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Acts 2:42-47 | "Power in the Fearing"

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What moved thousands of souls to be saved and the early followers of Jesus to be so devoted to godly habits? It was more than just a knowledge of God - it was a holy fear of God! The Holy Spirit of God indwells believers with a holy fear of God that not only compels missional movement but empowers it!

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Public Reading — Acts 2:42-47 (ESV)

Acts 2:42–47 ESV
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
If you receive this word that has been read in your hearing as the word of God, not the word of men, will you voice your faith by saying together, “Amen”? [Amen!]
Let us pray: “Our Father, we receive this word as a gift from you. We believe you have inspired it, and that it is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. We ask for eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to obey. Amen.”

Introduction of Theme

Fear is a powerful motivation for movement.
Fear compels people to move in ways that they did not think possible.
If you doubt this, then go to a beach, and watch what happens when someone yells “Shark!” A fear comes upon all who are in the water, and they move through the water with movement never before seen!
The Church of Jesus Christ needs a holy fear of God.
Not the kind of fear that paralyzes (stage fright).
Not the kind of fear that attacks of flees (fight or flight).
The Church of Jesus Christ needs a holy fear of God that comes from God that not only compels movement but empowers it.
This was the kind of fear that verse 43 says:
Acts 2:43 ESV
43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
I want to talk to you today about Power in the Fearing.
The early Church received power from on high and it moved them with a holy fear of God into the mission of God in the world.

Introduction of Text

Acts records for us that before Jesus was taken up into Heaven, just as he promised, the Spirit of God, the power from on high, was poured out on Jesus’ followers on the day of Pentecost.
That day is described in the beginning of Acts 2 with these words:
Acts 2:1–4 ESV
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Pentecost is a feast that takes place 50 days after Passover. And during these 50 days the followers of Jesus are still together, and waiting.
And as they wait, a sound from heaven like a mighty rushing wind comes and fills the entire house and fills them - it is the Holy Spirit of God, the promise of the Father, power and presence of Jesus, just as Jesus had promised.
And in the Holy Spirit, language barriers were broken down and the message of Jesus was being heard by men from every nation under heaven in their own language!
The events from the Tower of Babel of Genesis 11 are beginning to be reversed!
Human beings, created in the image of God, can accomplish impossible feats when united together as one.
The Tower of Babel was a tower built at a time when the whole earth had one language. So the people got together and said:
Genesis 11:4 ESV
4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
The people attempted to make a name for themselves and build a tower into the heavens - and by doing so appoint themselves as God.
Genesis 11:5–8 ESV
5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
At the Tower of Babel, God graciously confused the languages of the people on the earth so that they would not destroy themselves with their united ability and pride.
God had a better unity in store, a unity he would give for His people.
A uniting of His people by His Spirit and with His power — and just imagine the possibilities of God’s people united by God’s Spirit, and what they can do!
It’s a foreshadowing of the Church of Jesus Christ! A foreshadowing of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, and a foreshadowing of the worship of God that will take place, as Revelation 7:9 describes a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb worshiping God!
And so this begins, on this first Pentecost, after the Holy Spirit is poured out on the followers of Jesus.
And in the midst of much bewilderment, amazement, and astonishment at the message of Jesus being heard in every language under heaven, Peter stands with the other apostles, and begins to preach and explain what is happening among them.
And what did Peter preach?
He did not preach that humanity could band together and reach up to God in the heavens, but instead he preached that humanity could be united together by a God who came down from heaven to humanity.
Peter preached Jesus — who was crucified, raised to life, and exalted at the right hand of God in power!
And all that the people are experiencing, is the promise of the Father, provided for by the person and work of Jesus.
Acts 2:41 ESV
41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
What powerful preaching! — What a powerful God! That about three thousand souls were saved that day as God became known through this Word and through His Spirit!
What moved those three thousand people to salvation?
I want to suggest that Acts 2:42-47 answers that question by saying it was a holy fear of God.
The more God is known, through the revelation of His Word and Spirit, the more God is feared.
And fear empowers God’s people to move on mission with Jesus! The fear of God is a motivator for movement!
We need a healthy fear of God. We need God to shock us awake! To remind us of the power of His presence given for His Church!
This fear of God first propelled the followers of Jesus into an unnatural devotion to the things of God. And this healthy fear of God will propel us in the same way today!

