2016-8-14 The Foundation of the Church

ACTS 2:42-47                                                                                        AUGUST 14, 2016


I read an article recently in the Smithsonian magazine about recent archeological discoveries in Israel. Archaeologists have uncovered a first-century synagogue along the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is believed to be ruins of the town Magdala, where Mary Magdalene came from. It is likely that Jesus preached in this synagogue. The foundation of the synagogue was uncovered revealing a mosaic tile floor. It is revealing details on how Jews of the first century worshiped. In much the same way this passage in Acts 2 reveals the foundation of the early church. It reveals the foundational principles of what the church focused on in those days following Pentecost.

Luke recorded the response to Peter’s sermon and how the church responded. Acts 2:41-42 (NIV) 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The new believers were immediately accepted into the church. The word “devoted” means a commitment to learning and grow in knowledge and faith. These practices form the basis of the foundation of the church. Let’s take some time and look at these four areas of practice.

First, the new believers devoted themselves to learning about Jesus from the apostles. These twelve men had sat at the feet of Jesus for three years learning from Jesus, the Teacher. It is accepted that the teachings of Jesus that we find in the Gospels formed the basis of what the new converts were taught. This is made clear from Luke, the physician, who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Luke 1:3-4 (NIV) 3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”Acts 1:1-2 (NIV) 1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.” It is clear that the Gospels comprise the truths that every Christian should know and practice.

The second identifying mark of the church is fellowship. It is necessary and important for new believers to be in close relationships with other Christians. In this way, new believers can learn from other older Christians and develop close bonds of friendship. 1 John 1:3 (NIV) 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”  We can see that the apostle John shared his faith and experiences with other believers and that this fellowship includes an intimate, close relationship with Jesus, our Lord. Paul also spoke of fellowship and that our fellowship is with the Holy Spirit and with all of the church. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NIV) 14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

I simply do not understand Christians who separate themselves from other believers and from the church thinking that it is not necessary to be in a group of like-minded believers. The author of Hebrews was concerned that Christians were going solo, not going to worship with the church. Hebrews 10:25 (NIV) 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The third aspect of the church is “ the breaking of bread”. The wording here is literally the breaking of the loaf. It is used in the same way in Luke. Luke 24:35 (NIV) 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.” This is a reference to the Lord’s Supper. The church immediately began obeying the Lord’s commands, one of which was the Lord’s Supper. Luke 22:19-20 (NIV) 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” This aspect also includes worship.

The fourth part of their practice was prayer. They prayed privately, and in groups, and many continued the Jewish practice of praying three times a day at the Temple. These practices form the basis, the foundation of how the church functions. Colossians 4:2-3 (NIV) 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” Prayer is to be the foundation of all that we do!

We can also gain a few more insights into their early practices. Acts 2:43 (NIV) 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” This was an exciting time in the church as the believers saw the new age prophesied by Joel taking place before their very eyes as the apostles performed wonders and miracles in their midst. These miracles and signs all point to the miraculous work of God through Jesus the Messiah.

Acts 2:44-45 (NIV) 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” The language used here indicates that the sharing of possessions was voluntary in nature. This scripture has been misused to promote socialism and communism. In socialism and communism, the government imposes its will and forces people to give their possessions to the government to share as the government sees fit. In the early church, the individual was led by the Holy Spirit to help their brothers and sisters in Christ.

It should be noted that the Christian faith involves a person giving of their money and possessions as a part of their commitment to obeying the commands of Jesus. The church took care of one another, just as we continue to do so in our church. Galatians 6:10 (NIV) 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

We also see that the believers met and prayed in homes as well as in the Temple. Acts 2:46-47 (NIV) 46 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The early church met in small groups to study, pray and fellowship together. I think this passage also reveals the beginning of church fellowship dinners. I wonder if this was the beginning of casseroles and the sharing of recipes.

We can see the effect of such practices on the church. “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” As we are committed to loving and serving Jesus we will experience joy as we join together in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

These practices form the foundation of what every church should be doing. May the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be glorified in all that we do and may we be filled with joy and enjoy him forever.

Let us pray.