Stephen Caswell © 2001
Driving In A Nail
One thing a carpenter learns very quickly is how to drive in nails. He hammers hundreds of nails a day, that's a lot of practice. The most important thing in hammering nails is to keep your eye on the nail, not on the thumb that's holding the nail. That is because you will always hit what you watch! What are you watching each day? Jesus Christ or something else!!
Last Sunday we looked at the cost of discipleship. Today we will look at discipleship in the early Church. On the day of Pentecost 3,000 people believed the message that Peter preached and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then they received the Holy Spirit just as Peter had promised them. Today I want to look at some of the things that happened immediately after they believed the Gospel. Today we will see four of the things those early disciples majored on that brought God's blessing upon the Church.
1. Believers Baptism 2. Apostolic Doctrine 3. The Lord's Table 4. Prayer
Firstly Believers Baptism
Acts 2:41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
The first thing of course is believers baptism. Notice I said believers baptism. The 3,000 who were baptized had just believed in Christ. Faith always comes before baptism. No where are we told to baptize anyone that hasn't first believed. Why did Peter command these disciples to be baptized? Firstly, because Jesus Himself commanded the apostles to baptize disciples in the triune name. According to Matthew 28:19 it is impossible to be a disciple of Christ with out being baptized. Secondly, the 3,000 who believed showed the rest of the nation that they were Christ's disciples. The nation of Israel had rejected Jesus Christ. The 3,000 who believed in Him showed the rest of the nation that they had received Jesus as their Messiah. They weren't ashamed to be identified with Christ through the waters of baptism.
It is important that believers give a public testimony of their faith from the start. Can you imagine the impact of 3,000 people publicly testifying of their faith in Jesus Christ? This would have made a big impact on Jerusalem. I am sure that their witness caused others to think about the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We must never underestimate the impact of one testimony for Christ upon unbelievers. I believe this is the primary reason why Jesus began the ordinance of baptism. Baptism gives every believer an opportunity to testify of their personal faith in Jesus Christ. Our testimony should begin as soon as we are saved. Therefore we ought to be baptized immediately as well. The Scriptures show us that this was the practice of the Early Church. Baptism proclaims our identification with Jesus Christ. It declares our faith in His finished work. It shows all that we are new creatures in Jesus Christ. These early disciples received Christ once and for all and were baptized once and for all in His name. The verbs received and baptized denote a completed action.
Roman Soldier’s Oath
Early Christians called baptism a sacramentum, which is the Latin word for the Roman soldier’s oath of absolute devotion and obedience to his general.
Have you gladly received the Gospel message? Have you personally believed in Jesus Christ? Have you publicly testified to this by being baptized? Baptism is not an option for disciples. Jesus commands His disciples to be baptized. If you haven't yet been baptized will you obey your Lord now? Will you publicly testify of your faith in Christ?
They Continued Steadfastly
To become a disciple of Jesus Christ we need only believe in Him once and for all. Christ's disciples need to be baptized only once. But to follow Jesus Christ requires our continual devotion. In verse 42 we read that they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread and in prayers. The words translated continued steadfastly proskarterew mean to persist in, adhere to, hold fast to, to continue or persevere in. The verb is in the present tense emphasizing a continual action. These early disciples continued in these four things. I would like to look at all of them today except for fellowship.
Secondly Apostolic Doctrine
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship
a. They Learned About Christ
The first thing that these New Testament disciples persevered in was doctrine. The word doctrine didach~ means teaching or instruction. The Early Church was founded upon the apostolic teaching. Jesus taught the apostles commandments that He wanted passed on to the next generation of disciples. We saw this last week in Matthew 28:20. The Holy Spirit reminded the apostles of what Christ had taught them. He also revealed new things to them from Christ. For believers of later generations the New Testament Scriptures form the written deposit of apostolic teaching. The early disciples learned about Jesus Christ and lived like Him. The aim of all Bible Study must be our transformation into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
b. They Lived For Christ Daily
Acts 2:46 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.
They met together daily in the temple precincts. The word continue in verse 46 is the same one we looked at in verse 42. The Christian life was a daily experience for the early Church. It wasn't a once a week commitment. Jesus' disciples must follow Him every day. Disciples study the word daily, pray daily and serve God daily. The early Church knew the importance of unity since they met together in the temple daily. They also knew the importance of small group fellowship since they met together in homes for meals fellowship and instruction. They would meet together in Solomon's Porch of the temple. At the temple they worshipped God, prayed and were instructed by the apostles. Daily they continued to learn God's Word. The apostles instructed the disciples about Christ and our new life in Him. The disciples in turn lived it out. The force of this verse is that they were completely devoted to learning and living out God's Word. It was a daily practice for them, not a once a week ritual.
