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August 3, 2020 8:00 am
Every church has its distinctives. Each congregation is different, but all biblical churches share the same essentials. What are they, what activities are at the heart of every true church, and every time and place today on the Bible study our Dr. James Boyce looks at the early church and finds the believers doing for things that define what it really means to live as Christ's disciples are welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet program with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act likely the book of acts describes the life of the early church in terms of four activities, study Fellowship worship and witness.
Let's listen as Dr. Boyce explains why these are the essentials of every churches life, including yours going in our study of the book of acts to the end of the second chapter to a great paragraph that describes the early church. I've called et al. model church. I don't mean by that title that the early church was perfect few chapters. Further, auto lacks were going to find that it was far from perfect. It had hypocrites within it as we do in our churches that doctrinal errors we find that out soon enough. As we do in our churches. It certainly had sinful human beings of all types. Yet it was a model church in many respects in its implant sense that it's described for us in these verses tell what happened to the church how it was established and how it functioned in those remarkable days following Pentecost. I had an interesting thought as I was studying at that I guess is perfectly obvious and you probably thought about many times already but just it never occurred to me, at least not in the striking way.
This church was first of all, in inner-city church. Secondly, it was a large church and thirdly it had a multiple staff ministry about. We know that a lot of people because 3000 were added to it at Pentecost. I guess that makes the total number of believers 3120 because back in the first chapter when Peter first stood up in the company of the believers. The upper room to talk about the need to elect a successor to Judas who had betrayed Christ. It says that the group then numbered about 120 and then in verse 41 that follows Peter's sermon when they believe it says those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3000 were added to that number. That date, others are rough numbers but roughly it was 3120 ad as far as the staff that I have only had 12 pastors.
Those were the apostles nation found that that wasn't quite enough to do the work and so little later on here and actually find in this six chapter that they elected deacons over seven of those least at the beginning so they had 19 official officers at that time and the success of the church as we begin to discover it was found in the fact that all of the believers were doing the work of the ministry. Now that introduction. Let's look at some of these things that are said about the church. I want you to see that it was characterized by a number of very important things. It would be possible. Of course, to have a description of the church where number of items are mentioned was like this was like that and these things would not necessarily be models for us.
They just be descriptive.
The church there happened to be like this is not the way this is presented.
This is presented to us as a model is why I use the word so when we read as we do that, they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. What we find there is a pattern or what our church should be.
We need to look at it and that light. Now we look at the first phrase they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching the apostolic teaching interesting isn't it that the first thing Luke says when he begins to describe discharges. It was a warning studying church lot of other things he could've said about that as we go on to read about it. We find that there are other things he does say he could've stressed. For example, that it was a joyful church because certainly a lot of secretive stress that it was expanding active, vibrant church and indeed it was the first thing he talked about his teaching and he stresses that in these early days in spite of the fact that something so new and so tremendous it happened, they just gone through this tremendous experience of Pentecost. In spite of all those experiences that might've caused them to focus on the experiences instead of that they first of all, devoted themselves to the teaching. I guess it would've been a temptation to them to look back Pentecost and think that that was such a wonderful thing when the Holy Spirit came at a visible and audible way and when he use them on that occasion to speak in such a way that those were present in the city of Jerusalem could hearing their own languages, but with that kind of memory in their minds and something that happened not very long before it would've been quite possible for them to live in the past of the focus on that and will been saying over and over again in their prayers. Oh Lord, something miraculous like that again. And yet that's not what we find them doing we don't find them reveling in experience. We find them rather reveling in the word of God. I suggest you do so very strongly that that is always the mark of a spirit filled church. I don't say that God can't do other things. Sometimes of a miraculous nature going to look at that again in a moment, but the one thing that is always characteristic of the church if it really is spirit filled going on with the Lord is that it studies the apostolic teaching. It is a warning church that grounds all of its experience and tests that experienced in the Bible word of God.
Also interesting that it's described as the apostles teaching the apostles are those that were specifically chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ to authenticate to speak of his ministry and to explain it. We already saw in a very dramatic way. What the apostles were to be when we were looking at chapter 1 Peter stood up to talk about the necessity of choosing 12th apostle to fill in for Judas may chose Matthias.
