"Characteristics of the Founders of the First Church"
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We have already seen that the founders of the first Church used study of biblical principles and logical deduction to choose two possibilities as Judas’ replacement. But they did not stop there. They did not leave the Lord out of the equation as they made their choice. They very clearly desired to seek the Lord’s direction in their decision. Once they had narrowed the choice to two men, they immediately prayed for guidance. Really, this example gives us the perfect model for making decisions in our churches and in all of life. (1) We should know the Scriptures. (2) We should use common sense and deduction to draw implications from biblical principles and apply them to the decision. (3) We should pray and ask the Lord for guidance. That’s how we should make decisions in our lives and in our churches.
They understood that it is Christ who is acting.
One thing that is clear in their prayer is that they recognized that is was not they who were the primary actors in the Lord’s work — Christ was the one doing the acting. They specifically say, “Show us which of these two you have chosen.” Now notice that they were so confident that they had applied Scripture correctly in the narrowing to two men that they knew Christ had chosen one of the two. So before we ask the Lord for guidance, we need to make sure that we know the Scriptures and that we have applied them correctly to the situation. God will not just zap us with a knowledge of His will — we have to work at applying biblical principles.
But these people recognized that it was Christ doing the choosing, not them.
They relied on the Lord to guide them.
And then their next action clearly reveals that they were relying on the Lord to guide them in this decision. Now, we need to remember that this is a transition period between the Old Testament era and the Church Age. The method of casting lots to make a decision had a long history of Divine approval in Old Testament times — this is what they knew to do when they wanted to know the Lord’s mind on something. We do not have the same instruction. In fact, this is the last time in all of the New Testament that someone casts lots to make a decision.
Yet this action reveals an attitude that we should emulate — we need to rely on God to direct us in our decisions, and our actions need to clearly reveal that we have that attitude.
How does God direct us in this Dispensation? Well, we have already seen some of the ways that He directs. We should gain wisdom through Scripture. We should use common sense to apply biblical principles to our decision. And then we should pray and ask God to give us wisdom as we make decisions.
Is this how you make choices in your life? Is this how we make decisions as a church?
These qualities of the founders of the first Church are ones that we must emulate if we want to be blessed by Christ using us. Look out for these qualities in the early church as you read the book of Acts so that you can emulate them. Christ does many miraculous acts throughout the first generation that were unique to the founding of the Church — we won’t experience those things. But these characteristics should be in every church in every age; that’s why Luke highlights them right at the beginning of his history book.
We are Christ’s body. He is acting through us right now. And these qualities are the characteristics that healthy body parts should have —
1.We as the body of Christ must be characterized by unified, fervent prayer.
2.We as the body of Christ must be characterized by a proper respect for the Word of God.
3.We as the body of Christ must be characterized by a desire to seek the Lord’s will in every decision.
These things should characterize our churches. When people think of your church, they should say, “That is a church that prays; that is a church that studies the Scriptures and applies its principles to every area of life; and that is a church that seeks the Lord’s will in every decision.” Is that what people would say about you?
If we want to be used by Christ; if we want to experience His blessings; then we must be characterized by the same kinds of qualities as the founders of the first Church.
Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is on faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He has written several books, dozens of articles, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and two children.