Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women -Acts 5:13-14
These verses depict the church when she was just getting started. The disciples were full of the Holy Spirit, boldly preaching the Gospel, and performing miracles. These disciples were also distinctly different from the world around them, yet highly respected by unbelievers. Most importantly, through their witness and preaching “multitudes” were being added to the Lord. Why do I bring this up?
In today’s Christianity there is a temptation by many of us to try to reach out to a new generation with what I perceive be that light of Christ masked by the world’s darkness. I understand the motivation, and I even think the heart behind the action is good. We want people to know Jesus, we want people to be saved. I get that, and I desperately want that too. But, the question is how do we do this? And, do the ends justify the means? Is being relevent or cool the path that leads to reaching a generation that is turned off to the Church? I think these verses help us with those questions, and give us an example to follow in order that multitudes of every age would be added to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first thing we see is ” none of the rest dared join them” Does that sound like the disciples were focusing on being relevent? No, I don’t think it does. They were focused on Jesus Christ, and they were one with Him (as Jesus prayed they would be in John 17). They did this by living with simplicity of heart, loving Jesus and being one with those who also loved Jesus with a pure heart. The disciples stayed steadfast in prayer, the apostles teaching, fellowship, and communion (Acts 2:42). Then they prayed for boldness, and used every God-ordained opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. As they kept a simple focus on the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit was working powerfully through their lives, and the light of Christ was beaming from their congregation. The power of the Holy Spirit was so evident, and their lives were so radically different and honorable to Jesus Christ that people were actually afraid of them. Now, the first thing that pops up in my mind when I write this is that people being afraid of Christians can’t be a good thing for evangelism. But, we must first make sure the people are a little wary for the right reasons. Unbelievers should never be afraid because Christians are judgemental, unwelcoming, violent, busy-bodies, gossips, harsh, self-absorbed, or corrupt just to name a few. No, they should be wary because the light of Christ, His love and holiness, is so apparent that it would be shocking, and unlike anything this world has to offer. The reason an unbeliever should be wary of Christians is because what is going on in the Christian life and congregation is radically different.
The next thing we see is although no one dared join them, “the people esteemed them highly”. So the unbelievers were afraid, but they held the Christians in great respect. Why is that? Imagine if you saw a group of people who loved one another so fervently that the other person’s well-being was always at the forefront of each persons mind. Imagine a group of people laying down their lives in every way for the friends around them. Imagine a group of people who never cheated anyone, didn’t get involved in sexual immorality, that never lied to one another, that never slandered one another, didn’t covet money, but coveted loving and honoring their Holy God, and loving each person around them with an absolute humility and lowliness of mind. Basically, imagine a group of people really, really living like Jesus. Now, I am not saying these people were perfect, but they way they lived was different and it was honorable, and this life they lived was lived out-loud. Although, many people may not have agreed with these Christians, and some people would be greatly offended, the fact that these Christians were filled with an above reproach love had to be honorable in some degree. Could you imagine a conversation between someone trying to explain why they hate those Christians:
“I hate those Christians. I just can’t stand them.”
“Why do you hate them? What have they done?”
“Well, they are just so loving. They love their wives too much. They care about each other waaaay too much. They won’t lie about anything. They work really hard, and they seem to have no worries. They just worship that Jesus all the time”
“They sound like pretty up-standing citizens to me”
“Well maybe, but they just make me mad. I can’t figure it out, but they have to go”
Finally, we see that this lifestyle of loving and worshipping Jesus, and not being conformed to this world, but being transformed (Romans 12:2) led to believers being added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women. So back to the beginning, we want to see people come to Jesus Christ and experience His love, grace, and forgiveness. We want people to be saved, right? Well this lifestyle of abiding in Christ and being focused on Him in every aspect led to just that. These disciples were not sitting around trying to figure out why more people aren’t coming to the Lord, and trying to be more appetizing to an unregenerate world. The early disciples were a group of radicals set apart from the world, and people could tell they were different. They loved Jesus, were filled with the Holy Spirit, and shared the Gospel boldly. There focus was on pleasing God, not men. That is how people are added to the Lord, not by being cool or being relevant.
Let the words of Paul seek deep into our hearts, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” and “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” Love and abide in Jesus Christ because He loves us, and then let His life flow through each on of us in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that He might add many to the Lord Jesus Christ.