Six features of the Early Church Acts 2:42-47

Acts 2: 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
That is how the church began. The apostles and their companions were filled with the Holy Spirit and three THOUSAND new Christians were baptised in one day! But what happened next? Luke intends us to see the shared life of those first Christians as a pattern for church life everywhere and at all times, if it is at all possible. At very least in these six verses we find six features of the Early Church which show us what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ. We read about two things which God was doing in their lives and in the community through the Holy Spirit. But first we read four things which the first Christians were doing, which are all found in just one verse.
Acts 242 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
They devoted themselves to
Each of us should always be growing as Christians. Growing towards maturity. Growing in our relationship with God. Growing in knowledge and understanding. Growing in witness and service. Growing in the image of Christ. Growing in love and in holiness. Growing in victory and spirituality. Growing in passion.
And growing and learning and teaching are intertwined. We grow by learning and to learn we need teaching. We should all be continuing to learn – the very word disciple literally means “learner,” a person who is taught. In teaching all these new Christians, the apostles were only doing what the Risen Jesus had commanded them to do in what we call the Great Commission.
Matthew 28 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
And that command is for all Christians in every age. We are all sent out to make disciples and to teach them everything that Jesus taught.
John 8:31 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Only Jesus has the words of eternal life. We should obey Him, and we should share His saving truth with others.
John 14 23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.
Jesus’s teaching was at the heart of the life of the Early Churches.
Ephesians 4 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
You were “taught in Christ,” Paul says. Christ is the school. Christ is the subject. Christ is the teacher. But teaching and learning are not just for new Christians. We all need to keep on learning all our lives, through sermons, through Bible Studies and listening to God as we pray. We can all benefit from books, dvds and radio and TV programmes and from events like the Men’s Conference a few weeks ago and the Keswick Convention or Spring Harvest. What do YOU want to learn more about in your Christian faith? We are truly privileged in this country and in our generation to have such good Bible teaching so freely available, not only in our churches but through books and media and events. We should not waste this privilege! The first Christians devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching.
They devoted themselves to
Some people think fellowship just means having a cup of tea together after the service. The word for “fellowship” actually means “sharing something together” and it is clear throughout the Book of Acts that the first Christians shared much more than just the occasional beverage together.
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he 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.
Everything in common. Giving generously to those who were in need. Meeting together in the temple. Eating together in each other’s homes. Sharing a common life together. Paul Simon sang, “I am a rock, I am an island.” But there are no rocks and no islands in the body of Christ, the church. We belong together.
In one simple word, they loved one another. They obeyed the new commandment Jesus had given them. John 13 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
One word from that description of the Early Church in Acts 2:44 struck us as we gathered for prayer on Tuesday evening. ALL the believers were together. EVERYBODY was included in their common life. Nobody was left out of the fellowship the Early Church shared together.
This topic of fellowship is so important that I am going to unwrap it again next week. For now let’s just remember that in our country in these days we still have complete freedom to meet together wherever and whenever we want. Millions of Christians across the world do not have that kind of freedom. Indeed some are still imprisoned and even martyred for their faith. Let us not waste the freedom we have to share in fellowship together.
They devoted themselves to
Jesus did not leave His disciples with all kinds of complicated rituals like those you can find in other religions, and even in Judaism. He just broke bread and gave it to them saying, “Do this to remember me.” And He gave them a cup to drink saying, “Do this to remember me.” So the first Christians obeyed that command and broke bread and shared the cup to remember Jesus.
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,
Communion and believers’ baptism are the only “ordinances”, the only acts of worship which Jesus commanded from his followers. We think it likely that they also followed the patterns of worship in Jewish synagogues and so the first Christians would also have included hymns, scripture readings, teaching and prayers in their gatherings together. But the most important part of worship in the Early Church was the “breaking of bread.” Gathering together frequesntly for worship and communion was a central element of living the Christian life for those first believers. And gathering together for worship has rightly been at the heart of church life for Christians in every age in every place since.
They devoted themselves to
We have considered prayer on many occasions before. For this morning I just want to underline that praying TOGETHER was another central feature of the life of the Early Church. Paul exhorted the Ephesians
Ephesians 6 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Colossians 4 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
Individual prayer is important – in our Quiet Times of personal devotion. But joining in prayer with other Christians is equally important. Together in church worship. Together in Home Groups and in our time of listening prayer on Tuesday evenings, “Draw near to God.” Together in twos and threes. Jesus encourages all his followers to meet together and to pray together.
Matthew 18 19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Meeting together to pray together. One church I served as minister had a principle that every member would be involved in at least one prayer gathering each week, or if circumstances meant they were not able to do so then they would promise to spend at least an hour in individual prayer each week praying specifically for the church and its life and witness. We have the enormous privilege of gathering together in the presence of Almighty God and bringing our prayers for the church and the world to His throne of grace – let’s not waste that privilege!!
The first Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Some Christians see these aspects of church life as hard work, as duties or even as burdens. But the opposite is the case. These are means of grace. These are ways for us all to get closer to God. God gives us these things to BLESS us, not to burden us.
Teaching, fellowship, worship, prayer. The Early church continually devoted themselves to these things. And precisely BECAUSE the first Christians devoted themselves to these things, God the Holy Spirit was also at work in at least two dramatic ways.
43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
We will see throughout Act that miracles of healing and deliverance were a vital part of the ministry of the first Christians. And the Holy Spirit was also visible in other ways, in the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues and in other gifts of prophecy and words of knowledge and words of wisdom, in dreams and visions and gifts of discernment. No wonder everybody was filled with awe and amazement! All those activities of the Holy Spirit caused everybody around to sit up and take notice of those first Christians and listen to their message. And in writing the Book of Acts, Luke is not just recording what happened in those days but he is also saying that these kinds of dramatic and supernatural events will continue to happen whenever the church is following Jesus wholeheartedly and preaching the gospel with boldness. And so with God at work there was another inevitable consequence.
Acts 2:47 … And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Day by day, more people were becoming Christians. Day by day, new Christians were being baptised and joining in this brand new movement, the Church of Jesus Christ. People were being saved!
And this also will be a feature of the church of Jesus Christ in every age. Whenever Christians truly devote themselves to God, whenever Christians devote themselves to fellowship together, whenever Christians devote themselves to worship, whenever Christians devote themselves to prayer. When these things happen God will honour this faith and obedience and devotion. The Holy Spirit WILL move in signs and wonders. Disciples WILL experience God’s gift of power from on high, power to be witnesses for Jesus. God will be glorified. And people WILL be saved!

You may also like...

Comments are closed.