The Gospel Unleashed - Unleashed by Unity of Purpose

Sermon Summary

This message raps up the series that examines how the gospel was unleashed after Jesus was crucified, buried and risen. The disciples and the great number of new believers who accepted Jesus as their Savior were unified by several things which gave them a common purpose. First off, they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. They had a hunger and thirst for the Word of God! They would do some kind of Bible study almost every time they got together, even daily. They were committed to the fellowship of believers and would even sell things to raise money to help meet another person's need. They ate together daily and while they may not have formally observed The Lord's Super or Communion, it seems certain that the breaking of bread and the sharing of the wine was a constant reminder of the sacrifice Jesus had made on their behalf. It can be seen in many examples that their common purpose to unleash the gospel was made much more effective due to their commitment to prayer.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Pastor Larry talked about how he would like to see God move in a mighty way again like He did on the Day of Pentecost. Is there a story in the Bible you wish you could see repeated or if not repeated, you wish you could have been an eye witness? What would that be?

2. Around 100,000 Churches will find themselves in serious decline this year and over 4,000 will close their doors. Most of these are caused by a lack of purpose or a purpose that is not God-given. Discuss the stated Northshore Church purpose and whether or not you believe it will keep our church healthy if we adhere to that purpose. Northshore Church's purpose is "To see the One who Gave His life for us exalted and the ones He gave His life for transformed!"

Mat 22:35  One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
Mat 22:36  "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Mat 22:37  Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'
Mat 22:38  This is the first and greatest commandment.
Mat 22:39  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
Mat 22:40  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

3. The followers of Jesus and the new believers devoted themselves to the Apostles teachings. We know they taught the things Jesus had taught them and that they encouraged reading the Hebrew Scriptures with the idea that Jesus didn't come to do away with the law, but to fulfill the law. Why is it so vital that we remain devoted to God's Word as a church?

John 8:31  To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
John 8:32  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to
dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

4. It seems the fellowship of the believers was a vital component of the early church and helped solidify their unity and their commitment to unleash the gospel to the world. In fact the Bible clearly points out people were added to their fellowship daily. How has your fellowship within the family of Christ encouraged your own personal walk with Jesus?

Acts 2:42-47 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes    
and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Full Sermon Notes
Unleashed by Unity of Purpose

"You made a way when there was no way and I believe I'll see you do it again!" Sometimes we look back at things in the Bible and wish He would do it again! Well, I believe if we know our God-given purpose for our church and we unite around that purpose we'll see God unleash the gospel again much like He did with the New Testament Church! And that get's me excited! Let's go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to teach us how to unleash the gospel by unity of purpose! Pray!

We talked the last two weeks about unleashing the Gospel through the proclamation of the truth in love. Peter confronted the religious folks who had gathered from far away regions for the Pentecostal Festival which was a harvest festival. It was a strategic time for the gospel to be unleashed. Peter used Scripture to show that Jesus was indeed the prophesied Messiah. Some of the people listening were the very people responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus and Peter confronted them with that truth. While he did so with great conviction, I believe he also spoke with a very humble attitude and with anointing of The Holy Spirit. Why do I believe this? Because of the results...

Acts 2:37-41 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  
And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off —for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

I sure would love to see God do that kind of work again wouldn't you? What has to happen for that kind of move of God to take place? Well let me jog your memory concerning the background of this amazing event. We've talked about how the Gospel was unleashed through His Presence, by His Power, with Prayer, through the Spirit's Gifts, and by the proclamation of Truth! Here's what each of those things did for the disciples: It gave them a unity of purpose. In fact this unity of purpose had been given to them by Jesus before His ascension back to heaven. Let's look at Luke's record of that event in Luke 24:44-53...

Luke 24:44-53 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you:
Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,
and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.
I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.
While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Why do I remind you of these things. We've already talked about those things in the last six sermons of this series. Yes and what I want you to see is that the very things that led up to the miracles at Pentecost didn't stop at Pentecost. The same unity of purpose that Jesus gave the disciples continued after Pentecost. In fact, let's look at our text for today and I believe you will see what I see.

