The question this morning that I would like each of us to consider is this: What is a great church? I would like to think that this church is a great church, but is it really? That word "great" carries many meanings. We use it often do describe things, events, and even people. We say, and have said, we had a "great" service, or a "great" offering, or a "great" conference. And we often use the word to describe a church. This may mean a large building, or a large congregation, or a wealthy and influential church, and sometimes it refers to the fact that there is a well-known pastor in the pulpit. But a great New Testament church means none of these things. In fact, God's standards of greatness is utterly foreign to that of this world. This morning, I want us to give our attention to the Scriptures and see what it is that makes a great church.
I. Great Power. cf. Acts 4:33
A. This is the power of the Holy Spirit.
1. The local church is nothing without the power of God upon it.
2. It is possible to build big buildings, gather large memberships, raise abundant offerings, and create impressive religious organizations be some power OTHER than that of the Holy Spirit.
3. However, the Spirit of God came on the day of Pentecost to empower the local church, and so a great church must be a Spirit- filled church.
4. Please do not misunderstand me this morning...I'm not talking about tongue-jabbering, demon- dancing, side-show that pretends and masquerades as a church!
5. Many churches will never be aware of a change when the Spirit of God is taken out of this world.
B. The Power of the Holy Spirit is witnessing power!
1. Jesus said, "But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8
2. There is a lot of activity that goes on in the church, but no amount of activity will substitute for witnessing.
3. By this power the apostles witnessed to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
4. They didn't talk about themselves or their accomplishments, they talked about the Lord.
5. It was a well-known fact that Jesus had died, but the apostles knew that He was alive!
6. Many people are not so much gospel-hardened as they are gospel-ignorant!
7. I went to church, I knew that Jesus died on the cross, but I never knew that He was alive and coming again!
C. A great church is a Spirit-filled Spirit-empowered, witnessing church!
II. Great Grace. cf. Acts 4:33
A. The church is the product of the grace of God.
1. None of us have anything that we did not receive from God.
2. We are saved by grace, we live by grace, and we are kept by grace.
3. We often boast of organization and efficiency, but without the sufficiency of Christ and His grace...we are nothing!
B. The New Testament church is great because of God's grace.
1. Could it be said of this church that "great grace was upon them all"?
2. Today we depend upon our own abilities and talents rather than relying upon the grace of God.
3. Jesus told Paul, "...My grace is sufficient..." a church is great only in proportion to its measure of grace.
4. Perhaps if we rested more upon God's grace and less upon ourselves we could become a great church!
III. Great Fear. cf Acts 5:5, 11
A. The story of Annanias and Sapphira.
1. They chose to lie about what they gave.
2. Peter discerned their sin and declared that they had lied unto God.
3. God judged them by striking them dead on the spot!
4. As a result, "...great fear came on all them that heard these things".
5. "And great fear came upon all the church..."
B. The Fear of God is one of the missing ingredients in so many churches today.
1. We have grown accustomed to sin, not just in our society, but in our local churches as well.
2. If God would strike dead all who commit the same sin as Annanias and Sapphira the death rate would set a record!
3. The world is full of fears, and psychologists have classified them as phobias...
a. Acrophobia: fear of high places
b. Mysophobia: fear of dirt
c. Arachniphobia: fear of spiders
d. Claustrophobia: fear of close spaces.
e. Ergophobia: fear of work
f. The list goes on even to include Phobiaphobia: fear of fear, but one was conspicuously absent from all the lists I saw ... Theophobia or the fear of God!
4. Paul declared in Romans 3:18, "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
a. He was referring to the lost man, but this statement has become true for most church members today!
b. There is no acknowledgment that we are in the presence of a Holy God who cannot tolerate sin.
c. We have forgotten the con- clusion to which Solomon came following his extensive search for the meaning of life in the book of Ecclesiastes.
d. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." Eccl. 12:13
C. To be a great church there must be great power, great grace, and great fear.
Conclusion: The pattern is clear from the Scriptures as to what it takes for a church to be considered great. We could go on and find that there was great persecution, great results, and great joy. But a church is made up of individual members, and every mark of a New Testament church should also be a mark of a New Testament believer. When church members are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, when they receive abundant grae and walk in the fear of God, then and only then, will we become a great church by God's standards!
This morning can this be said of you? Are you saved by the blood of Christ? Have you identified with this local church through baptism and membership? Are filled with the Spirit of God, resting upon His grace, and walking in the fear of God? If not then why?