THE EARLY CHURCH (2)/ THE CURSE OF BABEL/ THE POWER OF THE NAME OF JESUS
During the Sunday service, Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘The early church (2)/ The Curse of Babel/ The power of the name of Jesus! Her main text was taken from the Books of Genesis 11 and Acts 1:12-14; 2:1-13; 2:36-47.
THE EARLY CHURCH – INTRODUCTION
We shall study the early church from the Day of Pentecost until the end of the recorded acts in the Bible. The pattern of the early church is the same as what happens during revivals. This study should ignite revival in our hearts, in our church, and the overflow should bless the city. Doctor Luke wrote both the Books of Luke and Acts. We shall study the early church in the book of Acts learn how the believers behaved at that time. The early church shows us the perfect pattern of the church, what God had in mind when He sent the Holy Ghost to the believers. One thing is clear, it was a church experiencing revival, a supernatural body that influenced the world. The church started with 120 believers. Right now, there are 2.18 billion Christians around the world representing nearly a third of the estimated global population of 6,9 billion. The Christians are so much spread that no geographical area can claim to be the center of Christianity. The early church was growing in numbers and in authority. They sent evangelists and missionaries to preach the Word. We know that they loved the Word of God, they loved their fellowship, they prayed, they preached, and they did miracles. They held the name of Jesus in highest honor. They had supernatural boldness, authority, and power in the name of Jesus. They lived in the unity of the Spirit. They were extremely conscious of who Christ is in heaven and in their midst. They knew their identity as believers, what Christ has done for them. They exercised holy discipline when necessary, so that the church remains pure. They were loving, helpful, and generous with one another. All were not wealthy but there were not needy among them. They were persecuted by the religious leaders, but always victorious. The pattern of the early church is the original pattern. There are many lessons for us. The coming down of the Holy Spirit and the early church is a holy model for revival and evangelism.
In the book of Luke 24 we see that The Resurrected Christ spoke to His disciples about the plan and the purpose of God, concerning the church. He opened their understanding concerning Himself, as the Living Word of God. They now saw it that Christ needed to suffer and die for sinners, so that they can be saved. They also saw that Christ rose from the dead according to the scriptures. Christ commanded them to go and preach Him and His Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to other nations. But first, they needed the Gift of the Holy Spirit, to be baptized into one Body and so that they can receive power to do ministry. The promised Holy Spirit came on them on the day of Pentecost, exactly 50 days since Christ resurrected and 10 days since He ascended. The believers were baptized together by the Holy Spirit into a new eternal Body called The Church, or the Body of Christ. The Church is not a manmade organization, a social club, or a branch of the Government. It is the Body or Christ. It is a living organic united Body made from all the born-again believers who have died, live presently, and will live in the future.
The only book that describes how the church began is the Bible. This is the truth revealed in the Bible: God created man for Himself. Man rebelled against God and sin entered the world. The punishment for sin is death. God sends His Son Jesus Christ to become a Man and to die on behalf of men. Jesus dies, is buried, and rises on the third day. Forty days later Jesus ascends to heaven as the Lord of all. He promised to send the Promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. Ten days later, on the Day of Pentecost, from heaven, He sends the Holy Spirit on the waiting believers. The Holy Spirit unites them like the welding fire. He baptizes them into one Body. He gives them the power to be witnesses unto Him, from Jerusalem, to all Judea, to Samaria, and to the end of the world. This is the Gospel. The Church preaches the Gospel. In this world of sin, the Gospel is the only good news. On the Day of Pentecost, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter stands and boldly preaches the Gospel. The people were ‘pricked in the heart’ and repent of their sins. That day, God added 3000 souls to the Church.
What is a Christian? The first thing we see that a Christian is a sinner saved by Grace. The early believers changed dramatically. In the past, they believed in Jesus but were afraid of persecution and of death. Now, they suddenly fear nothing and nobody. Their lives bear fruits of godliness. A Christian is someone who has the Holy Spirit inside. The religious unbeliever may attend church but does not have the Holy Spirit inside him. Salvation manifests as a new way of thinking, feeling, and making decisions. For the first time in his life, the Christian begins to think. Sinners do not think. They follow the crowd. But the Christian is spiritually intelligent. He thinks. He understands the Word of God. He can explain his faith. One of the first works of the Holy Spirit is that you begin to think and ask questions about life and death. When Peter preaches people start asking questions: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” The moment you start asking questions, you will find the answers. Peter said: “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. When the Holy Spirit provides the answers, the light of God will shine on your soul. For the very first time in your life, you will see how ignorant you have been all your life. You will know that all these years you were dead in sins. But now, you have received life, eternal life. Joy full of glory will fill your soul! Salvation in Christ is a miracle! It is the greatest gift given by God to man! Halleluiah!
THE CURSE OF BABEL (Genesis 11:1-9)
After the ascension of Christ, the believers went back to Jerusalem, to the upper room where they were staying (Ac 1:12-14). They were together, men and women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus. They all ‘continued’ with one accord in prayer and supplication. In Greek, the word ‘continued’ means to persevere, to persist in waiting upon, steadfastly (in a fixed way, faithful, responsible, no distractions). The unity of the Spirit was a miracle. It was something totally different and new in the history of man. For us to understand the vision, the unity, and the power of the Church, we must go back in time and study the false unity of men against God manifested in the building of the Tower of Babel.
