In Part 1, we introduced the three levels of the unity of the Spirit that was present in the early church. To recap:
Three distinct "levels" of unity of the Holy Spirit as found in Acts 2:42-47 are:
Level 1 – LCD (Lowest Common Denominator)
They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (v. 42).
Level 2 – Signs & Wonders
Fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles (v. 43).
Level 3 – A lifestyle of mutual support and sharing all things
All who believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. They, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people (vv. 44-47).
In Parts 2-4, we considered four questions about Level 1 unity:
- What does this level of unity look like in the church?
- What conditions are necessary for this level of unity to exist in the church?
- How can the church enter in/rise to this level of unity?
- What responsibilities do church pastors and clergy have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in His work of unity at this level?
Level 2 Unity: Signs and Wonders Through Apostles
"Fear came to every soul. And many wonders and signs were done through the apostles" (Acts 2:43).
The third question for Level 2 unity:
- How can the church enter in/rise to Level 2 unity?
The answer to this question is: by living in the fear of the Lord.
Let's look at the state of fear or reverence that was characteristic of this level.
In the Hebrew, there are two types of fear: one is to revere, and implies a state of fear. The other indicates sudden alarm, or being afraid which is a temporary condition.
In the Greek, just one word is used—to frighten, alarm, or be in awe.
The fear of the Lord referenced in the church in Acts was indicative of a continuing "state of" fear, i.e. being in awe of the Lord, rather than a temporary condition.
Jesus expected the church to remain in a state of fear of the Lord:
"Do not fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28).
"But I will warn you whom you shall fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell. Yes, I say to you, fear Him" (Luke 12:5).
A brief survey of the rest of the New Testament reflects this theme of the fear of the Lord in the early church:
"On hearing these words, Ananias fell down and died. And great fear came on all those who heard these things. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, 'Tell me whether you sold the land for this amount?' She said, 'Yes, for that much.' Peter said to her, 'How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.' At once she fell down at his feet and died. Upon entering, the young men found her dead and carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear came on the entire church and on all those who heard these things. Many signs and wonders were performed among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Porch" (Acts 5:5-12).
Also see: Acts 9:31, 13:16, 19:17-19, 2 Cor 7:1,11, Eph 5:21, Eph 6:5, Phil 2:12, 1Tim 5:20; Heb 4:1, 12:28; 1 Pet 2:17, 3:2,3:15
Most importantly, the fear of the Lord always results in one key behavior found in 1 Peter 4:1:
"Therefore, since Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin" (1 Pet. 4:1).
Living in the fear of the Lord always results in the cessation of sin. Proverbs 28:14 shows the contrast between living in fear of the Lord and otherwise: "appy is the man who always fears, but he who hardens his heart will fall into mischief."
The fear of the Lord is seen to come upon the church in two ways throughout the New Testament:
External Pressure: God moves supernaturally to respond to sin/evil (Acts 15 and 19) and the people understand and experience the fear of God. This is a reactive response of the church to judgement of sin.
Internal Submission: Believers cease sinning because of fear/awe toward God. This is a proactive response of the church.
Actually, it is the spirit of fear of the Lord that rises up in the heart:
"The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. He shall delight in the fear of the Lord, and he shall not judge by what his eyes see, nor reprove by what his ears hear" (Isa. 11:2-3).
The spirit of fear of the Lord is one of the seven spirits of God (Rev. 1:4).
The fear of the Lord is a spirit sent by God (Rev. 5:6), which rests upon us (Isa. 11:2).
So then, the answer to the question of how the church can rise to this level of unity is: by living in the fear of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord may come in either of two ways to the church:
- It comes sovereignly as God exposes and judges sin in the church (Acts 5:5, 19:17; 2 Cor. 7:11).
- It comes as believers forsake sin and submit to the Holy Spirit (to convict of sin and convince to righteousness and concerning judgment, 1 Peter 4:1).
Louis Posthauer is the executive director of Hunters of the Harvest Ministry. He has been actively involved in the local church for more than 37 years and currently serves as a lay leader and teacher at Living Word Church of the Nazarene in Houston. For more information, visit huntersoftheharvest.org.
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