He said it had to be one who was present with the Lord. From the earliest days. Who knew all about his ministry would hurt his teaching, and above all and been a witness of the resurrection and then also one that the Lord Jesus Christ specifically chose for that task. Many people in Jerusalem who had been there during those days of the ministry who had followed along the Lord did not choose them all. I chose a certain number and that he chose them in order to give an off mandate established official compendium of the teaching of the church. He said to them in those last discourses that are recorded in John's gospel that after he was gone he would send the Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit would come upon them in such a way that he would bring to their remembrance all the things that he had taught all of the truth concerning his ministry. The course that is exactly what they did.
Somebody had said well how do we know that those particular men were the apostles of Jesus Christ and spoke with his authority. The answer to that is in this matter of the wonders and signs and miracles mentioned here in verse 43. Everyone was filled with all on many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles to say I don't think you have to conclude from that the wonders and signs were in no case done by anyone else doesn't say that they have been. But what it does say is that they were done by the apostles and the reason it says that they were done by the apostles is that the chief reason the miracles and signs were given was to authenticate them as Christ messengers define exactly the same thing in second Corinthians 12 chapter verse 12 Paul is speaking and he says to them, the signs of an apostle were done among you, namely wonders and signs and miracles of things were given by God, so that those who look on could say these men are appointed by God. God's blessing rests upon them what they do they do in God's name. So when they spoke and said Jesus Christ said so and so and Jesus Christ did so and so people could receive that as an authentic interpretation of his life, teachings and ministry.
Now that's what they study.
They study that teaching of the apostles and tested it against the Old Testament we say to ourselves well.
We live in quite a different age we live many hundreds of years.
Thousands of years after this early apostolic preaching Peter is not with this James is not with us.
John is died, so has Matthias. All the others.
Even Paulo came along later is gone. How is it possible for us to be church focusing today on the apostolic teaching answers perfectly obvious. These ultimately gave us our New Testament. This is the corpus that embodies their official teaching when it came time to choose the books and collect books that were to become our New Testament. The criteria by which that was done was whether they came from the apostles or poorly, apostolic and premature. That is the apostolic blessing and authentication. We have our New Testament we have. It is a fulfillment of what Jesus Christ said he would do and he did and now we have it, and in order for us to copy the New Testament church at this point we are to be a church that studies this book is where the teaching the authentic teaching of Christianity blessed by the Lord Jesus Christ is to be found. So let's put that in terms that are easy to understand spirit filled church is going to be a Bible study church.
Those two things always go together. All other have been periods in the history of the church.
When the Bible is fallen on hard times.
It's been neglected by God's people is been dry agents in church history. Old not to say that God didn't maintain a remnant weren't people who didn't know the Scriptures, and even though the Bible wasn't always readily available. At times the officials of the church even kept it from the people sinfully and wrongly and harmfully always times when there were people, but nevertheless you say where the church is been greatly blessed where the Spirit of God is come upon the people of God and the gospel is gone forth in power and people have responded to it in the church is been filled always been ages, when the Bible is been studied in great depth because you seated closer men and women come to God the closer they want to get to him at that place where he speaks to our hearts where he speaks to us through the word. What is true. The church is true of individuals also your spirit filled will be drawn to this book are not drawn to this book you really want to study. And if you say well you know I can look at the Bible from time to time it seems rather boring to me. It never really does seem to do very much to me. I question your heart, whether you're really born again or even if you're born again, you certainly are not filled by the spirit because Holy Spirit who bears witness to Jesus Christ as his chief task inevitably draws the people of God to Jesus Christ through the pages of Scripture. I can put that in very practical terms means among other things, that evangelical spirit filled Bible oriented churches should have many many opportunities for people to study the Bible, one of the ways that God is through the preaching and swat preachers chief task is to expound the word of God to study other than the teacher.
But that's not the only way that happens, happens in classes we divide up in order to focus on different things and perhaps above all happens in home Bible studies going to see as we look at this people in the early days here worship in their homes actually meant that they study the Bible in their homes. We would've been there if we had been there, we would've said, well, happy home Bible studies I might not of been exactly like ours, they might've done other things.
