in Effective Prayer and experience the Power of God. We waste much time in what we call “prayer” and much damage is done in the Church due to unanswered ineffective plastic “prayers.” Our Lord has promised (John 15:7-16) that if we abide in Him and His words abide in us, He will meet all of our needs. Also, the Lord’s Prayer is not a system of magic words or a mantra. It is a guide or a “manner” of prayer to be followed as to subject matter. The disciples were encouraged to meditate on and pray the subjects that are listed in the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s prayer was given as an example of prayer as to what to pray for; a “How to Pray” (Matt. 6) guide for them and us. It is very important that prayer should not be vain repetition. Prayer must be mixed with faith (James 1:6 & 5:16-17). Learning the words of the Lord’s teaching on prayer is commendable and worthwhile but it will not be very effective as prayer without heart understanding and faith. We are called to go on in the Spirit (Rom. 8:26-27). To be rewarded openly most prayer should be done in secret. Prayer is not a badge for proving our spirituality; if it becomes this, then we have our reward. (Matt.6:5-6). Prayer is simply and earnestly talking with God, usually a very personal, one on one relationship with the Creator of all things.
Prayer time for the Church is to destroy the strongholds of the enemy within and without the community of the saints. It is a time to set the captives free; husbands, wives, children, relatives, and friends. This is a time to do battle and lose the power of God in the community at large, nations of the world and their leadership. It is not a time of plastic words. It is a time to touch God and receive real visible help (Heb.11, James 1:5-8, 5:13-18). Much preparation must be given by a band of prayer warriors to build a solid core of prayer support and protection for the ministers and ministry and other key people. Again, prayer also must be by personal calling and vision and not by law. When a time of Holy Spirit-inspired prayer has been completed the time of gathering will naturally flow into the next step of the Liturgy. The Holy Spirit will then begin the Body Life Ministry of the people. Ministry among the people may very well flow from the Table of the Lord’s Supper during the Eucharist and during the prayer time.
VI. Surrender to the Holy Spirit in the Fear of God (Holy Reverence)
This is a time for the Ministry of Worship as found in 1 Cor. 14:26-33, for “Body Life Ministry.” The women are cautioned by our dear Brother Paul to be careful not to take over (1 Cor. 14:34) as the men will not learn to be tender and obedient to the Holy Spirit in the supernatural if there is no room for them to exercise their ministry in the Lord (Usually, the communication lines between tongue and brain are much longer in men than in women, observe boys & girls of the same age). It will generally take men much longer to reach and share a conclusion in open fellowship than it will for women. If women take over then it will become a ministry of women. This is not only a time of ministry by the people (liturgy) to the church, but it is also a time for the training of the future leadership of the church. In love to prefer one another in the gifts of the Spirit. Men tend more towards action, women towards feelings. So be sensitive in the Holy Spirit. I have found that it is wise to ask the Lord, “Is this understanding for me alone, or is this for me to share with someone who has another part of this gift, or do you want me to share this understanding with the disciples that are gathered here for your purposes”? Because one knows does not mean that one takes action. Knowledge, Wisdom, and Timing are very important for an effective ministry. The right thing at the wrong time or wrong way can be highly destructive. We must remember that God is not the author of confusion so pray to be sensitive.
