Fellowship of the Church-Acts 2_42-47
Fellowship of the Church
An old Marine Corps buddy of mine, to my pleasant surprise, came to know Christ after he was discharged. I say surprise because he cursed loudly, fought hard, chased women, drank heavily, loved war and weapons, and hated chapel services.
A number of months ago, I ran into this fellow, and after we'd talked awhile, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You know, Chuck, the only thing I still miss is that old fellowship I used to have with all the guys down at the tavern. I remember how we used to sit around and let our hair down. I can't find anything like that for Christians. I no longer have a place to admit my faults and talk about my battles—where somebody won't preach at me and frown and quote me a verse.” It wasn't one month later that in my reading I came across this profound paragraph: “The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit that there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It's an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality—but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship.
· Is the church a place and people who gather socially?
· Are we like a club or a fraternal order?
· I have seen churches in which their members take vacations together, buy similar motorcycles so they can go cruising together and so on.
· Is there anything wrong with this?
· In some ways this is a wonderful thing when individuals in a church share common interests and are genuine friends.
· I have also heard of Christians who have been going to the same church for years and do not consider one person in their church to be a close friend.
· There is the potential for the church to be a place where fellowship is nearly non-existent except in formal and forced ways.
· So there is the potential for the church to be a place that looks like little more than a social club.
· There is the potential for the church to be a place where everyone keeps their distance and people do not quite fit together.
· It can be a place where love and acceptance is fostered in community but it can also be a place where people are disconnected and lonely.
· The church can be a place of nurture and care or it can be a place of rules and regulations.
· Soon after Christ ascended the first Christians began to preach the gospel and so amazing works of the Spirit as thousands of people came to Christ.
· This early church which is described in Acts 2 was just beginning.
· They had not developed all kinds of formality and rules; in fact the only kind of structure they were familiar with came from the Jewish Synagogue.
· In some respects this first gathered church was naïve and simple but in other ways it was pure and untainted by bureaucracy.
· For us to understand how the church operated together it is important to understand the fellowship they had together.
· We see that the early church had close mutual relations and involvement with one another in the development of their lives.
· The problem we face with fellowship is found in our society.
· We live in a western culture that sees everything from an individual perspective.
· The early church did not see it this way nor did God design it.
· From the moment he created the first man there was a need for fellowship with other human being and this is true in the church as well.
· As we will see in Acts 2:42-47 the church was designed for corporate fellowship in many aspects.
We Share in Faith Together (2:42)
2:42 They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
· It is quite rare to hear of a person who becomes a Christian without any contact with a follower of Jesus.
· This first church developed because a group of men followed Jesus and in turn they preached his message to others.
· This initial contact with Christianity through the message delivered by Christians was intended to continue so that they could grow in their faith.
· We need to remember that this first church could not hand out a Bible to each new believer.
· The teachings of Jesus were not written down and so the apostles were commissioned to share the knowledge of God revealed through Jesus because of the special role they were to play.
· Even today we have individuals who have been specially gifting in order to teach the Word of God and to preach.
· This does not mean that we cannot learn on our own but that the intention of understanding of God was always done in community.
· There was too be a shared experience, accountability and fellowship in learning how to live the Christian life.
· So one of the important things we need to do together is to learn theology, doctrine and how to live our lives.
· Another aspect of sharing faith together is that the early church devoted themselves to the practice of communion.
· In this verse the breaking of bread refers to communion because the definite article “the” precedes the word “bread” referring to the specific act of communion.
· Communion has always been a shared experience.
· From its roots in the Passover it can be seen as something that is done in community and fellowship.
· When we eat together the bread and we drink together the cup we share together in the acknowledgement of Christ’s wonderful sacrifice.
· We share a common bond that states that each one of us needs his mercy and grace upon our lives.
· We bring together our mutual understanding that Jesus is our Lord.
· The early church also understood that prayer was an important part of shared faith.
· It is evident from the life of Jesus that he often prayed alone.
· There are definite times where it is important to pray to God alone on a regular basis.
· There is also the great need for the church to pray together.
· There is too be a vulnerability, an willingness to pour out our hearts to God in a setting of group prayer.
· In this setting there is the opportunity to pray for shared needs and individual concerns.
· There is the chance to implore God for others who may sit next to us; to show our concern and intercede for others.
· There is an encouragement and strengthening of our souls when we hear and know others are praying for us in our circumstances.
