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Fellowship in the Early Church

28/10/2019

Fellowship in the Early Church

Text: Acts 2:40-46.  

Acts is a history book, but as we read it we see in the lives of the early Christians what MLJ called ‘Authentic Christianity.  When we read of their fellowship, we see what a church should look like, their level of fellowship, and we find some broad principles for our own Christian fellowship.  These believers were:-

1 People who Received the Word of God.  V 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptised; 

John Calvin defined a true church as being one where the Word of God is rightly preached, where the sacraments are rightly observed, and where church discipline is being rightly applied.  The most basic trait of a Christian Church is that there are a group of people who love the Word of God, and who gladly receive it!  Note:-

  • The word of God is to be RECEIVED. That’s because in receiving His Word, we are receiving a revelation of God Himself! Not just ‘listening’ either.  The believer in receiving the word is ACTIVE.  They are cognitively involved in the exercise, unlike the modern ideas of ‘mindfulness’ where one empties the mind – we are to do the very opposite.  We are to THINK and to MEDITATE upon the Word, to CONSIDER CHRIST.  
  • Our reception of the Word is joyful!   Preaching can be tedious!  Yet the early Christians received the word GLADLY! Psalm 122:1, I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord. We know that we are to enjoy the ministry of the word, not just to endure it!  But how?  If you find it hard to concentrate, try making notes!  It helps me!
  • When they received the Word, they applied it!  The Word of God is LIFE CHANGING!  When we receive it joyfully, we put it into practice in our lives!  We OBEY the Word of God.  In the case of the first Christians, they obeyed by submitting to the sacrament of baptism.  Peter had already urged them to do so.  27 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

2 People who were Continuously Steadfast.  V42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Steadfastness was a characteristic of the early church.  They were prepared to follow the Lord, no matter what.  They would persevere, endure and persist.  They would never back down, fade away or backslide.  You can see that persistence in:-

  • Their attitude to doctrine.  We have the very same set of doctrines and beliefs that they had.  We must defend the faith!
  • Their attitude to church fellowship.  They were part of the body of Christ, – a spiritual union that will endure throughput eternity, bound together by a common redemption, indwell by one Holy Spirit, united in Christ.  It’s what drives us together, and makes us one and gives us the desire to be in each others company!  Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love!
  • Their attitude to the Lord’s Supper.  They regularly reminded themselves of the reason for there fellowship, that Jesus had died for them on the cross.  
  • Their attitude to prayer.  They persevered in prayer.  Psalm 73:28 But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.

 

3 People whose Lives Stirred Up Godly Fear.  V 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 

The Greek word for fear is φοβος – same as our word PHOBIA – an irrational fear.  It’s a word that gets bandied about all the time now.  Homophobia, Islamophobia, Transphobia.  If you want to demonise someone, label them as ‘phobic.’  But this kind of far is totally different than the modern definition.  These Christians carried with them a Godly reverence, an awareness of God’s presence with them, and a consciousness that God is sovereign in their lives.  Luke 1:50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.

 

4. People who Stayed Together and Cared about Each Other. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

There was a great sharing in the ministry of the church.  Note:-

  • The church was comprised of BELIEVERS. That was why the early Congregationalists and Baptists wanted to form pure assemblies, comprised of believers, who would meet together, with one aim, to exalt Christ, and to serve him.  It was a good idea, and an honourable aspiration, but perhaps they were just a little naive?  They maybe underestimated the innate wickedness of the the human heart.  Even in the early church there were hypocrites who crept into the fellowship.
  • The church was TOGETHER.   They were in the same place because they were of the same mind, had the same call, and the same purpose.  Rare in the modern church.
  • They CARED for each other.  In the modern church, one of the greatest difficulties is materialism.  The bible demands that we should care for each other, and use whatever means we have to bless others.  

Why are these believers living such radical transformed lives?  What makes them different to everyone else?  Is it because they’ve been taught a socialist worldview, or read the works of Karl Marx?  No, it’s because they have given everything to Jesus!  Because, ‘I’d rather have Jesus than silver and gold!

 

5. People who Truly Worshipped God.  46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

They were wholehearted in their worship. They met regularly to worship. Acts 3:1 They worshipped in heir homes.  They worshipped with gladness. They praised God.  Romans 15:6

The results of this radical Christianity was that the disciples found favour with others, (not with the authorities of course!) and many souls were saved and the church grew.

© Bob McEvoy October 2019

From → Acts, Bible Study

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