Teaching series from Acts

Priorities of a Dynamic Church

Acts 2:41-47

Teaching t05713

Introduction

Luke records the birth and expansion of the Christian movement.  It is difficult not to be impressed with its dynamism (STATS). 

What is the key to this dynamism?

The main key is the Holy Spirit (review).

But another key is church-life.  In this passage, Luke provides us with a snap-shot of that church-life, which was animated by the presence of God (vs 43a).  How different from most churches today, which are often more like funeral homes than centers of spiritual excitement.

We have the same resources, so we can experience the same dynamism if we have the same priorities...

Learning

The very first thing mentioned is that “they continually devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.”  In other words, they were a learning church.

They didn’t view the apostles’ teaching as merely human speculation.  Rather, they accepted  it as God’s inspired Word.  Jesus has appointed them as his authoritative spokesmen, and promised that the Holy Spirit would enable them to understand and communicate the meaning of his life and death.  Therefore, what the apostles taught was binding and authoritative.

Wouldn’t it be great to have their teaching?  We do--through the New Testament.  It is the record of the apostles’ teaching.

This passage, like others in Acts (19:9,10; 20:31,32) and the epistles (2Tim.4:2), emphasizes the priority of a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of apostolic doctrine.  This alone provides a solid foundation for healthy spiritual growth.  Christians who fail to lay this foundation are vulnerable to spiritual deception.

Fellowshipping

They also continually devoted themselves to “fellowship.” Christian fellowship is not a hall outside the sanctuary.  The term (koinonia) means “to have in common.”  Christians share the most important thing in common--the very life of Christ.  And God has designed the Christian life so that we must share his life with one another.

So they practiced Christian community as a way of life.  They “were together” (vs 44), and they “took their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart” (vs 46).  Yes, they met together frequently for Bible study--but these meetings were evidently only the tip of the iceberg of their fellowship.  They visited one another, they ate together frequently, they talked about the Lord and prayed together--they generally prized being able to be with one another.

“Isolated Christians are defeated Christians.”  Does this describe you?

Praying

They also continuously devoted themselves to “prayer.”  These people had been personally reconciled to God and were excited about the privilege of being accepted as his beloved children.  What could be more natural than talking with him on a regular basis?

The “breaking of bread” refers to communion, and it is mentioned in the context of their prayer-life.  We should not think of communion as an impersonal, ritualistic observance that gains us points with God.  The whole point of communion, according to Jesus, is that it is a reminder of our forgiveness and acceptance by God through Jesus’ death for our sins.  This is an excellent way to remember how privileged we are, and to cultivate a thankful attitude to God for his grace.  And to keep it personal, they took communion in private homes (vs 46) along with meals.

They also prayed together.  It seems obvious that Luke is emphasizing corporate prayer.  There is something about praying with other Christians that is really important, but it’s difficult to explain.  It binds us together closer as we engage in the intimate act of communicating to God.  It enables us to pray more effectively as we pool our knowledge of God’s will.  It stimulates us to pray more when we’re alone.

Giving

Read vs 44b,45.  Here is a radical distinctive--they were a giving church.  They even went so far as selling their property and giving the proceeds to people who were in need. 

This doesn’t mean that they pooled their assets to live communally.  They affirmed private property (Acts5:4), and retained their own homes (vs 46: “in the various private homes”).  Neither does it mean that they naively gave hand-outs to whoever asked (see 1Thess. 4:11,12; 2Thess.3:6-15).

It means, rather, that they acknowledged that God was the ultimate owner of their possessions, they believed that he would care for them, and they understood they had a responsibility to manage God’s resources in ways that facilitated his goals. They saw their money primarily as a means to bless others rather than as something to hoard and spend on themselves.  So they gave generously and sacrificially to help others’ spiritual lives (PILGRIMS STAYING) and alleviate real human need (see Acts 4:32-37).

Witnessing

Read vs 47.  This portrait just wouldn’t be complete without this, would it?  It just wouldn’t be right to have something this good (love relationships with God and one another) and keep it to ourselves.  In fact, the Bible teaches that the richness of our relationships with God and one another will dry up unless we are also reaching out in love to offer this to people who don't have it.  God’s Spirit motivates us to share what we have with others.

Nothing is said about periodic evangelistic “crusades.”  Not that this is wrong, but what is striking is that evangelism was a natural and ongoing part of their daily church life. 

They were demonstrating an attractive alternative to the people in Jerusalem.  This is what Luke means when he says they “were having favor with all the people.”  Not everyone liked what they were into--next week we’ll see that the religious leaders held them in disfavor.  But the average person saw their hope and gratitude and rich community--and they were attracted to this.

They were also sharing how to be reconciled to God.  Although this passage doesn’t mention this, we know they were doing it because Jesus commissioned them to “be his witnesses.”  They shared naturally about the reason for their new life--the gift of the Holy Spirit which is available to all who accept Jesus as Messiah.  They were able to explain the reasons for their faith, and they invited their friends and family members and neighbors to receive this gift.

The result: people were coming to Christ on a virtually daily basis. 

Conclusion

No wonder they “kept experiencing a sense of awe!”  This doesn’t mean they had no problems, or that they never experienced pain.  As we will see next week, they experienced plenty of negatives.  It means that their lives were so infused with the love and power of God that it overshadowed these negatives.

We have the same resources available to us today. We can experience the same sense of awe.  If you aren’t, ask yourself the following questions:

Have you personally received Christ?  This is a spiritual dynamism that requires being indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Are you building a lifestyle around these priorities?  I’m sure they did lots of other things (worked; raised families; etc.), but the key is that they “continually devoted themselves” to these things.  They made the time and built their lifestyles around learning, fellowshipping, praying, giving, and witnessing.  Church life wasn’t a once-a-week activity worked in around the rest of their life.  It was the center of their lives, around which the other activities were integrated and upon which they were able to do these other things effectively.