What are the things that we are supposed to be doing as followers of Christ – both individually and then corporately together as a church? Books have been written to attempt to answer that question.
There is no single Scripture that gives us the perfect answer. And among topics addressed are usually the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, the “one another” passages of the New Testament, etc.
But we can find fewer paragraphs that combine so many ingredients as are found right here in our reading today in Acts 2:42-47. In the past when preaching on this passage, I remember entitling it “The Constituent Elements of the Church” … which is maybe a bit hyperbolic, but certainly not by much.
Consider the list:
1. The Apostles’ Teaching – This must have been pretty amazing to hear. These guys would have been combining the Old Testament Scriptures, their three years of experiences of travelling with Jesus, along with their newly acquired empowerment of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Not bad! We all always need God’s Word and his truth.
2. Fellowship – There is nothing quite like the camaraderie of relationship with others with whom you have shared an incredible experience. And we have that together even today in regard to our mutual salvation through the work of Christ … along with our common experiences of living together as friends in an oft hostile world.
3. The Breaking of Bread – This was more than simply sharing meals together, as it would be speaking of the communion element of the church more formally gathered in reflection upon Christ.
4. Prayer – This is, of course, why we are studying Acts, and once again we note immediately their absolute dependence upon God in prayer. The coming of the Spirit did not change this. It did not move them into any new place of now not needing to be constant in prayer and communication with God.
5. Signs and Wonders – Though some in evangelical circles would disagree with me at this point and contend for the validity of such in our day, I do not think it is normative (though God can and does do miraculous things on occasion). I believe these were unique to the time before the completion of the Scriptures – which now give us authority validating the message and messenger in a way previously done by signs and wonders (See Hebrews 2:1-4).
6. Generous Mutual Support of Needs – The application of this Scripture is that we should be quick to support one another in times of need, not that we should live in a communal fashion. We should see that indeed all we have has come from God, along with a concomitant responsibility to use it as a blessing for others.
7. Togetherness – Another way of speaking of the fellowship of the church, these early believers shared so much more than simply their religious lives. Some of this was necessitated by the unique circumstances of many of them being from beyond Jerusalem, but we should not lose the proper emphasis upon the community experience being enjoyed.
8. A Visible Public Presence – They did not pull away from the Temple nor from the view of those who had so recently put Christ on a Roman cross! They did not shy away from the perverse surrounding world, but rather engaged it with the truth of the Gospel.
9. Worship – They were regularly in awe of all that was happening about them and expressed that in their reverent worship from sincere hearts. All of this was very attractive to the world around, not repulsive.
10. Evangelistic Growth – We see the work of God in that HE is the one adding to their numbers. Yes, I’m sure they were working hard at it; but as always, it is God who gives the increase.
It would be a good exercise for any of us to go down the list and check it twice to see if we are naughty or nice in applying it in our lives – as individuals and as a church family together.
The Fellowship of the Believers – Acts 2:42-47
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.