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Life in the Early Church - Acts 2:42-47

 

Acts 2:42-47                                      click here for audio

ESV

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

 

 

 

Going on a trip to see new and exciting things can be a thrilling adventure, but it may be different things to different people.  I heard the story of a man who took his young family on a vacation to see the west and particularly the Grand Canyon.  Before the trip the father gave his eight year old a journal for the purpose of writing down interesting things learned along the way.  The day came to visit the Grand Canyon.  The tour guide gave much information and led them to see some impressive views over the canyon.  The guide led them to a place where they could look over to see the deepest part of the canyon. The guide said it was way over a mile to the bottom canyon floor.   There were other places along the canyon they visited.   Later on, that night when the young boy was asleep the father took the boy’s journal anxious to see what exciting things he had written about their trip at the Grand Canyon.  He was expecting to read something that captured the breathtaking moments of the day.  The boys’ journal entry read like this, “ I spit nearly two miles today.”   The small child had a different way of looking at the Grand Canyon than his father.  And what can you say, that’s to be expected.

It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul said    “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”   (1Cor. 13:11)

Our way of looking at things change as we get older.   And certainly our way of looking at things changed when we became a Christian.  We still have some growing up to do; we still have some changing to do, but at the moment we came to faith in Christ our view of everything began to change.

Change is what happens when you are saved. This is clearly seen in our study so far in the Book of Acts.  A group of people who were once enemies of Christ had received a change of heart. People who were part of that hateful group that mocked Jesus, spit upon Jesus, and crucified Jesus, became those who embraced Christ and knelt at His feet in holy reverence.   There were three thousand souls added to the already 120 making the first church a membership of 3,120.   More were added day by day by the Lord.

What we see here at Pentecost is the character of a True Church.  We see at Pentecost the coming of the Holy Spirit that produced the church;  and empowered the church and launched the church to carry on the work of Christ in the world. The work of redeeming lost sinners and adding them to the church. 

Last Sunday, we spoke of the church as the Body of Christ.   That’s exactly what the scriptures calls a True Church – The Body.

 

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.  (1Cor. 12:13)

22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.   (Eph. 1:22-23)

And he is the head of the body, the church.  (Colossians 1:18)

Just like the human body must be taken care of to be healthy,  to grow and develop, to be free from disease so that it can function effectively,   the church (the body) of Christ must be taken care of.

Later on in the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul will speak with the elders at Ephesus to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”  (Acts 20:28)

How do we care for the church of God, the Body of Christ?    It’s given here in the closing paragraph of Acts 2.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

1.    Apostles’ Teaching, or Doctrine

2.    Fellowship

3.    Breaking of Bread

4.    The Prayers

It’s interesting that Apostles’ Teaching, or Doctrine comes first.  There is a divine order purposefully given that we might learn and remember foremost—Doctrine comes first. The Teaching of God’s Word is number one.

Today, there are those who say “doctrine” is not important.  They say,  we must get together and have fellowship.  Doctrine divides people, but fellowship brings people together.  Ok, let’s build a church on fellowship.  Fellowship of what?   What will be the basis of that fellowship?   A motivational speaker?  A famous celebrity who has recently professed faith in Christ?   A Christian comedian?  Whatever you build fellowship on, that’s what you must continue to do to keep it going.   If you build a fellowship on anything other than the Word of God,  it’s not true Christian fellowship.

Some say, “No, Bible doctrine is the way to divide people, but prayer will bring us together. We may not agree on doctrine, but we can agree that we can pray together.”

The problem is this---there is no togetherness;  no fellowship  even in prayer if we are not submissive to the Apostles’ doctrine.  If we lay aside doctrine,  who then are we praying to?  What are we praying about?   How do we know if our prayers are in accordance with God’s will?

1.   The Apostles’ teaching, or doctrine is the first on the list for the Health of the Body of Christ.

Just as the human body must eat right, the Body of Christ must feed on the Word of God.

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby (1Peter 2:2)

2.    Fellowship is essential for the health of the Body of Christ like exercise helps to keep the body strong and vibrant.    

Fellowship is putting what we’ve learned in God’s Word into action.  It’s  the exercising of our faith in the body of Christ.

