SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
EPIPHANY SUNDAY, JANUARY 6, 2019
Title: “The Church: Unified in Purpose”
Text: Acts 4:32-33.
Many Christians have been asked the question, “Why does the church exist?” In a survey conducted to find answers to this important question, folks from over a thousand churches were questioned. Eighty nine percent of the respondents believed that the purpose of the church was to take care of the needs of them and their families. Many of those questioned believed the purpose of the pastors was to keep the members happy and not lose any one. Only eleven percent thought the purpose of the church was win the world for Jesus Christ. When the same questions were given to the pastors from the same churches surveyed, the results were the opposite of what the pastors said. Ninety percent of the pastors believed the purpose of the church was to win the world. Only ten percent agreed with the members.
From what one can learn from the above mentioned survey, one would wonder why there are conflict, confusion and stagnation in some of the churches today,
There is nothing more important than purpose. The first order of business in any church should be “Why do we exist?” What is our purpose? Until everyone understands and know what the church exists for, there will be no foundation, motivation, no direction and no unity.
The book of Acts gives us insight into the early church. The early church knew why they existed. The early church knew the purpose for which it came into being. The early church was united around that purpose. Our text tells us, “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul…and with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and great grace was upon all of them (Acts 4:32-33 NIV). When Jesus Christ called these disciples, He was calling them not to a life of leisure, but a life of service. Each of the apostles had their own task to perform. Each had a different talents, but they had the same calling to fulfill the great commission in their day and time. The apostles of the early church had one leader who was Jesus Christ. They also had one purpose which was to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. These early disciples did more for the early spread of Christianity than any generation of followers since, Walk with me this morning as we examine Acts 4 to find out what the apostle did in accomplishing the purpose of the first church: spreading the gospel.
In verse 32 of our text, it tells us that “All the believers were one in heart and mind. “This tells us about unity. They were united. They were united in love and in purpose. Reading further, the text tells us, “but, they shared everything they had.” One can see that there was a fundamental solidarity of love and purpose. To be of one heart and mind is to be united in every fiber of their being.
All the believers shared in this unity, not just the apostles, not just the leaders. The believers were one big family in relationship. Being of one family, these believers shared the same spiritual father, Almighty God. They also shared the same spiritual birth which means they were born again into the family of God.
They were friends in fellowship. Being friends, they shared their lives and possessions with one another. Their relationship went beyond kind words and pats on the back. These believers put first the meeting of physical and practical needs that everyone could see in the community. Charles Spurgeon believed that the mission of the church was to help take away the suffering of the people. He thought that the church should be doing more to express the love of God by fighting the unfairness that many faced. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” The early disciples did that in their community of faith.
These disciples did not only come together for family gathering, for making sure their physical needs were met, but they shared enterprise together. They came together to attain an objective. They were partners in reaching the world for Christ. They linked arms together not only for their convenience, their comfort, and their support, but to reach out to those who had not yet linked up with them.
I know that our understanding of the word church is people called out of darkness or sin to do what Christ came to do. I want us to understand that we are members of that body of people. We are people from different backgrounds with different interests. We are also people who look at things differently. But I want us to understand that we have been called for a purpose. In meetings I had with both Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee a while back, I made it clear that it is important for a church to have a purpose. When a church has a purpose, it encourages unity. It also changes the people’s relationship to one another. It signals where the church is going and it fosters retention of congregation and staff. We need each other if anything significant is going to happen for Christ (1 Corinthians 12:20-22; Ephesians 4:15-16).
The purpose of our church is to cooperate together in reaching out to each other and to others beyond our walls so others can know the love of Christ. We are in the business of pointing people to heaven. This is best accomplish when we understand that we are a family of friends in partnership with each other.
Our text does not only show that the church had unity in accomplishing the purpose of the church, it also shows that they experienced the power of God. I want you to understand this morning that without purpose, there will be activity without accomplishment. Without purpose, there will be efficiency without effectiveness. What am I saying? What I am saying is a church that is focused on its purpose will manifest the power of God. The power of God will be evidence by the coming together of its members in continuous fellowship. The power of God will be experienced in its services. The power of God will be experienced in its growth. Growth here does not only means size but spiritual growth. In Acts it tells us that in a matter of weeks, the church grew tremendously. Scholars tell us that the within the first twenty five years the first century church grew from 120 to over a 100, 000 people. It grew from upper room to living room. The church grew spiritually. That is the power power of God being manifested in a purpose driven church.
God also gave the early church power in their diversity. The church was made of different people with different opinions. They acted differently. They saw things differently. They had different gifts. It was a diverse group like our church today. But they found strength in their diversity because they had one purpose:TO SPREAD THE GOSPEL. In their diversity, they found strength to create a singleness of spirit, of identity and of purpose whose unifying center was Christ Jesus. We will all agree that a church that is unify in purpose resembles a symphony. In a unify church one person will play a different note from the person sitting next to them. Their variety and diversity will create a more significant, a more magnificent sound than if they were all on the same instrument, playing the same note. Unity exists amid diversity because we all follow the same musical score.
When the church is unify around its purpose, the favor of God is always upon them. In the final verse of our text, it tells us “and God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.” The disciples well unified in purpose and were committed to the task of reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This brought God’s grace upon them (Acts 4:33). Because they were generous, God was generous. Because their heart broke over the same thing that broke God’s heart, God smiled upon them. Because they lifted up the purpose of Jesus, God lifted them up. I submit to you this morning that there exists a relationship between our faithfulness to God’s plan and God’s favor in our lives. If we want to experienced God’s blessings, we must first be obedient to God’s purpose.
Let me tell you what Christ prayed for on the last night of his life. This will help you understand why the church should be unified around its purpose of teaching Christ. Jesus prayed: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. . . . I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20-21, 23).
The words in this prayer are deep. Our Savior knowing he was going to died, prayed for us. With death breaking down his neck, Jesus prayed not for our success, our safety, nor our happiness. He prayed for our unity as we would go out to fulfill his purpose. He prayed that we would love each other as we went out to love the world. In his last prayer Jesus Christ prayed that you and I be one.
Of all the lessons we can draw from this text, remember that unity matters to God. In John 13:35 Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Unity create beliefs. How will people come to God if we do not love each other. How do we keep the unity? How do we do that? How do we make every effort to keep the unity? Does that mean we compromise our convictions? No. Does that mean we abandon the truths we cherish? No. But it does mean we look long and hard at the attitudes we carry. Unity doesn’t begin in examining others but in examining self. Unity begins, not in demanding that others change, but in admitting that we aren’t perfect ourselves. Unity grows as we learn to accept others differences and to forgive when wronged. Unity continues as we humbly serve those who are different. Unity is fulfilled as focus on who we believe in rather what we believe in. Unity is favored as we lovingly take the message of Jesus Christ to a divided world.
That’s our purpose. Let’s be unified in it. Happy New Year! God bless you!