Having listed a dozen favorite mind-grabbing texts in the four gospels that define so much of my ministry, we come now to the rest of the New Testament.
Again, the challenge is choosing twelve. Why, I could get that many out of Romans 8 or Romans 12 alone.
But, here goes.
Twelve New Testament scriptures that have me in a hammer-lock, a death-grip, a loving embrace, and will not turn me loose.
1. Fellowship: Acts 2:42.
“And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teachng and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
One morning, the church in Jerusalem began the day with 120 members and ended it with 3,120. That was one revival God sent on the Day of Pentecost!
The challenge now for that small bunch of believers was discipling the new converts, grounding them in the faith, assimilating them into the congregation, and establishing them so solidly in godly living that they could live for Jesus no matter what circumstances the future might hold.
We get the impression the discipleship program the church launched was not a formal classroom situation, but was free-floating, fluid, and flexible. Their approach involved four activities:
–The apostles’ doctrine. They didn’t have the New Testament or even the Gospels, but they had the next best thing, the apostles. So, the men who had walked with Jesus for three years now began talking about Him to the new believers. Unbeknownst to them, they were preparing for writing the four gospels.
–Fellowship. Koinonia. The word means to share, to have things in common. Nowhere does scripture define or describe what they did that fell into this category, but I think we know: they hung out together. Sometimes formally–in ministry and classes and projects–and often informally–going for walks, meeting for pizza after church, visiting with each other.
–Breaking of bread. Does this refer to the observance of the Lord’s Supper or to meeting at someone’s house for potluck? Answer: yes. Both. A great way to get to know someone.
–And prayer. Nothing bonds people like praying together.
2. Conflict: Acts 6:1-7.
“Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose…”
Good. I’m so glad the early church had complaining members. I’m glad we’re not the first to have conflict in our churches. Why, we would not have a clue what to do about it. Thankfully, the Jerusalem church and several other NT congregations experienced the same kinds of problems our churches know.
I’m even more glad they showed us how to deal with such difficulties, such as not panicking, the leadership acting promptly, involving the congregation to choose 7 godly men to see to a need, and so forth.
People who read this narrative in Acts 6 often stop at verse 6. But they miss something critical. Verse 7 says, “And the word of God kept on spreading, and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”
What a standard that church set for us in conflict resolution: They handled it so beautifully that outsiders were drawn to them by the love and unity they observed.
3. The Church: Acts 9:4-5.
“And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.'”
One of a hundred lessons that came through to Saul of Tarsus that life-changing day outside Damascus, Syria, is that whatever one does to the church, the Lord Jesus takes personally.
The Old Testament makes that assertion about the Jews. However the other nations treated them, God took it as though they were doing that to Him, for good or for ill. But the New Testament applies that principle to the church.
Saul was persecuting disciples of Jesus, hounding them, trying desperately to eradicate their movement from the earth. He thought he was doing God a favor. Instead, he learned that day that in touching one of them, he was striking a blow against Jesus. Not a good thing.
If you feed the Lord’s children who are hungry, give them water when they are thirsty, clothe them when they are naked, and so forth, you are doing it to Jesus. That amazing truth is taught in Matthew 25:40. Now, on the other hand, to neglect to care for them is to neglect Jesus. Matthew 25:45.
I love Hebrews 6:10 and share it with the Lord’s faithful servants at every opportunity: “God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love that you have shown toward His name in having ministered to the saints, and in still ministering.” Get that? By ministering to the Lord’s people, you honor Him. He takes it personally.
Think what this says about your relationship to your church. If you cut the grass, you’re cutting Jesus’ lawn. If you scrub the toilets, you are doing it for Jesus. If you teach the children or feed a hungry family, He takes that as though you’re doing it for Him.
And if you are causing conflict in your church, dividing it in order to get your way, you are earning a place on His appointment calendar and the news is not good. If you are responsible for driving a good pastor from the ministry because he wasn’t to your liking, you have bought yourself more problems than you will ever be able to handle.