I'm sure they did, but they study the Bible in their homes. So that's the first thing they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching as they were students of the word of God was likening his fellowship. John RW Stott who writes on this. At one point says that fellowship was born at Pentecost because fellowship means participation in God apostle John in his first letter when he comes to write about. It says we have fellowship with one another and truly our fellowship is with the father and with his son the Lord Jesus Christ at word in the Greek court in the that we translate fellowship means participation in it gives us a common translation is, it's interesting that the Greek that was spoken in the time of the apostles was not that classical attic Greek, but a kind Greek that was called point I exactly the same word because it was the common speech.
The common language, it's that language in which everybody participated.
You see, that's what's involved here with fellowship. I guess we ought to say. Maybe by) that if you have a kind of fellowship where you think you've got something really special with two or three of your four of you and it's kind of fellowship that kind of commonality that you don't want anybody else to be part of the better question whether that's really the fellowship of the word of God see these early Christians all participated in the fellowship, because by definition they had all participated in God and Jesus Christ are one with him. They had this common experience of Christ entrusted him to share because they were in Christ and participated in godly, quite naturally participated and shared with one another to always go together.
You know that's why John said in the verse I quoted a moment ago, our fellowship is with one another and our fellowship is with the father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Some people of said you see, the stronger your vertical fellowship is the stronger your horizontal fellowship will be you find yourself out of fellowship with God. Well, when you begin to find yourself out of fellowship with other Christians, you say well you know I don't really like to be with them very much, hypocrites, and so on, and you begin to drift off, but if you're close to God. You inevitably will find yourself being drawn close to other Christians and it works the other way if you hang around with other Christians you share with them.
Then back fellowship will also draw you close to the father is one reason why we say here is our students especially especially the young people high school people go off calling the most important thing you can do the first week in college is get in touch with a Christian group on campus for many of them doesn't make a lot of difference. Exactly which one it is. Sometimes the groups are in competition fractured and data. What's important is that you get in fellowship with other Christians on the campus because of happiness, then God will use that fellowship to draw you close to him and we see the young people go.
Often we hear the date of linked up with the navigators or campus Crusade or inter-varsity is a sense of Israel stopped praying for them. But there's a sense in which we say well or all right that we really don't have to worry things are going to be all right. But if we get word back and they say well you know where in with the fraternity of our many Christians around here. At any rate, we don't know them or when they do meet it's at an inconvenient time or something like that that we say that persons in trouble because they'll begin to drift spiritually. Here you see the early Christians who were so aware of the reality of God who had made himself so powerful in their midst group Pentecost they were drawn to one another in this fellowship.
I want you to see one other thing about the fellowship we talk about our participation in God were talking about a sharing in. I want you to notice that it's not only a sharing in, but it's also a sharing out because these Christians who so enjoyed their fellowship and inevitably shared what they had with one another and were to think with those who were in need, even outside the Christian Fellowship as well. I gave very brief study of that work point O'Neill pointing out that it's based on the work common participation sharing at the same word is the word that describes the common Greek of the day the coin, I it's interesting that is also related to work only costs which means generous because you see those who share in God share in the nature of God and the generosity of God and therefore, because her close to God and post one another inevitably share with those around them and this is what it says doesn't verse 44. All the believers were together and had everything in common. It's the same word you say coin in the first 45 selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need when they share these goods. Some people have said, well, there you have a biblical endorsement of communism to me, point out that it's not communism. Communism is certainly a sharing of goods, but it's a sharing of goods on the philosophical principle that no one can possess anything that is nobody but the states and those were officials of the state.
Everything has to be held in common because nobody really holds anything at all. That is not the teaching of the Bible, even apart from religious dimensions of communism denying the existence of God and so forth.
That's not what the Bible teaches.
Later on to chapters further in chapter 5, you have the story of Ananias and Sapphire who sold a piece of property in Part of the proceeds then brought the rest gave it to the apostles and said here.
We sold our property were giving all of the Lord. They were judged by God. They were struck dead for their deception, but they were not struck dead because they didn't give up everything. It's because they pretended that they were giving up everything what is a matter of fact they haven't. Peter, who presided on this occasion made it very clear when he responded to them.