This is what the body of believers did in response to receiving the Apostle’s teaching. They interacted among other believers.   They came together.  They helped each other. They gave themselves to one another.  They loved, encouraged, and supported one another.  In our last study I gave you a list of the “one anothers”. 

 

3.    Breaking of Bread is essential for the health of the Body of Christ

Just as bread is the staff of life; the symbol of that which is essential for life, so is that which “Breaking of Bread” represents.   This is the life of the Body of Christ.  We have no life apart from Christ.  Every time we partake of the bread and cup at the Lord’s Table, we remember what it signifies.  We remember Christ and what He did.  We remember His sacrifice for us. The Bread representing His body given for sinners.  The Cup representing His Blood shed to redeem us from sin.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  (2Cor. 5:21)

Breaking of Bread reminds us that Jesus Christ is our Life. 

 John 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 

 John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

We look forward to the day   When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)

Apart from the cross, church is meaningless, and the fellowship is a waste of time, and all prayers are futile and pointless.   May we always remember each time we partake of the Lord’s Supper, it’s all because of Christ, His substitutionary death, His blood securing us with eternal life.  

 

4.   The prayers.   The Prayers of the Body of Christ are essential for good health just like breathing is for the human body.

It’s very clear the early church was continually praying.  Had  they not prayed, they would soon be out of business.  Just like your body must continue to breathe, inhaling and exhaling to stay alive.  You might hold your breath, but soon you must come up for air.  You might neglect prayer for some time, but you must eventually pray, or you may prove to be a false believer. A church that does not pray is a dead church.  A healthy church is a praying church.

Notice the prayers of the early church –

Acts 1:14 “devoting themselves to prayer”    Acts 3:1 “hour of prayer”ninth hour  (3pm) 

During a time of persecution, they did not ask God to remove their problems.   They did not ask for protection, security, or personal comforts.  They prayed for boldness to continue to speak God’s Word.     See Acts 4:23-31

When a problem came up concerning certain widows being neglected in receiving the daily distribution of food,  the Apostles asked the brothers to pick out seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom to oversee this duty of helping the widows.      ACTS 6:4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

 

Persecution became more intense

King Herod had James the brother of John killed.  He wanted to score points with the Jews because this was what they wanted. The unbelieving Jews wanted to get rid of the church.  Herod had Peter arrested with the intention of having him killed.   Herod did not want to offend the Jews because killing Peter at the time would be during their Passover feast.  This gave the church time to pray.

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:5)

We’ll look more at that prayer meeting later when we get to chapter 12, but for now take note how they kept on praying.  They prayed without ceasing. They prayed in the temple.  They prayed in their homes.  They prayed before sending out missionaries such as Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13.  They prayed while under severe persecution.  They prayed giving God thanks for forgiveness of sins and for meeting their daily needs.  

The early church did not have earthly resources.  The political powers of their day were against them.   The religious leaders were against them.   

The early church had no political support from Rome; no religious support from the Jews;  and they had no financial support from the wealthy.  In the next chapter Peter and John were approached by a lame man begging for some financial assistance.  Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

They did not have the conveniences we have today.  They were lacking in the tools of ministry we see so important today. They knew nothing of the power of the digital age. However, they did not lack in spiritual power. They were constantly in contact with heaven and heavenly resources as they devoted themselves to prayer.

The body of Christ must pray to carry on and do its work.  Just like the human body breathes (inhaling and exhaling) getting the oxygen to every cell of the body,  and removing the carbon dioxide and waste from the body;  the Body of Christ must pray.  Pray and ask forgiveness because  there’s remaining sin and we need to exhale.  There’s matters we must take before the Lord.  We stand in need of cleansing;  we need to experience the sanctifying work of God in our lives.  We must pray and inhale,  that is,  take in the good things we get in prayer.  We must pray and inhale the supply of the Holy Spirit to give us grace for our journey. We ask for daily bread.  We ask for deliverance from temptation.  We ask for God’s will to be done. We ask for spiritual strength for the day that we are about to face.

 

5.   The Early church was known for its generosity.   (read  vv.45-46)

The human body must be generous in working together.  It would be a disaster if your body worked against itself. Let’s say you picked up something extremely hot, but your brain did not send out messages to your nerve endings telling you to drop that hot object.    Suppose there was something loud coming your way, and your ears refused to pick up the sound alerting you to present danger?

