They were all together in One Accord

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Title: They were all together in One Accord

Text: Acts 2:1

Date: February 3rd, 2008

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” That’s how the second chapter of Acts begins according to the King James Version of the Bible. If you remember, unity was what we talked about last week — how the early church was unified in one accord around the distinctive and essential areas of personal experience with Jesus, doctrine, and morality. Those three important areas formed the foundation of the early Christian church. These are the three critical areas the church must be unified around today also. I must have read at least a hundred books, seriously, addressing the topic why the contemporary church today lacks the power of the Holy Spirit. Why did the early Christian church have so much spiritual power? Why do we so seemingly lack that spiritual power today in the church? Out of all the books I’ve read seeking an answer to these questions, not very many of them talk about the answer the Bible gives – spiritual unity among the believers. But if we look at the pages of the Bible, especially in the New Testament, we’ll see that spiritual unity was just about the most important thing that the early church had in its favor. And when there was a threat to that spiritual unity, those early believers acted quickly to correct the problem and get the church back into unity of heart, soul and mind. They did whatever they needed to do to assure that everyone was united around a personal experience of Jesus Christ, around sound doctrine, and around obedient moral behavior. Now today, when we look at Christianity and specifically the Christian church, we hear talk of unity and we even see pockets of unity here and there, but they are usually cases of unity in non-essential areas, not the essentials of the faith. For example, some churches unify around racial lines, consisting of almost all members of one ethnic group. There may be racial unity in these churches, but that isn’t spiritual unity. There’s an old Reformation-era saying that goes, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in all things, charity.” Now that’s a great slogan, but it’s important to define the terms. What is essential? What is non-essential? What is charity? It seems that churches today confuse essential with non-essentials and what may seem like unity isn’t really because it’s not true spiritual unity. The early church in the Book of Acts had real, true spiritual unity. They were in one accord on personal experience of Jesus, doctrine, and morality. Today, we are going to have to get back to these areas of church unity if we want to have God’s power and presence in our churches. If we don’t have unity in these areas, it doesn’t matter how much unity we have in other, non-essential areas. Last week I explained the essential areas of unity a church must have, but today I’d like to uncover the areas of unity that many churches have to some degree, but these don’t really count as being a truly unified church. These are areas we have to be careful in, lest we settle for unity in secondary things and therefore lack the power of the Holy Spirit that comes from true spiritual unity. Here they are:

First, there is, like I said before, ethnic or racial unity. Acts 2:1, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Many churches are operating under the false impression that if they achieve unity around their race or ethnic heritage, they are following in the footsteps of the early church, but this isn’t so. It is true that the earliest of the early church was mostly all Jewish; that is true. But it didn’t stay that way, as the Book of Acts explains further along. The truth is, the Christian church is not built on ethnic or racial unity. That isn’t the long-range plan of God, but that’s the constant temptation for us as humans to always judge everything from within our own racial or ethnic group. So we see churches today unifying around ethnic and racial unity. Now there is nothing wrong with people of the same ethnic group and the same race from meeting together, just as long as they realize that true church unity is not about this. It’s about spiritual unity, unifying around Jesus and doctrine and morality. The Book of Revelation describes a time coming in the future where people of all nations, tribes and tongues worship the Lord before the throne of heaven. This is true spiritual unity, not ethnic or racial unity. For us today to have true unity in the church, for us to truly be in one accord, we must unify around spiritual unity not simply ethnic or racial unity.

Second, there is political and economic unity. Acts 2:1, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Other churches are under the false impression that if they can gather people together of similar political and economic persuasion that true unity can be achieved. But again, this is a false vision of unity. As I pointed out last week in the message, the early church was made up of people of different political and economic persuasions. Even within the 12 disciples, there were differences in political and economic philosophies. For example, one called Simon the Zealot was a revolutionary who wanted to see the Romans driven out of Israel by force. There may have been other disciples who were also sympathetic to the Zealots’ cause. But then, there were others who were not Zealots and who took another political approach towards the Roman occupation of Israel. It was the same with economics. Some of the early Christians were particularly opposed to the high Roman taxation policy, while there were others who took it in stride. It’s a testimony to true spiritual unity that the likes of Matthew the tax collector could even function with the disciples who were zealots –even after their conversion to Jesus! But when we look at churches today, many times we see a uniformity of political and economic persuasion, and almost a demonization of those who don’t hold the same views. There is more to being a Christian than being Republican – or Democrat! In an election year, we should guard against some artificial unity based on politics or economic philosophy. Now don’t get me wrong. Something like abortion is more moral than political. All Christians should oppose abortion. But things like immigration, taxation, etc. These are things that can be debated; they aren’t specifically “Christian” issues either way. We should be careful not to think if a church is united in its political and economic views that it’s achieved true spiritual unity. Wrong, not even close.

