The “Otter” Series – Part Two

Please read Acts 2:42-47.

Thesis: We ought to be devoted to one another.

They were devoted to The Fellowship.

        Notice the use of the article; “THE fellowship.”  This denotes a distinctive group. As in our own time, there were a variety of religions and sects in the first century. However, the following distinctives set the First Church apart from its context.

o       The Church was created by God to be His people; His representatives to the world.

o       The Church was created with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

o       Jesus said that the chief quality by which His followers would be recognized was their love for each other: “ALL MEN WILL KNOW YOU ARE MY DISCIPLES IF YOU LOVE ONE ANOTHER.” (John 13:35)

o       They were GLAD & SINCERE (v. 26); those things aren’t often found together.

o       They’d earned the good will – the FAVOR – OF ALL THE PEOPLE (v. 47).  Perfectly positive renown is often impossible.

        Having good fellowship is not an end in itself; the First Church used it to accomplish a lot.

        They accomplished material unity.

        They pooled their possessions – they HAD EVERYTHING IN COMMON (v. 44). V. 45 tells us why: they would liquidate these commonly-held POSSESSIONS AND GOODS, giving to all who were in need. This is not an endorsement for communal living.  It’s not a statement about the morality of private ownership of property.  It simply notes the way the First Church responded to t needy in their context.   Their use of material resources was an aspect of The Fellowship that proved their devotion to one another and to the community.

        They accomplished spiritual unity by daily actions.

        They worshiped daily. They worshipped publicly in the temple, observing t daily prayers done by faithful Jews, adding their witness as Christians. They also worshipped privately in their homes –worshipping in a distinctively Christian way.  Public worship is good for outreach; private worship is good for building unity.  Both must focus on God’s glory.  Worship is the heart of church life; primary means of disciple-making.

        They ate together daily; they shared a common meal as a practical and emotional means of loving one another.  This “love feast” (eukaristo).  The Love Feast was their primary means of  serving the needy daily. The best witness combines words and deeds.

        WONDERS & MIRACULOUS SIGNS were done by the Apostles.  These served two purposes.  One, to get the attention of the unchurched.  Two, to authenticate the message; to show that the Apostles were speaking for God.  Historically, the miraculous gifts are for church “frontiers;” they validate and help establish the Gospel in new fields.  (When the First Church was born, the entire world was a “new field.”)

        What this saying means I don’t know, but it’s true enough in this case: “The proof is in the pudding;” they bore “fruit” that showed God’s favor.  They grew.  Spiritual growth produces joy, and joy is a Fruit of the Spirit.  The numerical growth of the First Church is clear when the text says; THE LORD ADDED TO THEIR NUMBER DAILY THOSE WHO WERE BEING SAVED.

        Growth (even numerical growth) can be a sign of God’s favor.

However, it may just be a sign of slick marketing and/or favorable context.

        How do we know the difference?  By the kind of disciples produced.  Worldly growth produces superficial followers, people who are consumers, not committed. Godly growth produces maturing disciples, people who show the Holy Spirit in word and deed.

 

Two Greek words that define fellowship.

        Koinonia.

        This term was used by Greek philosophers for the highest standard of human relationships.  Here are all the ways this one word can be translated: Association, fellowship, close relationship, brotherhood, intercourse, intimacy, common bond, society.

        Biblically, it is used to describe our relationships with each other, the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, our shared standing in the Gospel and the faith, and for our membership in the Church.  It is the unity of all believers in mission, spirit, and character.  Koinonia is possible only by the Holy Spirit.  It is a gift of God, interrupted by sin.

        Ekklesia.

        In secular usage, this word referred to the mustering of an army; “draft” or “reville.” It literally means “the called-out ones.”  It was used to refer to an assembly or meeting of citizens for political purposes.

        Biblically, it speaks to the nature of the Church, as those persons whom God has called out of the world to be His people.

The emphasis is on the One who does the calling and how His people are to achieve His purpose in the world.  It refers to both the local congregation (small “c”) and to the world-wide congregation (capital “C”).

        All of this leaves us with two important questions.

        One – can we be that kind of church?

        Let’s be careful not to confuse the methods and the results.  The Bible mentions their methods of shared property and daily meetings without telling us to do likewise.  It simply states what they did and the results they got.  What counts is the mention of the things to which they were DEVOTED (v. 42) – that’s why we’re taking time to look at these individually.

        What’s most important is what is mentioned earlier in the chapter – they were gathered around Jesus Christ and were empowered by the Holy Spirit.  With those two caveats, we still need to ask, what methods can we use in our context?  To the degree that we are in Christ and are empowered by the Spirit, then our sincere efforts will be blessed by the same results.  More than prescribing a method, Luke recorded an occasion when the focus of the Church was so singularly on Jesus Christ that God blessed them in extraordinary ways.

        Two – how badly do we want to share their results?  One point God is making in the whole book of Acts is that some kind of sacrifice is involved in becoming that kind of fellowship; the sacrifice of self.  A self-centered person will never be a contributor to the unity of the group; the two motives are obviously at odds with one another.

 

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