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The Acts of the Apostles
2- The Characteristics of the First Church
(continued from SNOB 17)
5- A Church that has a life of Communion
First: Communion in Christ through the word of God, prayer, and communion in Eucharist.
Second: Communion among the believers through the agape (charity/love) ministry and the fulfillment of the necessities of those in need: “No one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. … There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what they sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.” (Acts 4:32-35). “And breaking bread (in Eucharist) in their homes, they partook of food (agape meals) with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” (Acts 2:46-47).
6- A Church that ministers by the authority and strength of the Son of God
A- In doing miracles and healing the sick: Peter said to the paralytic on the door of the Temple “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. And he took him by the right hand and he raised him up” (Acts 3:6,7). When the chief priests asked Peter and John by which strength and which name did you perform this miracle, Peter was filled of the Holy Spirit and said to them, “Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you have crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man is standing before you well.” (Acts 4:10).
B- "When they (the disciples) heard it, they lifted their voice together to God and said … And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while You stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:24-30).
7- A Holy Church
They did not allow the devil to trick them by his lies and defile the work of God. Thus, when
Ananias and his wife Sapphira agreed on hiding part of the price of their field that was offered to the disciples and lied to St. Peter; he said, “How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?” (Acts 5:9), and both fell and died instantly. And a great fear prevailed on the whole Church.
8- A Joyful Church
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, ... (Gal. 5:22). This is a true joy that Christ gave to the Church, asking the Father, “That they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (Jn. 17:13), and described it saying, “And your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your Joy from you” (Jn. 16:22). Even when the leaders persecuted the apostles because of their testimony to the truth, and scourged them and commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus, the writer of the book of Acts tells us, “They (the apostles) left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for His Name” (Acts 5:41).
9- A United Church
“Continuing daily with one accord in the temple” (Acts 2:46).
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32).
When selfishness disappears, unity is born, the unity of souls, and the unity of thought, which is the thought of the Holy Spirit. “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us ...” (Acts 15:28). Even if the number of believers is 120, 3000 or 5000, it is the One Spirit that leads them.
10- An Apostolic and Preaching Church
It was founded by the Apostles and it kept their teachings faithfully, “and they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42). When false teachers tried to disguise as apostles, the true apostles fought them with Divine authority. Thus, St. Peter abolished the wicked ways of Simon the sorcerer, who tried to adulterate the work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-25) by acquiring the power of performing miracles with money and was excommunicated from the Church.
The church also followed the example of the apostles, and all of its members became even preachers. Therefore, when the great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem, and all were scattered abroad “except the apostles” (Acts 8:1), the book of Acts tells us “Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (8:4), “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and returned to the Lord” (11:21).
11- A Church filled with the Holy Spirit
The filling with the Holy Spirit is different from the mere dwelling of the Holy Spirit, which the believer obtains at Baptism, by the laying of hands, or by chrismation with the Holy Myron. The filling with the Holy Spirit is a total submission to the work of the Holy Spirit and the complete denial of one’s personal will. This is the secret of the Church’s power throughout the ages. We see this in the Book of Acts in many aspects:
1- “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4)
2- “And the disciples were filled with Joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52)
3- “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4: 31)
4- Through the Holy Spirit the Apostles served and preached, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said: Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2)
5- And as the Holy Spirit sent whom He chose to minister, sometimes He also prevented them, “They were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6)
6- In times of weakness, the Holy Spirit was their encouragement, “Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent. For I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you” (Acts 18:9 -10)
7- The Church ruled by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in the problems of faith, as in the council of Jerusalem, when they discussed the return of the Gentiles saying, “ It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden …” (Acts 15:28).
8- “Being filled with the Holy Spirit” was an absolute necessity for all servants, even those who ministered the material needs of the believers. The Spirit said, “Choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).
Therefore, the book of Acts was truly named “The Book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit”.
12- A Universal (Catholic) Church
Through the Holy Spirit, the Church was open to accept all who believed and repented without discrimination between different peoples. And to prevent Peter the Apostle from hesitation in accepting Cornelius the Gentile, the Lord showed him in a vision not to judge any man as defiled or common, and ordered Peter to go to him (Acts 10). Cornelius’ faith was the first fruit of the faith of the Gentiles. God chose St. Paul to be the apostle of the Gentiles, as St. Peter was the apostle of the Circumcised (the Jews).
(To be continued)
“And He said to them,
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
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