Have you ever wondered what heaven is like? Acts 2:42-47 offers us a glimpse of heaven here on earth. The early believers joined together in faith, hope and love in the best ways possible. The reading from Acts is a picture of the early church. It suggests what the Holy Spirit can do. The Holy Spirit gives Christians the power to provide mutual service that reflects God’s justice, mercy, love and compassion. The Christian community exists not for our sake, but to care for its most vulnerable members and to be the means by which God’s gift of salvation is extended to others.
The apostles were eyewitnesses of Christ’s life, and they taught what they knew about Jesus and the Old Testament witness about Him. The apostles were likely in awe of the power they now had. They knew that it was not their power but God’s power. They knew that they had a responsibility to use that power wisely.
The early church was a healthy church. It was devoted to teaching, fellowship and celebrating the Lord’s Supper. It was a growing church. It was a joyously united church. It was a worshipping church. A healthy church today shows the same characteristics.
The early church believed in fellowship or holding things in common or sharing things together. The early church also continued steadfastly in the breaking of bread and in prayers. When these believers assembled, they prayed both spontaneous and memorized prayers from their Jewish roots. God demonstrated the authority of the apostles through the miracles they performed, confirming the Gospel they preached and inspiring awe and reverence of Him. In the days following Christ’s ascension into heaven, this amazing power was moving into the church, and God was adding to their number every day. Every day, people were thinking, “I want some of that.”
Our worship is a witness to people both inside and outside the church. For example, when nonbelievers go to church, they are checking everything out. They are taking everything in. What kind of witness are we to the people sitting near to us? Non-believers will form an opinion about God and Christianity largely based on what they see. As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
The early believers also opened their hearts to each other. They saw the best and worst of themselves, but they still loved one another, and they shared that love by sharing what they owned with one another. The early believers shared what they owned because they were generous and committed to one another, not because they were required to do so. The fellowship of the early church expressed itself in open hearts, open hands and open homes.
Fellowship means that all Christians have the same hope of heaven-the same joys, the same hatred of sin and the same enemies. They have the same subjects of conversation, of feeling and of prayer. Revival leads to fellowship. It unites us with fellow Christians, and it unites those who were separated by sin with us when they repent and turn to God in faith. God’s grace unites us in seriousness and solemnity.
The passage from Acts depicts the life of the early Christian community as a model for Christian life today. Unfortunately, most Christians don’t follow this model. Our individual and communal lives should reflect our experiences of God’s grace and action in and among us. The early Christians realized that devotion to Jesus involved a commitment to a new way of thinking and living. A Christian lifestyle that appreciates the study of Scripture, generosity and caring doesn’t happen easily or automatically. It requires intention, effort and choice.
The early church is an example of what happens when the living Christ sets us free to fulfill His purpose for His people-that they become one with Him and with each other. If we as Christians want to be one with Christ, we must take time to be together to listen to each other, care for each other and be there for each other. Christians are partners with Jesus and other believers, so it is our spiritual duty to encourage one another in faith, righteousness and obedience. If we want to grow in faith and fulfill the mission Jesus has given us, we must regularly gather together for teaching, worship, encouragement and prayer.
Opening our hearts to one another means sharing our lives with them, and that’s what the early believers did. Christian lives can’t be lived in isolation. They are connected and work together just like all of the parts of a human body work together. Our churches can often be described as a group of people sitting in a circle with their chairs facing in. Paul and Luke want us to turn our chairs back to back and face out in a fellowship of the gospel. When we face out and reach out we have an outlet that fills our church with the young life of new believers.
God uses life’s circumstances to prepare people to receive the Good News. We can target people and take them to dinner and testify to the truth of Jesus through our words and the example of our Christian lives, but they will remain green to the Gospel. Only when God Himself moves in their hearts to ripen them through a circumstance or condition that is beyond their own ability to solve will they receive the Gospel.
The early believers also opened their homes to each other as places of worship, and in doing so followed Paul’s commands as written in Hebrews 13:2 and Titus 1:8. A well-known minister made the following comment:
“Something holy happens around a dinner table that will never happen in a sanctuary. In an church auditorium, you see the backs of heads. Around the table, you see the expressions on faces. In the auditorium, one person speaks; around the table, everyone has a voice. Church services are on the clock. Around the table there is time for talk.”
In some ways, the church today carries on this tradition. For example, members often meet in one another’s homes in small groups for Bible study or informal gatherings.
An essential part of worship, the Lord’s Supper-also referred to as breaking bread or Communion-causes believers to look back to the cross, forward to the coming of Christ, and inward to the condition of their heart.
The early believers were passionate believers. They were so excited about their faith that they couldn’t wait to go to church. They loved being with fellow believers, sharing their faith and the Lord’s Supper and being encouraged by other believers. They were so eager that they met together every day! If only people today were that eager!
The result of these activities was the growth of the church. Everyone who observed the lives and prayers of the early church experienced a sense of awe of God and his presence. The church grew and found favour with people both inside and outside of the church. The love of the people was a testimony, especially to those who did not agree with the apostles’ teachings. Oh, how we need this today.
The early church turned its world upside-down for Christ. They taught the doctrine of Christ, their fellowship centered on Christ, they remembered Him in communion, they communicated with Him in prayer, and they exalted Christ in worship. As the 21st century church focuses on Christ in this way, the Spirit will turn its world upside-down as well.
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- Pastor Mark Jeske, “Devoted to Worshipping Together.” Retrieved from www.TimeofGrace.org
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- Pastor Dick Woodward, “A Fellowship in the Gospel.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@corsswalkmail.com
- Pastor Greg Laurie, “You Are Being Watched.” Retrieved from www.harvest.org
- Dr. Lanie LeBlanc, “2nd Sunday of Eater/Divine Mercy Sunday.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Richard Neill Donovan, “Exegesis for Acts 2:42-47.” Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
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- Daniel Clendenin, Ph.D., “Apostolic Devotion: The Actual Historic Tradition.” Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus.org