The Strengthened Church-United in Christ
“Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” Acts 9:31 KJV
Have you ever tried to give words of wisdom to your child or loved one to prepare them for something in life, or to keep them from harm, only to have them ignore or even completely rebel against it? You watch as they struggle and suffer the consequences of their choices and perhaps even pull your family apart. In frustration and sadness, you think, “If only they would listen.” If you have experienced this, then you have had a tiny glimpse of what God has experienced and felt throughout the ages as His children have turned away from His Word and wisdom. Imagine His heartache as He has watched and will continue to watch so many of His children ignore or reject His Word and weaken Christ’s Church. Acts 9:31 tells us that an “edified” or “strengthened” (NIV) church is being built up, growing in reverence for God, in Godly wisdom and in Christ-like character. It’s “walking” or moving forward on their spiritual journey in the “comfort of the Holy Spirit,” and in awe and reverence, or “fear of the Lord.” Both are tied to our belief in and obedience to God’s Word and so critical to the strengthening of the church that we will meditate on and pray about different aspects of this for the next several weeks. A strong church is not based on the size of our congregations, buildings or budgets, but on our knowledge of God and faith in Jesus, His Word and the power of His Holy Spirit. God wants a strong and united church. Is that our desire as well?
The purpose of this strengthening is to bring the body of Christ to unity in the faith and knowledge of Jesus until we achieve the full experience and expression of His character, power and presence (Ephesians 4:13). The Greek word used for “knowledge” means precise and correct knowledge. How do we reach that kind of unity and precise knowledge if we don’t know or don’t agree on God’s Word, the source of that knowledge? The apostle Paul appealed to the church in Corinth, “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Does that sound like the church today? Christians are divided over what we believe about God’s Word, what we believe about Jesus Christ, and how we apply God’s Word to matters of the church and matters in the world. Before Jesus was crucified, He prayed to His Father on behalf of all those who will believe in Him and accept God’s Word, that they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that God sent Jesus and loved them even as He loved Jesus (John 17:23). Our unity in Christ is evidence to the world of God’s love for them and that He sent Jesus. How the enemy must want to interrupt that. How are we contributing to that evidence? If we don’t see that unity in our churches, what does God want us to do about it?
No wonder Satan is hard at work trying to keep the church divided because he knows it weakens our walk with God and our witness to the world, and he knows it is only by Jesus’ power that the church will overcome evil. Satan is a one-trick, fallen angel because every attempt he makes to divide the church leads to getting believers to deny or distort some or all of God’s Word. And there is nothing more damaging and dividing to the church than his attempts to get us to deny God’s Word about Jesus Christ. According to a Pew Research Study, 65% of those who call themselves Christians and 56% of Evangelical Christians deny Jesus’ words that He is the only way to the Father and eternal life (John 14:6). Jesus said whoever is not with me is against me (Matthew 12:30). So with polling numbers like that, If the church were holding an election for their leader, Satan would get the majority vote. There is no neutral ground, no spiritual, demilitarized zone. If you are not with Jesus, then you are falling behind enemy lines. Our strength, our unity and our identity is in Christ who is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22). Without Him, the body of Christ becomes headless, the blood of Christ is drained out, and the Bible becomes just a book of myths and old wives’ tales. Without the Jesus of the Bible, the Word of God dies and so does the biblical church. Can you hear our Father saying, “If only you would listen”? Does what we believe line up with Scripture? Do we know what the leadership of our churches believe? Jesus said divided kingdoms will be ruined and divided houses will fall (Matthew 12:25). Will we be Christians who strengthen and unite, in Christ, by His Word and the power of His Spirit?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank you for your great love for your Church. Thank you for your servants that work tirelessly to strengthen her. Forgive us when we ignore or distort your Word and divide your Church. If we would only listen to you! May your Holy Spirit open our eyes and pierce our hearts when we do anything that divides your Church and that causes us to fall behind enemy lines. Please help us to understand the importance of a strong and united body of Christ and a strong faith in your Word. Give us your wisdom, words and love to be strengthening agents in our churches, so we can reveal your Word, your Son and your love to the world. And help us to overcome evil with your good. In the uniting, strengthening name of Jesus, the head of the church. Amen!
Thank you, Denise, for these wise and timely words.
May God continue to use you for His glory.
A very timely and critically important commentary. Thank you Jim& Susie