Knowing Jesus Through the Corporate Church (Acts 2:42-47)

Knowing Jesus Through the Corporate Church (Acts 2:42-47)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, February 9, 2020

We can learn great lessons of unity and its power simply by observing nature. For example, a single snowflake looks beautiful and innocent. If it remains on its own it can easily fly away or quickly melt away. On its’ own it does no harm and poses no threat to anyone, does it? But when it unites with other snowflakes, they gain more strength and power. We know the power of the accumulation of “snowflakes” they have the power to work havoc and bring a whole administration to halt.

If that is the power of united snowflakes can you imagine the power generated when people are united?[1]

Let me ask you, what does the communal aspect of the church mean to you? How have your Christian friends supported you in the past?

My brother used to come home from work and say, “Pastor Steve…” Just kidding, he never would address me as pastor. He would say, “Steve, I met this great Christian man at work. He knows the Bible so very well. The way he lives matches what he says. He is a good man. He saw Moses part the red sea (Exodus 14:13-31) and he was the small boy (John 6:9) who gave Jesus his lunch to feed 5000, he is a good Christian man. BUT, he says he never goes to church, there are too many hypocrites at church.”

It used to be that I didn’t have the best answer to something like that. Sure, I could cite passages where the author of Hebrews says not to give up meeting together (Heb. 10:25), but what else? Then, something hit me a few years ago. It was like, like lightning just struck my head, but it didn’t hurt. So that makes it the best kind of lightning. The thought came to mind, or God gave me the thought: “Who was the New Testament written to?” You see the whole New Testament is about the setup of the church. Many of the books of the New Testament are written to a church specifically. 1 Corinthians 1:2 is addressed to the Church of God in Corinth. 2 Corinthians 1:1 is written to the Church of God in Corinth. 1 and 2 Thessalonians are written to the church in Thessalonica. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 have statements directed to many churches, seven actually. In 1 Timothy chapter 3 we have instructions for the setup of elders and deacons in the church. In Titus chapter 1 we also have instructions for elders in the church. In fact, the term translated as “church” is used 79 times in our New Testament. So, the church is important.

I now know from New Testament studies that the apostle would write a letter, for example 1 Corinthians, and then the people would come together to eagerly listen as it was read. They would come together as a church. Coming together as a church, is the idea of fellowship. Let’s talk about fellowship today.

I hope that today’s message will challenge you to a deeper commitment to fellowship with God and with the church. I hope today’s message will help you understand what fellowship entails. This is important for each follower of Christ and for the church corporately.

As you know I have been preaching about “knowing Jesus in 2020.” Today, I want to focus on the church. One way we know Jesus is through His church.

My theme today is:

Knowing Jesus Through the Corporate Church

  1. First, I would like to talk about fellowship with God.
    1. First, our problem is that because of sin, our fellowship with God is broken. True fellowship begins with God. In Genesis chapter 3 we see that God and humans had fellowship with one another. This fellowship happened in the Garden of Eden which God created for them. But when Adam and Eve sinned that sin placed a barrier in their fellowship with God. All throughout the Old Testament God was showing the people that that barrier cannot be healed on our own. But God longs for a relationship with His people. He created us to glorify Him and He does love us. But we don’t have true fellowship with each other until we have true fellowship with God.
    2. The first part of fellowship is with God and this is restored in Jesus Christ who died to heal your relationship with Him, but that only happens by trusting in Him.
  2. True fellowship with believers:
    1. Now, let’s look at true fellowship with believers. The ideal model is found in Acts 2:42-47.

