...continuing with our lesson on Acts..."aaaand Roll 'em"
The principles found in Acts 2:42 seem so basic, yet as I walk further in this life, I see how important they are. The church at the local level, at times, appears to struggle with one or all of the principles which can act as an obstacle for growth in the body. In discussing these four principles, I believe Acts 2:42 will be seen as an excellent outline for maintaining the church. When these four principles are practiced in accordance to God’s will, a providential balance permeates the congregation and spiritual growth is all but certain. There are four clear steps to a strong church which were designed by God and observed through the eyes of the first church in the book of Acts. The first churches recorded in Acts were continually devoting themselves to the application of these four activities: Being committed to the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. These first Christians can be observed devoting themselves to these activities throughout the entire book of Acts.
First the original Christians were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching. Just prior to this in Acts 2 we read Peter’s sermon where he ultimately teaches the gospel. We therefore can assume that the gospel was part of the teaching from the apostles that these Christians devoted themselves to studying.
“At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico. But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number,” (Acts 5:12-14). We can only imagine the magnitude of amazement that was felt by those witnessing these signs and wonders. This served to validate the message and teachings of the apostles. In Original Commentary On Acts, J. W. McGarvey concludes, “The increased awe in the presence of the apostles, with which the people were inspired, made them listen with increased respect to their testimony concerning Jesus, and brought them in greater numbers to obedience”.
“Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). This occurred immediately after the stoning of Stephen. At this point we now see an all out persecution of the Lord’s church in Jerusalem, whereas before, the persecution was only done by the Jewish leaders. The fear that consumed these disciples must have been tremendous. It is at this point that Saul begins dragging men and women from their homes. Christians are beaten and imprisoned and all were eventually scattered abroad other than the apostles. This persecution was a direct reaction to the teaching of the gospel by the apostles. Simply believing in Christ would not bring forward such a strong reaction, but boldly teaching and making many disciples would. On the surface, this scattering appears to convey a failure within the Lord’s church. Rather, it is quite the opposite. While conventional wisdom would say it would be wise to figure out a new plan of attack, this is not what happens. These men and women were so devoted to the teaching of the apostles, that instead of allowing fear and frustration to silence them, they continue to preach the word of God. Their devotion to the apostles teaching carries the church from one local congregation, to Judea and Samaria, and eventually to the outer most parts of the world.
The teachings of the apostles are still important today. Obviously, the gospel is what we base our beliefs on, but the apostles gave further instruction to the church that we must still obey and be devoted to. One such example is, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell” (Acts 15:28-29). In New Testament Commentary, Jim Sheerer notes, “By referring to the Holy Spirit, they indicated they were speaking from inspiration. No uninspired man would say this. The things they laid upon the Gentile Christians were the same things that were laid upon the Jewish Christians. Since they are written in this way, they are still binding upon Christians today”.