In the fall of the year, Linda, a young woman, was traveling alone up the rutted and rugged highway from Alberta to the Yukon. Linda didn’t know you don’t travel to Whitehorse alone in a rundown Honda Civic, so she set off where only four-wheel drives normally venture. The first evening she found a room in the mountains near a summit and asked for a 5 A.M. wakeup call so she could get an early start. She couldn’t understand why the clerk looked surprised at that request, but as she awoke to early-morning fog shrouding the mountain tops, she understood. Not wanting to look foolish, she got up and went to breakfast. Two truckers invited Linda to join them, and since the place was so small, she felt obliged. “Where are you headed?” one of the truckers asked. ‘Whitehorse’ “In that little Civic? No way! This pass is DANGEROUS in weather like this.” “Well, I’m determined to try,” was Linda’s gutsy, if not very informed, response. “Then I guess we’re just going to have to hug you,” the trucker suggested. Linda drew back. “There’s no way I’m going to let you touch me!” “Not like THAT!” the truckers chuckled. “We’ll put one truck in front of you and one in the rear. In that way, we’ll get you through the mountains.” All that foggy morning Linda followed the two red dots in front of her and had the reassurance of a big escort behind as they made their way safely through the mountains.
· Growing and moving to our destination: a strong and vibrant faith needs the efforts of every Christian.
· We can not go it alone, there are obstacles and dangerous situations that can weaken our resolve and set us back spiritually.
· When we grow in faith together we can get to our destination.
We Share Worship Together (2:43)
2:43 Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles.
· It is not uncommon for God to work in and through his people.
· When he becomes evident through things that would not normally occur the natural response when we recognize it is to worship him for his greatness and involvement in our lives.
· When the early church was beginning the idea of Jesus Christ, his ministry and the will of God was very new as well.
· As we said, there was no written revelation and instruction for this fledgling group but there was special gifting to the apostles.
· I do not see in Scripture anything explicit that the signs and wonders that were performed were done by anyone on a consistent basis except the apostles.
· The reason for these events was really no different than when Jesus performed miracles.
· He did so to reveal his authority as God or to encourage and strengthen those who already believed.
· The apostles did the exact same thing; they performed wonders and miracles as signs to unbelievers that the message they were bringing was true.
· They performed miracles among believers as a testimony of Christ in their lives.
· The result of such acts was to do two things: believers were aware of God’s sacred presence and unbelievers were added to the church.
· There is something in this verse that is not explicit.
· In order for this awe and reverence to take place the believers either had to be witnesses to the events or they shared accounts of the work God was doing through the apostles.
· Either way the early church was constantly involved at a close level with what God was doing in their midst.
· They either were there at the times when great things happened or they gathered together to celebrate and share in these events.
· What the early church did was come together to worship.
· They saw God’s goodness and they shared in the awe and wonder of his majesty.
· Worship is not usually mentioned in the Bible in the context of being alone it is always done in fellowship with others.
· There is something that happens when we truly worship God that was designed for togetherness.
· In the very act of worship we are seeking a greater understanding and degree of relationship with God.
· When we come together to worship and are vulnerable we gain a greater relationship with each other.
· When we weep and raise our voices to almighty God with the same heart and passion we become one voice having the same purpose.
· We can have an awesome time worshipping God alone but when we share that experience with others it does not mean as much when we experience it together.
I used to be the chaplain for the Astros and the Oilers when I was in Houston, Texas. After I'd do a chapel, they'd give me tickets. One time in the Astrodome I watched Earl Campbell run over everybody, his own men included, to get to the goal line. When he got to the goal line, he put the ball down. The place went crazy. People were giving high fives and jumping around. The score board went off. The same thing happened when the Astros hit a home run. It was a ringing shout, because their man scored a touchdown. Worship is a time of anticipation and expectation. We come together because all week God has been knocking home runs and scoring touchdowns in our lives. Worship is a time to celebrate what God has done for us.
—Rod Cooper, “Worship or Worry?” Preaching Today, Tape No. 108.
An elderly woman was standing with eyes closed and hands raised in prayer and praise. The three-year-old standing in the pew in front of her turned around and gave her a high-five!
· Worshipping together acknowledges our common interest and goal.
· It brings us together to celebrate our Savior who binds all Christians together throughout the world and locally.
· It bonds us together both emotionally and physically in our mutual dedication to God.
We Share Needs Together (2:44-45)
2:44 All who believed were together and held everything in common, 2:45 and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need.
· It is interesting to note in verse 44 that the believers were together.
· It may seem that this indicates that they were spending a great deal of time together or that they were (as some have concluded) living communally.
