Committed to the Fellowship (Acts 2:42-47)
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Some things seem too good to be true.
I remember a trip to Niagara Falls that my family took when I was young. Dad was really excited about the price of gas he saw. He had the attendant fill up the tank and when the man told him it would cost $25 (which was a lot for a tank of gas then), he thought the guy misspoke. But in Canada, they price fuel by the liter, not the gallon. Too good to be true...
When you hear the account of the early church, you could almost think that this is too good to be true. No church will ever be like that... And we know that if we are looking for the perfect church, then we'll be church hopping the rest of our lives.
The New American Commentary: Acts 9. The Common Life of the Community (2:42–47)
It could almost be described as the young church’s “age of innocence.” The subsequent narrative of Acts will show that it did not always remain so. Sincerity sometimes gave way to dishonesty, joy was blotched by rifts in the fellowship, and the favor of the people was overshadowed by persecutions from the Jewish officials. Luke’s summaries present an ideal for the Christian community which it must always strive for, constantly return to, and discover anew if it is to have that unity of spirit and purpose essential for an effective witness.
Let's not be discouraged because we think that could never happen. Let the right ideal motivate us! I hope the next few weeks of sermons are encouraging to you as we return to the basics of living together as the church.
Remember that old rhyme that completely wrong??!! Here's the church, here's the steeple, open it up and here's the people.
It really should be: Here's the church, made up of people; sometimes they meet in a building with a steeple.
The church isn't a building. Church isn't something you attend.
Church is something you are part of if you are saved by Jesus Christ.
You are called to the fellowship of believers if you are saved by Jesus Christ. Fellowship is the Greek word koinōnía (κοινωνία), which means "participation, communion, fellowship." You are called to participate with other believers in the mission of God.
We need to be a committed church. In v.42 of our text, we see that the early church was devoted to the teaching and to fellowship. Today, we'll see their example of being committed to the fellowship. I want to share three ways how fellowship occurs in the church: through love and care; through ministry service; and through small groups. Let's look at Acts 2:42-47 to see all of this.
Fellowship Happens Through Love and Care
Fellowship Happens Through Love and Care
They were together (Greek literally and simply means "in the same place")— there’s a very simple principle here that Christians need each other. They need to be together. How can we encourage/love/care unless we’re together? Today, we have so many ways of being together, but for the people in Acts, this was physically together.
And I think there's an important point to make here: too many people call themselves Christians but make no place in their lives for the church. They will say they're saved, but make no effort to be with other Christians. They're on the lake for the weekend; sleeping in; they think watching a TV preacher is the same thing as attending fellowship and worship activities with a church. But God has called his people to be together.
We see this in the popular verse: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25, ESV) Being together should motivate us to love and good works. Fellowship happens through love and care.
Along with being together, the people were unified. Their unity is expressed by having all things in common. "Common" here is referring to things which had several people as partakers.
V.45 describes this even more. There was a general care for others by providing for each others’ needs. They were selling things and using the money to care for others in times of need.
Now it doesn’t mean that Christians can’t own anything. We see in this passage even the possessive form: their houses. We see the possessive even after Acts 2, referring to people's homes they met in.
It doesn’t teach communism, as you’ll read some people argue. This was not government-forced living. This was a voluntary effort people made to take care of each other. Acts 5 gives the account of Ananias and Sapphira, who promised the church money from selling their land but then did not follow through on that promise. In Acts 5:4, Peter reminds them that they were under no compulsion to sell the land or give the money to the church. But the important thing was to keep their word. It was their property when it wasn’t sold, and when it was sold, the money was at their disposal. But they lied against God.
So we see in the immediate context even that the church was under no compulsion to sell and give. Instead, something more glorious was happening: the church was sacrificially giving to one another on their own accord! They wanted to! Their fellowship of loving and caring for one another strengthened them.
Travel to Muir Woods Park, a historic forest north of San Francisco, California, and you will find giant sequoia trees, the world’s largest trees. Their average height is between 164-279 feet and 20-26 feet in diameter. It is estimated that the average age of sequoia trees ranges from 800-1,000 years old. Some may be as old as 1,500 years in age. (http://www.sftodo.com/muirwoodssanfrancisco.html)
It's amazing to think how they were able to withstand the torrential rain, gusting winds, and seismic earthquakes of California. You would assume that they would tell you that it is because of their deep roots. However, the roots of many sequoias are only three feet deep, and at most 15 feet. So, what is their secret?
The interlocking root systems of the sequoias provide stability and strength. The sequoias are stronger together. They literally hold each other up.
Jesus designed the church to be a vessel for caring for one another. It is a family where the members of that family should genuinely love one another. And from what we can read, every person in the church was active in caring for one another. This is not a task for just the pastors or deacons or teachers or long-time members or any specific group—every single person in the church should be committed to the fellowship of loving and caring for one another.
We are to be together. We are to have things in common, sharing as we can to help others in need.
I hope you’ve been blessed by the care and love and others. And I hope others have been blessed by the care and love you have shown them.
Fellowship happens through loving and caring for one another. But fellowship happens also through ministry service.