Third, there is marriage and family unity. Acts 2:1, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Here is a strange one, but I thought I’d throw it in anyway because it’s often overlooked as a false unity that churches today build upon. The true spiritual church founded by Jesus and carried on by the disciples and early believers did not gather in one accord over family and marriage issues. You might get that impression if you visit more and more contemporary churches today. Everything is “family” this and “family” that. Marriage seminar, marriage-builders class, etc. I can’t count the number of churches I’ve seen that have changed the name of their church to “Family Worship Center” or under the church name, the subtitle: a family church. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for marriage. I hope to be married somebody and raise a family myself. And marriage and family sure is in bad shape in our culture today, with cohabitation and divorce and adultery, broken homes, etc. But to take the marriage or family theme and elevate it as the unifying theme of church like more and more churches are doing is wrong. The early church didn’t unify around marriage and family status. They unified around the Lord Jesus and doctrine and obedience to the will of God. But in some churches today, unless you are married, unless you have children, unless you are a “family,” you feel left out. Obviously the mistake being made is in it’s effort to be relevant and reach the contemporary culture, church leaders are marketing the church to married couples with children. But that’s a mistake. The early Christians were “all with one accord” not unified around marriage and family, but around the true, essential spiritual themes. Only when this happens will there be the Holy Spirit’s power and presence in a church.

Fourth, there is class or sub-culture unity. Acts 2:1, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Some churches give you the impression that their real unity comes from all being a member of a certain sub-culture or social class. Now in society there are many sub-cultures and there are different social classes. For example, here in Jamestown, there is the upper class – and they have a certain kind of lifestyle, certain tastes, etc.; and there is the middle class, which I think is most of the people in Jamestown, which reflects the type of home or car driven; and there is the lower economic class – to simplify everything in order to classify it. Some churches are built on the unity of everyone being a part of a certain class. There are upper class churches, middle class churches and lower class churches. Then there are sub-culture churches that attract particular groups in society. For example, there are churches today who are trying to attract the Baby Boomers, while other churches try to attract Generation X. Some churches try to attract very specific social segments, like in California, attracting surfers, or as I saw in Colorado, attracting cowboys. They actually have Cowboy churches out in Colorado. It’s true. Everyone comes in with a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, the woman too! And so these churches unify around some sub-cultural theme. But that isn’t true Christian church unity because it’s built around some human, worldly unity, not the unity of the Spirit. The unity of the Holy Spirit is built around experiencing Jesus, believing God’s Word, and living out God’s will. I think it’s a big mistake for all of these new churches and church planters to start churches built around some cultural theme. They may attract a crowd of people who are very much alike and have similar interests and tastes and lifestyles, but where is the real spiritual unity that the early church had? Unless a church is built around true spiritual unity it will lack God’s power.

Fifth, there is religious tradition unity. Acts 2:1, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” Many or even most churches are built around religious tradition unity. It’s amazing to chart the different Christian denominational influences within different countries. For example, if you are German, chances are if you attend a church it will be Lutheran. Can anybody guess why? If you are British and you go to church you will probably attend what kind of church? Anglican! If you are from Spain and you go to church on Sunday, which church will you likely attend? You guessed it, Roman Catholic. And so on and so on. In America, in the South, if you attend a church on Sunday it will probably be a what? Baptist! If you are living in Minnesota and you go to church on Sunday, where will you likely go? Probably Lutheran, maybe Swedish Baptist. Around Jamestown there are a lot of Swedish people so then naturally there are a lot of Swedish churches – Swedish Methodist, Swedish Baptist, Swedish Lutheran, etc. So then the unity of many of these churches isn’t really spiritual, it’s whatever the religious tradition of the immigrants who first established this area. But again, that’s not a true, biblical basis for church unity. In the early church there were traditional ethnic Jews who were Christians, but then there were Christians like Stephen who were Jewish converts or Hellenistic Jews who didn’t follow all of the Jewish traditions as Orthodox Jews did. Yet they all were together, unified around Jesus, doctrine and morality. Not that there were not tension at times – Acts 6 describes some problems that developed between the Hebraic Jewish Christians and the Greek Jewish Christians. But the disciples kept the group unified around the essential things, not the non-essentials.

I could go on listing different unifying factors found in churches today, but the point is that we must be very careful to unify around the things that are really important in the church today and not around secondary issues that aren’t very important. There seems to be a trend today in the contemporary church to emphasis culture and de-emphasize doctrine and morality. There seems to be a trend that pushes all the symbols of a particular sub-culture, whether it is the so-called Baby Boomer or Generation X or Post-Modern Generation, etc. I’m afraid in so unifying around culture and not the Gospel or around the essentials of the Christian faith in doctrine and morality that people are coming into churches and returning not for spiritual reasons but for cultural reasons. I’m afraid some of the churches I’ve seen in my travels and studies emphasize the wrong kind of unity — cultural unity, as opposed to doctrine and morality and a true spiritual experience in Christ. But the early church had such great power and had the abiding presence of Christ through Holy Spirit because they were united in heart, soul and mind around the real, true spiritual essentials: experiencing Christ, believing God’s Word, living out God’s will. Now there is no way to separate ourselves from our humanness, from our culture, because we are human and we live in culture. But we don’t have to organize our Christian life and especially our Christian church around what is human. Rather we should be organizing our Christian lives and the Christian church our what is divine – God’s Presence, His Word, and His Will. How can you help yourself and your church build true spiritual unity in the church? Challenge yourself to pursue a greater spiritual experience with Jesus through prayer. Commit yourself to pursuing a stronger conviction around the truth of God’s Word. And finally, determine to live in obedience to the will of God. If we unify around the basic essential themes of the early church and not get distracted by all the other things there are to unify around, we can experience some of the power and presence of God that the believers in the first century had.

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