Introduction: How important is the church to Christian living? How
important is it to regularly meet with fellow believers? In my
religious freedom litigation, I generally have to prove the sincerity
of my client’s religious beliefs. Over the many years of litigation I
have noticed that those Christians who regularly worship with other
Christians are the most sincere. Most of my “sincerity” problems
arise from individuals who worship on their own. My conclusion is
just an observation and not a scientific poll. What does the Bible
teach us about the importance of the church in the controversy
between good and evil? Let’s dive in and find out!
- The Holy Spirit and the Group
- Read Acts 2:1-4. Who are “they” who are meeting together?
(These are “believers” who probably are composed of the
two groups mentioned in Acts 1:13-15.)
- Why are they together? (In Acts 1:8 Jesus told them
He was going to send them the Holy Spirit. They were
apparently assembled waiting for that event.)
- What they were waiting for happened! What
significance do you find in the fact that the Holy
Spirit first came upon them when they were in a
- Let’s go back and read Acts 1:12-14 to look at these two
groups that made up the early Christian church. The first
group: Jesus’ disciples, mother, brothers and “the women”
got together to pray. Why pray in a group?
- Do you prefer to pray alone or in a group?
- Is there more power in group prayer?
- Read Matthew 18:19-20. Why does Jesus mention
getting together a (small) group for answered
prayer? (If you read the further context, Jesus
is endorsing the church. The Lord obviously
hears the prayers of individuals. However, there
is apparently a dynamic to group prayer that is
important to believers and God.)
- Read Acts 1:15-17, 20-22. This is the second group
mentioned. What is the purpose of this group’s meeting?
(This is an “organization” meeting.)
- What is the reason for having organization? (Peter
(v.20) quotes Psalms about “leadership.” In verse 22
Peter refers to being a “witness.” The purpose of the
group is to organize leadership for witnessing.)
- Recently, I was in a church meeting to discuss re-organization for soul-winning. One member (at the end
of the meeting) complained that we could have been
out witnessing instead of being in the meeting. What
do you think about that comment?
- Now that we have identified the group, let’s go back and
look at Acts 2:1-4 again. We have a group praying
together. We have a group organized for witnessing. What
is the result? (Their prayers were answered and they
received special power to witness.)
- Let’s read on: Acts 2:5-6, 41-42. What was the result of
Holy Spirit-powered group witnessing? (3,000 new members.)
- Did these new converts go off on their own? (No! It
says they devoted themselves to “the fellowship.”)
- After reading these verses, do you think “group action” is
simply being reported to us, or is this the model for our
- Read Acts 4:31-32. What do you think “the place where they
were meeting was shaken” means? (They had an “earthquake”
in the room.)
- Do you need an “earthquake” in your church? In your
- Again, we see the believers in a group. Is that
important? (Yes. Verse 32 tells us that they were of
“one heart and one mind.” They were together, and
they were looking for the Holy Spirit. He came to
them in a most impressive way.)
- How do we get from where we are now in church, to where
the early believers were?
- Persecution and the Group
- In Acts 4 we not only have the Holy Spirit making the
earth move, we have Satan in action. Read Acts 4:1-3.
What is bothering the Sadducees – that Peter and John are
preaching about Jesus? Or, is it something else? (No doubt
they do not want to hear Jesus preached. However, the
problem is more fundamental. The Sadducees denied that
there was a resurrection ( Matthew 22:23), so worse than
talking about Jesus was talking about the fact that He had
been resurrected from the dead!)
- Peter and John get jailed, why? Why not just debate
them? (Force is the answer when you do not have an
adequate logical answer.)
- Were the authorities just getting them out of
the way for the evening? (No. Notice the phrase
(v.3) “because it was evening.” The officials
planned to do something to Peter and John, but
it was time to for the authorities to go home.
They put Peter and John in jail until the next
day when the authorities could decide what to
- Read Acts 4:4. We now have 5,000 believers. Why is the
church growing so fast? Is it because believers are being
- Is it because the believers are working together?
