Luke, the inspired historian, gives record of the greatness of the church of Christ at Jerusalem when he wrote: “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
In our society today the vast majority of individuals view prosperity exclusively from a material perspective. While there is nothing inherently sinful in material prosperity, the greatest form of such is acceptability with God and fellowship with Christ within the New Testament church.
In the early days of the church at Jerusalem we note regarding how those brethren submitted themselves unto God’s pattern and discovered ultimate prosperity in their acceptability with God, which was due several factors:
The church at Jerusalem was prosperous because it was spiritual. The individuals comprising that local church were also members of the church in a broader sense. They were in a covenant relationship with Christ in that they had been recipients of the new birth, therefore citizens of the kingdom of Christ–members of the New Testament church in its universal extension. Thus, they had obeyed the gospel of Christ and constituted the totality of those saved (Acts 2:38, 47).
This resulted in a real brotherhood (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35). Such being the case they wielded a mighty influence (Acts 4:13) and bore fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23; 6:7-8; Matt. 7:20-23).
The church at Jerusalem was prosperous because of its steadfastness. By the term steadfast we refer to its faithfulness. Such was true of this church both collectively and distributively (Acts 2:42).
The church of Christ at Jerusalem was faithful in the study of the word of God–the Apostles’ doctrine. They were unselfish in the “fellowship” of their material generosity (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8 and 9). We find also of their devotion to Christ in prayer, the authorized observance of the Lord’s supper as well as the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Singing is the limit of God’s requirement and must be the limit of our practice (Col. 3:17; 2 John 9).
The practice of following this divine pattern gives assurance that those who follow such devote themselves to Christ.
The church at Jerusalem was prosperous because it was persecuted because of God’s truth. Its founder and head was crucified. Being raised from death this brought about failure to the cause of Satan and Matthew 16:18 was demonstrated to be true.
The ambassadors of Christ, the apostles, were threatened, beaten, imprisoned, and were eventually killed (Acts 4:16-21; 5:28-29). Its members were scattered and impoverished with Stephen being killed (Acts 7:34-60; 8:3-5).
Persecution when based upon truth brings out true nobility in the Lord’s people. While it is certainly not joyous to experience it enhances our dedication and devotion to God.
The church at Jerusalem was prosperous because it was united. While indeed there were problems to arise during the early days of its existence; and while within the universal extension of the Lord’s church the seeds of apostasy were sown even disrupting the spiritual peace among brethren (Acts 15). the church at Jerusalem maintained its unity.
It was one in faith (Jude 3). It was one in practice (1 Corinthians 11:2). It was one in work–evangelism, edification and benevolence.
The church at Jerusalem was prosperous because it respected the basis and limits of New Testament fellowship. This fellowship is of a spiritual nature that is found within Christ (1 John 1:3). This fellowship first of all reaches upward to God, then outward to other faithful Christians. Because of the essence of this fellowship being in Christ one must obey the gospel to enter into such a fellowship and remain faithful to the Lord in order to maintain such (1 John 1:6-7).
Neither non-Christians nor unfaithful brethren are in fellowship with God and must accept God’s divine forgiveness by obeying his conditions in order to enjoy his divine fellowship.
The church at Jerusalem was prosperous because it saw the necessity of being set for the defense of the gospel. When the enemies of truth arose, this local church stood in their way and unleashed the sword of the Spirit (Acts 15:1-22; Galatians 2:1-5). They saw the need to be set for the defense of the gospel of Christ and to earnestly contend for the one faith (Philp. 1:16-17; Jude 3).
God’s pattern must be followed today in spirituality, steadfastness, persecution, unity, fellowship, and defense of the faith. May the church fight the good fight of the faith until Christ returns!