The Church the Holy Spirit Quickened
January 24th, 1982 @ 8:15 AM
THE CHURCH THE HOLY SPIRIT QUICKENED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Acts 2:41 – 43
1-24-82 8:15 a.m.
And welcome, the great multitudes of you who are listening to this service on radio. We are happy to share it with you. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Church the Holy Spirit Awakened, Quickened. It is the second in the series on ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church. The first sermon was delivered the last time I preached here, entitled The Church Jesus Built. He said, in Matthew 16:18, “On this rock I will build My church.” He did it.
And we have a description of the church that our Lord built in the Gospels and through the first chapter in the Book of Acts. And the church before Pentecost can be described in these twenty-seven distinguishing features:
Christian believers before Pentecost:
- had the gospel,
- they were converted,
- they were baptized,
- they had Christ as their head,
- they were instructed in church truths,
- they were called to obey Christ,
- they were ordained,
- they were commissioned,
- they were organized for their needs,
- they had a missionary program and a great commission,
- they had a teaching program,
- they had a healing program,
- they were promised a permanent continuing church,
- they had church discipline,
- they had divine authority,
- they had the essentials of church life,
- they had a true democracy,
- they had qualified pastors,
- they had the Lord’s Supper,
- they had the Holy Spirit,
- they had divine power to do Christ’s work,
- they sang in the midst of the church according to Hebrews 2:12,
- they had prayer meetings,
- they had business meetings,
- they had a membership roll,
- they were united and added unto, and
- Christ was their cornerstone.
The church did not begin at Pentecost. Christ built the church. He formed it, and fashioned it, and organized it [Matthew 16:18]. And Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, quickened and awakened and empowered the church that Christ built [Acts 2:1-40]. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them”—added to the church—“about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” [Acts 2:41-42]. So the Holy Spirit came upon a church that Christ had built, had formed. It’s the same thing that we read in the second chapter of Genesis. “The Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground” [Genesis 2:7], and he lay there before Him complete in all of his organic parts. “Then,” the Bible says, “and the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” [Genesis 2:7]. The church was built and formed by Jesus [Matthew 16:18], and the Holy Spirit at Pentecost breathed into it the breath of life [Acts 2:1-4].
You have an illustration of that in Ezekiel 37. He saw that valley full of dry bones. And he prophesied, according to the word of God, and the bones came together, and each skeleton was filled out with form and symmetry and beauty and sinew [Ezekiel 37:7-8]. Then God said to him to call to the breath, “Breathe upon these dead bodies” [Ezekiel 37:9]. And they were breathed upon, and they stood up, a living army for God [Ezekiel 37:10]. That is what happened at Pentecost. The church was formed and built and organized by the Lord God Himself, the church Jesus built [Matthew 16:18]. Then the Spirit of God breathed upon it, empowered it, quickened it at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4].
Now, in the description of that quickened and awakened and empowered church, there are four continuing characteristics that describe it. Like that verse in Revelation 21, he saw the church, the bride of Christ, as a perfect cube. The length, the breadth, the height were all the same [Revelation 21:16]. It was a perfect fellowship. So this church that the Holy Spirit inspired and quickened and awakened is a perfect fellowship, and it is described in terms of these fourfold characteristics. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and in the fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers”[Acts 2:42]. The prayers – that article is very much there; “And in the prayers.”
So that church is characterized first by, “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ didachē” [Acts 2:42]. The word didaskō means “to teach”; didachē is what is taught. “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, in the apostles’ teaching.” There was an unbroken succession. They followed in the spirit, and in the dedication, and in the teaching, and in the doctrine of the apostles’ [Acts 2:42]. There is a continuation in the great truth of the revelation of God that never varies. It moves and it moves in a reality. It moves in a real fellowship; the apostles and those that followed in their teaching, and then the second generation—those who followed in their teaching, then in unbroken succession, those who followed in their teaching. And through the generations and the centuries, finally, to us who follow in their teaching; this is a real fellowship: these that have taught before, these that teach today, and those who will be taught and teaching tomorrow. God is not the God of the dead but of the living, and the centuries and the passing of time make no difference [Matthew 22:32].
