The Art and Science of God
Putting the Pieces Together
“Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
The First Converts
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
|Two final “formulas”:|
|1. repent + be baptized = beginning faith|
|2. (Apostle’s teaching + fellowship) + (breaking bread + prayers) = growing faith|
The first “formula” here represents the synthesis of grace in our lives – our repentance matched with the mercy of God. We don’t decide God’s mercy, His part of that equation, but we celebrate the result in professions of faith particularly through the ritual and sacrament of baptism.
The second “formula” of spiritual growth is equally mysterious though. Somehow by learning together (Apostle’s teaching + fellowship) and by loving one another together in frequent and intentional ways (breaking bread, (or eating) + praying together), their faith grew enough so that their community of faith would double in size during the first week.
We church leaders often talk about ceilings we hit with attendance, but they had none of that here. The grew, and then they flew.
Some flew into persecution and death and others away from it, but the Church as a whole continued to grow and spread in places where they followed these two simple formulas.
While it was repeated over and over again, in different times, places, and cultures, the result was a diverse and beautiful work of art, the likes of which Paul would describe as:
The New Life in Christ
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Marks of the True Christian
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
And maybe that is the short answer for what this is all about: God, working in, around, and through us, who is not overcome by evil, but overcomes evil with good.