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CHURCH ON FIRE: Power and Persecution in the Church's Witness (ACTS)

Church On Fire image FINALFire is a remarkable thing. It is both life-giving and life-taking. It gives us light to see and heat to warm our homes or cook our meals. Yet it has the power to injure us severely and consume everything.

The book of Acts offers us a portrait of the early church on fire, in terms of both the power and the persecution that characterizes their gospel witness in a hostile world.

The power comes from the Holy Spirit. Just before his ascension, when Jesus commissioned his church to bear witness to him and his gospel before all nations, he instructed the apostles to first wait in Jerusalem to receive the promised Holy Spirit. Chapter 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The faithful and effective witness of the church in a world that neither knows Christ nor wants him requires the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within them—a presence and power initially marked by tongues of fire above the apostles’ heads when the Spirit was poured out on them at Pentecost (ch. 2:1-13). A power that emboldens them for public witness even as it moves them to share life in compassionate community.

Yet the church’s fellowship and fiery witness is often met with the fires of persecution. Whether from Jews threatened by the claims of Christ, or Gentiles threatened by the opposition to their idolatry, Christ’s messengers are met with incredible obstacles along the way, including opposition, slander, imprisonment, and even death. Yet these fires, as painful as they are, cannot thwart the gospel’s growth, but actually fuel its spread. It was the persecution in Jerusalem that pushed the church beyond the city, carrying out Christ’s commission. In the Spirit’s power, the gospel faithfully moves forward through the preaching of the word, forming new communities of faith despite opposition, increasing and multiplying first in Jerusalem (chs. 1-7), then Judea and Samaria (chs. 8-11), and to the ends of the earth (chs. 11ff). The book of Acts shows us that Jesus’ great commission is carried out through the Spirit-empowered witness of his church.

This gives us hope for today, as we serve the Lord in a region similarly uninterested in and often resistant to the gospel. And not just hope, but it helps us set priorities for how to be faithful and effective in our witness. As we seek to see Christ treasured above all things throughout Metrowest Boston and in every corner of the world, what we need are not new tricks, new gimmicks, or God forbid, a new message. What we need is fresh faith, the power of God’s Spirit, compassionate community, and the bold proclamation of his Word. And by God’s grace, “the word of the Lord” will “continue to increase and prevail mightily,” even today (Acts 19:20).

Join us this winter for our study in Acts. 

  • Feb 3: Acts 1:1-11
  • Feb 10: Acts 2:1-41
  • Feb 17: Acts 4:1-31
  • Feb 24: Acts 4:32-5:11
  • Mar 3: Acts 8:26-40
  • Mar 10 : Acts 9:1-31
  • Mar 17: Life on Mission
  • Mar 24 : Acts 10:1-48
  • Mar 29 : Acts 12:1-24
  • Mar 31: Acts 13:13-43
  • Apr 7: Acts 15:1-35
  • Apr 14: Acts 17:16-34
  • Apr 21: Easter
  • Apr 28: Acts 20:17-38
  • May 5: Acts 22:30-23:11
  • May 12: Acts 28:17-31