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah and Jesus spoke together about His atoning death, separated by centuries and yet together in the great doctrinal truth of the atonement [Luke 9:30-31]; so with us [Romans 5:11; Galatians 3:28]. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, there is a roll call of the heroes of faith [Hebrews 11:1-40], then you have a chapter heading—there was no chapter heading when the author of Hebrews wrote it— immediately, Hebrews 12:1, immediately after the roll call of faith, the author writes, “Wherefore seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run faithfully the race set before us.” We’re all one in the revelation of God, continuing in the doctrine of the apostles [Acts 2:42].
Then one could well say, “Wouldn’t it become dry and dusty and monotonous to listen to it through the centuries and again and again.” It all depends upon whether or not it is pertinent to our lives—whether we are spectators, just looking and listening, or whether it becomes a part of our very lives. “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ didachē” [Acts 2:42]. The apostles never wearied of telling, and those who were taught never wearied of listening. It became a part of the pattern of their very existence, their life.
A man to whom I sought to make appeal that he come into the church, he was supposed to be a Christian, but he didn’t belong to the church. His wife was a very faithful member here. So as I pressed him, he said, “Would you like to have an honest answer from me.”
I said, “Yes. Why don’t you join the church?”
He said, “I don’t mean to offend you, but the reason I don’t join the church is, I don’t like to hear you preach.”
“Well,” I said, “I thank you for your clarity of statement. There’s no arguing about what you mean. It’s clear. But just out of curiosity,” [I] said, “why is it you don’t like to hear me preach?”
And he answered, “When I go to church with my wife, I’ve never been there but that every service you preach the Bible. That’s all you preach is the Bible.”
“Well,” I said to him, “what would you like to have me preach?”
He said, “When I go to church, I’d like to hear you discuss the economics of the day, the literary books of the day, all the things of the political life of the day, all the current events of the day, that’s what I’d like to hear you preach.”
“Well,” I said, “my friend, you’ll never like coming to our church. You never will. Because you just put it down – anytime you are present you’re going to hear an exposition out of the Word of God. You’re going to hear the Bible preached.”
And I can’t understand why one would say to the minister, “We want you to broaden your field of interest. Let’s have book reviews and political discussion and economic prognostications, and let’s talk about current events.” My brother and my sister, isn’t that what you hear every day of your life when you listen to the news on television or on radio? Isn’t that what you read when you buy a magazine? Isn’t that what you see in the newspaper and the editorials on these current events? Wouldn’t a man like to know what God has to say? If God says anything, then what does God say? Does He have anything to say about our souls? About our lives? About our destiny; What can save us from damnation and judgment and hell? “Preacher, if God has anything to say, for God’s sake, tell us what God says.”
That’s what this is. The Lord God, through an unbroken series of centuries, through godly men, prophets and apostles, speaks to us [Acts 2:42], and that teaching, the didachē, is what this church continued in, and I stand here in a great succession in this sacred place. Think of the mighty men of God who have stood in this very place before me. And I stand in it now, and I pray God will grant a great succession in the years, and if He tarries in the centuries, yet to come. “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” [Acts 2:42], in the teaching of the faith.
“And in the fellowship,” that koinōnia: the community, the communion, the assembly, the people gathered together [Acts 2:42]. It is the eternal purpose of God that we be together. In the sixty-eighth Psalm, “God hath set the solitary in families” [Psalm 68:6]. That’s God’s will for the human race. And in the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, we are to “assemble ourselves together” [Hebrews 10:25], the koinōnia, the communion, the fellowship, the ekklēsia, the church, the called-out assembly of God. This is God’s eternal will and purpose for us, that we be together, not separated and alone, but together, together in the Lord, in the faith, in the prayers, in the doctrine, in the fellowship, in the ministry, in our service we dedicate to the Lord; we belong to the family of God.
You will notice we say “brother and sister” around here,
It’s because we’re a family and these folks are so near;
When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.
From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King,
No longer an outcast, a new song I can sing;
From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,
I’m not worthy to be here, but PRAISE GOD! I belong!
I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God,
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by the blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family, the family of God.
[“Family of God,” William J. Gaither]
That’s what God purposes for us, the koinōnia, the fellowship [Acts 2:42].