Fellowship Happens Through Ministry Service
Fellowship Happens Through Ministry Service
In v.46, we are told that the believers would attend the temple together. Now the word "temple" is interesting to me because we associate temple with Jewish practices normally. So let’s understand what’s meant here in this text.
The Christian presence in the temple testifies not only to their remaining faithful to their Jewish heritage but also evidences their zeal for witness. ( John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 121.)
The temple was the center of Jewish worship, and it certainly still existed after the time of Jesus and the beginning of the early church. When we see early Christians going to the temple, it was not to participate in the Jewish worship practices, but seemed to be rather for their ministry service, their witness of Christ. You would find the largest gathering of people at the temple, and we have examples from Peter and John that they would go to the temple daily even, to proclaim Jesus.
Peter and John: “While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?” (Acts 3:11–12, ESV)
“And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.” (Acts 5:21, ESV)
We can easily assume that since there was teacing about Jesus, that this was a gathering of Christians as well as some others hearing. When v.47 says they had favor with all the people, it could be referring to some Jewish people who were hearing the teaching about Jesus and reposnding. In fact, this day by day ministry service was one thing the Lord possibly used to add to their number day by day.
Not only were they attending the temple for the ministry service of teaching, but there's something else we need to note: they were attending the temple together. In v.44, "together" meant that the believers were in the same place. In v.46, it means "of the same mind" ( ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadón; combo of homo= same and thumos=temperment, mind).
Here's another important point: as we teach, learn, and serve, we should be of the same mind. When we gather, is our mind focused on the same goal? Our minds should be set on glorifying and worshipping God. It ought to be on exalting Him and experiencing His presence and grace together. Are we more focused on other things when we fellowship?
I really believe that you get to know people and form better relationships when you serve together, when you're active in ministry service. I've heard that from some here when they serve at NewU. You are physically with other people for an extended period of time (day by day), with the same mind (to share the love of Jesus with children). With all that being true, you develop a closer fellowship than you'll ever experience. The same is true of mission trips.
Fellowship happens through ministry service. Fellowship happens through loving and caring for others. And finally, fellowship happens through small groups.
Fellowship Happens Through Small Groups
Fellowship Happens Through Small Groups
We've seen that the early church gathered in large settings, the temple. We still have large settings in our churches, usually called the worship service. A lot of great things happen there. You get to see others, you get to worship Jesus, you get to be challenged and encouraged from Scripture, you get to give back to the Lord to support the ministry work, and celebrate what God is doing in and through His people. There is so much good to having a large gathering.
But if all of your fellowship with the church is coming through the larger gathering time, you are missing out on the largest blessing of fellowship.
Look at v.46 again: “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,” (Acts 2:46, ESV)
Do you realize that the smaller group gatherings were just as vitally important to the church as the large group gathering?
Most people who attend a church's worship service (large group) are okay with that (attending the temple together...) part of the verse, but if you move into the next part of the verse, they're not as willing to go there (breaking bread in their homes). The idea of anything other than a larger-group service isn't as appealing, yet this is where most of the fellowship takes place.
The pattern continued that way in Acts: “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” (Acts 5:42, ESV)
This is why we set up opportunities for smaller groups to meet centered around the same mind of glorifying and worshiping God.We have EquipCentral classes every Sunday morning for great Bible teaching and discussion and the opportunity to actually get to know some people. We hold two seasons of Community Groups either in peoples' homes or in the church building to give people an opportunity to serve together (outreach activity each season), study Scripture together, and care for each other.
Yet, we see on average, about 40-50 people every Sunday who come to the large group gathering who aren't in a class before the worship service. And we see about half of the church who are not involved in community groups. But this is where the genuine fellowship can happen!
The reality is that people can't have very many close relationships with such a large group of people, but a smaller group lets you get to know people, share burdens with each other, and pray for each other.
We see the early church using the smaller groups for breaking bread (could be sharing meals or referring to the Lord's Supper), teaching, prayer-- all of these may have been done in the large group setting as well, but it also shows how important the smaller group setting was to include these practices.
What often doesn't make sense to me is that the people who might complain about not fitting in or feeling like people care about them are often not investing into the smaller groups of fellowship.
We need each other! The body of Christ is composed of many parts, and every part is needed. Our fellowship, participation, comes through loving and caring, through ministry service, and through small groups.
It's really an issue of priority. In order to be a committed church, we must have clear priorities.
Will you prioritize fellowship? Will you be committed to fellowship? Here are some practical next steps you can take:
Visit people. Especially those who you haven't seen in a while. Find out how you can encourage them, pray for them, and help them.
Send encouraging notes. Mail, FB, email, texts. Encourage one another as the Day is drawing near.
Sign up today for a Community Group, with the season starting next Sunday.
Attend an EquipCentral class next week. A new quarter of EquipCentral classes began today. Get the course catalog, choose a class, and show up next week.
Enjoy a meal and fellowship next Sunday at Lunch at the Orchard.
Attend prayer time, 9:30am on Sundays in sanctuary.
Commit to Jesus.