As we begin an explanation is in order. Why this topic?
We have chosen a standard text, but seek to read with fresh glasses. What does this text say about the church? What can we learn? How can we change? What are the challenges? How can we be church? If Acts 2 represents the beginning of the church, the re-formation of the people of God into a Christ-centered, Christ-saved, Christ-glorifying body of believers, what can we learn. Should be an essential passage, with an essential message for God's people today.
Scripture Reading: Acts 2:42-47
Important, but Overlooked Aspects of Church
Let us begin by addressing our text with some miscellaneous thoughts essential to understanding church.
Another Look at the Model of the Early Church
From our text, we can note the following characteristics of the NT church. I have found seven, and have sought to communicate them memorably with alliteration.
1. The church is committed, Acts 2:42
Devoted, disciples, reverent, sharing, praying. Although I do not think we should see in this verse the four acts of worship as some has suggested and practiced, perhaps this is a reference to their worship.
Why worship? In contemporary church, few activities are more inclusive than worship. In worship we express devotion/commitment, we seek to follow more closely, we stand in reverent awe of the mighty God we serve, we pray, we share. Why bother going to church? Many would absent themselves, sleep late, lounge around. Many consider it a waste of time.
Who needs worship, commitment anyway? We all do. Because we are uniquely made in image of God, made for God, cannot fulfill our purpose unless we continue in right relationship with him. Worship helps restore that focus.
And as we join other worshipers in church, our hearts are lifted out of this temporal world into the eternal world, out of this unreal existence into the essence of our beings. According to William Temple, in worship the conscience is quickened by the holiness of God, the mind fed by the truth of God, the imagination purged by the beauty of God, the heart opened to the love of God, and the will devoted to the purpose of God. We thus become more like the God we serve.
2. The church is continual, Acts 2
Daily fellowship, daily teaching, daily worship, daily sharing, daily additions
3. The church is a community, Acts 2:44
The church is grouped for strength. In study of what keeps POWs strong, and how captors best break their spirit, researchers learned that prisoners do not break down from physical deprivation or torture as quickly as they did from solitary confinement, frequent moves, and separation from friends. Strength comes from close attachments. This gives insight into why Christians need the group experience of fellowship with other believers to remain loyal to God. Our own personal relationship with God, vital as it is, is not sufficient to produce spiritual maturity and endurance. Relationships with a unified, spirit-filled body of believer are essential for growth and maintaining individual faithfulness.
4. The church is compassionate, 2:44; 3:1ff
5. The church is credible, Acts 2:47
Principled, bold, faithful. The early church was faithful. Faithfulness means relationships, success, productivity, risk taking.
6. The church is creative
7. The church is Christ's presence in this world.
Today we live in a religious world with an emphasis on church growth. Many wonder how to accomplish it? Assuming that the church has much right with it, why do so few find it desirable, why is it so hard for us to grow, why is the church so often weak? In our text is key. Church growth occurs with power of the HS, prayer, preaching, planning and purpose, to develop a people of God.
The church is part of the eternal plan and purpose of God. The church is no small thing, for Christ died to save the church, and saved people are added to the church. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the body, and has promised to save none other.
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