He said why you had the property was in the Jurong nobody was requiring you to sell it and when you did sell it. You had the proceeds went to procedure all nobody was requiring you to give the proceeds to the church and so if they did they did willingly and in an indirect way that comment of Peter endorses the right of private property. So the sort of thing went on here.
The early church. This generosity, the sharing of possessions was not communistic in any way let me point out that it wasn't socialism. Either socialism was also kind of sharing that it's a sharing that is enforced by the state socialism doesn't deny the right of private property had just about you the right to have too much of it in the judgment of somebody else and we have a kind of socialism in our day. Most people would be very astounded to hear that American life is socialistic but is very socialistic whenever you have a system of taxation the taxes those who have more than a higher rate in order that it can take that read, distribute the wealth to those that have last socialism because it's being done on willingly, but by coercion by the force of the state you say well the state is in forcing us to do anything you don't think the states, forcing you to do anything try to withhold paying your taxes and see what happens. You'll find out very quickly how force works in this country. The government will simply impose a lien on your property. Dell taken away by force. That's the way the government operates.
Not saying we have full-blown socialism on the same as a type of that some socialism in America but the point I making is not even whether that's good or bad. Maybe particular people would decide that they want to have a socialistic form of government. That's all right if they choose to do that. I don't think that's a very good system but you can do that if you like, but my point is that is not what was going on here in the early church. They share their things, not because they denied the right of private property or not because they were forced to share their things, but for a far better reason they share their goods with those who had need.
Because they were generous. They learn generosity of God.
They had learned grace from God. God had been generous with them so because God had been generous with them. They were determined to be generous with one another is a that's what keeps us on the hook. Sometimes when we come to something like this and we say well you know they were forced to do that later on we find the right of private property. We say well you know that gives us an excuse to keep everything for ourselves and yet it doesn't you say all it's true or not forced to do it. But if you're a follower of Jesus Christ. If you learn from him and you know that man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses he will learn because you've learned from Jesus Christ that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
You've learned that the standard that set before us is not the standard being served, but serving. So our obligation is to use what we have for the good of others, which is what the early church did well. We try to do that here.
We certainly do it through our giving, we do it through the various social service ministries that we develop some of them are explicit ministries like acts, we will get to and supports and from which ministry is made very needy in the immediate neighborhood.
We do it in part to our missions program because many of the things we support our social action type program suite certainly try to support groups and administering the city in a variety of ways. All these things are expressions of it and it's very important that we have those expression organize ways of trying to meet the needs of people that you see.
It also comes down to us individually, because were told that if somebody says to you, I have a need and you say to them. James is the one who developed this of you say to them, well, God bless your brother go ahead. Hope everything will be all right and certainly pray for you James is worse. Love of Jesus Christ and you see were failing to exert generosity growing from our fellowship. At that point. What is 1/3 mark of the church that is formal worship we see it in several ways. Here, certainly in the phrase to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
This word breaking of bread stands shorthand for the communion service breaking of bread does mention the wind that's implied and prayer. Of course, is something that we can do individually or in different times but signaling at that in the Greek text or it's not reflected for us in the Englishman in the Greek text, the definite article occurs before the word prayer actually says to the prayers. So you have to these. They devoted themselves to the breaking of bread and to the prayer. Such a reference to something official, something formal, some kind of formalized worship as people got together and together.
Also find a rather formal setting for it. Verse 46.
Every day they continue to be together in the temple courts. Temple courts probably refer to the courtyard of the Gentiles and those who study this say that I was a very large place and could accommodate on feast days when everybody packed into it, perhaps about 200,000 people.
Large crowds was probably the only place in Jerusalem that you get a very large crowd together. It may very well be were Pentecostal place, or at least the flowing of Pentecost after the Holy Spirit first come in the upper room because he came down the streets of the city began to talk. A large crowd was gathered together and from that large crowd 3000 believed were saved. I don't know how large the crowd would've been that I would've spoken to in order to have a response like that but it probably would've been a very large crowd.
30,000 people, 40,000 people.