· While it could mean that they spent a great deal of time together which is in keeping with what we see in verses 46-47 it may also mean that they had a unity of purpose and desire.
· For them to be together means that they held all things in common.
· There were no classes or different statuses among them.
· Each person saw that they may have ability or possessions that could benefit another and they did not regard those things as being theirs alone.
· They saw that they could benefit others with what God had blessed them and were willing to share it.
· As in any community there were those who had much and those who had less.
· There was a willingness to recognize a need and try to relieve it.
· Today it seems that we live such disjointed lives and such separate existences that we rarely see what others are going through.
· What also happens is we choose to separate ourselves and not express our need or show our vulnerability.
· It is extremely difficult for believers to come together and help each other in their needs when we do not take the time to involve ourselves enough to see the need or we veil our needs from pride or embarrassment.
· Some have thought that the early church developed a kind of communal living relationship but that is not what the text says.
· They may have been together in fellowship spending a great deal of time together.
· They may have shared possessions and meals together.
· They even gave up their ownership of things in order to help others in need.
· This does not mean that they lived together or sold everything; proceeds were given as there was need.
· Essential to proper, authentic fellowship is that as Christians we make it our business to help each other in times of need.
· If you have much it is your opportunity to better the lives of fellow Christians.
· When we take care of one another it is a demonstration of true authentic love to a world that is only interested in its self.
· When we share in our needs we develop close bonds of care and concern that can wash away any possibility of disunity and strife.
My three-year-old son helped me with the community toy drive. First he cleaned out his toy box, then helped fix defective items, and collected donations for “kids that don’t have anything to play with.” When Christmas Day came, Timmy received his much wanted Sesame Street Play House. After playing with it all day, I found him trying to rewrap it. When I asked him what he was doing, he said, “I want to give this to one of the kids that doesn’t have anything to play with ‘cause if I didn’t have any toys, this is what I would want.”
—Cathie Gebhart, Canton, S.D. Christian Reader, “Lite Fare.”
· Authentic fellowship among believers begins when we determine within ourselves to share with others as there is need.
· It comes with the recognition that Christ shared in our need as he saw the preciousness of our lives.
· So we also need to preserve the preciousness of lives in the fellowship as a community of believers as we are able.
We Share Life Together (2:46)
2:46 Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts,
· I find it quite difficult to understand what it must have been like in the early stages of the church.
· From our text it seems fairly clear that they spent a great deal of time together.
· They were not only people of one faith but it seems that they were genuine friends.
· The only thing that I have in my life to compare it too would be my experience as a camp counselor.
· Everyday for two months in a summer I would meet with the same people for the same purpose.
· We would eat together and share in ministry together.
· It is one of my best memories of a time when I was happy and content.
· Too look at it another way it was like we were a family.
· These first Christians have all found the same thing.
· At one time they were God fearers and Judiazers but now they have found Jesus.
· They wanted to understand more about Christ and to fellowship with those who shared the same beliefs.
· They came together not out of obligation but because they enjoyed being with one another.
· Not only that but they gathered together with the same mindset and focus.
· There was not the same problem of factions and cliques as we have today.
· There was not this common problem in the life of a church where people have their set group of friends and no others are welcomed; They shared life together equally.
· Can you imagine the encouragement that must have been, the excitement that was there.
· All these new Christians under the teaching of apostles excited about their new found faith desiring to come together for fellowship and encouragement; What a fantastic picture of the church.
· It is interesting that Luke again refers to breaking of bread but this time he is referring to sharing a meal together.
· At the time sharing a meal together was one of the significant displays of friendship and care.
· When one wanted to host people in their home or show hospitality there was always food involved.
· Later in the NT this concept was expanded to include the love feasts that Paul refers to in 1 Cor. 11.
· When we fellowship we almost always involve food.
· We love to share meals together and every aspect of our friendship as believers involves food.
· This sharing communicates a sense of trust and care because of our willingness to give others a place at our table.
· When we bring others into our home we reveal a little more about ourselves.
· We begin to welcome them into our world and what is important to us.
· So when we think of the first church it was a group of believers who fellowshipped by sharing their daily life together.
· Today we tend to get up in arms because we may have a church function more than one day in the week.
· In many ways we have the wrong perspective; rather than the church being a place we go to once a week to worship God it should be a people who share belief and a common purpose.
· We are to uniquely identify with each others pain, sorrow, struggle, joy and accomplishments.
· Church activities need to be seen less as things we do but as a life we live in conjunction with others.
· We would never be able to justify seeing and spending time with our spouse or kids only once a week and still call ourselves a close family.
