The Church Alive

In Sermon Ideas by Rachel Schultz

The Church Alive
Key Passage: “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?'”

Key Thought: The story of Paul and the Ephesian believers outlines the steps to reviving a dead church.

Scripture: Acts 19:1-7

Idea:  These are challenging days for the church with shifting cultural paradigms and increasing calls for pluralism leaving many wondering what being a Seventh-day Adventist is all about. Few are willing to venture off the pews into the world of personal evangelism. Many of our members never crack their Bibles open during the week. Most can not articulate the mission of their local church. We struggle with problems in our families, generational polarities, and chronic fatigue. And yet all these challenges pale into insignificance when you ponder our greatest nemesis—spiritual malaise. Our greatest need today is to experience the life-giving revival and reformation that is ours in the gift of the Holy Spirit.The Church Analyzed: Acts 19:1-3 – As the apostle Paul visited with the Ephesian believers he got the feeling something was not quite right. And so like a doctor with his clip board in hand, Paul started probing for some background information when he asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”  While they were aware of the Holy Spirit, Paul’s friends here were woefully ignorant about the nature, operation, and gift of the Spirit.  They had only gone as far in their spiritual journey as John the Baptist had been able to take them. Like many today, they yearned for more.

The Church Revived: Acts 19:4-7 – The apostle Paul built a bridge from where these men and women stood to where they needed to go by leading them into a personal relationship with Jesus. He helped them to understand the purpose of John’s ministry, the centrality of Christ in their salvation, and the promise of the Holy Spirit.

When they embraced the gift of salvation, Paul then baptized them in the name of Jesus. Now this is the only time that re-baptism is ever mentioned in the Bible, so we need understand that there is no need for frequent re-baptisms in our spiritual journey. While those who have left the Christian faith and after a long time returned, and while some Christians who receive vital new truth and want to join our church may rightfully seek re-baptism, there is no need to desire re-baptism every time we fall, because there is pardon for sin in Christ and there is a celebration of that pardon every time we wash each other’s feet and celebrate communion.

After Paul baptized these believers, he conveyed a blessing by laying hands on them. Considering our theology of baptism and the priesthood of all believers, we need to consider the proper relationship between water baptism, the laying on of hands, the anointing of the Spirit, and the believer’s entry into gospel ministry. It is fitting, then, that water baptism be accompanied by the laying on of hands.

Baptized and blessed, these Corinthian believers were filled with the Holy Spirit. It was a life-giving, vivifying fire that electrified the church and set it on fire for loving service in the cause of Christ.

Effective ministry for Christ requires specialized abilities, and so these believers then found themselves invested with spiritual gifts. They spoke in tongues and thus were able to communicate the gospel with people in other languages without a prior knowledge of those languages. And the gift of prophecy enabled them to speak powerfully for God. The whole church came alive when spiritual gifts were mobilized for ministry.

The final step in reviving the Ephesian church took place when the saints entered into ministry. They got up out of their pews and revolutionized their whole town. They became an unstoppable evangelistic juggernaut!

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