By Ken R. Speakman
Member, Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Old Hickory
Speaking boldly under the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter challenged those who heard him to repent and show the sincerity of their decision by being baptized. He told the crowd that Jesus was the Messiah, God had raised Him from the grave and they had seen Him. Peter’s words pierced their hearts and they cried out, “what must we do?” Peter replied, “repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Verse 38 should not be used to teach salvation by baptism. Baptism comes as a result of salvation, and is a witness that one has accepted Christ. Verse 41 tells us that about 3,000 new believers were added to the church. What would the disciples do with them? How would they disciple them? They had no New Testament, no manuals, and no church organization.
The early New Testament church was devoted to the apostles’ teaching (v. 42). They formed a community of fellowship and enjoyed meals and prayer together (including the Lord’s Supper). They met together and looked after the needs of others. Each day the Lord added to the church.
There are certain characteristics that have always been present in the church when she is living by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. A Spirit-filled church is unified (vv. 44-46), and will enjoy the good will of the people; new members will be added (v. 47). The church had a powerful testimony among the unsaved Jews, not only because of the miracles done by the apostles (v. 43), but also because of the way the members of the fellowship loved each other and served the Lord.
We know society as a whole will never be redeemed. However, it is the mission of the church to share the gospel message with as many as we can, knowing the power of the Holy Spirit will enable us to bring some to salvation. The church is suffering today because some no longer know what to believe. They have lost the ability to discern spiritual matters (Philippians 1:10). We live in a pick and choose society where one can pick and choose what they want to believe. Sadly, some churches today, in the midst of the growing awareness of other faiths, no longer maintain that Christ is the only way to salvation (John 14:6). The word “sin” and the consequences thereof, is seldom, if ever, mentioned in their sermons.
We must be reminded that the local New Testament church is responsible to hand down sound biblical doctrine to the next generation. The measure of a good church is not the size of the auditorium or its membership. The defining characteristic of a true New Testament church is sound biblical doctrine. We are living among a generation today where some churches place little emphasis on the biblical doctrines that historically united the Christian church.
The early church had power through obedience to the empowering Spirit of God and the power of prayer. As a result they turned the world upside down (see verses 46-47). God moved in the early church and the same empowering Holy Spirit can move today if believers are willing to follow their example.