There is an interdependence among each member of the body.  Paul spoke of this in regards to the church, the body of Christ in 1Cor. 12:

 

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.   (1Cor 12:21, 25--26)

Here what is given in Ephesians 4:11

Ephesians 4:11-16  NKJV

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

 

The early church gave generously from that which God had given them.   The life of the church was a shared life.   Notice again   v.46

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

One thing for sure they did not separate from the fellowship for long periods of time.  They met regularly.

Hebrews 10:24-25

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

6.   The Early church was known for its Authenticity.    V.47a

praising God and having favor with all the people

They praised God and also they had favor  (respect) with the people.

Their worship was not empty worship.      They were not like the people Jesus spoke of when He said:

Matthew 15:8  this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

What was seen and heard at the worship service on Sunday matched up with what they saw the next day interacting with other people.

You can say,   “you are a Christian…. You are a follower of Christ”   But people believe what they see.  They see you throughout the week.   Your actions and attitudes say who you really are.

Jesus said…

John 13:35

 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

There was nothing two-faced about these believers.  They were not double-tongued.  They were not Mr Friendly and Mrs Nice and then another moment  Mr. Mean and Mrs. Unkind.     

I’m not suggesting that a Christian can never be mean, ugly, unkind and sinful in their dealings with other people.  We are not perfect.      The question is---  Do we love one another?

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.  1John 4:20-21

Claiming to love God,  claiming to believe in Christ, and even going through the motions of worshipping and praising God, speaks of phoniness when there is coldness and unloving attitudes displayed toward a brother and sister in Christ.  

There was a generous spirit among the EARLY church.   THEY WERE SELLING THEIR POSSESSIONS AND BELONGINGS AND DISTRIBUTING THE PROCEEDS TO ALL, AS ANY HAD NEED.

 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.   (1JOHN 3:17)

There is an AUTHENTIC REAL FAITH;    AND  THERE IS A PHONY   PRETENDING  FAITH.

John Piper says this about a phony faith:

          “There is a phony faith that claims to believe in Christ, but is only a fire insurance

          policy.   Phony faith “believes” only to escape hell.  It has no real desire for Christ.

          In fact, it would prefer if he did not come, so that we can have a much of this

           world’s pleasures as possible.  This shows that a heart is not with Christ, but with

          the world.   So, the issue for us is:  Do we eagerly long for the coming of Christ? 

          Or do we want him to stay away, while our love affair with the world runs its

          course?   That is the question that tests the authenticity of faith.[1]

 

 

7.   The Early church was known for its EVANGELISM.    V.47c

Notice “the Lord added” to their number day by day….   It’s not the Apostles added, or the church added.   It’s the Lord added.   Jesus told Peter,  “I will build my church…”   The Lord uses His church in preaching the Word,  witnessing in the world, displaying compassion to the needy as a way to reach the lost with the gospel. 

I pray for someone to come to Christ every week.    I don’t think lost people will seriously listen to a gospel message until first they see real, genuine believers living out what they preach.  That’s the testimony of the church in the Book of Acts.

Today the evangelical church is still trying to get people to respond to an altar call by using psychological manipulations.    One method used is the movement of people coming forward.

Billy Graham passed away in recent days and his crusades were known for this.   It is estimated that he preached to more than 200 million people. Thousands and thousands of people came forward at the conclusion of the message.  Did they all get saved?

In a 1990 interview with PBS, Billy Graham himself stated his belief that only about 25% of those who come forward at one of his events actually became Christians. In recent years, studies have shown that only 6% of people who “come forward” at an evangelistic crusade are any different in their beliefs or behavior one year later.[2]

One thing that is different about the early church,  they did not have a “follow up” program after someone came to faith in Christ. They did follow up by continuing to teach them and baptized them and fellowshipped with them.  What I mean by “follow up” is they did not have to send out a special committee to find out where they are, and drink coffee into the late hours of the night begging them to come back.

The early church witnessed in the power of the Holy Spirit.  They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. They were known for their generosity and their authentic faith.   This became attractive to sinners.  The Lord used their testimony.   And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Let’s pray that we will be more like that early church.

 



[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/authentic-vs-phony-faith

[2] https://redeeminggod.com/crusade-evangelism-effective/


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