“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 4:31)
We can find the same expression in Acts 2:1-6, but in Acts 4 the believers are found praying and praising prior to the Holy Spirit coming upon them. In this instance there is no mention of speaking in tongues. The important thing here is not how many of the special gifts were in operation, but the fact that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit of God. It is likely that they received the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24), no doubt they were endued with faith, and it is certain that they received the power to live the crucified life. “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” should teach us something about what it means to be a Christian. Is it a set of principles or a system of doctrine? No, instead it is the power of a changed life and heart in the follower of Jesus Christ.
How Scriptural Christianity begins in a person
It begins when he or she responds to the preaching of God’s word. This means that there is conviction of sin, repentance, and a turning to Christ for salvation. Such a person proclaims that his life has been given over to Christ (Galatians 2:20). Here acknowledgement is made that salvation only comes through the cross of Christ as an unmerited gift of God. Conviction of sin is now replaced with the conviction that he is a child of God (Romans 5:1). The fear of death and hell is destroyed (Philippians 1:23). The person who has Scriptural Christianity cannot fail to praise God for eternal life and the everlasting blessings he will receive from God’s hands.
There has to be evidence of the love of God in his life, meaning that Christ is the desire of his eyes and the joy of his heart. This love must include love for those around him too (1 John 4:11). Therefore he loves his enemies, the unthankful and the downright evil for the Master’s sake. This kind of love is not “puffed up,” but is instead meek, longsuffering, and forgiving even to the point of self-abasement (1 Corinthians 13). Such love does not seek his neighbour’s hurt through action or words.
A Scriptural Christian can do nothing without Christ, and is in constant need of His grace and strength to meet each hour. His soul searches for ways to do good to others, thus he walks as Jesus walked. We can do no better than following His steps, though it often requires the denial of the flesh (Matthew 25:40). This kind of Christianity was recognised by the Jews and pagans at the rise of the Church.
How Scriptural Christianity spreads
It spread from one individual to another until it made its way around the world. It needs just one person to truly get filled with the Holy Spirit and to shine the light of the Gospel (Matthew 5:13-16). The early church was concerned about the lost by calling them to repentance (Acts 17:30). They endeavoured to win the backslider back to Christ. They laboured to do as much good as possible (Galatians 6:10). They warned the unrepentant and hard of heart about the coming judgement (Acts 24:25). At times the early church boldly thundered the word of God into the ears of sleeping hearts, demanding that they awake and arise (Ephesians 5:14).
The truth grew rapidly despite the fact that the believers were persecuted and oppressed. Yes, some fell away because of such affliction, but those with true faith in their hearts continued on. They were lied about, beaten, imprisoned and killed for their testimony of Christ, but rather than being destroyed by the world, they turned it upside down (Acts 17:6). The very foundations of hell were shaken by the early church as sinners turned from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.
As the truth spread so too did the tares grow amongst the wheat. The devil began to place counterfeits in the church to destroy it from the inside, but nevertheless, he can never prevail against Scriptural Christianity (Matthew 16:18).
Scriptural Christianity is destined to fill the earth
One day God’s true church will prevail and cover the earth. When the Lord establishes His millennial reign the whole of humanity will know what Scriptural Christianity is (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:6-9). This of course cannot happen until the Jews acknowledge Christ as their Messiah at His coming (Romans 11). What a perfect world it will then be! No more evil, wickedness or sin. Never an unkind word will be spoken again, but all will love and serve the Lord.
Does this kind of Christianity exist today? Each of us need to ask, “Am I so filled with the Holy Spirit that there is no doubting that I am a Scriptural Christian?” Too many in the church think that this does not apply to them personally. If they are truly members of the body of Christ it emphatically does. If we are filled with the Holy Spirit then surely we should be living as true Christians. We should be bearing the genuine fruit of the Spirit. Our lives should be holy and blameless. Our hearts should be wholly with God, full of zeal, and have a desire to spread His word.
Being filled with the Spirit God has given us the ability to do all we can to live for pure Christianity and to bring the lost to Christ. It all comes down to this: Do we have the form or power of godliness? It is time for Scriptural Christianity to be restored both in the church and in the world. We are all responsible for working with God to make this happen. It is not too late, for all things are possible with God.
Preached by John Wesley 24 August 1744