I. Devotion [Acts 2:42]

Acts 2:42 ESV
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Four actions are listed that the followers of Jesus devoted themselves to.
That word “devotion” is used twice these six verses, and it is a word that means:
Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains 68.68 προσκαρτερέω; προσκαρτέρησις, εως

to continue to do something with intense effort, with the possible implication of despite difficulty—‘to devote oneself to, to keep on, to persist in.’

The early believers were not swayed from doing these four things.

And the first item of devotion was the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42).

That is, the testimony of Jesus, the word of their witness.
What the apostles themselves saw with their own eyes, and heard with their own ears after having walked with Jesus as he walked the earth —
This is what the apostles taught, and this is what is preserved for us in the Holy Scriptures.
This is what the Gospels record, and the epistles (letters) of the New Testament expound, and all the Bible says “Amen” to, about God’s salvation in Jesus.
This is the teaching that we devote our attention to as well.
All believers are witnesses for Jesus, but not all believers are apostles.
That word “apostle” has its root in the ancient shipping industry, to speak of what was sent out, as a bill of lading. It became used in the New Testament to speak of those who were sent out as ambassadors or envoys on a specific mission. (BDAG).
That’s who the apostles were - men specifically appointed and commissioned by Jesus as eyewitnesses to His teachings and works for the specific assignment of testifying to all people of the truth of Jesus, which they had personally seen and heard.
First the devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.
Secondly, according to (v.42),

The believers were devoted to “the fellowship.”

“Fellowship” is the the word “κοινωνίᾳ.”
It describes a closeness and a communion. It was a word used of marriage relationships as being the most intimate fellowship between human beings (BDAG).
In Jesus there is a κοινωνίᾳ, a fellowship, a close communion with one another.
And verse 42 elaborates on that fellowship:
Acts 2:42 ESV
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
The “breaking of bread” is a figure of speech for eating together. Sharing a meal.
There is a special closeness and uniting and relationship that develops in partaking of a meal together. Even if there is no common ground, you at least share in common food at the table.
It is a powerful image of unity.
Table fellowship in the New Testament time included discussions and even lectures. There was teaching at the table.
The devotion to the apostles’ teaching and prayers was lived out over meals! Worship happened at table! (IVP Background Commentary: NT, 2:41-47)
A family meal today is a practical way of enjoying fellowship where devotion to God may be lived out. As the family gathers together to share a meal, it provides a natural opportunity for prayer, eating, teaching and for the worship of God!
When we were in El Dorado, we were invited to share a meal with a family in our church. Before we ate, they did something very special. We all gathered around, and one of the sons explained that they have a habit in their family of reading a passage of Scripture before eating their meal.
This was a way of reminding that in the eating of the food that had been prepared before us, we should have a tangible reminder of what Jesus taught - that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” That is creativity, that is worship and teaching at table!
But there is a deeper meaning here.
In using that phrase “the breaking of bread” it intentionally connects us as hearers with what Jesus did with his disciples over a meal on the Passover in the Upper Room before his suffering and death.
Luke 22:19 ESV
19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
The “breaking of bread” in v.42 is a reference to the Lord’s Supper.
The meal that believers devoted themselves to, and that united them together, was not just an ordinary meal, but specifically the Lord’s Supper which they were to eat often. It reminded them of Jesus’ body being broken for them on the cross so that God might forgive our sins through Jesus!
And that meal of remembrance unites fellow believers together on the same basis of forgiven sins - my sins are forgiven, and your sins are forgiven, we are only here together because of Jesus and what he has done!
Acts 2:42 ESV
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The believers also devoted themselves to the prayers.

Jesus taught that his followers should always pray (Luke 18:1).
These prayers could be spontaneous but they could also be set prayers that were taught in the synagogues services of worship.
The songs we sing in worship together - many of them are prayers to God. They are giving you words of faith that you may sing and pray back to God!
These are the things the early believers in Jesus devoted themselves to. Making sure these things were a part of their daily life even through difficulty!
We can learn something from their devotion! For how easily do we allow ourselves to be kept from enjoying the benefits of God together? How important is fellowship with one another to our faith?
Many congregations have a covenant with one another, that they will not neglect gathering for worship on the Lord’s Day unless providentially hindered. That is the kind of devotion that characterizes the people of God. That’s the kind of devotion that marks a church where the power of God is present!
Question: So what moved these followers of Jesus, and these three thousand souls that were saved to devote themselves to these things? It wasn’t just a knowledge of what God had done, but it was a holy fear of God that came upon them!