There were a group of wordly men who gathered round a preacher, as sometimes they do, and they said, “Preacher, tell us—don’t you think we can go to heaven without joining the church?” And the preacher instantly replied, “Yes. Indeed.” They patted him on the back. “He’s a broad-minded fellow,” they said. And they liked his answer. Then he said to them, “Let me ask you a question and you answer me just as quickly.” And they said, “What is it preacher?” He said, “Why would you want to go to heaven that way?” Why would a man want to go to heaven and spend an eternity with our Lord and with God’s people, and then disdain to join himself to them here? I couldn’t understand it if I lived a thousand lifetimes. Why would you be interested in being with the folks up there in glory when you scorned to be with them here?
What a privilege it is to belong to the koinōnia, the fellowship of God’s people. Why, my brother, there are worlds without end of man-made organizations; all kinds of civic clubs and fraternities and lodges and social gatherings, endless organizations, but there is one that Christ loved and gave Himself for, and that’s His church [Ephesians 5:25]. And we are added to the church by a baptism of the Holy Spirit. “By one Spirit,” 1 Corinthians 12:13, “are we all baptized into the body of Christ.” We are added to that koinōnia by the Holy Spirit of God; and this chapter that I’m preaching out of, the second chapter of Acts, closes, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” [Acts 2:47]. Lord, Lord, I’m so glad You put my name in that group, that You wrote my name in the Book of Life! [Revelation 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27]. That you put my name on the roll of the ekklēsia in heaven [Luke 10:20].
Why wouldn’t I be glad to belong to the family of God? In this secular, material world, it is an island of God’s mercy and God’s grace. It’s a colony of heaven [Philippians 3:20]. And we stand before a veritable floodtide of secularism and materialism. And here we gather our children together, and our young people together, and our teenagers together, and our young marrieds, and our men in the prime of life, and the women by their side, and finally to old age and to death. Yesterday, I went to see several who are not going to live, not going to live. And as I stand by their sides and as I look at their prostrate forms, I am so glad they belong to the family of God.
Whether here, whether there, doesn’t make any difference, we’re all one. The sudden cold stream of death actually does not divide us, just for a moment there’ll be some on that side of the river, and some on this side of the river, but we’re all one in the Lord. Whether it be the tribe of Gad or the half-tribe of Manasseh [Numbers 32:33], or whether it be the tribes on this side of the Jordan, we’re all one in Him [Galatians 3:28]. I love to think of that. I rejoice and am glad to belong to the family of God, the ekklēsia, the koinōnia, the fellowship, the people of the Lord [Acts 2:42].
A third thing, not only continuing in the apostles’ didachē, the teaching, the truth revealed to us in this blessed Book, not only in the koinōnia, the fellowship, but in the breaking of bread, in the breaking of bread [Acts 2:42]. Wherever that term—and it’s used several times in the New Testament—wherever that term is used in the Bible, it refers to the Lord’s Supper, called the breaking of bread [Acts 2:42]. And almost certainly, when I read the New Testament, every evening meal in that beginning day was closed with the Lord’s Supper. It says here, “And they continued steadfastly in the breaking of bread” [Acts 2:42]. And then in verse 46, it says, “And breaking bread from house to house, they did eat their meat with gladness and simplicity of heart, singleness of heart” [Acts 2:46].
Now I want you to look at that just for a moment. In picking out the four distinguishing characteristics of that baptized church, that quickened church, “they continued in the breaking of bread,” the Lord’s Supper [Acts 2:46]. And it was called almost from the beginning, the Eucharist, the Eucharist. Their word for “give thanks” is eucharisteō, and the word for “thanksgiving” is eucharisteia. And it comes from “the Lord took bread, and eucharisteō, He gave thanks, and He took the cup and He eucharisteō, He gave thanks” [Matthew 26:26-27]. So it came to be called the Eucharist, the “thanksgiving.”
Now you look at that for just a moment, with your heart as well as your mind. Can you imagine the heart of those people when they gathered together in the Lord, they eucharisteō what? Why, my brother, that bread represents His torn flesh, His broken body [Matthew 26:26]. And that cup represents His poured out life, the crimson of His very soul [Matthew 26:27-28]. They are giving thanks for a cross and its unspeakable and indescribable depths of agonizing suffering [Matthew 27:32-50]; that’s what they’re doing. That’s what we do.
