Life in the Church
Earlier, I mentioned Acts 2-4 as being a central focus for our study. So let‟s look at it to see if we can catch the spirit of the early Christian lifestyle.
“They devoted themselves to the Apostles‟ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and the Apostles did many wonders and miraculous sign. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone, as he had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” —Acts 2:42-47
I know you had read it many times before, but did you notice the body life? I think this is a lifestyle we could recapture today. It doesn’t call for communes, or any special circumstances. The only requirement is a commitment to experience all that the Lord has for us.
Imagine 3,120 brand new believers living out such a radical life together. They devoted themselves. (Catch the intensity of that). These were real people just like you and me. They still had jobs to hold down, still had to clean their homes, wipe the babies’ noses, and do everything that normal people have to do. However, they wanted to be together, so they got together. They began living by a new set of priorities.
Look at the kind of life these Christians were living: First, they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teachings. That was everything the Apostles had seen Jesus do and heard Him say. Eventually, they got it all written down; now we call it the New Testament. Maybe our equivalent would be a Bible Study.
Second, they devoted themselves to the fellowship. That was simply being together for the joy of being together. They probably figured there was no sense drawing their stimuli from non-Christians who have nothing to contribute, when they could be absorbing more and more of the life of Christ from within their Christian friends.
I don’t think this was a deliberate cut-off from the world to be exclusive. My guess is that their fellowship was the strong base from which they reached out to others. The result was that the Lord “added to their numbers daily those who were being saved.” Obviously, there is far more power for evangelism in this close knit community than we find today. Although we say it is to win them for Christ, we have diluted our spirits by too much exposure to the world.
Third, they devoted themselves to breaking bread together. I’m sure this meant Communion, but I think it meant other meals too. Let’s use our imagination and see what it might have been like: Here was Thomas with a roomful of new believers in a home together. They were singing, dancing, clapping their hands, praying, laughing, sharing their trials, and listening to Thomas teach. Suddenly, someone slaps their forehead. “I don’t believe it! Look how late it is. I didn’t even notice. The kids must be starving.”
Everybody looks shocked and frustrated. The hostess says, “Tom, just keep talking, and I’ll put something together.” Another woman speaks up. “How great! I couldn’t resist hoping we would go overtime, and I packed some bread and vegetables for us, just in case.”
That’s right! I believe that in the beginning the meals just happened that way. Since they added so much to the fun and close feelings, besides extending the time, they began to be planned.
The fourth ingredient in their life together you find the prayers. In the Greek, there is the article “the” in front of it. It is the same word as in Acts 3:1 where it says “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of the prayers.” In other words, the prayers were the stated times for worship in the temple, and all the believers went together.
Interestingly, in the Middle East a devout Muslim stops whatever he is doing, unrolls his prayer rug and genuflects with his forehead to the ground seven times a day.
In Israel, there used to be a daily morning and evening sacrifice and the Jews prayed at three appointed times during the day: the third, sixth, and ninth hours. One translation of Acts 3:1 states that Peter and John went up to the temple at the ninth hour of prayer. In Acts 10:9; we read that Peter went up on the housetop to pray at about the sixth hour.
When the believers went to the temple, it’s obvious most of the temple leaders didn’t know Jesus as their Messiah, but the believers went there because their Savior had regularly gone (Luke 4:16).
They also saw that the habit of faithful “church-going” was a righteous habit, and by going, they spurred each other toward good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25). Yes, there were spontaneous meetings around the Lord in homes, which were great. However, there were also the stated, regular public meetings — whether they felt like it or not.
Obviously many former activities had to go for the early Christians. They eliminated and concentrated. They continually devoted themselves to these new priorities.
We have to check our lifestyles to see if we have eliminated the clutter from our lives. The reason is to give us, and those around us who want to go hard after God, to Bible Study, to fellowship, to eating together, and to the regular services of the church.
We will go into this some more as this essay continues, but please understand that if you have joined the Family of God, you have to learn to fellowship and grow with other believers because it is a natural outgrowth of your faith.
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.