Return to Acts 2
Is God calling us to return to Acts 2?
Acts 2:42-47 – 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
I felt the word of the Lord sin my heart as I prayed this morning. He seemed to be saying, “Return to Acts 2.” Specifically I felt drawn to verses 42-47. These verses break down in this way:
- (v42) – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.
- And to fellowship,
- The breaking of bread
- And to prayer.
- Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts
- They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
- Praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
- And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The early church gathering was around solid teaching, koinonia (fellowship), prayer and having meals together. Another factor is that they met together on a regular basis.
They did go to the temple courts to congregate. Many of the believers went to the temple daily to pray and discuss the Scripture. When we think of going to the temple the image which usually comes to our mind is “going to church,” but going to the temple to pray, worship, and discuss Scripture was much different than our “going to church” today.
First, the only ones allowed into the temple itself were the priests who ministered there: All others were relegated to the “temple courts.” There was the “court of Israel” which was the closest to the entrance of the temple and was as near to the temple any “clean” Jewish man could go. Then there was the “court of women” which was as far as women could go. Men and women could go to the court for prayer, worship, and fellowship. Outside of these courts was the “court of the Gentiles.”
When the believers went to the temple to pray they would go to the appropriate court.
But they also went, “house to house.” It didn’t take long until they were not allowed to worship at the temple but were forced to find alternative ways to gather and worship and their primary place of worshipping the Christ became homes.
Sounds a little bit like today. For this time at least, the church is not allowed to meet in the building called “the church.” Some fear this is only the beginning of restricting Christians from large gatherings. I don’t know, we will leave that up to the government and God. But I do believe that the message God has for the church today is to return to Acts 2.
There are certain components to the Acts 2 church that we can duplicate. We can have teachers who know the message of Christ and the Christ Life well. We can gather in homes (as long as there is no more than 10 present) for fellowship, meals and prayer.
There is another aspect to these meetings that we cannot duplicate on our own. That is the signs and wonders performed by the apostles. We can’t be sure what those signs and wonders were, but surely they were something beyond the norm. One pastor was asked, “What are signs and wonders?” He responded, “Signs that make you wonder.” That’s God’s business. He does the signs and wonders through willing participants.
There is another factor we should look at carefully. It appears that the community saw what good things were happening among the Christ Followers and they began to respond to what they saw and heard. Acts records, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
I am convicted by this passage in Acts. First, it seems the church has become building centric rather than Christ centric. We measure success in ministry by the numbers we have who join the “church” and sit in the pews week after week. Don’t get me wrong; I am not advocating for discarding the buildings and just meet in homes, but I am saying that we cannot allow the building to take the place of small groups gathering for prayer, studying the Scripture, fellowship and breaking bread.
The early church grew exceedingly fast, and I know that was a special time and is probably not what we should expect today. However, we should expect people in our community to respond to the Holy Spirit’s call to embrace Christ as Lord and Savior. Maybe that will happen as we embrace the same process followed by that early church.
Factors in a growing Acts 2 Church:
- Spiritual leadership
- The true gospel of Christ.
- Koinonia – fellowship
- Gathering regularly
- Prayer together
- A discernable move of Holy Spirit
When we look at the spread of the gospel in the first century there seems to be a pattern established. First, the apostles would go to the synagogue in a city. They would be ejected from the synagogue and have to go to homes to hold meetings. In fact, the first churches established throughout that region and into what was then called “Asia Minor,” was in homes.
What will it take to be that kind of church? The first necessary step is to be awakened to the need. It is only when we feel the need for change that we will make a change; if we are not awakened to the need to be committed to the call and purpose of the church then we will not whole heartedly pursue finding God’s purposes.
How do we become awakened to the need? Prayer, studying what God has said about renewal and commitment, and fellowship with other seekers.
What about the signs and wonders? Where do they come from and what part do they play in reaching our communities for Christ?
Where do these signs and wonders come from? Well, obviously, they come from God, but why doesn’t God just arbitrarily begin to do those things? Because he only manifests himself to those who are committed to following him wherever he leads.
When Jesus was preparing to ascend to heaven he told his disciples, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Then in Acts 1, which is a continuation of what Luke wrote earlier, it is recorded that Jesus said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus was giving the formula for preparing to do the works he had told them they would do. In John 14:11-13 Jesus says, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. 12) Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13) And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
The formula seems to be the same today. We can’t go to Jerusalem to wait upon the Lord, but we can wait upon him in our personal Jerusalem. How long has it been since you “tarried” (waited) before the Lord until you were endued with His power? Is there “power” in your witness?
Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.” The Gospel came to unbelievers in great power and because of that they became believers.
Notice that Paul said the gospel did not come in word only. I’m afraid that many of us have depended more upon our ability to speak the words of the gospel rather than to have the power which demonstrates the gospel. Don’t misunderstand me; we must speak the words of the gospel, but those words must be enthused with Holy Spirit power in order to be effective in changing the hearts of people.
I have become convinced that God wants to use this present distress to awaken His church to the incomparably great power that he has given all believers (Ephesians 1:19). Let us begin to seek Him that He may give us a Spirit of wisdom and revelation that we may know his will and purposes for His church today (Ephesians 1:17), and let us come together in small groups to seek his face.
Pastor Paul Smith
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