The Normal Christian Church Part 4

Introduction:

Revival had come to Jerusalem. On the Day of Pentecost a small band of faithful believers were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and began to boldly witness for Jesus. Before the Power of the Holy Spirit was poured out on them they had all joined together constantly in prayer (Acts 1:14) The Lord Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem until they had been endued with power from on high. (Acts 1:8) Without the power of the Holy Spirit they could not achieve anything for the Lord. Even the apostles were found waiting upon God along with the others even though they had been taught personally by Jesus and had received the Great Commission. Undoubtedly they had a sense of urgency to go yet they also knew they needed something more than their three and a half years of theological training. After the Holy Spirit had fallen upon them Peter was so filled with the power of God that he was compelled to preach the gospel of the Kingdom. On that day about 3,000 were added to the fellowship. When we look at the book of Acts we have a record of what happens when the Holy Spirit really has His way in the local Church. There are many today who are telling us that what happened in the early Church was unique to their situation and that it is different today. However, is that really the case? Why did the Holy Spirit inspire Luke to write the book of Acts if it was not applicable to the Church in every age even to the present day?

So then what happened after the power of the Holy Spirit had fallen upon them? Lets now look at the text…

(Acts2:42-47) 42. “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43. Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 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 favour of all the people. And the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

They were a Discipling Church

1. They devoted themselves to the Apostle’s Teaching:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching”

The first and foremost thing that they did was to devote themselves to understanding the Bible. They were already of one mind and set purpose. (Acts 1:4) Of course the only Bible they had was the Old Testament scriptures. They took Bible study seriously. The first thing the Holy Spirit encouraged them to do was to read the instruction manual. You could say that the Bible is the Street directory around the Kingdom of God. Without a thorough knowledge of the Word of God they would be like a ship at sea without a compass. Also they wanted to make sure they followed God’s instructions for the whole fellowship.

A thorough knowledge of Biblical doctrine is essential to the spiritual health and growth of the local church. If we do not have right doctrine then we will not have right behaviour. One of the major problems for the decline in church growth in many churches is that they have moved away from the authority of the Word of God. In the Psalms we are told that the Word of God is “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.” Without following the instructions the Holy Spirit has given us we will soon lose our way. Obedience to the Word of God will not only keep us from sin but also from doctrinal error.

David said; “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11) When Paul wrote to the young Pastor Timothy he said to him; “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers…Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:2-3).

The New Testament is the Apostolic Doctrine that is just as relevant for the local church today as it was back then. Nothing has changed as far as God is concerned. Church growth programmes will never replace God’s strategy for saving the lost and sanctifying the saints.

2. They devoted themselves to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer:

 “…and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

Fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer are essential components of a spiritually healthy fellowship. We see three things here in the text…

a. Firstly; they devoted themselves to the fellowship:

The Biblical idea of fellowship is quite different than the one followed in most local churches. Biblically fellowship can be likened to bricks pressed and held tightly together by a cornerstone. In England there are small bridges built in the days of the Roman Empire still standing today. The bricks are being held tightly together by a cornerstone to the point where a small vehicle can cross over. The cornerstone is the key component.

The Lord Jesus is the cornerstone for His body the Church. We are bricks pressed tightly together and held in place by the cornerstone. In any fellowship there will always be friction. We rub people up the wrong way and vice versa. Often the LORD will put us in fellowship with those whose personality may be quite different than ours. This will always be an opportunity to exercise Christian love. Besides the LORD wants to keep us sharpened spiritually as it is written; “As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

The Greek word for fellowship is “koinonia.” It means “communion” fellowship, sharing in common, something widespread, familiar and ordinary. It comes from the word “common” which is the heart meaning of the word. The One person we have in common is Yeshua and our fellowship should be based around Him and His Word the Bible. It is something we share in and participate in with someone.

We accept each other with our faults, problems and failures and esteem others higher than ourselves. We show them grace and mercy. We extend to the love…and it is not based on whether they desire it, but on the love God has given us. As it is written: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (1 Corinthians 1:3-4). If you have ever received comfort from God then there are many around us even in our fellowship that need to be comforted with the comfort we have received. This is an integral component in Biblical fellowship.

Fellowship involves much more than just sharing a cup of tea or coffee after the service. Fellowship is a way of life for believers and not just a Sunday thing. It is an issue of the heart where one believer shares things of a spiritual nature with their brother of sister in Yeshua. It is something to be felt and expressed and something very important to be a part of.

It should occur apart from any program, schedule, or activity. It is to be a way of life for believers in Jesus Christ to want to be in each other’s company, to share things together and to help and support each other both physically and spiritually. If one of the members hurt we share that burden. The LORD Himself daily bears our burdens and afflictions as it is written: “Praise be to the LORD, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19). In the New Testament believers are told to bear one another’s burdens and that when we do this we fulfil the Law of Jesus Himself. As it is also written: “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfil the law of Messiah” (Galatians 6:2).