Acts 2:43-47 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes    
and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

This passage makes it clear that God continued to move in powerful ways in the early church. People were giving their lives to Jesus on a daily basis. It was because the leaders and the followers in the New Testament Church understood their purpose. I don't know that they had a purpose statement like many churches today, but they definitely had guiding principles of purpose. This unity of purpose caused the early church to unleash the gospel on their world in a powerful way. Major internal problems came only when they began to forget their original purpose and mission. Before we look at what that was, I want to remind us all of just how critical it is to know what our purpose is and that we do all we can as a church to live by that purpose.

Why is purpose so critical? If a church doesn't know it's purpose then it won't know it's mission and if it has no mission, there will be no vision and Proverbs 29:18 in the King James Version says this...

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. KJV

What does this mean? I believe it means that with out a guiding purpose people will not see or envision the need for living Godly lives. They will live according to the world's standards and perish. In the New International Version we get a little different perspective. Same truth, different perspective.

Proverbs 29:18 "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law."

Now what does this have to do with unleashing the gospel with unity of purpose? If we have no revelation of God's purpose for us then we will have no guidelines and nothing will restrain us from straying off God's intended path, and when that happens to a church they perish. All over our world there are churches dying because they either don't know God's purpose for them or have rejected it. Church health expert Tom S. Rainer says one hundred thousand American congregations will have accelerated decline this year and over four thousand churches will close. Why? I believe they either forgot their purpose or their purpose was not a God-given purpose. They didn't forget the way they always did this or that, but they forgot their purpose. Purpose goes beyond tradition or method.

Purpose is about why a church exist and what it exist to accomplish. Purpose is not about a particular methodology it's about a particular reason for existence. If a church knows its purpose then it will find the best methods to accomplish its mission, and as long as those methods don't go against Godly principles, then choose the method that best helps fulfill the purpose and achieve the mission!

Our church purpose is...

To see the One who gave His life for us exalted, and the ones He gave His life for transformed!

I believe that everything we do or don't do, should be based on that purpose. That purpose should be our filter for everything we do as a church. It is Biblical because it's based on the great commandments to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Now let's look at the purpose that unified the New Testament Church.

Acts 2:42a They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching...

Unity of Purpose from The Word of God

The followers of Jesus and the new converts devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching. The apostles were teaching the things they had been taught by Jesus, which we have recorded in the gospels, and you know they were teaching people to once again love the Word of God as found in the Hebrew Scriptures that we know as the Old Testament. Ask any football coach if the playbook matters and they will tell you it's absolutely vital. Without it they won't win many or any games. The Bible is our play book for life. It is our strategy for spiritual warfare. It is our recipe for success, and I'm not talking about the world's definition of success. It is what gives us our purpose, our mission, our vision, our direction, and our focus! I just love the way it says they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. They were hungry and they were willing to take on spiritual nourishment daily, not just on Sundays. This hunger and thirst for the Word helped unite the early church and give it it's purpose. Ever wonder why they all of a sudden had this intense desire to know and learn the Word of God? It's something that happens when a person first accepts Christ as their Savior. You realize that He is the way and the truth and the life, and that His words speak life. You begin to understand things that at one time made no since to you.

The people of the New Testament Church, so many of them were Jewish and steeped in Jewish tradition. They had read the Scriptures before, but somehow they were different now! Realizing that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one, and having accepted Him as their Savior, they now had the Holy Spirit to help them understand Scripture. The writer of Hebrews would later write this description of The Word of God which helps explain it's transforming power and ability to unify...

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to
dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

You see, the Word of God is living and active. It is not some outdated manuscript that has no relevance for today. It's wisdom and advice apply in principle to everything you will face in this post-modern world. When it says "Sharper than any double-edged sword, it's talking about how God's Word can cut through anything!
And it can even get all the way down to your soul, your spirit, your thoughts and your attitudes. The new believers in Jerusalem were experiencing this new found transforming power of the Word of God and it unified them with a great purpose. And a huge part of that purpose was to reach others with the gospel. That's why it says there were added to their number daily! Remember the context of the New Testament Church: They were under the control of the pagan Roman Empire and their own leaders had become corrupt, deceptive, and power hungry. The truth of God's Word was a unifying foundation and they now realized the powerful connection between Jesus and the Word.