4. Enlistment: Acts 11:25.
“Then (Barnabas) left for Tarsus to look for Saul.”
God had made Saul of Tarsus an apostle to the Gentiles. And yet his reception soon after his conversion had not gone well. He had slipped out of town and returned home to Tarsus, perhaps to make tents and ponder what God had done in his life. Now, when a revival broke out in Antioch of Syria, the Jerusalem church commissioned Barnabas to travel there and see what encouragement he could render.
What he discovered was that Gentiles were coming to Christ, a new thing. And he remembered the young man of Tarsus called by God as an apostle to these very people.
Acts 11:25 is one of the greatest sentences in the history of this planet.
Matching a believer with just the right opportunity of service is one of the most fruitful and exciting ministries one can do in the Kingdom of God. Barnabas changed the history of this world by that one act of faith and faithfulness.
Who do you know who has been called by the Lord and gifted by His Spirit but has not yet found their place of service? Listen to the Lord and pay attention. If He leads us to join someone with their ideal work, we may touch the world.
5.Leadership: Acts 20:28.
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers; shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
In this chapter, the Apostle Paul is hurrying to Jerusalem and arranges for a hasty meeting with the elders of Ephesus, one of his favorite churches. He reminds them of his previous ministry among them and tries to prepare them for whatever is ahead. In verse 28–an overstuffed verse if there ever was one–he calls them to take care of themselves and the flock of the Lord. They are called elders (20:17), overseers (20:28 episcopos), and shepherds or pastors (20:28).
The church, Paul says, is the Lord’s flock purchased by His own blood. That says rather eloquently who Jesus is. (He’s not the Father, but God the Son.)
Often in preaching to churches, I love to share this verse with them to remind them of three lessons that tend to get lost in the forest of churchwork:
a) The church belongs to the Lord. (Matthew 16:18)
b) The ministers are appointed by the Holy Spirit. (Baptists sometimes ask, “Then why do we vote on them?” Answer: By our voting, we declare what we believe the Lord has done, whether He has chosen this man as our shepherd.) See I Thessalonians 5:12 and Hebrews 13:17 for our duties toward these who lead us.
c) Before the pastor can “take care of the flock,” he must see to his own needs: physically, spiritually, family. Church members must never criticize their minister for taking care of his health, his family, and his own spiritual welfare.
6. Resurrection: Acts 26:26.
“The king knows about these matters, and I speak to him with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner.”
For something to occur “in a corner” would mean it was unobserved, unexamined, unproved, and therefore would be unreliable. (Want to see something in religious history that happened in a corner? In Mormon history, check into Joseph Smith and the golden plates.)
Paul assures King Agrippa that the death-burial-and-resurrection of Jesus Christ was on display before the world, and is well known to him.
One of the many “proofs” of the resurrection–and make no mistake, there are dozens–is the silence of the critics and opponents when believers began blanketing the civilized world with the news of Jesus’ resurrection. To those who have said the Romans or the Jews had hid the crucified body of Jesus, or that on the first Easter Sunday morning the women were mistaken and went to the wrong tomb, we answer: “Then, when the disciples began preaching that Jesus was risen, why didn’t they produce His body?” They couldn’t, of course, because they didn’t have it.
Numerous scholars who have studied the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus have returned to report that this is one of the most verifiable events in history, that if one can believe anything that happened in the ancient world, he can go with this.
Why is that important? Why do that matter? Because the resurrection of Jesus is Heaven’s authentication of everything He claimed, every promise He made, every assurance He gave. “Because He lives, we too shall live.”
7. Prayer: Romans 8:26.
“And in the same way, the Spirit also helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
8. God: Romans 8:31-32.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
9. Wisdom: I Corinthians 2:8.
“The wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
10. Difficulty: II Corinthians 11:23-28.
“Are they servants of Christ? I speak as if insane. I more so, in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes….”
“From now on, let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brandmarks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17).
11. Submission: Ephesians 5:21.
“And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
12. Fearlessness: II Timothy 1:7.
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity (fear), but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
(working on this Monday and Tuesday)