Firm Foundation #10

    HOW THE CHURCH GREW

    In this lesson we will learn of the phenomenal growth of the church which had been established on the day of Pentecost and to which more than three thousand people had been added as a result of the teaching of the apostles. Shortly after the events of Pentecost, Peter and John went up to the temple at the hour of prayer. Their attention was attracted by a poor man who had been lame since birth and Peter said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” The man was immediately and completely healed. The man entered the temple praising God and shouting with a loud voice. People flocked to the apostles. Peter took advantage of the occasion to preach another sermon concerning the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. While he was talking to the people, certain officers of the temple arrested Peter and John. However, many of the people who had heard the sermon of Peter and believed his message, obeyed the gospel and were added to the church.

    The apostles were held in prison overnight because they had preached that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. They were tried by the Sadducees, a religious sect of the Jews that denied there would be a resurrection. That a notable miracle had been performed when the lame man was healed no one could deny, for the evidence was too strong. In spite of this, the Sadducees were determined to stop the preaching of the apostles. When he was given an opportunity to speak, Peter announced the great truth, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:10-12). The religious leaders could say nothing in answer to the apostles inasmuch as their words were confirmed by the miracle which they had performed. However, they counseled among themselves and decided to threaten Peter and John with punishment if they continued to preach and teach in the name of Jesus. This was done that the new religion might “spread no further among the people.”

    Truth, however, is a powerful force, and persecution, torture and abuse could not stop the increase and growth of the church. This single fact will cause every thinking person to realize the important of truth. When Peter and John received this command of the officers they answered, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” This wisdom of the words of Peter will be appreciated by all. We must serve God rather than serve man. We must obey God rather than obey man. We must follow God’s law rather than follow our own ideas or feelings.

    Upon being released, the apostles joined the company of believers. The group prayed to God that they might be given courage and boldness to speak the word. The huge company of believers was one in heart and soul and none of them claimed that he possessed anything of his own but they shared with each other. It has been estimated that within a short time after Pentecost day the church in Jerusalem had grown to more than thirty thousand believers.

    This mighty band of Christian people, being in sympathy with the needs of their poverty-stricken brethren, sold their possessions and goods, brought the money and laid it down at the feet of the apostles. The money was distributed according as every man had need. The high spiritual tone of the church in Jerusalem, however, was soon marred by the covetous acts of Ananias and Sapphira. This pair sold a possession and agreed privately to keep back some of the money for themselves, laying only a part of it at the apostles’ feet. But the apostle Peter said, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” And Ananias hearing these words fell dead (Acts 5:3-4). The same fate awaited his wife who also attempted to deceive the brethren.

    In the sixth chapter we read that the Grecian disciples complained because they felt that some of their number were neglected in the distribution of food which was provided for the needy. In overcoming this problem, the apostles recommended that seven men be selected to serve their brethren by supervising the daily distributions to the needy. One of the men selected was Stephen.

    In the seventh chapter of the book of Acts we read of a sermon preached by Stephen to the Jews. He referred to the history of the nation of Israel to show that they had been a rebellious people and that it had been their nature to disregard and despise the law of God. He reminded them of the deliverance from Egypt and of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness; of how many thousands of their forebears had died because they had murmured against Moses, God’s appointed leader. Stephen then reminded the people, “This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me: him shall ye hear” (Acts 7:37).

    The prophet who was like unto Moses was, of course, Christ. As the people in the wilderness had rejected the divine mission of Moses, so did these people who now listened to Stephen reject Christ. Stephen urgently warned his hearers not to imitate the example of their fathers in resisting divine wisdom. He became stern in his preaching to the people and referred to them as stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, asking this question, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers” (Acts 7:52). When the people heard these words of Stephen, they were enraged and gnashed on him with their teeth. Dragging Stephen outside the city to a place of stoning, they cast the innocent man into a blood-spattered pit where so many lives had been previously snuffed out, and stoned Stephen to death. His final words were, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” and kneeling down he cried with a loud voice, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” When he had said this he died.

    At that time there arose a great persecution against the church and the Christians, with the exception of the apostles, were scattered throughout the land of Palestine. Wherever the Christians went they preached the word and established churches.

    One of the men who had been selected with Stephen to minister to the needs of the people in Jerusalem was Philip. When the disciples were scattered aboard, he went down to a city of Samaria and preached unto them Jesus. The Samaritans heard Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and were baptized. The apostles Peter and John came down from the city of Jerusalem to strengthen the new converts.

    Phillip remained in Samaria until an angel of God instructed him to go to a certain highway that went down from Jerusalem to Gaza. When he arrived at the place described by the angel he saw a eunuch from Ethiopia riding in a chariot. The spirit instructed Philip to go to the man. Philip ran to him and heard him reading the prophet Esaias (Isaiah) and asked this question, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” The man invited Philip to come up into the chariot and discuss the matter with him. As they went riding along Philip preached to him concerning Jesus. Doubtless, in his preaching Philip told of the birth, life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and of how, shortly before his ascension, Jesus had said to his disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).

    As Philip was preaching, they came to a certain body of water and the eunuch said, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Philip replied, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” The account continues, “And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, and the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus; and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea” (Acts 8:37-40).

    Other disciples of the Lord went into all parts of the world to preach the glad tidings of salvation in the name of Jesus.

    Section 1-Fill in the Blanks
    Question 1
    Peter and John healed a man who had been __________ since __________.

    Question 2
    As a result of this miracle, Peter had an opportunity to preach concerning the __________, __________, __________ and __________ of Jesus.

    Question 3
    __________of the people who heard the sermon of Peter __________ his message, __________ the gospel and were added to the __________.

    Question 4
    The __________ were a religious sect of the Jews that denied there would be a resurrection.

    Question 5
    Peter said, concerning __________ __________, “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”

    Question 6
    __________ and __________, having sold a possession, kept back part of the money, pretending they had given all.

    Question 7
    When Stephen warned the Jews not to imitate their ancestors by resisting divine wisdom, they became __________, dragged him outside the city, and __________ him to death.

    Question 8
    A great persecution arose against the church and the __________ who were scattered abroad, went everywhere __________ the word.

    Question 9
    Two of the seven men selected by the church in Jerusalem to serve their brethren by supervising the daily distributions to the needy were __________ and __________.

    Section 2-Select the correct answer

    Question 1
    The Samaritans heard Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and were:
    EnragedDiscouragedBaptizedStoned

    Question 2
    Philip was instructed by an angel of God to go to a certain highway that went down from:
    Nazareth to CapernaumJerusalem to GazaBethlehem to Jerusalem

    Question 3
    When Philip saw the man from Ethiopia riding in a chariot he:
    Ran to HimTurned his backRan away

    Question 4
    The man invited Philip to come up into the chariot and as they rode along, Philip preached to him:
    PhilosophyEconomicsThe Mosaic LawJesus

    Question 5
    The eunuch, having believed on Christ as the Son of God, was baptized and went on his way:
    With a long faceRejoicingFeeling sad

    Section 3-Complete the Scriptures

    Question 1
    “These were more __________ than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and __________ the Scriptures daily, whether those things were __________” (Acts 17:11).

    Question 2
    “Am I therefore become your __________ because I tell you the __________?” (Galatians 4:16).

    Question 3
    “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a __________. And Paul said, I would to __________, that not only thou, but also __________ that hear me this day, were both almost, and __________ such as I am, except these bonds” (Acts 26:28,29).

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