II. Fear [Acts 2:43]

Acts 2:43 ESV
43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
The word translated as “awe” is the word [φόβος] (think, “phobia”). It is the word “fear.”
This fear that came on every soul is linked together with the wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
This fear is not something that the people produced themselves. This fear is something that came upon them.
Where did this fear come from?
This fear came from God, as an outworking of the wonders and signs the apostles performed.
The apostles did not perform these wonders and signs in their own power, but in the power of the Holy Spirit! It was God working through them!
These wonders and signs, and this fear, is all a gift from God!
What does it mean to fear God?
The “fear” of God is a word that means to have a reverential awe and respect for God.
It is the kind of reverence with which we approach God in worship. But that word fear in the Bible never does completely lose its sense of terror.
The fear of God maintains an awareness of God’s indescribable nature, his unsearchable wisdom, his magnificent power and even the fierceness of his wrath.
The fear of God can be likened to visiting a lion’s exhibit at a zoo.
You stand in awe (in fear) of that mighty beast and feel safe to approach its cage, but yet there is still a present terror, a fear that prevents you from getting into the cage with the lion!
Awe, reverence and terror describe your fear of the lion. Awe, reverence and terror describe the fear of God.
Such fear, verse 43 says:
Acts 2:43 ESV
43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
Fear moved God’s people toward the faithful devotion of verse 42, and moved them to persist in the faith even through difficulty.
It is a holy fear of God that breathes life into faith.
James 2:17 ESV
17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
It is possible to have a faith that is dead.
But faith that is alive, a faith that works, a faith that characterizes a church on mission, is faith that is moved by the holy fear, of reverence, awe, and even terror of God!
As the apostles performed many signs and wonders, these signs and wonders confirmed the word of their teaching, to which the converts and followers of Jesus devoted themselves to.
Often this passage of Scripture is taught as a list of things the early Church did. And if the early Church did these things, then the Church today should do these things. And so it is taught as a list of instructions: do this . . . do this . . . do this . . .
If I were to teach you in that way today, it wouldn’t move you much. You would agree that we should do these things, but it wouldn’t move you to do them if you don’t desire to do them already! Instruction alone will not resurrect dead faith. But instruction and a holy fear will!
When my kids play together they begin to make more noise. That noise doesn’t make me jump out of my seat to see what they are doing.
But when I hear a thud, a crash, and a scream, a fear takes hold that something serious has happened, and I spring out of my chair determined to get to them no matter the cost!
The Church does not need more teaching. The Church needs more fearing!
The Church needs God, through His Holy Spirit, to instill in us a healthy fear of God that shakes us to the core and moves us into mission! And this can only come from God! So what do we do? We pray!
We pray that God would increase our faith! We pray that God would awaken us with an awareness of His presence and the urgency of the hour, and the weight of eternity!
The fear of God is a product of our humanity encountering divinity. Our mortality encountering immorality.
And the more that we know God, the more God places eternity in our hearts, the more of a healthy fear we have of God, and the more we are compelled to move in our devotion for the things of God, our fervency in prayer, and our compassion and urgency for winning souls for Jesus!
The fear of God is a fear that comes from God by His Holy Spirit. And the fear of God that comes from God not only compels movement, but it empowers movement!
The fear of God is a fuel that powers the engine of God’s mission in the world — and that engine is the Church of Jesus Christ proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Remember what the apostle Paul would write of the Thessalonians:
1 Thessalonians 1:4–5 ESV
4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
The Holy Spirit of God indwells us with a holy fear of God.
That fear first fuels a sincere devotion to the things of God.
That fear is a result of the wondrous workings of God confirming His word - the testimony about Jesus.
And this fear fuels growth and expansion of the Church.

