Acts: New Beginnings – Part 4

Defining Our Method

On that day about 3,000 believed his message and were baptized. They spent their time learning from the apostles, and they were like family to each other. They also broke bread [footnote 2.42 broke bread: They ate together and celebrated the Lord’s Supper] and prayed together.
Everyone was amazed by the many miracles and wonders that the apostles worked. All the Lord’s followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever was in need. Day after day they met together in the temple. They broke bread together in different homes and shared their food happily and freely while praising God. Everyone liked them, and each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved.
The past several weeks we’ve been looking into the new work that Christ has brought forth in the church in the book of Acts. We have been defining elements of this new work, beginning with a look at the meaning of church, our message and our mission. This week we are looking at what happens as things get rolling. Our scripture follows Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit first fell upon the believers. We are told that there were 3000 people who came to believe in Jesus as their savior that day. Now that is starting off with a bang! Now, what comes next? What do you do with new believers and what do we do that we would continue to grow and expand, so that God would add to our number those who are being saved on a day to day basis?
The first follow up to the day of Pentecost is that the believers dedicated themselves to the apostles teaching. For us today, this means a dedication to the word of God given to us in the Bible. What were they teaching, you may ask.
There was so much that the disciples did not understand about Jesus’s mission and teaching until after his resurrection. After the resurrection, Jesus spent the next month or so teaching them and making sense out of the promises of the Old Testament and the things he had been saying (Luke 24:25-27,44-49). So, the apostles passed on that teaching from the OT scripture.
Acts 4:33 tells us that the apostles testified about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead with great power. This past Easter, I emphasized that we do not believe in heaven and a day when we shall be resurrected to eternal life based on a myth or wishful thinking as non-Christians do. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus based on the eyewitness testimony of the apostles given now in the Bible and then on the testimony of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
The second thing that happened was the formation of a fellowship of believers. Most translations say that they were dedicated to the fellowship. I shared the CEV above for the expression it uses here, they were like family to each other. When it speaks of dedication to fellowship, it is a serious commitment that is intended. We are told that they were so dedicated to caring for each other that they would willingly sell property and possessions in order to share with each other (Acts 2:45; 4:32-37). Few of us could claim to have acted so sacrificially for the sake of others in the church.
They carried their love for one another past the superficial scale of contributing to a charitable program. They also met in each others homes and broke bread together. This represents a desire to know one another and share life together on a personal level. More than a large group that gather for common worship and programs, the church is to invest personally in people.
Finally, they prayed together. Before this summer and our time in the book of Acts is through, we have to look at prayer. There is power in prayer. In Acts there are dramatic responses to prayer, the place was shaken, missionaries sent out were empowered by God, an angel rescued apostles from prison, demons were cast out and the sick were healed. Oh that we would pray like that!
Now take a few moments and think of how this could apply in your life.  If this is what formed the focus of the life of the believers following that rich and marvelous day of Pentecost, shouldn’t it inform our life as well? Let’s check ourselves to see if we are following the methods of the first church.
  1. How are you dedicating yourself to the apostles’ teaching (the Bible)? Do you read and study on your own or wait until Sunday for someone else to offer it to you?
  2. Do you believe the Bible is powerful to affect the reader? Do you encourage others to read God’s word? There are so many stories of people who came to faith simply because they found and read a Gideon Bible in a motel or hospital room. Have you ever helped someone seek to know God by beginning to read the Bible?
  3. Do you participate in any kind of small group for spiritual growth that meets outside of Sunday morning?
  4. How long has it been since you invited someone from church to come to your home for a meal? Taken someone out for a meal or coffee for the express purpose of knowing them better as a fellow Christian?
  5. Have you ever given to the support of the church or a fellow Christian in need with extreme sacrifice?
  6. What role does prayer play in your life? If you added up the time you spend in pray in a year, would it add up to much of a vacation or barely a day off?
  7. If you fail to spend time in prayer and reading the Bible, would it seem off or strange, or would you not even notice?

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