It’s another interpretation of life. No wonder they shook the foundations of the very empire itself. And when you see it in people today, it’ll move your heart, people in suffering or in agony giving glory to God, thanking God in everything, as Paul wrote, “giving thanks to the Lord” [1 Thessalonians 5:18]. Now I want you to look at these people just a moment: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized [Acts 2:41]. And breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” [Acts 2:46]. And over here when I turn the page to the fifth chapter of Acts, “And they rejoiced because they were counted worthy to suffer for His name’s sake” [Acts 5:41]; they had just been beat [Acts 5:40].
Now that’s an interpretation of life that’s almost beyond anything that you can imagine. One of their number, the apostle Paul, wrote “Most gladly therefore would I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” [2 Corinthians 12:9-10]. When I’m crushed, I praise God. When I’m hurt, I glorify His name. When I am frustrated and disappointed, I raise my voice in thanksgiving, Lord, Lord, how do you do that? That’s the eucharistic life, that’s the life of praise, that’s the life of our blessed Jesus. That’s the life of the koinōnia and of the church. It’s good for me when I’m crushed, and when I’m broken, and when I’m beat, and when I’m disappointed, and when I’m frustrated, and when I’m sick; God is fitting some better thing for me [Hebrews 11:40].
So Lord, when the winds blow bitter and cold, or when fortune mistreats me, or when I almost lose hope and am crushed in the dust of the ground, help me, Lord, to sing songs in the night, to praise Thy name, to bless God for the adversity; for when I’m weak, then am I strong [2 Corinthians 12:10]. And help me to be like the apostle in leading the eucharistic life. I take pleasure in reproaches, and necessities, and persecutions [2 Corinthians 12:10]. For He has promised, “My grace shall be sufficient for thee” [2 Corinthians 12:9]. And “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” [Hebrews 13:5].
You don’t know, you’ll never know what it is to lean on the kind arm of God until you’re broken like a reed. That’s the Christian life and the Christian. And one other, not only did they “continue steadfastly in the didachē, the teaching, the doctrine, in the koinōnia, in the fellowship, in the assembly of God’s people, and not only in the eucharistic life, in the life of praise in suffering or hurt, but in the prayers” [Acts 2:42]. And it is very emphatically written like that, “in the prayers.”
That refers to two things, I think. It refers, first of all, to stated praying, to corporate praying, “the prayers” [Acts 2:42]. They came together as an assembly of the people of God for worship and for prayer. I love to see our people kneel in prayer. Somebody remarked to me about a week ago, they were strangers in the city. They were Baptists and they had visited our service. And the remark was made to me, “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a Baptist congregation kneel in prayer.” I’m sorry that he could make an observation like that. Seems to me all of our churches ought to kneel when we pray. Why should it be a strange thing and noticed by a visitor that we kneel when we pray? They had stated assemblies of worship and prayer [Acts 2:42].
I was so happy when Bill Grubbs—this didn’t come from me, this came from him—when he wanted our people to be reminded that we were going to have a service in the middle of the week of prayer and Bible readings and study. “My house,” wrote Isaiah, the prophet of God, speaking for the Lord, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” [Isaiah 56:7]. And I would suppose it would refer also to closet prayer, to personal prayer. “And they continued steadfastly in the prayers” [Acts 2:42], personal prayer; that really makes us.
In the seminary my professor of Hebrew was a very distinguished gentleman. He was from Charleston, South Carolina. He was of the old school. His name was John R. Sampey, everybody called him Tiglath. He was an admirer of Tiglath-Pileser, an Assyrian king. They called him old Tiglath. He was a character. He was also president of the seminary when I was there: John R. Sampey. One day the old gentleman came back, and you never saw a fellow revived in your life as he was. He was full of religion. Ah! Well, what had happened to him, he’d been in revival meeting in Missouri with one of the graduates of the seminary, and they had had a marvelous revival. That professor was aflame, he was afire. It was just wonderful to see him. Well, this is what happened over there that caused a great revival.
It is easy for a minister to get discouraged. We all do. Ah! I remember one time walking up and down in front of one of our little churches, after one of the most heartbreaking, crushing, disappointments that a young minister could ever sustain. And I remember walking up and down in front of that church at night, and I said to myself, “I’m going to quit. My mother wanted me to be a doctor like her father, a physician, and I’m going to quit, and I’m going to the medical school, and I’m going to be a doctor. I am not going to be a pastor, and I’m not going to be a preacher.” I think, I suppose, every preacher goes through that discouragement —just die in his heart.