III. Growth [Acts 2:44-47]

Acts 2:44 ESV
44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
That qualifier, “all who believed” is important for what follows.
These actions that will be described are not performed by all people, but only “all who believed.” These are things Christians do together.
It is the predisposition of human beings NOT to believe the testimony of Jesus. Apart from the intervention of God by His Word and Spirit we don’t seek after God or receive His truth.
We don’t want to live by faith but only by what we can see and control.
We are naturally selfish and stingy, not caring for the needs of others. We worship ourselves and set up our own towers and kingdoms.
But the grace of Jesus changes all of that! The grace of God brings all believers together, not around ourselves, but in intimate fellowship, with all things in common, because we have Jesus in common, and His Spirit in common.
Acts 2:45 ESV
45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
An ownership transaction occurs when a person becomes a follower of Jesus.
Think of it this way: When you buy a car, you have to transfer the title of ownership from the name of the previous owner, into your name.
With that transfer of title, there is a transfer of names on that title, and a transfer ownership.
The same is true of followers of Jesus when it relates to possessions and belongings.
When a person becomes a follower of Jesus, that person is no longer his own. He has been bought with a price. The price of the blood of the Son of God poured out for sin. We become owned by the Lord and take on his name.
We become a Christian. And in that transaction of new birth, there is a transfer of ownership that takes place.
The title to everything you once owned or possessed, is transferred into the name of a new owner — the name of the one who gave you His name. Jesus.
Should we all sell our possessions and belongings and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need?
The better questions is:
Would you?
Would you, if God had supplied provision for you and you could meet the need of a fellow brother or sister in the Lord? Would you?
If you view yourself as the owner of anything, you need to ask not what things you own — but who owns you?
Because Jesus is not your owner, or your Lord!
When we become a follower of Jesus, we are no longer owners, we are stewards.
For what things do we have that do not first come from above?
James 1:17 ESV
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
The believers were so moved by a holy fear of God that nothing they owned was off the table for meeting the needs of others as they had need!
This text is helpful for reproving a self-seeking, stingy, independent and individualistic Christianity (of which there is no such thing)!
What the early believers do, they do selflessly, generously, and together in unity.
Acts 2:45–47 ESV
45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
The followers of Jesus began living in light of eternity.
Eternity was not a distant afterthought. It was a present reality.
If you do not live in light of eternity now, you will not experience eternal life later.
The people of God are called to live as those who will live with God both now and forever.
We will not do later what we are not willing to do now!
One of the common rejections of someone coming to faith in Jesus is that they’ll get around to it later. They’ll live like they want to now and wait until they are old, sick, and on their deathbed and then they’ll get right with God.
No you won’t! For you will not be willing to do later, what you are not willing to do now!
The devotion of the followers of Jesus was such that it was not merely a preparation for eternity, but a realization that eternity was present now, in the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus!
Acts 2:46 ESV
46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
That word “generous” speaks of simplicity. A humility. I have all I need in Jesus, I’m not bogged down with the complexities of heart and life, so what I do have I give generously in Jesus name!
Generosity is a cure for materialism. Generosity produces simplicity in life and in the heart. Generosity is a reflection of the work of God, because God was generous with us when he gave the world His Son so that we might have eternal life!
And this was a way of of being a witness for Jesus. From this way of devotion and life together, they were:
Acts 2:47 ESV
47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
The Holy Spirit brought a holy fear of God upon the believers so that they were moved on mission in power, and Jesus - the subject of the book of Acts, the Lord, is adding to the church a number of believers who were being saved.

Conclusion

The Lord is still adding to His Church. He has not stopped.
And He desires to add every one of you who hears these words.
Apart from Jesus you will never understand what it means to fear God with an awe and reverence. You will only know what it means to fear God in the sense of terror! For you, God is not Father, but God is judge, and his day of judgment is coming in which he will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ — and that day is coming soon!
But the way of salvation is simple. It is not easy, but it is simple — repent and believe in Jesus! Turn from your sins, and believe in Jesus who took your place and died the death you deserved on the cross. Who was buried, and raised in power!
Jesus will change you, he will give you a new birth and eternal life now! And a new holy fear of God for worship - in which the unapproachable becomes approachable!
You can know the holy fear of God that the Spirit gives that says: “How can we not speak of the things we have seen and heard?” (Acts 4:20). How can we not live on mission for the Lord?
Church, let me exhort you to pray with such a reverence, awe, and even terror of the living God! He is mighty to save! He is powerful! But he is also approachable! We approach God in our prayers.
Pray that God would awaken us to the urgency of the moment, and empower us to live by the same holy fear as the early believers, so that we might rightly steward God’s present gifts for His present and future glory!
Pray that God would revive a devotion among us that we would not neglect the teaching of God’s Word, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Pray that God would add to our number daily, those who are being saved.
Prayer, reading Acts 2:42-47 for reinforcement and as our prayer for the mission of our local church.
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