Notice again that they were devoted to the fellowship. Fellowship was the major priority. Biblical fellowship see believers rightly relating to God, rightly relating to each other and making sure that the Holy Spirit has freedom to do His convicting and converting work through the fellowship as a whole.

When a fellowship is walking in the Spirit the Lord will be able to add to bring in the unsaved. This is always His will for the local Church. We read about this; “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase” (Acts 9:31). In most churches that last thing believers are doing is talking about spiritual matters. Often if you listen to the conversation in most churches after the service it is about anything and everything other than the Bible. This can be a mark of the spirit of Laodicea that is prevalent in many churches today especially in the western democracies.

b. Secondly; they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread:

The Lord’s supper or communion as we call it for the first century believers was an actual meal they shared together. It was based on the Passover meal kept every year by the Jewish people since there exodus from Egypt. The Passover meal was centred around the sacrifice of the animal and its shed blood which protected the Israelites on the night when the destroying angel passed through the Land of Egypt. The Passover feast was to be a memorial to be kept every year. In the New Testament we are told that “Messiah our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us.”

When we gather together to share the Lord’s Supper we are remembering what He did for us. The Lord’s Supper for the first century believers was not a religious ceremony but a meal they all shared in together. In the New Testament the believers met on the first day of every week. (Acts 20:7) (1 Corinthians 16:2) While there is no specific verse or verses telling us that we are to have the Lord’s Supper every week it is an advantage spiritually to the local fellowship to do it whenever they meet together for worship. The Lord’s Supper is a time when the Lord Jesus is present with His people in a very special and intimate way and at this time He can minister to His body through the blessed Holy Spirit.

When we share in the communion we are sharing in His life in a special way. Paul tells us this when he writes; “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Every believer is joined to the Lord and one spirit with Him. As it says: “But whoever is united with (joined to) the Lord is one with Him is spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17).

In the Lord’s Supper He unites Himself with us in a very special way and in a very special way we are united to Him. At this time the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit is present also in a very special way to minister to the saints. This is why we must strive to maintain the Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. At this time we need to make sure that we are not holding anything against anyone. What did the Lord say; “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew 5:23-25).

We need to do this even if we know that they will not respond favourably. Whatever we hold against someone else is nothing compared to what the LORD held against us before He forgave us. He has shown great mercy to us and we should do likewise to those with whom we have had a falling out. Receiving God’s forgiveness is based on us forgiving others. The Lord Jesus said this Himself; “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15).

c. Thirdly; they devoted themselves to Prayer:

When we are in fellowship with each other as the Body of the Messiah it is an opportunity to pray and confess to each other. In this way the blessed Holy Spirit can freely apply the blood of Jesus to our minds and hearts and purge our conscience from dead works to serve the Living God. This is the amazing power of the Blood of Jesus. As we walk in fellowship together we are cleansed through the blood and renewed in the Spirit. As it is written; “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14). And again it says; “If we are walking in the light as He (God) is in the light then the blood of Jesus Christ His son keeps cleansing us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Scripture also tells us; “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed”… The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). We must never underestimate what the Holy Spirit can do in and through us to others with who we are in fellowship. They need you and you need them. I need your prayers and you need mine.

3. What where the results:

The results of this kind of fellowship will be very powerful and effective. As the believers in Jerusalem devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching and to the fellowship and to the breaking of bread and prayer the Holy Spirit was able to work very powerfully. We read what happened next.

43. “Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 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 favour of all the people. And the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

a. The supernatural power of the Holy Spirit was revealed:

(Vs.43) “Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.”

Now many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the Apostles. Some would say well the Apostles are no longer around and the gifts of the Spirit have ceased, however, these arguments cannot be supported anywhere in scripture. We are told that: “Jesus Christ is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Also the LORD Himself does not change. “I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6). We are also told in scripture that; “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). When a local fellowship is walking in the unity and power of the Holy Spirit the LORD will perform many wonders and miraculous signs even though the original Apostles are no longer with us. This whole area is a subject in itself.

b. The believers shared everything they had:

(Vs. 44-45) “All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

Someone has suggested the reason that they did this was because they knew that Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed at some time in the future. Their hope was no longer in this world or in the things in which they possessed. It would be like withdrawing all of your money from the bank because you had foreknowledge of the collapse of the banking system. The reason the LORD prospers us is that we might have something to give others who are in need.

