I. "THEY CONTINUED STEDFASTLY." FOUR BASIC ACTIVITIES IN THE EARLY CHURCH.
A. The Apostles' doctrine.
1. This is the study of the word of God.
2. They placed a high priority on the teaching of the word of God.
3. Later when pressure was placed on the Apostles to oversee the distribution of the welfare program, they said it would not be reasonable for them to leave the word of God to wait on tables. They suggested that seven men be chosen for that task, that they give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.
4. It is tragic how few churches who place a great priority on the word of God today. In many churches you can learn more about psychology than you can the word of God.
a. They will throw in a reference about a scripture now and then to give it an appearance of being biblical.
b. They will make a passing reference to God's help, or to Jesus Christ, because after all they still call it a church.
5. The early church was interested in doctrine.
a. What the Bible says about God, about Jesus Christ, about the power of the Holy Spirit.
b. Not what the Bible says about how to be a better husband and father.
c. The preaching today is so often man-centered rather than Christ-centered.
d. People seem to be more interested in themselves than they are in Jesus Christ.
B. The second function in the early church was fellowship,
1. Fellowship is an attempted translation of the fascinating Greek word "koinonia" for which we have no English equivalent.
a. The word means an intimate sharing of one's self with another.
b. The word is translated contribution.
For it has pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.
c. In 2 Cor. 6:14
, when Paul asked, "What communion has light with darkness?" The word communion is koinonia.
d. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about giving money for the poor saints in Jerusalem, he stated that they receive this gift, they will glorify God for the fact that they had received the gospel of Christ and for their liberal distribution unto them. The word distribution is the word koinonia.
e. When Paul wrote to Philemon he said he thanked God when he heard of his love and faith which he had toward Jesus and all of the saints, and that the communication of his faith might become effectual. The word communication is the word koinonia.
f. This koinonia is then manifested in verse 42, where we read that believed were together and had all things in common. The word common is koinos, the same root as the koinonia.
C. The breaking of bread.
1. Paul wrote concerning the breaking of bread to the Corinthians: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"
2. The word communion is the same Greek word koinonia.
3. In the communion we have a demonstration of the oneness that we share in Christ.
4. We are eating of the same bread, we are drinking from the same bottle of juice that was poured into the separate cups.
a. As the same bread is being assimilated into my body, and into your body, we are mystically being united as one body.
b. We are all becoming a part of the body of Christ.
c. This was such a beautiful demonstration of the oneness or koinonia, that it was done often in the early church.
d. In verse 46 we are told that: And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
D. "And in prayer." This is the fourth of the functions of the early church, it is not fourth in priority. It was top priority with the Apostles along with the study of the word.
1. This is an element that you usually find sadly missing in the modern seeker-friendly churches of the present day.
2. In the church today we find great emphasis on Christian service.
a. There are constant appeals for people to volunteer to show up for demonstrations.
b. I wonder how much greater an impact the church would have if we would call the people to pray, and devote the time that would have been spent in a demonstration in prayer?
3. You can certainly do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.
4. Prayer is binding the strong man of the house, and service is taking the spoils.
5. Ours is a spiritual battle, thus the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but are mighty through God to the pulling down of the strongholds of the enemy.
6. Paul closes the section in Ephesians on the subject of spiritual warfare by equipping us for the battle by declaring "Praying with all prayer and supplications in the Spirit let your requests be made known unto God.
7. Prayer is the ultimate weapon in this battle.
II. THE FRUIT OF THESE ACTIVITIES.
A. "And fear came upon each soul."
1. I think that one thing that is lacking in the church today is a true fear of God in the hearts of many believers.
a. People often speak in a chummy way of God.
b. Their language often becomes irreverent and crude.
c. They are lacking a true comprehension of the Lord.
d. God speaks of Himself in awesome and lofty ways.
Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I [am] the LORD that maketh all [things]; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;
Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge: [but] fools despise wisdom and instruction.
For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
The fear of the LORD [is] to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
B. "Many signs and wonders were done by the Apostles."
1. In this environment the Spirit of God can work.
2. Where there is a healthy fear of God, a hatred for evil and arrogancy.
3. Where there is a love and sharing.
C. They formed a Christian community.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
1. They had begun a form of communal living.
2. People began to sell their possessions, we read:
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all [men], as every man had need.
3. I question the wisdom of these actions.
4. There is nothing to indicate that this was lead by God or was required to become a part of the church.
5. To the contrary when Peter was questioning Ananias about the amount that he had brought in the proceeds of his sale he asked: "Was it not your own, and after it was sold was it not in your power to do with the proceeds whatever you desired?"
6. The first problem that developed in the church was over the distribution of the welfare.
7. The final results were a financial disaster.
III. THE TWO CHARACTERISTICS THAT MARKED THE BELIEVERS.
1. This is a gladness that comes out of a right relationship with God.
2. The psalmist said, "Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah."
B. Singleness of heart. A heart for God. The problem of a divided heart.
IV. THE FINAL CONSEQUENCE. "THE LORD ADDED TO THE CHURCH DAILY SUCH AS SHOULD BE SAVED."