VII. Signs and Wonders
Ideally, by this time, the elders, (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) that are present should be full of faith and come under the full anointing of the Holy Spirit for the remaining needs of those gathered. Ideally, all should leave in peace and in health (Acts 5:14-16). It is not God’s will that any should suffer physically, mentally or spiritually, saved or unsaved. God in Jesus Christ has paid the total payment for the curse of sin, sickness, and death in the world. We are to be free and healed by the blood of King Jesus and should come and fully enjoy our liberty in Him as the Children of God. With faith, the spiritual leaders should be on fire in the Lord. However any merely religious or false leadership, by this time, will be totally upset as in Acts 5:17, the words are, “filled with indignation.” The religious church tends to shoot its wounded and disapprove of anything that moves toward greater freedom, light or power in Jesus than is their experience. The presence of the Holy Spirit will make obvious the darkness of flesh, demons and religious bondage. This is the time for the wonders and signs of our loving God in the healing and deliverance of His people. The Holy Bible is the final and only authority for faith and practice. Our roots must always be in scripture. Only then we may be blessed in our traditions as they help to move the Church forward in the Kingdom of God. This is the time of the ministry of the presiding elder and other elders. This should be a glorious time of fellowship in the Holy Spirit with mighty signs and wonders. Faith should by now be built for a mighty release and experience of God’s love in power for His people. “They that receive a prophet in the name of a prophet, receive a prophet reward (Matt.10:41).” Holy Spirit-filled meetings are like snowflakes, they may look alike but no two are ever the same. No one ever goes home thirsty who comes in faith and humility. The Acts 2:38 liturgy will allow for joy, praise, worship, anointed teaching, Godly faith, and sound apostolic doctrine, but in that same security there must also be a sensitivity to God’s love and flexibility in the Spirit. Any basis in fear and/or unbelief will drastically restrict or limit the experience of God’s presence and diminish the release of power in the Church. At this time the elders (those with a recognized ministry in the five fold ministry of Eph 4:9) should be available to anoint the sick with oil as per James 5:14-16. Prayer must also be subject to the conditions as set forth in the whole book of James, many come for the Elders’ oil but have not made the corrections listed in this little letter of James.
A fellowship of faithful believers, community (church) will surely grow very quickly with the confirmation of the Word of God with signs following. The closure is very important; this time of ministry should conclude with songs of praise, reminders of future gatherings, and with a final benediction: Nothing should interrupt the Holy Spirit as He moves in power in these seven keys. Elders should not allow diversions to usurp God’s glory by those who try to take the glory of God to themselves.
‘Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Or other words and songs)
All seven points or steps that are listed in Acts 2:38 are called Eucharist in the Liturgical Church which means “The Great Thanksgiving “or Celebration of Life. In the Evangelical is may be called a Meeting. In the Charismatic, it may be called a gathering or services. The beauty of the positive side of this approach to worship is that the believers come to experience the real presence of the Lord Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is to be the central reference point of any fellowship, Eph.4:11-16. His cross may be set as a point of elevated focus for the Saints to consider. In a Holy Spirit Gathering, all will seek to come together in a holy attitude, be gathered, pray and reminded of the basic teachings of the New Testament. It is a wonderful time to unload the stress of the week and get quiet before God and wait upon the Holy Spirit for a personal touch from the Holy Spirit in the Music, Testimonies, Teaching, Fellowship, Lord’s Supper, Prayer and Power of the Holy Spirit.
A New Testament fellowship will start with a comfortable place for Evangelicals during the time of testimonies and apostolic doctrine. Then during the fellowship time will gradually shift to a more comfortable directions for those who have be raised in a Liturgical setting and then during the prayer time the Charismatics will feel right at home during the time of Body Life Ministry and the Ministry of the Elders.
As the Holy Spirit works with the Elders in bringing a fellowship experience together it will never be the same each time. The Seven Markers may or may not be observed as given by God to Moses and Peter. One gathering may be centered on prayer another on evangelism. The Holy Spirit needs to be free here so the experience of the believer each time there is a gathering may be completely different. In this open Church forum, there should be faith and excitement as the presence of the Holy Spirit is allowed to take over and orchestrate the gathering.
First the door of the sheepfold will have a prominent place in the gathering with testimonies and the experiences of the week that need to be shared in the grace of our Lord. Then the Word of God will be shared by those moved by the Holy Spirit. This will then go into enjoying a shared meal, repentance, restitution, forgiveness, restoration & absolution in holy preparation for the Lord’s Supper. As the Saints share in the experience of the Lord’s presence then it is time to hold up general prayers for nations and world needs. This will easily lead into personal prayer needs and the powerful payers of the Elders for those who request such. It is a very simple transition from the door of the tabernacle to the Holy of Holies of God. If the markers that have been given of God are not moved and the Saints come with faith, expectancy and clean hearts the Lord will be presence at the gathering in the Holy Spirit and the ministry will grow and many will come into the Kingdom of our Lord. This time of gathering will truly experience the Trinity of our God in Love, Holiness and Power. The Saints will truly experience the Book of Acts come alive for them for perhaps the first time.