42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
These verses describe the community of the early church, and the Gospel community that we are called to reflect and grow in here at Crosspoint. A community that serves as a witness to the watching world around us. Verse 42 describes to us four things they were devoted to.
The Apostles’ Teaching
So this is what Jesus taught the disciples both in the Gospels and in the 40 days between the resurrection and ascension. The people are devoted to truth. They are anchored to it and rooted in it. They are not basing their convictions on what culture or tradition says, but in the Word of God. I want us to be a creative and innovative church, but not when it comes to doctrine. We should be unoriginal in our doctrine. We continue in the pattern of being devoted to the unchanging truth of the Word of God.
The idea of fellowship is sharing. They shared possessions, they shared life, they shared struggles and victories. They participated in the life of the church family. They were not far off. They didn’t remain on the fringe. Fellowship requires face to face time with one another. There was a sense of sharing life with one another, and they were devoted to it. They rearranged their schedule for it, because it wasn’t a part of life, it was a way of life.
The Breaking of Bread
So that is both the Lord’s supper and meals with one another. They were hospitable toward one another and welcomed one another in their homes. Hospitality wasn’t about entertaining, is was about relationship. Relationships shared over meals.
And as they prayed, the Lord continued to do work in and among them. Miracles were taking place. Not just physical healing for example, but the miracle of people sharing and being generous. The miracle of lives being saved by the grace of God. The miracle of people living for the sake of others and not for themselves.
Our sin and selfish nature that we are born with, doesn’t lead to this type of community described here. Isolation, selfishness, greed, division, prayerlessness, and living for self is how you’d describe a community that had not been radically changed by Jesus.
But a community of people that is centered on Jesus is different. Because it is made up of people who have been rescued and redeemed, and loved so greatly first, so they might go and love one another.
They are loving one another extravagantly. And they are choosing to live interdependently. They have not only been saved and reconciled to the Lord, but to one another. They are family now. And it is Jesus who has brought them together.
Ever since the church began, it has had to hold two things in tension with one another. You could call them inward and outward. The inward community the church has with one another, and the outward reach the church has to its neighbors and to the nations.
And this is a tension to manage, not one to solve. If you resolve it, and only focus on one, you’re no longer a New Testament church. Instead, you hold these two things in tension, inward and outward, and you ask the Spirit of the Living God to empower you to live them both out.
We see both inward and outward here in Acts 1 and 2. Acts 1:14 says they were united in prayer. Acts 2:1 tells us they were all together in one place. Inward.
The Spirit comes, and Peter preaches boldly. The Good News begins to go outward, reaches the nations, 3000 people get saved and follow it up with baptism. Outward.
This new Jesus-centered community begins to be devoted to teaching and truth, fellowship and sharing life, breaking bread together, and prayer. They seek to meet one another’s practical needs. They are no longer living for themselves, but for the sake of the other. Inward.
And yet you read verse 47 which says, Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Outward. This new community was contagious.
Numerical growth and reaching people is happening. AND spiritual growth and a deepening of the community of faith is happening. They were not ignoring one for the sake of the other. When a guitar string is held in tension, it creates a musical note. When the tension goes away, so does the music.
The Spirit has come to empower His people, to have both an inward and outward focus. To show and to tell of the Gospel. Because both the inward and the outward are serving as a witness to Jesus and His Good News.
May the Lord grow us in both as we walk by faith in 2018.