Well, this young graduate had, he’s pastor over there in Missouri, where the professor, Sampey, had gone to hold a revival meeting. And he announced to his wife, “I’m quitting the ministry. I’m resigning the church, and I’m going into secular work.” She said to him, “Well that’s all right. If you feel that it is God’s will for you to resign your church and to quit the ministry, that’s all right. But I want to ask you to do just one thing before you do. For a while, at least, would you get up an hour earlier each morning? Rise an hour earlier, set the alarm clock, get up an hour earlier each morning and just pray for an hour. And then, after this period of time, if you feel that you want to resign the ministry, and resign the church, and enter secular work, well, that’s just fine.” So he agreed to the invitation of his young wife: get up an hour and pray.
So this is John R. Sampey’s story as he came back; he said the young fellow got up an hour earlier each morning to pray. And he prayed for five minutes, that was the longest time. Stayed with it, he prayed for ten minutes. That was an eternity. He prayed fifteen minutes, that was a forever; just ran out of anything to pray for. But he stayed with it, every morning, an hour earlier to pray. And then as he continued trying to pray for an hour, he began to pray for his deacons one by one, call them by name before the Lord, pray for his deacons. Then he began to pray for his Sunday school teachers and for his Sunday school superintendents. And he began to pray for the bereaved. Then he began to pray for the sick and the old. Then he began to pray for the lost in the community and those in trouble. And what happened was—what gave the old man religion—they had an outpouring of the Spirit of God, they had a revival! And when the professor of Hebrew went over there to conduct the services, it was like heaven. That’s what praying will do.
Lord, Lord, why don’t I pray more? “Wait upon the Lord, I say, wait upon the Lord” [Psalm 27:14]. Pray for one another, loving one another, caring for one another. That’d be real revival, wouldn’t it? And that’s why this church was so quickened and so empowered and so alive in the Spirit of God [Acts 2:42]. Lord, do it again and do it here. Do it here. May we stand together?
Wonderful Savior, there’s no day in the week more precious than Thy day. There’s no assembly we could ever know more precious than the family of God when we gather together in this sacred place, and there is no gift from heaven so sweet as the presence and the breath of the Spirit of God upon us. And we pray, Lord, that that eucharistic life of thanksgiving, glory to God, may ever characterize us. May God take fault-finding and bitterness away from us, and give us the spirit of love, and kindness, and gentleness, and goodness. Lord, bless Thy people and us among them.
And in this moment that we tarry, just for this moment, then we’ll go, nobody going now. In this moment we tarry, you a family, or you a couple, or just one somebody you, down that stairway if you are in the balcony, down one of these aisles on this lower floor, “Pastor, today we’ve decided for God, and here we stand.” Make the decision now in your heart, and when we sing this appeal, come. Do it now, “I want to take Jesus as my Savior” [Romans 10:9-10]. Or, “I want to be baptized into the fellowship of God’s church” [1 Corinthians 12:13]. Or, “I want to join this dear congregation,” and welcome. And we thank Thee Lord for the sweet harvest You give us, in Thy saving and keeping name, amen. While we sing, come and welcome, welcome, welcome.
CHURCH THE HOLY SPIRIT QUICKENED
features of the pre-Pentecostal church
built the church; Holy Spirit quickened (Matthew 16:18, Genesis 2:7, Ezekiel
37:1-10, Revelation 21:16)
II. The apostles’ doctrine
A. They continued steadfastly
in the truth of God through years, centuries
2. A real
fellowship (Hebrews 11, Hebrews 12:1)
B. The dynamic center
of the assembly
III. The fellowship
purpose of God that His people be together (1 Corinthians 10, Psalm 68:6,
precious privilege to be a part (Ephesians 5:25, 1 Corinthians 12:13)
An island of God’s mercy and grace
IV. Breaking of bread
A. A term for the Lord’s
Supper in the New Testament
B. Every evening meal
closed with Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:46)
C. Their memorial of
worship of Christ (Mark 14:22-23)
Christianity (Acts 5:41, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
V. The prayers
A. Stated, public prayer
(Isaiah 56:7, Matthew 21:13)