Today we are examining the first church experience in the Bible, and the characteristic that leaps out at us is the incredible love they had for one another.
The Old Testament has one powerful passage on loving one another – Leviticus 19:19 – which says, "You should love your neighbor as yourself." And the context spoke about treating one another with justice, compassion, and mercy. But most often in the Old Testament the word "love" (ahava in Hebrew) was used for loving God, loving righteousness, and loving his commands.
How different is the New Testament! The coming of the Spirit of God upon the church creates in our hearts love for God, love for one another, and love for a lost world, as well as love for his word and his righteousness. Some of us have idealized the small country church, but the very first church we find in the New Testament is the large city church of several thousand members. And it was characterized by the love of God.
This was a miracle of God, and their love was not merely due to the friendships they had established over several years. It was divine love for people they had not previously known, love for the lost, love that came from God. This was not mere human sentiment, but divine love that reached up to God, reached in to the Christian family, and reached out to the world. God's love is transforming.