The Word had prophesied the coming of the Messiah who would not only speak the Word of God but through His life would become the Word in example and deed. John spoke of this...

John 1:1-2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.

And then when you skip down to verse nine check out what he says...

John 1:10-14 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God —
children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory,
the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Okay, I hope you're beginning to see how and why the new believers were so devoted to the Apostles teaching. They were beginning to understand God's purpose for their lives, that He loved them, sent His Son to save them and they were to now live lives for His glory. They were now considered the children of God and as such they had a new family. Listen to our text...  

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Unity of Purpose from The Fellowship

The religion they were used to was one of hierarchy, legalism, tradition, and was based on doing things to be seen by men. Their new faith was based on grace and mercy and included a family. And oh they loved their new family. In fact for a time, they seemed to gather daily to fellowship together. This fellowship included studying the Word of God, breaking bread and prayer! The word for fellowship was Koinonia. It had it's roots in both the Hebrew and Greek languages. The Hebrew roots brought the ideas of shared house, binding, and companion. The Greek root meant common friendship. The fellowship of these new believers and the disciples grew strong and it was anything but common. Listen again to our text...

Acts 2:42-47 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes    
and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

You might remember that people had gathered from all over the known world for the Day of Pentecost. Some of those people who decided to become followers of Christ probably stayed in Jerusalem for a time to learn more about the gospel and sit under the teaching ministries of the Apostles. Evidently the local believers helped out. If someone had a need they would come together to meet it. Now here's an interesting fact: The Pharisees began as a group who loved the Word of God and would form close associations to fellowship around the Word. What happened to them over the years is they forgot their purpose and main reason for gathering together. It became less and less about learning the Word of God and how to apply it to their daily lives to bring glory to God and fulfill their purpose. It became an exclusive group of business men focused on how they could leverage their power for political & financial gain.

Now this would never happen in churches would it? Nah! Yes! If a church forgets it's God-given purpose to unleash the gospel, the good news of Jesus, to the world, then that church is bound to die. Paul the apostle, who was not a part of this group, yet, would later write from prison to the church at Ephesus the following words...

Ephesians 4:1-6 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit —just as you were called to one hope when you were called —
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Unity of Purpose from the Breaking of Bread

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Scholars believe this was talking mainly about enjoying a meal together in fellowship. Meal time was so much more than just eating back then. It was almost a sacred thing. Sharing a meal had to do with thanksgiving just to have a meal and it was a wonderful time to be with family and friends. However, many of those same scholars know that after Jesus' supper with his followers and the attached meaning concerning His death, the broken body (bread) and the spilled blood (wine), it was very probable that this was ever on their minds as they broke bread together. So we don't know just how often they actually observed an official communion or Lord's Supper, but the very act of breaking bread was a constant reminder of Jesus' sacrifice. I believe this was one of the great unifying factors of the early church. The breaking of bread would always remind them of the cross and as such the cross would have helped them have a unity of purpose.

In fact I'm going to close with a story of something that happened just a short time later and it shows how the New Testament church and it's leaders were committed to their God-given purpose, and you will see at the end of the story how they also had...

Unity of Purpose through Prayer

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Prayer was a powerful unifying force in the New Testament Church. It gave the people the courage to stand for the truth of God in love no matter the threats. You'll see their commitment to prayer at the end of our story…God had used Peter and John to heal a crippled beggar. Listen to what happened and how they had a unity of purpose that unleashed the gospel in a way that caused the church to continue to grow...

Acts 4:1-24a The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people.
They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people
and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.
But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem.
Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family.
They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!
If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed,
then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
He is “ ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. ’
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled,
ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.
So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together.
“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem
knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it.
But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people,
we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.
For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them,
because all the people were praising God for what had happened.
For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.
When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God...

I pray we will always be a church unified in our purpose. That we will remain true to the word of God, close in fellowship, and that fellowship certainly includes eating together, and helping one another in times of need, but we must always remember that we are a fellowship of the Cross. When we have communion we are reminded of the sacrifice Jesus paid in order to take away our guilt. And let us always be known as a praying Church. A church whose members communicate with God on a daily basis. If we do these things we will fulfill our God-given purpose...

To see the One who gave His life for us exalted, and the ones He gave His life for transformed!