- Is it because of the power of the Holy Spirit?
- If you believe that persecution makes the church grow more
rapidly, tell me why? (I think the formula is just the
reverse. On-fire Christians who are sharing the gospel
attract the attention of the enemy.)
- In this episode, are any of the Christians working alone?
(No. Even Peter and John are working together. Report
after report is about group activity.)
- “Politics” and the Group
- Read Acts 6:1. I recently finished up a religious liberty
case where my client, a former Southern Baptist minister,
said that he left the SBC because he didn’t like the group
politics. He was looking for a solitary religious
experience. Were “politics” a problem in the early church?
(Yes. It seems any time you have a group dynamic, you open
up the possibility for “politics.”)
- What kind of “politics” is this? (This is a cultural
- How would you solve this? Do you think the Hebrew
Jews were really not feeding the widows who were from
the Greek culture?
- Read Acts 6:2. What does this text suggest is the nature
of the problem? (The disciples suggest that this is a
problem simply because not enough time and attention are
being given to the matter.)
- Read Acts 6:3-5. What kind of names are these? (They are
- Let’s review this situation. The complaint is that
the Greek Jewish widows are being discriminated
against. Why choose Jews with a Greek background to
administer the program?
- Isn’t this just rewarding “whiners?”
- If you had a similar problem in your church,
would you handle it this way? Turn the program
over to those complaining?
- What do you learn about the early church from
this story? (This is a very interesting look
into the attitude of the early church. Cultural
charges of discrimination are made. Instead of
denying the charges (which I feel certain were
not the result of deliberate discrimination) the
church votes to have those from the “victim”
culturerun the program. There is no attempt to
culturally “balance” this new group — they vote
- Why do you think the early church did
that? (This shows the “majority” culture
trusted the minority culture. They were
not afraid for the welfare of the Hebrew
widows if they put the Greek Jews in
- What lessons do we learn about politics in the church
and advancing the gospel? (This shows that in any
group you can have misunderstandings. The important
part is not the misunderstanding, but rather how you
- Do you see any advantage to having a group in this
situation? (Sure. The church was running a type of
social security system for widows. Without the
organization, this would not have taken place.)
- Doctrines and the Group
- Read Acts 15:1-2. What is the problem?
- Why go to Jerusalem with this issue? Didn’t Paul and
Barnabas already have their minds made up on this?
(This shows they were willing to submit to church
- The lesson (Thursday) lists a whole group of famous
Christians who did not submit to church authority.
The list includes Martin Luther, Calvin, Zwingli,
Melanchthon and Westley. Why did Paul and Barnabas
submit to church authority and Luther and Westley did
- Read Acts 15:5-20, but pay particular attention to verses
7, 12, 13, 19. Who discussed this issue? (The apostles and
- Who decided the issue? (It seems James did.)
- Did the group take a vote? (No.)
- What happened at this meeting is recounted in a
letter recorded in Acts 15:23-29. Read. Do
verses 25 and 28 indicate a vote was taken?
(While it does not appear that a vote was taken,
it also does not seem that James unilaterally
made the decision. Instead, we get the picture
that the Holy Spirit lead them all to the same
conclusion. Praise God!)
- How can you have such agreement in your church
- How important was this doctrinal question to the church?
(In Acts 15:19 James says it was making it difficult for
Gentiles to join the church.)
- What do you think about this idea of getting rid of
doctrines that make it difficult for new believers to
join the church?
- Is it possible for a church to have too many
doctrines – so that they get in the way of bringing
in new members?
- How important is church doctrine, anyway? (What we
have continually seen in the early church is
agreement and consensus. Doctrines, as long as you
don’t have too many, are a way to help the church
stay in agreement. Certainly, the resolution of this
doctrinal dispute was very important to keeping the
- Friend, the pattern of the early church was group prayer,
fellowship and witnessing. They helped each other and they
worked through their problems together. If you are not
working with a group of Christians today, consider if you
are missing the power and the blessing of a group united
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Next week: The End of the Great Controversy