WHAT SHOULD THE CHURCH BE DEVOTED TO?

Grace For The Journey

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19FEb  On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were gathered in the Upper Room, awaiting the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.  Suddenly the sound of a hurricane rocked Jerusalem. The overpopulated city was drawn to the epicenter of the sound.  There they met one-hundred and twenty disciples of Jesus, praising God miraculously in unlearned languages.  The people assumed the disciples were drunk.  Peter addressed the crowd.  He declares that they were not drunk – they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  As Peter proclaimed Jesus to be the crucified but resurrected Messiah, the people were cut to the heart.  They repented of their sins and trusted Christ for salvation.  Acts 2:41 notes: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”

Acts 2 records the birth of the church.  It also records the growth of the infant church in verses 42-47.  Acts 2:42 is a summary statement: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”  “They” refers to the three thousand who were baptized on the day of Pentecost. They devoted themselves “steadfastly.”  This is a word that speaks of fidelity, intensity, and consistency.  These new believers forsook whatever would hinder them from following Jesus.  In John 8:31-32, Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Acts 2:42 is clear . . .

These new disciples were

Devoted to Christ

 And the church.

Their devotion to Christ

Was expressed by

Their devotion to the church.

The church increasingly struggles to address the modern epidemic of unchurched Christians.  An analysis of the New Testament reveals that they should be considered “unchurched non-Christians.”  I know it is not popular today, but I believe the Bible teaches that real Christian are devoted to the church.  But not just any church.  Real Christians are devoted to real churches.  One characteristic of the genuineness of the early believer’s faith was their commitment to the local gathering of the church.

What does a real church look like?

The Bible says in Acts 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”  

 The devotion of the day-old church

Should be the devotion of the church today.

A church can do more than these four things

And still be the church.

But a church cannot do less

Than these four things

And be the church.

Acts 2:42 records four Christian essentials the church should be devoted to:

1) THE APOSTLES’ TEACHING

Acts 2:42 says, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine…”  It is not accidental or incidental that “the apostles’ doctrine” comes first in this list.  It always comes first.

  • Precept must come before practice.
  • Doctrine must come before experience.
  • Instruction must come before application.

Acts 2 recorded the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through the church. Yet . . .

These Spirit-filled Christians

Did not think

Their Pentecostal experience

Exempted them

From doctrinal teaching.

The work of the Spirit

And the truth of Scripture

Work together.

In John 16:13, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.”  Ephesians 6:17 exhorts Christians soldier to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  The first Christians were open to divine empowerment and divine instruction.  But . . .

These Spirit-indwelt disciples

Did not seek only direct revelation.

They submitted to the apostles’ teaching.

The first mark of a Spirit-filled church

Is its appetite for biblical teaching.

The apostles were with Jesus throughout His earthly ministry.  They were eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Christ.  In Acts 1:8, Jesus said to the apostles, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  On the day of Pentecost, Peter witnesses for the risen Christ to those who crucified Him.  3,000 people were saved.

The proof they were saved

Is that they did not seek

More sounds from heaven,

Cloven tongues of fire,

Or miracles of languages.

They wanted to be

Taught by the apostles.

  • They did not crave a new experience with Jesus.
  • They craved sound instruction about Jesus.

So, they devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine.

John R.W. Stott wrote: “One might perhaps say that the Holy Spirit opened a school in Jerusalem that day; its teachers were the apostles whom Jesus had appointed; and there were 3,000 pupils in the kindergarten!”  In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Amen.”

Jesus taught the apostles.

The apostles were to

Make disciples by

Teaching them to obey Christ.

The apostles’ teaching was anchored in the Word of God.  Faithful churches are teaching, learning, studying churches.  If you are looking for a church, this should be your first question: “What does this church teach?” 

 A true church

Is unapologetically

A teaching church.

A congregation is

A Christian church

To the degree

It is confronted by

And shapes its life

In response to

The Word of God.

Spirit-filled churches are Bible-teaching churches.  What is true of a local church is true of an individual Christian.   If the Spirit who inspired Scripture lives in you, it is impossible to have no desire for studying, learning, and living by the Scripture.  Either you are not saved or you are not filled with the Spirit.  Ask God to change your heart and make you devoted to the apostles’ doctrine.

2) FELLOWSHIP

The Bible says in Acts 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship”  The word “fellowship” translates the Greek word “koinonia.”  It is the most famous New Testament Greek word after “agape.”  It is just as misunderstood.  We use “fellowship” to refer to being together at the same place, having a good time together, or performing religious activities together.  But fellowship is more than that.

  • It is to hold something in common.
  • It is to be in business together.
  • It is to be partners with one another.

This commercial term became

A Christian term on the day of Pentecost.

Fellowship is what it means to be a Christian.

The Bible says in 1 John 1:3, “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

We have fellowship with God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  We also have fellowship with one another.  We can test our fellowship with God by testing our fellowship with one another.  If there is no fellowship with one another, you are not in fellowship with God.  If there is only fellowship with a select clique, you are not in fellowship with God.

Genuine conversion is evidenced

By faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

And love for all the saints.

You cannot have one

Without the other.

In 1 Timothy 3:15, the Bible describes the church as “. . . the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and ground of the truth.”  I know people who claim they can be fully-devoted Christians without being participating members of the church. I do not know one person who actually is.

