They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2.42
Here, I believe, is the biblical blue-print for how a church maintains its vigor, and health, and sense of direction. I believe it is that vital! We simply must strive to align our lives – as a church, as families, and as individuals – with this pattern. So let me remind you of what the earliest church took up as their spiritual routine …
The apostles’ teaching. The first church at Jerusalem devoted itself to the instruction given by Jesus’ special emissaries to the world. They hung on the apostles’ words – both as they rehearsed the details of Jesus’ life and ministry, and as they explained what it all meant for mankind. When the early church wanted to know how to understand the Old Testament, they listened to the apostles’ teaching. When they needed to know how to be right with God, they turned to the apostles’ teaching. And when they needed instruction for day-to-day living, they obeyed the apostles’ teaching … the very same teaching that we have recorded in the Scriptures! And surely we are just as much in need of it as they! So let me ask you: Can your level of commitment to the apostles’ teaching be called devotion? Do you hang on their every word? Is the Bible precious to you?
The fellowship. Those early Christians needed the word of God. And they also needed each other. That’s what “the fellowship” means – they were devoted to living together in community; to doing life together; to confessing their sins to one another; to holding one another accountable; to sharing meals; to talking about the state of their souls; to caring for one another in sickness, and so on. Indeed, it was this togetherness that became one of the chief attractions of the church to the outside world. ‘Look at how they love one another’ was a common outsiders observation! Would it be their observation of us? Are there folks, in your local church, who are truly your family? Is there anyone with whom you can share your most painful prayer requests? Is there anyone to whom you confess your sins, and who keeps you accountable? Do you ever speak with anyone about the Sunday sermons or lessons? Are you enjoying true fellowship?
The breaking of bread. The church at Jerusalem was devoted, in other words, to the Lord’s Supper. And, of course, their dedication wasn’t mainly to the elements or the ritual, but to that which these things symbolized – the body of Jesus, broken for us sinners; the blood of Jesus, spilled for our forgiveness. They couldn’t get enough, in other words, of the gospel! Can we? Is the good news sweet music to your ears – even when you are hearing it for the thousandth time? Would you be disappointed to arrive at the end of a Sunday service, never having been brought to the foot of the cross? And are you glad when you have opportunities for sharing this good news?
Prayer. The early Christians were careful and diligent to do certain things, as we have been saying. But, O, what a healthy reminder, at the end of Acts 2.42, of their awareness that they could not do it alone! That’s why they devoted themselves to prayer! They knew they needed God, every moment of every day. Therefore they were constantly sitting at the foot of His throne in prayer – especially corporate prayer! Do we recognize our need for God as they did? Are we people of prayer? Do you have brothers and sisters in your church family with whom you regularly pray? What ought you be praying about? And for whom?
As you review my diagnostic questions – and as I review them myself – there are many reasons to be thankful! Surely the answer to many of them is a resounding ‘yes’! But let us press on, in those areas where the questions show us a need for improvement, and strive for true, Acts 2 kind of devotion!