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

  1. Notice that all of these verses have to do with a group of people, the New Testament church. None of the verses have to do with an individual.
  2. Let me update you as to what has been going on in Acts chapter 2. Chapter 2 is the Pentecost chapter. The Holy Spirit comes upon the church. Peter preaches a sermon and verse 41 tells us that about 3000 people are saved. Then, starting in verse 42, we see this example of the early church.
  3. Verse 42 says “they” were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching.
  4. This is discipleship practiced in fellowship.
  5. Fellowship means to come together with a common purpose. This verse gives an example of teaching and practicing the teachings of the apostles as a community. The text uses the pronoun “they” to refer to who was doing what. This is more than one person. This is a community.
  6. Verse 42 also says they are about fellowship and prayer. They are breaking bread together. This probably means eating meals together and may also include communion.
  7. Notice how the text says: “they were ‘continually’ devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” They were studying together. They were being devoted to the teaching of what became the New Testament and they were doing this together.
  8. Notice how it says they were devoted to “fellowship.”
  9. We must also teach and live the Scriptures as a community. We must also eat meals together and take communion together. And we definitely must pray together.
  10. I know that there are many people in this church who would love to pray with other Christians, this is critical. The most Spirit empowered times of prayer that I have had have been with other Christians.
  11. Notice verse 43:
  12. 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and manywonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
  13. You see, they were devoted in fellowship and the Holy Spirit was very active.
  14. Verses 44-45 are a summary describing what this community was like. They were together and they had all things in common. They shared with one another.
  15. Do we do this? Do we share with those who have need? Would I do this? Would I sell things to help someone in need? We must. I must. I must be willing to do what needs to be done to bring God’s comfort to God’s people.
  16. Verse 46 continues talking about what they were doing and their attitude. They were doing this daily. They were united in the temple. Why does it say the temple? That is because at this point the Christians still met in the temple. They were eating together at different houses.
    1. Recent excavations in Jerusalem on the Western Hill (part of the Upper City) have resulted in the discovery of a residential district in the ancient city. There were many houses in this area that would have belonged to the wealthier inhabitants of the city.[2]So there were homes in this area where groups could meet.
    2. But notice the text says they had a good attitude about how they did things. My translation says, “Gladness and sincerity of heart.”
  • How are we with our attitude? How are we with doing things as a community? Are we happy to be with Christians?
  1. They were also praising God. They were worshipping together.
  1. Acts 2:42-47 is a model example.
  • In my study I came across the Tyndale Bible Dictionary’s article on Fellowship. This article gave 7 things that should be a part of our fellowship. I want to share these with you.
    1. (1) Love one another with the same compassion that Christ displayed to his own (Jn 13:34–35; 15:12). The law of fellowship should be the rule of love (Heb 13:1
    2. (2) Cultivate that spirit of humility that seeks the other person’s honor (Phil 2:3–5).
    3. (3) Lighten fellow believers’ loads by bearing one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2).
    4. (4) Share material blessings with brothers and sisters in need (2 Cor 9:13).
    5. (5) Tenderly correct a sinner while helping to find solutions to the problems (Gal 6:1).
    6. (6) Succor [reinforcement of troops] a fellow believer in times of suffering (1 Cor 12:26).
    7. (7) Pray for one another in the Spirit without ceasing (Eph 6:18).

Close:

I have a passage I wish to use as I close this message:

Rev. 21:3: And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them... [3]

Our fellowship must first be right with God and then with each other. In the end our relationship with God will be right, and out of that relationship with God we can grow with each other.

When I was a child, I received a Mr. Potato Head for Christmas. I didn’t like Mr. Potato Head, but he does make a good example of fellowship. You see, in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul gives a model for the New Testament community. You see, people have different gifts, just like a body. In a body, we cannot all be the arm. No, the arm has a gift and so does the hand and the foot, etc. But in Mr. Potato head you can put the arm where the foot should go, but that isn’t right, is it? Every part has its’ place. In a church, all the gifts and the gifted people have their place.

The Bible teaches a cord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecc. 4:12). This means that we can support each other and strengthen each other. The Bible also teaches iron sharpens iron and a man sharpens his brother (Proverbs 27:17). This means we can sharpen each other. The Christian life is not meant to be lived individualistically. We are meant to be a community. Sometimes we need to sharpen one another by saying, “Hey, what you said to so and so the other day was kind of rough!” Sometimes we need to encourage one another. Sometimes we need to support one another.

Do you know Him?

Luke 9:23

Confess, believe, trust, commit

I wonder, do you know Christ?

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

 

Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.

 

prayer

 

[1] (FROM A SERMON BY FRANCIS BALLA, UNITE WE STAND, 8/24/3012)

[2] Clinton E. Arnold..  Acts.  Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary.  (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan) 2007.  ISBN 0310278252. P. 23.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Re 21:3). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

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