Acts 2- The Fellowship of Believers

In our Gospel reading Jesus says he came to give us abundant life. Assuming the early disciples were living the way of the abundant life Jesus was talking about
What we read about in Acts is a group of people who are caught up in God’s mission of love. After the resurrection, the power of God was still present in the disciples. … We read in Acts about what that community was like- 
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42).
 These are essential aspects of the early church, and they are also essential for the modern church.

First, when these early believers gathered they dedicated themselves to the teaching of the Apostles. “The Apostles” are understood to be those who spent time with Jesus while he was teaching before his crucifixion and resurrection. The Apostles were the ones who wandered the roads with Jesus as he went from town to town teaching and healing. They were the ones that were with him for the three years of his ministry and their souls were shaped by being in his presence. After the resurrection we read in Acts that Jesus spent 40 more days teaching them about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). We also read that many miracles were done through the Apostles (2:43), which also authenticated them by showing that the power of God was active and alive in them just as the power of God had been active in Jesus.

These Apostles were those that were most formed by Jesus, and so the teaching of the Apostles is the teaching of Jesus. They dedicated themselves to be a learning community. All Christians are disciples of Jesus, and the word disciple means something like a student or “apprentice”. It is a word that implies learning.

The ‘teaching of the Apostles’ comes to us in our day in the form of the New Testament. That was one of the tests for if a writing would end up in the New Testament- it had to have a connection to an Apostle. So for us living today, the way we devote ourselves to the teaching of the Apostles is by devoting ourselves to the teachings we find in the New Testament. We are called to have our lives shaped by the Bible. The New Testament because it is the teaching of Jesus’ Apostles, and the Old Testament because it was the Bible of Jesus and his Apostles.

Second, we read that they devoted themselves to fellowship. The word translated “fellowship” (koinonia) comes from the root for “common” (koinos). This means they had a “shared” life together. They shared their lives with one another. This was a community that was dedicated to one another.

We read that,

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:44-46).

I don’t think this means they were communists, or that no one had any personal property. I think this means that they cared about each other deeply, and in practical ways. They were unwilling to allow someone to be in need when they had the resources to meet those needs. It’s what you would do for someone you love. It’s what you would do for your children or your parents (if you have a healthy loving relationship with them). You respond to the needs of those you love in the best way you can. But, their common life wasn’t just about meeting each other’s needs. … They met in each other’s homes. They ate together. They enjoyed each other and they were generous with each other.

We are called to a life of fellowship. This goes well beyond coffee after church. We are to learn to care about each other deeply. That means we are to learn to be vulnerable with each other. We will have people in the fellowship who we can be real with- who we can cry with and laugh with. And people who we can call at 2:00am when we have been in the emergency room. We will know each other outside of Sunday morning- in each other’s homes. We will know each other’s stories- our joys and our pains. Their joy will cause us joy and their pain will cause us pain. And when their lives fall apart we are willing to make sacrifices to pull them back up. This is the kind of fellowship we are called to.

This kind of life-together is pretty counter-cultural. As a society we seem to value being unique individuals, almost above all other values. People in our society commonly ask why we should gather into a shared life. … I think Human beings are made to live in community. That is basic. It is the way we are designed. We will probably not feel fulfilled if we are not living life in community.

God’s design for community is for it to make us stronger. In the Bible we read, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Our character is formed by being in community. When we are on our own, we might convince ourselves that we are people full of love and compassion, but when we are together we can be shocked by our impatience, by how easily we are offended, and by how quickly we make judgements about others. Being together exposes our weaknesses, and challenges us to be virtuous. Being shaped as God’s people means being shaped by being together. Are we perfect? No. But maybe God means for us to become more patient people by being a part of an imperfect community.

Thirdly, we read that they dedicated themselves to “the breaking of bread” and to “the prayers”. What they were doing was more than sharing a meal. The grammar in the Greek points to this being a reference to the Eucharist and to some sort of shared times of prayer. We are called together to worship. Again we hear the individualistic voice of our society cry out, “I can pray at home. Why do I need to come to Church?”

We mentioned some reasons above, but in addition to that, I think it is important to say to people who think this way that this is what Christians have always done, so we should be wary of nonchalantly tossing aside the ancient practice of gathering for worship. Our base assumption should be that they had a good reason for gathering. … We should also notice that our reason for not taking it seriously probably says something about the unquestioned value we place on individualism in our own day, which is by no means an unquestionable good.

The Eucharist has always been a strengthening meal for God’s people. In the Gospel we read last week, two disciples on the road to Emmaus knew Jesus in the breaking of the bread. It is one of the mysterious ways that Jesus has chosen to nourish our souls. In The Gospel of John Jesus says,

“I am the bread of life. … Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them” (Jn 6:35, 53-56).

This is what we believe we are doing as we gather to celebrate the Eucharist. We say the prayers, which for 1st century Jewish people would have included memorized and written prayers. And we also break the bread, trying to follow the instruction of our Lord so that we can be fed by his life.

Again, we are in a strange time and are not able to gather to receive this now, but hopefully when we are able to gather we can come with a refreshed appreciation for this gift.

The preacher John Stott sees in the statement “day by day the Lord added to their number” (Acts 2:47) as a fourth mark of the church. He says this forth mark of the early church is evangelism. That word tends to freak us out a bit. What this means is that they didn’t keep this to themselves as their own secret club. They welcomed others among them. They were not shy about sharing their story, and they acted with compassion for those around them.

Evangelism isn’t about hitting people over the head with your Bible or cramming your beliefs down someone else’s throat. For sure, Some of us have seen evangelism done very badly. But, evangelism can mean welcoming new faces and being willing to make them feel at home. It means being willing to invite new faces out for coffee and inviting them into the hospitality of the fellowship we spoke about. We are called to be a community that cares about the spiritual lives of others and we make the effort to welcome those who are not already a part of us.

I pray that we will be strengthened as we devote ourselves to the Apostles’ teaching (which is really Jesus’ teaching). I pray that we pursue the risk of deeper fellowship. And that we are strengthened in our mission by the bread of life himself as we receive the eucharist and share in the prayers. And I pray that we will be open to including others who need what we have found. Peace.


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