Doers Of The Word
It is not what men eat, but what they digest that makes them strong; not what we gain, but what we save that makes us rich; not what we read, but what we remember that makes us learned; not what we preach or pray, but what we practice and believe that makes us Christians. -- Frances Bacon
c. They Preached Christ
They also used the opportunity to evangelize the people. Acts 5:42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. The apostles taught Christ in peoples homes as well as the temple. They didn't confine their ministry to the temple. I am sure that many of the houses they visited belonged to unsaved people. They went there with the sole purpose of preaching Jesus Christ to the lost. In the early Church God spoke through apostles, prophets, evangelists, encouragers and teachers. The important thing wasn't the messenger, but that the people listened to and obeyed the message. After the death of Stephen, the church suffered great persecution. But this didn't stop them from witnessing for Christ.
Acts 8:1,4 Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
First Things First In Greenland
When the first Moravian missionaries went to Greenland to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they thought it was necessary, first of all, to instruct the people in the doctrines of natural religion. The result was that they were there seventeen years before they had a single convert. One day a man called Kajarnak, who was a very wicked man, entered the missionary’s hut and by accident heard him read the story of the last week in the life of Christ. Somehow this wicked Greenlander got a glimpse of the fact that Jesus suffered and died for sinners and that through Him a sinner might be saved. How was that? he said. Tell me that again, for I, too, wish to be saved. The missionary was astonished. It was not long before Kajarnak, his wife, and two children were happily converted to Christ and became the Firstfruits of Greenland unto the Savior. It also taught the missionaries that the first thing to preach to a sinning man anywhere is the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
d. The Lord Added To Their Number
The early Church was not perfect, but they were devoted. Because they devoted themselves to learning, living and sharing God's Word, the Lord added to their number. Acts 2:47 And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 4:4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. Acts 5:14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women. Acts 6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying. Acts 6:7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
The early disciples continued in God's Word. How important is God's Word to you? Do you long to know Christ better? Do you desire to live to please Him? Do you want your life to be fruitful for Christ? If you do, are you feeding on the Word daily? You cannot grow in your relationship with Christ without the Word. God speaks to us today through the Word. Are you reading it? Are you listening for His voice trough the Word? The early disciples devoted themselves to the Word! Do you make every effort to hear God's Word taught at Church and Bible study? Do you obey God's Word and make it real in your life? Do you live it out daily? Are you sharing God's Word with the lost? Do you share your testimony? The early Church was effective because they were devoted to God's Word! Will you be devoted to God's Word?
Thirdly The Lord's Table
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the breaking of bread,.
a. Communion Is A Reminder
Firstly, the Lord's Supper reminds us of Christ's sacrifice. We humans so easily forget things that are important or costly. Luke 22:18-19 For I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God comes. And he took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: do this in remembrance of me. Communion reminds us that Jesus Christ God's Son gave His life to save us from sin. It draws our attention to what Christ has done for us. It reminds us that we were brought with a price. It reminds us that we all have the same Savior and belong to the same family. In fact the word communion koinwnia means fellowship, to have in common. Every child of God has been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We all belong to the one Savior.
We easily Forget
Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt in a proclamation designating Bill of Rights Day.
b. Communion Is An Examination
Secondly, the Lord's Supper causes us to examine our lives a fresh. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
Christians must confess any sin in their lives. Communion is a time when we should reflect upon our relationship with Christ. To take stock of our walk with Him. Is there sin in our lives? Have we moved away from Him? Do we need to put something right with a brother we have offended? The Lord's Supper is a time to take spiritual inventory at the foot of the cross. Like Barabbas we should consider the One who died in our place. We should consider why he died and examine our lives for sin and self. At the cross we can find cleansing through the precious blood of Christ.
c. Communion Is A Proclamation
Thirdly, Communion is also a time when we proclaim Christ's death and second coming. The focus of the communion table is the Lord's sacrifice. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God died in our place. This is the message we proclaim when we share the elements. 1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes.
The disciples continually remembered the Lord's Supper. Christ's sacrifice was central to the Early Church. How important is communion to you? Are you thankful for all that Christ has done you? Do you examine your life and confess anything of sin or self? Do you rejoice when Christ's death is proclaimed because it speaks of our salvation? Do you look forward to the day when you can share it a new with Jesus Himself? Is Christ's sacrifice central to your life? Does love for the Savior motivate you to live for Him?
