Feb 17, 2019 // By:Dave // No Comment
in verse 42
Luke begins to describe the early church by telling us that the believers in it were distinguished by their devotion to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship with one another, to “breaking of bread,” and “to prayer.” The verb translated “devoted” (proskartereo) is a common one that connotes a steadfast and singleminded fidelity to a certain course of action.
There is intentionality behind what is happening in this early church.
These people were making choices to do and be what they knew what right (in God’s sight) to do and be.
(this didn’t just happen on it’s own)
God is sovereign (but he also limits his sovereignty to the outcomes He deems critical to His mission and glory
and allows much to happen as consequences of our choices.
He allows limited free will. (and the many results of the expression of that free will)
we see an intentional ongoing perseverance/adherance to:
breaking of bread
foundation laid, let’s look at what is being built
A Spirit of Awe, Gladness, and Praise to God (2:43a, 46–47a)
The early church’s gatherings contained a wonderful spirit of praise that was both joyful and reverent. Luke mentions “awe” (v. 43) and “joyful…hearts” (v. 46). Both are linked to vibrant praise. There are times to rejoice with gladness, perhaps with lots of instrumentation and celebratory worship; there are also times to be still before the Lord in meditation, silence, and contemplation.
Some people find it difficult to praise God when things aren’t working out according to plan. But I like to remind them gently that while life may be hard at the moment, they should imagine how much harder life would be without the Savior. How terrible it would be if this life was all there is! As people redeemed by Jesus, we should praise God constantly—not merely when we feel like it.
Pray for your local church that a spirit of awe and gladness would replace any boredom or gloom. Pray for God to renew a heart of praise in his people.
Displaying an Attractive Faith (2:47b)
Not everyone loved the early church. Just read the next few chapters to see what I mean. But some people were impacted greatly as they observed the believers’ way of life. What attracted outsiders? Surely the Christ-exalting praise and the Christlike love of the early church influenced others. In John 13 Jesus told his disciples that love for one another would get people’s attention (John 13:34–35). We have an example of this reality at work in Acts 2.
The Christians sacrificially cared for one another and also cared for outsiders. A few years after Acts was written, a man named Aristides [Acts, p. 41] commented on the reasons for the spread of Christianity. He wrote the following to Emperor Hadrian in AD 125:
If one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction. They do not worship strange gods, and they go their way in all modesty and cheer-fulness. Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. (The Apology of Aristides, XV)
Another ancient document describing the compelling nature of Christianity comes from the mid–300s. Emperor Julian angrily tried to stop the spread of Christianity. He said that a reason for its growth was due to Christians’ “charity to the poor”: “The impious Galileans not only feed their own poor but ours as well,” he complained, “welcoming them to their agape; they attract them, as children are attracted, with cakes” (Epistle to Pagan High Priests).
What amazing descriptions of the King’s people! Our broken world needs compassion, and the watching world needs to see Christians demonstrating it. In turn, many will be attracted to the faith.
Daily Evangelism (2:47c)
How were people added to the number of believers? Ultimately, the Lord added them. He alone converts people. But the Lord uses means, [Acts, p. 42] and that means in Acts was faithful evangelism on the part of the people. People were converted daily because believers were evangelizing daily.
A healthy church will have a burden for outsiders. They will boldly and compassionately proclaim the gospel to their friends and neighbors and coworkers. The early church enthusiastically communicated the gospel within their own networks, and the Lord worked mightily through their steady witness.
Checking Our Vital Signs
- Exaltation of God
- Encouragement of the believer
- Evangelism of the non-believer
Virtually every church will be stronger in some areas of church life than others, but we shouldn’t neglect any of them. The church that God is renewing by his Spirit does them all with increasing faithfulness and vitality.
Vital Sign 1: Biblical Nourishment
Do you understand the gospel? Are you sitting under the authority and teaching of the Word, regularly and humbly? Are other brothers and sisters admonishing you? Are you submitting to hard truth and repenting in light of it? Are you being renewed in the gospel daily? Are you teaching the Bible to others?
The early church clearly loved the Word of Christ and the Christ of the Word. We need the Word personally, and we need relationships centered on it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about seasons when we as believers are in great need of brotherly admonishment:
The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth.…The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure. (Life Together, 23)
Vital Sign 2: Loving Fellowship
Do you have fellowship with God through Jesus? Are you working at building deep relationships with others in the church? Could it be that you love the idea of community more than the actual people in your church? Are you complaining about a lack of community rather than asserting yourself to serve and love others in your congregation? Do you show up to events and meetings faithfully? Do you arrive early enough to interact with people on Sunday, or are you a ninja, slipping in late and excusing yourself before the service ends? Are you involved in others’ lives throughout the week? Are you sensitive to the needs of your brothers and sisters? Are you grateful for them? Have you told them about what they mean to you?
Vital Sign 3: Vibrant Worship
Are you praising God with other brothers and sisters in large and small gatherings? How do you approach the Lord’s Table? Do you attend services repentantly and joyfully? Are you experiencing awe and joy in your Christian life? Are you praying with other brothers and sisters? Are you grateful for the privilege of gathering corporately?
Vital Sign 4: Word and Deed Outreach
Concerning word outreach, how are you doing at speaking the gospel to the unbelievers in your networks? Are you practicing “Philip evangelism,” going out into the neighborhood sharing the gospel as Philip did? Are you practicing “Andrew evangelism,” inviting people to come and experience a corporate worship service as Andrew did? If you truly love Christ, you will share him.
How are you doing at deed outreach? Are you involved in a ministry to the poor? Are you serving your brothers and sisters as they have need? Are you practicing gospel-driven generosity? Those who love Christ actively love others.
In my local church we challenged one another with our “555 Plan.”
We each identified at least
five unbelievers in
five of our networks (familial, vocational, commercial, geographical, and recreational). We then committed to do one of
five activities: to
- pray for them
- serve them
- give gospel-centered literature to them
- invite them
- share the gospel with them.