Something that I have grown to really enjoy in church life are potlucks. I really like a good potluck. So many different options to choose from; there's something for everyone. Potlucks are something that many churches do a great job doing. It's cheap, it's a great way of getting others involved. But is this what it is to have a Christian community? Is the quality of a Christian community really dependent on how many potlucks we have or how many ministries we run? Is this what community means when it comes to the church? If community in a church is more than that than what is it?
Something we have noticed moving, looking at homes, is that many of the new homes don't really have a place to gather as a community around a table. They've sacrificed the table for entertainment system hookups, smaller kitchens, no places to put a table. Which is unfortunate, because when I think about the kitchen table, I think about the community. As a family, the table is where we come to eat together, we have conversations, pray, and also open our Bibles. It's a central location for all things in our family. We make it a point to have dinner together as a family around the table. We put the devices away, we turn the TV off, we get around our table eat, talk, pray, open our Bibles. As we continuing in our series of looking at how we are disciples who make disciples of Jesus Christ, we are going to be looking at community and what the Bible says a Christian community ought to be.
Acts 2:42-47 is the outcome of God calling people to himself. It's the community that he has brought together, not just to himself. This section gives us insight into what the church out to be. Three things come through in this text of what the early church community looked like: They were committed to learning biblical teaching together; they were committed to fellowship with one another; they were committed to praying together.
Christian Community is a commitment to learning biblical teaching together
The first thing we see in verse 42 is that the early church was committed to the apostles' teaching. This was something done informally and formally. It was based on what Jesus had taught the apostles and what the apostles had passed on to the church.
Something I've heard many times, and it seems to be growing, is something like “no creed but the Bible” or “no creed but Jesus” (Which is funny because that is a statement that is a creed). Maybe you’ve heard “Christianity is about a person, not a doctrine”. But the problem with that is it really sets up a personal relationship with Jesus over and against the truth about Jesus Christ. How do you know who Jesus is? How do you know who you are worshipping?
When the early church devoted themselves to the apostolic teaching, it was a lot more than just citing what the Bible says. They sought to have an understanding of what the truth is. They dedicated themselves to the apostles teaching and knowing God. To know the truth.
What does it look like to commit yourself to biblical teaching? They sought to know the truth of what the Bible said and apply it to their lives. They committed together to the teaching of the apostles, to what we have here in the Bible. A Church is a community where the Bible is loved, read, studied, and obeyed. Reminds me of the Bereans:
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
We are to search the Bible daily. We are to be governed in all that we believe by what the Bible teaches. It’s important, because what the Bible says, God says, regardless if it’s in the Old Testament or the New Testament. This is why in our gathers we want to emphasis the Bible. Not just in our Sunday gatherings, but in all of our smaller gatherings too.
Let me say this. I think words like Doctrine or theology have gotten a bad rap. There’s no such thing as having too much truth. You can misuse truth and fail to apply it the way that it should be, but you can’t have too much of it. We are a church that gathers in a community that is committed to the teachings of the Bible.
So will you pray with me that we would delight in God’s Word? That we would hunger for the truth while being also satisfied with the truth. Pray that we would be a Bible-saturated church, that our community would be devoted to the apostles' teaching.
Christian community is a commitment to be in fellowship together
It was out of the faith of the early church that they felt a responsibility toward one another. Later, this commitment would show itself in the sharing of food with those (widows) who were in need, even though this gave rise to some accusations of favouritism (Acts 6:1–2). These practical expressions of care for each other came out of a common sense of identity—they were “brothers” and members of the same family—and were a powerful witness to the people of Jerusalem of what trusting in Christ meant to these early Christians. This was the outcome of the response to the Gospel that Peter calls the Jews to believe in his sermon that we see in Acts 2: 36-39.
When they were pooling all their property together, that was all voluntary. But it only came from a sense of spiritual unity. As soon as the flame began to burn just a little lower, the attempt to maintain the communal life would fall apart. The one another is practised in this close association. Their fellowship was expressed in their mutual meals and in their prayer life together. Fellowship is talking about a lot more than cookies and potlucks. It’s talking about a unity that is found in a common gospel that we have experienced.
Pray with me that we would have unity amid diversity - loving those with whom we have nothing in common but the gospel. That we would be united in and through the Trinity so that we might be united together, as a church, in love.
Christian community is a commitment to be in prayer together
I read this and I see some crazy thing. I see 3000 people coming to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour in verse 41. I see people in verse 42 being added to their number day by day. I look at church history and see great awakenings, I see God reviving hearts, the reformation, student missionary movement, and ask myself, how did these things start?
Yes, the people around them saw a marked difference in the community of the early church, but the people prayed together too. Because do you see what verse 47 says:
praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
What is the thing that we can point to for the remarkable success of not only the early church but all these other moments throughout church history? It’s prayer.
In a time when prayer meetings have become something for a select few, the importance of coming together, gathered prayer times can't be overemphasized. Hardly anything is more important as a sign of the church’s health than its commitment to prayer. When was the last time you got together with a group of people to pray? Have you gotten together with brothers and sisters? And if you have, have you sought to build up the church by the sound of your own heart being poured out in supplication for your brothers and sisters?
What is that thing that you are just longing for God to do? Do you long for souls to be saved and people to be baptized? Do you long for a church that desires to be holy as our father is holy? Do you long to have desires that reflect the desires of our awesome God. Are you struggling? Are you weak? If so, then be committed to God’s Word together as we submit ourselves to his will and not our own. Be committed to fellowship with one another so we can remind each other of the goodness of our God, and be committed to praying with one another.
Acts 2:42-47 tells us that the original “Christian community” was really known for its commitment to Christ’s teachings and its love for one another. When we look at it this way, the Christian community is simply those who love Jesus and live in fellowship with each other. When the world sees this in action, they will see the true love of Jesus and perhaps find themselves attracted to Christ, too.
It's in this text that we see a pattern of how the church ought to be. Like these early Christians, we ought to have a spirit of wonder and anticipation about what God may do in us and through us. We, too, ought to love one another with a sincerity and simplicity that characterized these early Christians. And like them, we ought to be marked by a desire to live the totality of our lives for the sake of Christ, no matter what the cost may be.
Let us be a community that are faithful disciples who are committed to learning God’s Word, being together in fellowship, and being in prayer together.