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in prayers
Prayer, The Most Important Thing
D. E. Host, the man who took over from Hudson Taylor, wrote a book titled Beyond the Ranges. He was trying to analyze a problem he had seen while working in two different villages in China. The people with whom he live and worked were not doing very well. but the people in the other village across the ranges were doing great! He visited them only now and then, but they were always doing fine, so he began to ask the Lord what was going on. How could those across the ranges be doing better than those with whom he lived and worked? The Lord showed Host the answer. Although he was spending much more time counseling, preaching, and teaching with those he lived with, he spent much more time in prayer for those across the ranges. He concluded that there were four basic elements to making disciples: 1 Prayer, 2 Prayer, 3 Prayer, 4 The Word - In that order and in about that proportion.
Prayer For God's Work
The fourth thing they did was, to continue steadfastly in prayer. This isn't the first time that we have seen this emphasis on prayer. Acts 1:14 says: These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. The disciples in the early Church met regularly for prayer. They all came out to pray. They prayed with one accord. When they were threatened by the Jewish Leaders, they prayed. They asked God for boldness to speak the Word, and for God to confirm the message with signs and wonders. The apostles appointed seven deacons so that they could concentrate upon the Word of God and prayer. The disciples prayed when Peter was imprisoned awaiting execution. It was when the disciples at Antioch were praying that God told them to set aside Paul and Barnabas for missionary work. They prayed at all times for all kinds of needs.
They sought God's grace in every trial. Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Prayer is mentioned over and over again in the book of Acts. It is also interesting to note that their prayers were centered around God's will. Basically they prayed that God would enable them to fulfill the Great Commission. Their main concern was to spread the Word that Jesus Christ saves sinful men. They prayed and then went to work. The disciples balanced praying for God's work with participating in that work. The disciples were continually involved in proclaiming the Gospel and sought God's guidance and blessing on their labors. God was only to happy to answer such prayers. Acts 6:4 sums it up well: But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
I knelt to pray when day was done, And prayed, “O Lord bless every one,
Lift from every saddened heart the pain, And let the sick be well again.”
And then I woke another day, And carelessly went upon my way.
The whole day long I did not try, To wipe a tear from any eye.
I did not try to share the load, Of any brother on the road.
I did not even go to see, The sick man just next door to me.
Yet once again when day was done, I prayed, “O Lord bless everyone.”
But as I prayed, unto my ear, There came a voice that whispered clear,
“Pause, hypocrite, before you pray, Whom have you tried to bless today?
God’s sweetest blessings always go, By hands which serve Him below.”
And then I hid my face and cried, “Forgive me, God, for I have lied.
Let me but live another day, And I will live the way I pray!”
Prayer Is Like Breathing
Prayer to the Christian life is like breathing in physical life. Without it you die. In fact, it is impossible to receive God's grace and help without prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says: Pray without ceasing. Jesus' disciples rely on Him continually. The early Church devoted themselves continually to prayer. This is one of the reasons that God blessed them so much. Paul emphasized the importance of prayer in relation to the Gospel. Colossians 4:2-4 Continue earnestly in prayer being vigilant in the same with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
The word continue earnestly in verse 2 is the same word used in Acts 2: It is impossible to be a disciple of Christ without praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and Colossians 4:2 are both commands. Disciples are commanded to pray at all times. We must be devoted to it. The main focus of our prayers should be the spread of the Gospel, the Great Commission. Are you praying for God to save the lost? Are you watching and praying? Are you working and praying?
The early disciples devoted themselves to prayer. How important is prayer to you? Are you devoted to prayer? Do your prayers focus on fulfilling God's will or on personal comfort? Do you pray for your unsaved family, friends and work mates? Are you witnessing to them as well? Are you faithfully serving the Lord? Or are you praying that God will send someone else to do your job? Let us work faithfully and pray for it earnestly for the Kingdom of God!!
1. Believers Baptism - Have you identified yourself with Christ by being baptized?
2. Apostolic Doctrine - Are you learning God's Word? Do you live it and share it also?
3. The Lord's Table - Is Christ's sacrifice the thing that motivates you to live for God?
4. Prayer - How much time do you spend in prayer? Do you pray for opportunities to share Christ? Do your prayers focus on God's will?
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.