Today, we are continuing our look at the very first church. The last time we were together we looked at the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost. We then discovered Peter preaching to the people who had gathered and before it was over thousands of people had been added to the number. Now, there is something to keep in mind here; and that is, they are not yet referred to as Christians. Let's pick up where we left off.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:42-47)
The church began as a movement, but this movement was a continuation of the life of Jesus. I want to be clear about something; what happened at Pentecost was not the founding of a new religion. These people had been Jews, and they are still Jews. They have not rejected Judaism, but are convinced that their faith was the fulfillment of the age-long expectation of the messiah. For these folks, Jesus was the promised messiah. (They finally realized this) Through Jesus one obtains forgiveness of sins.
The church has been birthed and new people have joined the original disciples as the body. Notice what they do in the beginning. First, they devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching. This is the teaching of material that is not found in the Law. It is material related specifically to the life and ministry of Jesus. This also includes teaching about his life, death and resurrection. Second, they devoted themselves to fellowship and the breaking of bread. They also prayed together daily. These gatherings focused on Christ's victory over death.
Now, we are told that these believers had every thing in common and actually sold their possessions and gave to anyone who had need. This is problematic for many of us today, because why? It sounds like a commune. When I visited Israel the group that I was with were taken to what is known as a kubutz. This is very similar to what we are talking about here. Everyone had every thing in common. If one worked at a job they would deposit their earnings into a common account. If anyone needed to go to the doctor, for instance, the funds would be taken from the common account.
There is the possibility that, upon conversion, many of the new believers would experience economic hardship. This would be a way for them to be cared for. The early church took care of each other. Notice how Luke wants us to see that these believers were united. The word "unity" is stressed from the very beginning. The unity of the church would stand in stark contrast to the divided world. Oh my!!! I could open a can of worms with that statement. Well, the truth is, whether we like it or not, the church in her truest form is to always contrast with the world.
So, I ask you; What kind of church does God want? "Well, preacher that's easy! God wants a church that's a Bible believing church!" Well, by Bible believing are we not saying, a place where everyone interprets the Bible the same way I do? If that's the case most congregations would argue that they are a Bible believing church. "Well, preacher, God wants a church where there's good preaching and singing, and testimonies, and..." Well, we could come up with all kinds of ideas. But, I don't think we need to look any farther than Acts 2:42-47. "What! Are you saying we need to sell our belongings and live in a commune?" No, I am not suggesting that. Here is what I am suggesting.
In the beginning of the Bible we discovered God creating all that is and calling it all good. Was creation in the beginning not what God wanted? We saw there a glimpse of a perfect world. A world where there was no strife, no trouble of any kind. A world where all was in harmony. At Pentecost. the day the church was born, we get the same thing with the church. The believers took care of each other, and their main focus was Christ.
Well, as you know the perfectness of creation didn't last long, so guess what? Yep. you guessed it, it doesn't last long for the church either. Join me the next time as we look at the beginning of the church as we know it.