God created man for His purpose. In the Garden of Eden, thru disobedience, man fell into sin. The sin of Adam has been transmitted to all humanity. We are all born sinners, hating God and His ways. God announced the Gospel in the Garden. The seed of the woman shall come and crush the head of the serpent. This is the first prophecy concerning the coming Christ as Savior to men. God curses the serpent, limits the unity of marriage, and curses the ground. After that, God kills a lamb and uses the bloody skins to cover Adam and Eve. This is the second prophetic revelation of Christ, the Lamb of God, who will die to save men. Lastly, God drives the couple out of the Garden. Sin and death have entered the world. Soon, all men except for Noah and his family, become exceedingly sinful. God destroys humanity thru the flood. Only eight people, Noah, his wife, their three sons and wives, survive the flood thru the Ark, which is another symbol of salvation in Christ. This was a new beginning for man! It was a second chance for humanity to live according to God’s word. But man failed again. About 100 years after the flood, men come together in rebellion against God. This is the story of the tower of Babel.
God commanded both Adam and Noah to multiply and spread all over the earth. “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.” (Gen 1:28). “So, God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 9:1). We are told that the men ‘journeyed East’ and gathered on the plain land of Shinar to build a city that will cover the earth and reach heaven. They obeyed God’s command to fill the earth but soon, they stopped. They decided ‘to dwell’ on the Plane of Shinar. That was disobedience to God! Most Bible commentators believe that the land of Shinar is in the present-day Iraq and is the same with Babylon. Shinar is a desert land. There are no stones to build. The men made bricks from mud and water and baked them in the fire, so that they become strong. They wanted the building to last forever. The purpose in building that tower was threefold: They wanted to build a city whose tower can reach the heavens, to compete with God. Secondly, they wanted to make a name for themselves, to become famous all over the earth. Thirdly, they wanted to stay together in an unholy unity of the flesh, directly disobeying God’s command to fill the earth. Three times they addressed one another with the words” ‘Let us.’ In Hebrew, the word ‘city’ means ‘excitement.’ To ‘make a name for yourself’ it means to have a good reputation, to become famous, celebrated and respected by many people; to become successful and well-known. The men building the tower wanted to be successful, excited about their fame. They wanted to be admired by men and not by God. They wanted to become God to themselves. Sinful men wanted to build a city where they can live without God. There is much pride and rebellion in their fleshly unity. God hates that!
The Trinity came down to see what the sinful men are doing. The men said: Let us build ourselves … The Trinity said: Let US go down and confuse their languages. Sinful men are foolish men. They forget that no man can fight God and win. God could have killed all the men again the way He did it during the flood. This time, He let them live, but He scattered them by confusing their languages. God forced them to obey His Word that said: “Be fruitful and fill the earth!” When they started building the tower, they were united in sin. All spoke only one language. When God sent judgment on that sinful unity, He confused their languages. Men started speaking many languages and none could understand each other. The word Babel (from which the word Babylon comes) means ‘confusion’. Confusion is defined as a situation in which people do not understand what is happening, what they should do or who someone or something is. Confusion is ignorance of the truth. Confusion leads to anxiety and embarrassment. Babylon stands for the world, the system of men living like there is no God! Confused by their languages, they stopped building the city and they scattered all over the world, according to God’s command. The building of Babel shows what men can do, their power in unity of purpose. This sinful unity is a form of witchcraft, which is a work of the flesh (Gal 5:20). God condemns that!
The first man to have an idea to build a city was Cain, who killed his brother Abel (Gen 4:17). The first criminal in the history of humanity is the first architect to build a city. These are some reasons why people leave their villages and gather into cities: They want to make a name for themselves. They think that living in a farm or a village they will die poor, unfulfilled, and unknown. The second reason why men love cities is because they feel protected from wild animals and criminals. In the ancient times, cities have high walls surrounding them. But men are foolish because no walls can stop God inspecting them. You can see the story of Jericho city. Lastly, men build cities because they can get lost in the crowd and commit sins without feeling guilty. Like Babel, the big cities are centers of crime much more than the smaller ones. What is the lesson? God judges sinful men. None can hide from God!
Abraham was born about 300 years after the building of the tower of Babel. He was born in a city called Ur of the Chaldeans, about 200 kilometers south from ancient Babylon. See the difference between these sinful men who built the tower of Babel and Abraham, a man called by God! The sinful men journeyed by themselves and settled at Shinar. They picked the land. But in the case of Abraham, God picked the Land. Abraham went by faith, led by God not knowing where he was going. His nephew Lot loved the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He lost his testimony, his wife, and his wealth in those cursed cities. Abraham chooses to stay in the desert. God told Abraham that He will give him as a gift, all the things the city people wanted. He will be a blessing to all the nations on the earth and God will make him a name forever. Listen to God’s promise to His friend and servant, Abraham: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:1-3). God will be His Protection, Provision, Fame, and Peace!
