Study 11 THE OUTREACH AND MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 1 – 3)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 3:1-11
If at the end of Acts 2 we have a description of the inner life of the church, here in Acts 3 we have a picture of the outer activity of the church. In these verses we see the Mission, the Might and the Method of the Church; or, what is the job of the church? what is the power available to do the job? and what is the way to do it?
1. THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
What is it? From a study of Acts 2:41-47 we might get the impression that the church is to be a kind of mutual aid society! But the record does not end with chapter 2; it goes on into chapter 3 where we learn that in terms of service, believers are saved to serve, and their service consists of taking life to lame and helpless humanity. Look carefully at the man described in these verses, where we see a picture of humanity without God; for he is lame (he has been like it from birth), he is helpless, destitute and more concerned about material needs than about spiritual needs. Notice here that he is near the temple but outside it. Peter and John took the gospel and offered salvation to this man; and that is the job, the mission of the church in the world. This was Jesus’ programme – look up Luke 4:18-19; it is to be ours as well – look up John 17:18 and John 20:21. The mission of the church surely is to rescue the perishing and to care for the dying, to snatch them from the terrors of sin and to tell them of Jesus, who can save them.
2. THE MIGHT OF THE CHURCH
What is the church’s power to deal with such a desperate need as lame and helpless humanity? It is certainly not material power – not the power of money, as we learn from verse 6; not the power of personality – made clear in verse 4. A reference to Acts 4:13 makes it clear also that the church’s real power is not the power of human eloquence. The church’s power is divine, spiritual power; it is the power of the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 6). His Name signifies His person – all that He, our risen, ascended and exalted Lord is – look at verses 12 and 16. The church of God is only powerful as she lifts up, exalts and preaches the Lord Jesus (Acts 8:5; 1 Corinthians 2:2). This is why it is not only foolish but sinful to make much of a movement or a denomination. Our one great concern must be to make much of Christ, and to strip away from our service and activity all that is inconsistent with His mighty Name. A church is never great because of numbers, or finance, or good preaching or worldly reputation. The only true might any church has is the might of the Lord Himself – look at verses 12 and 16. If the Mission of the Church is to go out to save men and women, and the Might of the church is that power of the Lord Himself, what is the Method of the Church?
3. THE METHOD OF THE CHURCH
- 1. Their method was one of divine co-operation. That is, it was the Lord on the Throne working with and through Peter and John, as we learn from Mark 16:19-20. The Lord was doing His work (it was His work!) through human channels, in this case Peter and John. It was not Peter and John doing the work – they were available to the Lord and were simply the instruments in His hands.
- 2. Their Method was one of human co-operation. Here we see that Peter and John were working together (verse 1) – “Peter and John…”; and in verses 3, 4 and 11. What a glorious partnership this was! – two men with different gifts. There is variety in the church, and there is a great need for the Lord’s workers to respect each other’s God-given ministry (1 Corinthians 12:3-31).
- 3. Their Method consisted of going out to make contact with the world (verses 6-7 again). We are to take the gospel, the message of the love and grace of God to the people where they are; then we are to have contact with them – “Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up…” – look up and compare Psalm 126:6; Matthew 28:19; Mark 5:18-19.
- 4. Their Method was primarily spiritual in its activity. It was not only evangelical, it was evangelistic (verses 7-9). He was healed physically, but more important than this, he was saved spiritually. The gospel is a social matter, but primarily it is spiritual. Our souls need healing before our bodies (Mark 2:5-12). Thank God for every bit of social outreach that is carried on by the Church today! The gospel has a social application – of course it does! – but social activity, ministering to the physical, material and temporal needs of men and women, must always be undertaken as an extension and expression of evangelistic concern (Mark 8:36).
- 5. Their Method was empowered and made effective by prayer. We learn this from verse 1. Probably the temple prayer meeting was ‘dead’ – but Peter and John were there. Here we see the secret of their power: individual prayer, “Peter”…”John” – look up Matthew 6:6; united prayer, “Peter and John” – look up Matthew 18:19; and corporate prayer, “at the time of prayer!” – look up Acts 12:5. Martin Luther wrote, “The prayers of the saints are the decrees of God beginning to operate.”