I don't know large crowd in the only place that large group of people could meet would've been the temple courts certain sense in which God inaugurated the church in that formal setting.
And as we read this, it's natural to think that on set occasions they return to that place where they could all meet together and formally enjoy the worship of God as they broke bread together and entered into the prayers or formal worship now want you to see something else to not only did they worship in a formal setting. They worshiped informally as well. That's why the next verse goes on to say. They broke bread in their homes is a deliberate repetition you see above, they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread mention of the temple court goes on to say. They broke bread in their homes.
I think that means they did both. They had formal worship in formal worship, you say well what did they sing when they got together in the temple court.
I suppose they signed all the great Presbyterian hymns what they saying when they met together in their homes.
I suppose I got out the guitars began to sing the kind of choruses that the various youth groups of products I would be happier. I suppose in the temple courts, but I don't mind singing with guitars and at any rate they didn't mind that either you say well should Christian worship before Moeller should Christian worship. He informally answers Christian worship should be both. We have to choose between the two kinds of people. Different kinds of settings different occasions in which we worship. Here they presumably had worship it was appropriate to each occasion. So we see them though studying church, devoting themselves to the apostolic teaching. We see them engaging in fellowship with a formal worship and we see informal worship is one other thing I wanted to say they were a witnessing church as they were engaged in evangelism.
That's why we find as we get toward the end of this paragraph that the Lord is adding to their number daily those who were being say, this doesn't say specifically that they were not witnessing. We know that the way God reaches people is through the spoken word. We know that when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. What happened immediately as they began to speak about Jesus and if we find as we do here at the end of the second chapter that the Lord is adding to their number daily those who were being saved must be because they were out speaking of Jesus and the holiday do otherwise. They had experienced something wonderful.
They had witnessed the coming of God's own son. They had been present in Jerusalem when he had been taken by wicked hands and was killed when she died on the cross for their sin. They had been among the more witnesses of the resurrection Valley had the right message to share with other people as they shared it to say I did make the mistake of saying, as some people do well with the ones that are bringing in the kingdom where the ones who are adding to the church. This is all being accomplished by our power they knew perfectly well that they were only vehicles channels for what God was doing only means the end God himself had determined so they said the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved is always both you say God works through us and so we must do it. We don't do it it doesn't happen, but when we do it and it does happen that happens because the Lord is doing it at Sam's the money people like a contradiction, but it's not a contradiction.
It's good biblical theology is the way God works want you to see to that.
Not only was God saving people. He was also adding them to the church to always go together. Sometimes we say well it's about saving one by one and then we let them go off and do their thing.
That is the way it happens when God is at work when you are brought to the Lord Jesus Christ you're not brought to him individualistically brought to them individually. You have to believe yourself you come one at a time when you come you for coming to the company of God's people. So Christianity is never individualistic, so he saved somebody added them to the number of the church just individuals with the church group and the third thing I want you to see about that is that not only did God do it and not only did he add them to the church the same time he was saving them as individuals. He did it daily. Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. I yearn for that, don't you, we have reports day by day those were coming provide the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. I mentioned to study John Stockton some years ago and he made one very interesting point, which I've always remembered point he made. In conclusion, he said notice all these marks of the church teaching the Fellowship of the worship and the evangelism.
He said notice that all of them had to do with relationships.
Teaching had to do with the relationship to the apostles submitted themselves to the doctrine that these men were making no fellowship that describe the relationship to one another worship that describe the relationship to God evangelism that describe the relationships to the world beyond the world is always know what it needs doesn't even know what it really wants but what it needs. What he really wants is that relationships relationships among people.
Those within those without relationships to authority and above all relationships to God himself, from whom all things, was this a model church.
Yes yes in spite of all its faults. I think it was spray our father, bless these truths that we've been studying tonight. We confess that as we study something like this. We are increasingly conscious of the ways which our own worship and fellowship.
Been studying fall short of the ideal, and yet these are the areas in which we would grow and learn and develop and this is the kind of church we would be her father, bless us by helping us to be that by the same power the same Holy Spirit that worked in these early Christians to save money on the glorified Jesus Christ. His name you are listening to the Bible study hours with a Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals.
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