What Happened First
Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions were his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus … There were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:32-34).
What happened first? What happened just before this “outbreak of justice, mercy and humility? Proclamation. Opposition. And prayer.
The first half of Acts 4 chronicles Peter and John proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead (4:2). They are arrested, put on trial, declared a public nuisance, and ordered “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus (4:18), an order they refuse (“we must obey God rather than men,” 4:19). Returning to their fellowship, they report the threats against them, and the church prays (4:24-30).
And then: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (4:31). That’s what happened first: prayer, being filled with the Spirit, and bold proclamation of the Good News.
Then we see the things we’re looking at this week, a church being and doing what looks like acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.
We can’t get the good fruits without the hard work—the hard work of prayer, of continually seeking to be filled (and re-filled) with the Spirit, of communicating God’s truth and demonstrating his love to a confused, complacent and contentious world.
Reading these passages today, we tend to get “hung up” on the apparent “economic policies” of the early church—are we today to hold property in common, see that all physical and economic needs are met, and that there are “no needy among us”? And to reach these goals in the same ways described in Acts 2 and 4?
We might note that these practices do not seem to have been continued by the early church, at least not precisely in the forms reported in Acts 2 and 4—but that cannot be “end of discussion” about how we in our day are to act out the justice, mercy and humility of God’s Kingdom in our times.
What happened first must still happen first: prayer, especially that the people of Christ would be freshly filled (or refilled) with the Spirit of Christ; living our way into that Spirit-full life together; and boldly proclaiming the Good News of Jesus in the power of the Spirit whom Jesus gave, and gives, to us.
What might an even more Spirit-filled Chatham Church look like, act like, be like? What are one or two specific things you’d like to see—and are willing to begin praying for now? And whom could you invite to join you in prayer—family? Small group? Friends?