Let’s go back in time & discuss some of the attributes of the first-century church. Wouldn’t it have been exciting to be there? Well, you can! By the Spirit of God, He wants us to participate in the continuing story of the church because the Lord never changes. Every local fellowship is a part of the continuation, whether they know it or not. We should be people that understand what the Spirit says to the churches!
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” - Rev 2:7, Rev 2:11, Rev 2:17, Rev 2:29, Rev 3:6, Rev 3:13, Rev 3:22
Many of you have already become part of ACTS, either as an ACTS Church or an ACTS Gathering, or are considering developing one (if you would like to apply, go here). A simple study of church history reveals a digression from what the Spirit of God was doing and complacency toward spiritual defects. It is our desire in the Association of Churches Teaching and Serving to recapture what worked and submit to the Spirit of God so He may add to the church.
“…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” - Act 2:47
If the Bible says that the foundation of our faith is not just built on Jesus, the chief cornerstone, but on the doctrine of the apostles of the first century, then perhaps we need to go back and recapture & implement the blueprint. What did God have in mind when He released this movement that has become the New Testament church age or the new covenant? This is a 5-part series to help you align with the church pattern that worked. Knowing how to apply the book of Acts and many of the teachings the Apostle Paul in your fellowship is very important, regardless of our roles & responsibilities in the Body.
The first characteristic of the first-century church was the power of the Father, the power of God you might say, manifested in signs and wonders. We are told very clearly in Scripture that signs and wonders should follow them that believe.
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” - Mark 16:17-18
That’s a clear mandate. In fact, Jesus Himself was approved of the Father. Did He have to earn His Father’s love to be approved? No way! It was a natural outflow of serving and walking with the Father. Jesus, the Son of Man from Nazareth, after He was anointed with the Holy Ghost at the baptism with John, went about doing good and began the journey of healing all that were oppressed of the devil, because His Father was working with him.
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” - Acts 10:38
And this subject in Acts 2 brings it into further clarity:
“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:” - Acts 2:22
So, today, the Father is the healer, and as sons and daughters, He works through us, through the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus, for signs and wonders. You don’t have to look too far in organized Christiandom worldwide to be taught that signs and wonders passed away. It is a widespread belief and teaching that is dangerous for everyone's health and spirituality. But the apostle of the New Testament Church Age, the apostle Paul, established these gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14 as instructions to follow (He was not one of the 12, you know? So I guess they didn’t pass away.) So, there’s been a diminishing use of spiritual gifts, which would, in turn, be a diminishing role of the Father, in the church. We still teach repent and be baptized. You must be born again. Very true. But the message Jesus left in place also challenges us with this one question: which is easier to say, thy sins be forgiven or pick up your bed and walk? Who has made it more difficult, to be healed or to be saved? Good question.
“Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.” - Mark 2:9-11
I know when I started my journey many years ago, and I found out that I was a believer. I enjoyed my new life. I also found that I was a son of God because of the new birth. I liked that even better. I also learn that I should be about my Father’s business. As Jesus said to the Pharisees, “My Father works, and so don’t I.” That ought to be our theme, our Father works and so don’t we, in this dispensation, in every dispensation.
So signs and wonders are essential. I knew when I began my journey, God did incredible things and still does, at my hands when I would minister in teaching, healing, creative cures, casting out of evil spirits, the miraculous. I have no power. So I was authenticated by my Father through signs and wonders. If you think that I’m maybe promoting myself, no, not really. I’m really trying to get you to join the vision of God the Father through the church. Jesus said in John 14, He said,
“… and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” - John 14:12-13
“And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.” - Mar 1:41
Why are these so necessary? That the Holy Spirit, the third member of the eternal Godhead, could be released to us, not just for re-generation of the human spirit to reconcile us to the Father through Jesus, but to be on duty as Jesus was on duty.
Signs and wonders followed Jesus. Signs and wonders followed the 12. Signs and wonders followed the 70. Signs and wonders followed the 120. Signs and wonders followed the early church. That’s the pattern. So I want to encourage you to begin the journey of asking the Father to heal and deliver people that God sends to you that need healing and deliverance. Yes, that’d be nice to get them born again - you must be born again - but then you also are called to destroy the works of the devil.
“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” - 1 John 3:8
It is significant that you understand this if you’re going to head up an ACTS church, or an ACTS Gathering, that your approval also is through signs and wonders because faith without works is dead. You say you have faith, I’ll show you my faith by my works, for they testify of Him. So this is a mandate.
So the first characteristic of the first-century church were signs and wonders followed those that believed. The Father wants to work with you. Now the purpose of it isn’t just for you, but as you continue into the teachings of Paul in 1st Corinthians chapter 12, it says, God has set in the church, apostles and prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversity of tongues. God has set this in the church, just with the 5-fold eldership? No, every believer. In fact, you were told in First Corinthians 12 to desire the best gift. The best gift is the one you find yourself needing to give away to others!
You know, not everyone will have to gift of healing. Not everyone had the gift of miracles. Not everyone will do all these things, but someone will, and God needs to be able to demonstrate His power over our enemy here, now. The Kingdom of God is here, now. Today is a day of salvation. Now, is the appointed time, this is the moment that God wants to show that He is sovereign and that He’s all-powerful, that He loves mankind and He wants to heal and deliver them. And we are the vessels. So if we’re going to move ahead, then you must prepare yourself to follow this first characteristic of the first-century church, and that is signs and wonders.
Soon, we will post an article on the 2nd characteristic of the 1st Century Church, which is having an eternal perspective of ourselves and prophetic timeline of the past, present, & future journey of mankind.