Also, when the Holy Spirit has his way with our back pockets He usually has already had His way with our hearts. Often our back pocket is the last barrier of resistance He needs to break through. As it is written in the Law; “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed!” or as other translation says; “The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered” (Proverbs 11:25). Living communally can have its problems and there will always be those who will not work but bludge of others, however, this is not to diminish communal living. In some third world countries where persecution and hardship is common place sharing all things in common is a daily experience.

The day may well come when we will have to do the same if persecution comes to then wetsern democracies. Besides, the major reason the LORD prospers us is so that the work of the gospel of the Kingdom will not be hindered and that His eternal covenant will be established. As it is written in the Law; “But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:18)

c. They met for worship every day in the LORD’s House and shared meals with each other in their homes with glad and sincere hearts.

(Vs.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,”

Corporate worship, fellowship and prayer go hand in hand and all Work together in harmony when there is the Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace in the local fellowship. Also the gifts of the Spirit will have free course to operate through the members of the body giving them to each member as He determines. Real fellowship always has the best interests of others in mind. Worship was a daily activity for these believers. I guess it was just too good to miss out on. Who needed sport, entertainment and leisure when the LORD was at work?

A desire for regular and even daily worship and fellowship is a sign of a spiritually healthy church. Notice that the corporate Spirit – inspired worship spilled over into the homes of the believers where they all enjoyed sharing meals with each other. Notice also that they were grateful for what they had. Some undoubtedly had more than others but they all shared with the others what they had. After all they were family! They ate with glad and sincere hearts.

Fellowship over the meal table was free from hypocrisy and mixed motives. We must not take anything we have for granted in these days in which we live. Two thirds of our brethren in the world are in need of daily necessities, especially those being persecuted for their faith in the Lord Jesus. We have an obligation to support our brothers and sisters when we can and especially those on the mission field.

In many churches the unity of the Spirit in this area is lacking. Some churches eat together but it is more of a social event than an ongoing spiritual ministry. Often eating over a meal can be very effective especially for those who are not good at sharing their personal needs in open fellowship. Eating in the homes is an added dimension to fellowship in the Holy Spirit.

d. Their praise and worship in the Spirit attracted others:

(Vs.47) “… praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

There is nothing like enthusiasm in the things of God to attract people! Tragically today many of the mega-churches rely upon gimmicks, faith healers of one sort or another, rock music, entertainment and pop-psychology feel-good talks laced with some scriptures tossed in for good measure! The first century believers had none of this! What they did have was the real and genuine power of the Holy Spirit.

The early Methodists under John and Charles Wesley and the Salvation Army under General Booth were true examples of Spirit-led worship. There was definitely spontaneous enthusiasm in music, testimony and preaching but there was also self- control. In fact when Wesley saw people manifesting all kinds of emotional excesses he quickly sought to put an end to this. On the other had at his meetings people fell down on their faces repenting. No one fell backwards into some euphoric state of mind!

There is only one instance in the Bible where people fell backwards. It was the men who came to arrest the Lord Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. When He said; “I am He” they all fell backwards. It was a judgement and not a blessing! In the Bible whenever men and women fell down in worship they always prostrated themselves face down before the LORD. They were always in full possession of their faculties. The same thing occurred during the revivals under William Booth. In fact in every genuine revival there has always been enthusiasm and spontaneity but always self-control. The main opposition will always come from those religious leaders (the College of Cardinals) who do not like to lose their positions of authority in the institutionalised Church.

Undoubtedly music and singing was an integral part of worship and even in the Old Testament they utilized many different musical instruments and even danced before the LORD. Scripture itself say: “Where the Spirit of the LORD is there is freedom.”  Not freedom to do as we like but to minister under the power and control of the Holy Spirit. True freedom is to be able to worship and to praise the LORD unashamedly and enthusiastically but at the same time always keeping in mind that we have not been given a spirit of fear but one of love, power and of a sound mind (self-control) The Holy Spirit will never produce uncontrolled and outlandish behaviour. Tragically there is much of this around today and it will get worse before the Lord Jesus comes back. Many also fall into the category of the “Golden Calf Syndrome” but that is a subject in itself.

Conclusion:

We read that every day “the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved.” This was a common experience for those first century believers. While they had plenty of opposition from the religious establishment, who eventually kicked them out of the Temple Courts, they had the favour of virtually all the people. They did not have religion. They had the genuine power of the Holy Spirit invading every area and aspect of their daily lives.

It wasn’t a Sunday programme with a mid-week Bible study tossed in for good measure. They were hungry for the Word of God and for the power of the Holy Spirit to work His wonders among them. Furthermore, their constant focus was on winning the lost to faith in Jesus and making them disciples. Indeed the Great Commission was a genuine spiritually reality for them and a command to be obeyed!

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