The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022
The First Churches
Why are brick and mortar churches essential in a digital world?
Acts 2:41-47: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
From Martin Luther’s sermon on Acts 2: “It is not enough simply that Christ be preached; the Word must be believed. Therefore, God sends the Holy Spirit to impress the preaching upon the heart–to make it in here and live therein. Unquestionably, Christ accomplished all–took away our sins and overcame every obstacle, enabling us to become, through him, lord over all things. But the treasure lies in a heap; it is not everywhere distributed and applied. Before we can enjoy it, the Holy Spirit comes and communicates it to the heart, enabling us to believe and say, “I too, am one who shall have the blessing.” To everyone who hears is grace offered through the Gospel; to grace is he called, as Christ says (Matthew 11:28), “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden.”
Now, with the belief that God has come to our rescue and given us this priceless blessing, inevitably the human heart must be filled with joy and with gratitude to God, and must exultingly cry: “Dear Father, since it is thy will to manifest toward me inexpressible love and fidelity, I will love thee sincerely, and willingly do what is pleasing to thee.”
The believing heart never sees God with jealous eye. It does not fear being cast into hell as it did before the Holy Spirit came, when it was conscious of no love, no goodness, no faithfulness, on God’s part, but only wrath and displeasure. But once let the Holy Spirit impress the heart with the fact of God’s good will and graciousness towards it, and the resulting joy and confidence will impel it to do and suffer for God’s sake whatever necessity demands.
Let us, then, learn to recognize the Holy Spirit–to know that his mission is to present to us the priceless Christ and all his blessings; to reveal them to us through the Gospel and apply them to the heart, making them ours. When our hearts are sensible of this work of the Spirit, naturally we are compelled to say: “If our works avail naught, and the Holy Spirit alone must accomplish our salvation, then why burden ourselves with works and laws?”
By the doctrine of the Spirit, all human works and laws are excluded, even the laws of Moses. The Holy Spirit’s instruction is superior to that of all books. The Spirit-taught individual understands the Scriptures better than does he who is occupied solely with the Law.
Hence, our only use for books is to strengthen our faith and to show others written testimony to the Spirit’s teaching. For we may not keep our faith to ourselves, but must let it shine out; and to establish it the Scriptures are necessary. Be careful, therefore, not to regard the Holy Spirit as a Law-maker, but as proclaiming to your heart the Gospel of Christ and setting you so free from the literal law that not a letter of it remains, except as a medium for preaching the Gospel.”
These Bible verses and excerpt from Martin Luther emphasize the importance and power of the church as a community of people who come together to read, pray, listen, serve, and share. We come to know Jesus through the struggles in our heart which leads us to believe in a very personal way. After the Resurrection of Jesus from the grave, the disciples lived in fear because the Jesus they had come to know and trust was no longer with them. But just as Jesus promised, He came to them on Pentecost in a powerful and visible way and they believed. The dimension of their belief after witnessing Christ’s Resurrection, the baptism of thousands of people from many different countries and cultures, and the breaking of bread is what changed the world! This is documented historical evidence.
They followed the teachings of the apostles, which is the Gospel that Jesus loves each of us and gave His life that we might be saved, be free from sin and death, and experience His grace through an intimate relationship with Him. This is the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of a loving church. Many churches involve passive listening but the church described above involves active engagement!
There are many good and uplifting philosophies that inspire us. They teach us to do good, show kindness, accept others, and help people in need. There are many who call themselves Christian and speak enthusiastically about God, Jesus, and the Spirit. Acts 2:44 tells us that the Christians in Jerusalem had one thing in common – they knew Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior!
Faith is a long-distance journey, it is a calling and gift, it involves constant work because we stumble with the challenges of life in a sinful world.