· Then how can we consider ourselves a church if we grumble about spending time together as a group of believers?
· My hope would be that we would all be friends, willing and wanting to spend time with each other not only because we share in Christ but because we genuinely like one another.
There is a story of two paddleboats. They left Memphis about the same time, traveling down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. As they traveled side by side, sailors from one vessel made a few remarks about the snail’s pace of the other. Words were exchanged. Challenges were made. And the race began. Competition became vicious as the two boats roared through the Deep South. One boat began falling behind. Not enough fuel. There had been plenty of coal for the trip, but not enough for a race. As the boat dropped back, an enterprising young sailor took some of the ship’s cargo and tossed it into the ovens. When the sailors saw that the supplies burned as well as the coal, they fueled their boat with the material they had been assigned to transport. They ended up winning the race, but burned their cargo.
· Christianity does have a destination in mind and Church does have an eternal purpose but cannot neglect people.
· We have been designed to fellowship with people as we fellowship with God.
· The example of the first church is that they shared life together as they lived life in Christ.
We Share Christ Together (2:47)
2:47 praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved.
· Much of the NT describes a church under persecution and suffering.
· These first beginnings describe a church that has not yet seen trouble and strife for following Jesus.
· Nor had it begun to see the infighting that occurs in later parts of Acts and the Epistles.
· It was in a way a golden time where there were no differences in theology and practice because they did not know theology and different practices.
· All they knew for certain was that the messiah promised to them had come and his name was Jesus.
· They had believed in him and been transformed.
· For everything they knew and had they praised and gave honor to God; they recognized that their lives were meaningless without him.
· They had come under the teaching of the apostles, shared in communion, fellowshipped with common purpose, seen miracles and wonders, and shared life together.
· For this new transformed life they praised God.
· Added to this was that they gained the favor of people all around them.
· This good will had the idea that these new Christians had a quality or attractiveness that invited a positive reaction.
· But where does this favor come from?
· It makes sense to see that their new life changed them in dramatic ways. They were now peace loving people who were giving up their rights.
· They were willing to sell their possessions in order to help with the needs of others.
· They were displaying a new level of care and kindness that was spilling over into their daily walk.
· It is from the change in their lives and not only their thinking that God displayed his power to the people around them and people were coming to Christ.
· It was not something that happened once and a while but the text says everyday and continually.
· Part of fellowship together in Christ is that we are sharing Christ together.
· It is from this behavior that spilled over into their every action that people could not help but notice the change.
· Friends and family were suddenly confronted with loved ones who had dramatically changed into people who gave their lives for others.
· This kind of life was rare and it is rare today; it give people pause to think that things could be better.
· What is interesting is that we think of evangelism as something we have to be taught in and then we go out and knock on doors or have a crusade.
· Note what they were doing; they were living in fellowship as genuine Christians and this living changed others.
· I am not against evangelism training and campaigns but I believe that there is a lesson for us in the important task of reaching out to those who do not know Christ.
· In order for Sharing Christ to be accepted we must as a community of believers first display authentic fellowship as we share together in Christ.
· Why should a non-believer accept the changing power of the Gospel when those who claim its power are not displaying care and concern for one another?
· That is why Jesus says ‘love one another as I have love you’ and Jn 13:35 states that we will be known by our love for one another.
· One of our greatest sources of evangelism is how we share our lives together.
A man’s life is always more forcible than his speech. When men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies. If his life and doctrine disagree the mass of onlookers accept his practice and reject his preaching.
· So this applies to the fellowship of the church.
· What we do together, displaying true Christian character speaks volumes in our community.
· It gives us a venue to speak of Christ because we have been living together in fellowship in such a way that our claim to love is actually being lived out.
The Christian life is not just our own private affair. If we have been born again into God's family, not only has he become our Father but every other Christian believer in the world, whatever his nation or denomination, has become our brother or sister in Christ. But it is no good supposing that membership of the universal Church of Christ is enough; we must belong to some local branch of it. Every Christian's place is in a local church, sharing in its worship, its fellowship, and its witness.
—John R. W. Stott, quoted in “Reflections,” Christianity Today, Vol. 45, no. 5.
· Part of the nature of the church is that it has fellowship together.
· I look at the beginnings of the first church and am envious of what they had.
· In some ways we may think that how they lived together is quite impractical and may that is so.
· But none the less it does cause me to ask how we can recapture the essence of how they fellowshipped together.
· What can we do to live in community together?
· How might we change our thinking so that we can have the mutual care and concern that distinguished this group of believers?