The gospel does not make sense,

Without the church that

Makes it make sense.

A pastor visited a member who did not regularly attend church.  The member greeted the pastor, led him to his living room, and offered him a seat near the fireplace.  It was a cold day, but the fireplace warmed the room.  As they talked, the pastor challenged the member about his participation.  But the man was unmoved.  Then the pastor took the tongs from beside the fireplace, opened the screen, and separated the glowing coals until none was touching another.  Then he sat down and watched in silence.  Soon the coals cooled, and the fire died. The man got the message.

Acts 2:44-45 illustrates Christian fellowship at work, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongs and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”  This is not communist socialism.  It is Christian fellowship.  True Christians are generous people.  There is nothing wrong with Christians gaining, possessing, or enjoying material wealth.  It is wrong for Christians to have wealth without sharing with those in need.  The Bible tells us in Galatians 6:10, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  Preachers think they are being prophetic by denouncing the government failure to help the poor.  But it is foolish to expect unconverted people to practice Christian generosity.  The church can make a difference if Christians would find a need and meet it.

3) THE BREAKING OF BREAD

The Bible continues in Acts 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread…”  The meaning of the phrase “in the breaking of bread” has been the subject of vigorous debate.  It is grammatically connected to fellowship.  But it is not a parallel for fellowship. “Breaking of bread” is used at times for eating a meal.  But Luke could not simply mean they ate meals. That would be out of place, alongside the distinctively Christian acts of teaching, fellowship, and prayer. The three thousand ate meals before they became Christians.  And they ate meals after they became Christians.

The phrase ‘breaking bread”

Was uniquely Christian.

In the ancient near East,

Sharing a meal was

About fellowship, not food.

This is why the religious leaders grumbled against Jesus for receiving sinners and eating with them.  Luke presents eating together as a mark of a united church.  Acts 2:46 says, “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”  In the early church, the church ate together every day.  They called it “the love feast.”  This daily meal became a weekly meal.  As a part of their corporate worship meetings, the saints would break bread together.

These common meals had a special element.  As they broke bread, they ate bread and drank wine in remembrance of Christ.  1 Corinthians 11:23-26 says: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’  In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood.  This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

 “Breaking bread” points to the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s Table is a regular reminder

That Jesus is our all-sufficient

Prophet, Priest, and King!

The call to remember

Is a call to worship.

A devoted church is

A Christ-centered church,

A Christ-focused church,

A Christ-exalting church.

The Bible says in Colossians 1:18, “And He is the head of the body, the church. Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”  

 Jesus is the supreme One

Who has first place, full control,

And final authority in everything.

He is to have first place

In all creation.

He is to have first place

In the church.

He is to have first place

In your life.

The Bible says in Colossians 2:9-10, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in His who is the head of all principality and power.”

 4) PRAYER

Acts 2:42 says, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”   

 The verse begins with

The church’s devotion

To the apostles’ teaching.

The verse ends with

The church’s devotion to prayer.

Devotion to both is essential

To be a healthy, growing,

And fruitful church.

 What was the church doing in the Upper Room between the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit?  Acts 1:14 says, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”  During this vulnerable time of transition, the disciples did not call a business meeting.  They held a ten-day prayer meeting.  Even the important decision about who would replace Judas as the twelfth apostle was made in prayer.  Acts 1:24-25 says, “And they prayed and said, ‘You, O Lord, who know the heart of all, show which  of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.””

Acts 2:1 says, “When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”  The church was born in a prayer meeting.  But they did not stop praying after they received the power of the Spirit.

These early Christians knew

That they could not meet

Life in their own strengthen

And that they did not need to.

They always went to God

Before they went out to the world;

They were able to meet

The problems of life

Because they had first met Him.

A real church is devoted to prayer. Colossians 4:2 says, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.” 

Why pray?

  • We pray to obey the command of God.
  • We pray to enjoy the presence of God.
  • We pray to claim the promises of God.
  • We pray to experience the power of God.
  • We pray to advertise our dependence upon God.

Believing prayer invokes

Divine intervention that

Exalts sovereign glory!

Raymond McHenry wrote, “May we never experience success without prayer.”   A tour guide led tourists through Westminster Abby.  After he boasted about the classic architecture, expensive appointments, and famous celebrities who had worshiped in the cathedral, he asked, “Are there any questions?” One old woman said, “Yes, sir. Has anyone been saved here lately?”

The success of a church

Cannot be measured by

Buildings, budgets, and bodies.

It is measured by changed lives!

Acts 2:42 says, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”  

And Acts 2:47b says, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

  • The Lord did not add anyone to the church without saving them.
  • The Lord did not save anyone without adding them to the church.

Luke does not say the church did evangelism.  But we can assume the church witnessed for Jesus.  The Bible says in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  Someone had to be telling sinners about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  But Luke does not give the saints any credit.  The Lord added to the church those who were being saved!

Jonah 2:9 says, “Salvation is of the Lord.”  This is called monergism.  Synergism is when different elements work together to produce a different or greater result than they can produce separately.  Monergism means only God saves.  Pray to God for the salvation of the lost.  Praise God for the salvation of the lost. Psalm 115:1 “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but to You name give glory because of Your mercy, because of Your truth.”

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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