The promise to Abraham is ours thru Christ! As you can see there is a great difference between Babel, the city of man, and the city of God! Abraham lived in tents, in the desert, as a pilgrim on earth. “He waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:10). God’s curse of confusion in the world manifests since those ancient times. Men have discovered many things. Science has made great progress. Men build great buildings, fly with airplanes and rockets. They even went to the moon. Despite all these discoveries, men still do not know God, and do not understand themselves. Men still quarrel and fight with one another. They are confused about life and relationships. They have no peace. Right now, there are 7151 spoken languages all over the world. Most people speak Mandarin Chinese, followed by Spanish, English and Hindi. You can see that it is not easy to understand each other.
Is there any hope for peace and unity? Yes! The God that confused the languages at Babel, is the same God who sent His Son to die for sinful men, who sent the Holy Spirit to start the church. The curse of confusion and division is reversed into blessing on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down on the waiting disciples, when the church of Christ was born. The unity of the Spirit was born. The curse of confusing languages was removed. Men started to speak in new tongues, praising God. They now understood one another. They became united by the Holy Spirit. The Church of the Christ is not a human organization the way Babel was. It is God’s supernatural eternal work, thru the Holy Spirit sent from God the Father, because of the sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ! Now you see why the Church cannot be destroyed. Halleluiah!
The story of the tower of Babel shows not only God’s judgment against sin, but His extraordinary mercy. God could have bombed the tower, destroyed it, killing all the rebellious people. But He did not do that! He confused their languages. What is the lesson? Any time you hear quarrels, confusions, and misunderstandings, remember Babel, and thank God for His mercy to sinful men.
THE POWER OF THE NAME OF JESUS
The men who were building Babel wanted to make a name for themselves; to become famous, to have a great reputation, to be admired and worshiped by other men. With their pride, they provoked God in heaven! When Jesus became a man, he humbled Himself and let go of any form of human reputation. He died on the Cross. That is why God made Him famous! At the name of Jesus, every knee now bows! The Gospel is the story of The Humbled and Exalted Christ! We must have the same mind and attitude. We serve God not to make a name for ourselves but to lift the name of Jesus! Then God will bless us! The name of a person is his identity. When Jesus went back to heaven, He left special gifts to His disciples: His Word, His peace, His joy, His blessings (at the ascension), His Spirit (at Pentecost), and His name. The name represents the person of Jesus in His absence. It is like His ATM card connected to His account in heaven. Only God’s children have the right to use that ATM card and withdraw money from the eternal bank. There is no limit to the amount you can withdraw. Faith is needed to withdraw money. All the money should be used for the glory of the name of Jesus and not for fleshly purposes. When the unbelievers, proud men try to withdraw money, they are punished by the Holy Spirit.
*The name of Jesus is supernatural. It was given to the Son of God by God the Father. Mary and Joseph did not choose this name. In Hebrew, He is called Joshua. It means God Saves or The Savior! It was a common name at that time. To identify Him, He was called Jesus of Nazareth.
*The name of Jesus is the only name by which men can be saved from sins or danger! The name of Jesus is the only ‘password’ to heaven and to the heavenly realms. That includes salvation, healings, and miracles!
“And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24). “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Ac 4:12). “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runs into it and is safe” (PV 18:10). The name of Jesus is a stronger tower than Babel! Ministry in the name of Jesus attracts persecution. “And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:5-12)
*The name of Jesus has authority above all other names! The name of Jesus is above the name of any sickness or disease or situation. Whatever has a name is below the name of Jesus and must give way to it, no matter where it may come from: heaven, earth, or hell.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:5-11).
*The name of Jesus represents the Person of Jesus! Just like Jesus was on earth performing all works and miracles, His name now represents Him! Miracles in His name are signs following the preaching of the true Gospel: Christ crucified and risen for my sins! The preaching of false doctrines will make the name of Jesus powerless! God will judge those people!
“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen” (Mark 16:17-20)
*The devil knows the power of the name of Jesus! All deliverance is done by faith in the name of Jesus.
“Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour” (Acts 16:16-18)
*The name of Jesus should only be used mixed with faith in God and His Word. Therefore, it is only the born-again Christians that are authorized to use the name of Jesus! The unbelievers are not permitted to use. They can even be punished for it. This is God’s command: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Ex 20:7). See the story of the sons of Sceva. This is a warning: Using the name of Jesus carelessly, or with doubt in your heart, will not work. “Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified” (Acts 19:13-17). Because of this incident, the people feared God and highly honored the name of Jesus! The people discovered that the name of Jesus cannot be manipulated, that it is not an ordinary name.
What is the lesson for us? We receive our identity in Christ alone. His powerful name is an encouragement to desire a good name and a godly testimony for ourselves! This is God’s Word: “A good name [earned by honorable behavior, godly wisdom, moral courage, and personal integrity] is more desirable than great riches; And favor is better than silver and gold” (PV 22:1; AMP). If you are living in sin, you damage your name and testimony. It will then be impossible to have faith in the name of Jesus! Godliness is related to authority! Selah!
Prophetic word: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door (of opportunity), and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Rev 3:8). Worship the Lord!