Why Church? Week 2
Church, a people marked by the power & presence of God.
Church, a people marked by the power & presence of God.
Context: Acts is a continuing of the Luke and show the unity of the story and ministry of Jesus and the beginning of the early church. Luke ends with the ascension of Jesus and Acts begins with with a summary of what happened in Luke and continues with what happens next: Jesus teaching until he ascends and the Apostles going to Jerusalem to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
40 And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!” 41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. 43 Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles.
What does it mean to be devoted?
Remember at this point there was no New Testament. What they had came from the apostles and so they devoted themselves to what the apostles had to say.
They were devoted to four things: the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, and to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. These were the four activities that these new converts took part in.
Q. What do you think of as an example of someone who is devoted?
The word in this passage means to attach oneself to something. In other words to persevere in some activity or cause to the point of devotion.
Sometimes what we have in mind when we think of a devoted disciple of Jesus is more of a serious student. This was very different to what it meant in ancient times. Jewish disciples of a Rabi (teacher) would be required to study under him and follow him in life. You were expected to learn not only the teachings but imitate the practical details of their life. As Christians we are not devoted to Christ’s teachings or a relationship with him. We persevere to become like Christ through imitating his lifestyle, emulating his teachings, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so.
Q. Who are you living to imitate?
Teaching. Seeking the teaching of God not in a broad sense, but for the changing of their everyday life. They shared what Jesus directly taught as they were his companions. What were some of the things they were taught?
44 Then He told them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47 and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
Fellowship Usually this word would mean to share but it likely more refers to holding a common religious experience. They shared a common religious experience as an intimate group. The intimacy of this group is commonly the kind talked about for a marriage. They were very close. This means we cannot have an intimate relationship with Christ and not have an intimate relationship with Christ’s people.
44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.
Notice verse 46. The religious devotion of these early Christians was a daily affair and they met in the temple and each other’s homes.
The elements of early church fellowship was marked by: sharing their time, their possessions, and giving God praise. All these thing were done at the temple and in their homes. These activities created opportunities for witness in verse 47. Notice how Luke refers to the process of becoming a Christian as being saved a reference to verse 40. Part of the process of being saved is God helping us to change the way we live.
Q. What part of fellowship do you find easy to do? Giving your time for someone else. Giving up your possessions for someone else. Giving God praise or worship.
Q. Which of them are hard? Giving your time for someone else. Giving up your possessions for someone else. Giving God praise or worship.
Q. Have you ever prayed for God’s help to change?
Breaking Bread This term is describing the Lord’s Supper. The image is of a fellowship meal but it is more likely that they are continuing the actions that Jesus did during the last supper (Luke 22:19; Acts 20:7) and possibly as the risen Lord before his ascension.
Prayer Both Jesus and the early church gatherings were directed by the God.
12 During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God. 13 When daylight came, He summoned His disciples, and He chose 12 of them—He also named them apostles:
Jesus prays to God to choose 12 out of many disciples to become apostles. Later it is the apostles that would be told by Jesus to wait on the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:4-5. The followers of Christ and the apostles spend each day praying to God while awaiting to be filled with the Holy Spirit in
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 All these were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.
The early church members didn’t just pray on their own, they prayed corporately.
Q. How often do you gather to pray with other believers? What might happen to your spiritual life if you did that more often?
Prayer is vital communication with God to guide our decisions making and help us to be united among the saints.
Q. Why does this matter?
Being taught, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer are the essential elements of religious practice for the early Christian church. Sometimes we want to experience the presence and power of God our way and on our own terms and not the way He provided for us through his word and his people.
Q. What is one change you could make in your attitudes or actions that might allow you to experience more of the power and presence of God?
Q. How can our prayers and praise/worship help other people experience God?
Q. Does fellowship as we know it today differ from the deep sense of devotion the early church had towards each other?