he expansion of the Christian church is the first century is one of the most amazing phenomena in all of human history. This is especially true when you consider that Christianity was, for the most part, considered an illegal and depraved religion. Wave after wave of persecution was unleashed to squash it. There were no great financial resources available to those early disciples, no buildings, no social status, no governmental approval, and no respect from educational institutions. Christians soon separated themselves from associating with the synagogue and had no institutional setting or ancient tradition to appeal to.
What they did have was greater than all the marching legions of Rome. They had a resurrected Messiah who had “ascended up on high [and] led captivity captive” (Eph. 4:8). They had an endowment of “power from on high” (Luke 24:49)—the mighty baptism in the Holy Spirit. His presence released into them power for service, boldness, prayer, and spiritual warfare. They had faith, fellowship, and a new way of life. Most importantly, they had a conviction that everybody ought to know who Jesus is!
From 120 to 3,000 . . . from 5,000 to multitudes of men and women . . . from Jerusalem to Samaria, to the uttermost parts of the known world—disciples and churches multiplied. Someone summarized the Book of Acts by saying,
Often overlooked is the qualitative growth that occurred among those who united with the Church. They devoted themselves to instruction, fellowship, communion, and prayer. Wonders and signs were accomplished among them, and there was a genuine concern for those in need (Acts 2:41-47).
Unity characterized their fellowship. Through representing different ages, incomes, nationalities, temperaments, and occupations, Scripture indicates this group had “one heart” and “one soul” (4:32). One heartbeat permeated through the entire body of believers; one life principle pulsated throughout the ranks of the righteous.
There were no divisions among them. The glue that held them together was the certainty that Jesus was alive. Their unity was not forced, synthesized, or organized. It was vitalized by the shared conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem occurred in a multicultural context. “From every nation under heaven,” Jews had come to celebrate Pentecost (2:5).
“It is no accident,” writes Cheryl J. Sanders, “that the Spirit chose an international, multicultural gathering of believers in Jerusalem for the Pentecost outpouring, whose testimony was that ‘in our languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds and power.’ Pentecost is God’s remedy for disunity. Many languages, many colors, many cultures, but one testimony of one God” (Ministry at the Margins).
literally and emphatically “not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own” (4:32 NASB). Each felt he held his possessions as a trust for the entire church. If there was a need, there was not a question on anyone’s part—the need was met immediately.
Unity and generosity empowered their testimony: “With great power the apostles were giving testimony
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all” (v. 33 NASB). That loving and giving church enjoyed “favor with all the people” (2:47).
From “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation,” Jesus has “redeemed us to God” (Rev. 5:9). Into all the world He now sends us. A Spirit empowered movement characterized by love and generosity will still attract the multitudes, and give witness to the world that Jesus is alive.