Neighborhood Church Misawa, Rev. Cameron C. Swanson, 2.5.2017
Today we’re going to talk about the last verses of Acts chapter 2, where the early church devoted themselves to teaching, loving each other, and fellowship. When it says they “devoted themselves” it means they were steadfast or single minded in purpose or desire. They wanted it and they were going after it. In 2008, Sanya Richards-Ross competed in the 400 Meter in Beijing. She started the race strong and built a substantial lead before locking up on the home stretch. She finished third for the Bronze. In 2012 she competed and won the gold medal in the 400 Meter in London with a time of 49.55 seconds. Four years, Sanya Richards-Ross waited. Four years she waited with the hunger pangs of unfinished business and the sense of an uncompleted mission. When they introduced her before the 400 meters in London, she blew a kiss to the camera, went out and got the gold medal she had worked tirelessly for since Beijing.
Just as Sanya Richards-Ross was devoted to her pursuit of Olympic Gold… those early Christians modeled devotion to Christ and the process of becoming Christian. They were intentional and disciplined about the process of becoming devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
Acts is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Both were written by Luke, a physician who traveled with the apostle Paul. By the end of the book we see Paul living in Rome, “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (28:31). The gospel draws people in, constitutes them as the church centered on the grace of Jesus, and then sends them out in mission to the world.
Acts 2:42-44New Living Translation (NLT) 42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.
Let’s look at verse 42 again…
Acts 2:42-44New Living Translation (NLT)
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
We see here that the early church was unified and was devoted to several things, among which were the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer.
In Acts chapter 2 we see the Church in embryonic form; it’s infancy stage. In fact the Church has just been born and the cradle is still rocking. The Holy Spirit has just for the very first time been given permanently to believers; • It had never happened before;
i.e. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came on individuals; And then after a period of time he went again. But now he is given to every true believer. We are picking up the story: After the apostle Peter has preached the very first Christian sermon; And three thousand people responded to the message; And came to faith! And became Christians, followers of Jesus.
There were some key things that they were devoted to, however. The early believers were devoted to the apostles teaching. Nobody, no preacher or evangelist should influence you more than the words of the apostles of the New Testament, the prophets of the Old Testament, and the words of Jesus himself. Next, they focused on fellowship, The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia, meaning “fellowship, sharing in common, communion.”Christian fellowship is a key aspect of the Christian life. Believers in Christ are to come together in love, faith, and encouragement. That is the essence of koinonia. The early Christians devoted themselves to fellowship; koinonia was as much a part of their make up as was breathing. Not being in relationship with other Christians was not an option. Then they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. This could mean communion and also just regular meals together. The sacrifice of Christ should always be near and dear to the heart of believers. And then they devoted themselves to prayer, nothing brings believers together and brings heaven to earth like praying together. Prayer caused an angel to break the apostles out of jail one time, and another time prayer caused an earthquake in jail in another part of Acts. It’s the simple things: prayer, the scriptures, hanging out with other Christians, honoring the sacrifice of the Lord. We need to fall in love with these things… Our simple devotion can lead to the miraculous.
Fall in love with God’s Word, people, and daily talks with Him –
Are you devoted to your husband? Are you devoted to your wife? Singles, you had better be devoted only to Jesus!!! Are you devoted to your children? Can you put into words the intensity and passion you bring to those relationships? Think of that same intensity, passion and love directed towards the apostle’s teaching, the breaking of bread, fellowship and prayer. Powerful things can happen when we learn to fall in love with these things.
You can see later on this passage what happened as a result of the early believer’s devotion. Awe came upon every soul who saw them in action!!
Acts 2:43 (NLT) 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.
Scripture says that as the people devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer, awe came upon every soul, because there was power in their gatherings. Many signs and wonders were being done through the apostles.
It says awe came upon every soul. The power of God and love of God cut straight to the heart of the people of that time, and the Gospel radically changed lives. One of the biggest things that challenged people was martyrdom. A history report suggests that during the first 3-400 years of the church’s existence, an estimated 6 million Christians were killed.
Rome was celebrating its temporary victory over Alaric the Goth (German) in its usual manner, by watching gladiators fight to the death in the arena, when suddenly there was an interruption. A rudely clad robed figure boldly leaped down into the arena. Telemachus was one of the hermits who devoted themselves to a holy life of prayer and self-denial and kept themselves apart from the wicked life of Rome. Although few of the Roman citizens followed their example, most of them had great respect for these hermits, and the few who recognized Telemachus knew he had comes from the wilds of Asia on a pilgrimage to visit churches and celebrate Christmas in Rome. Without hesitating an instant, Telemachus advanced upon two gladiators who were engaged in their life-and-death struggle. Laying a hand on one of them, he sternly rebuked and reprimanded him for shedding innocent blood, and then, turning toward the thousands of angry faces around him, called to them: “Do not repay God’s mercy in turning away the swords of your enemies by murdering each other!”Angry shouts drowned out his voice. “This is no place for preaching! On with the combat!” Pushing Telemachus aside, the two gladiators prepared to continue their combat, but Telemachus stepped between them. Enraged at the interference of an outsider with their chosen vocation, the gladiators turned on Telemachus and stabbed him to death.
The crowd fell silent, shocked by the death of this holy man, but his death had not been in vain, for from that day on, no more gladiators ever went into combat in the Colosseum. This took place on January 1st, A.D. 404 according to the writings of the 5th century bishop Theodoret of Cyrus. The Emperor Honorius was so disturbed by the murder of the holy monk that he banned the gladiator games from that day forward. They were never resumed – that was that.
When people saw the love of these Christians and the way they faced death, it awed them. Many of the people in the arenas who saw the Christians die were in awe of their courage, and converted on the spot and went to their deaths as well.
fully devoted believers will inspire awe; and see the miraculous — Many of us will not be asked to be martyrs, but in the gospel of Mark we see that the power of God was present with the apostles as they preached
Mark 16:20 (NLT)
20 And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.
At first the church was disciplined and devoted, and then the awe came, and then the signs and wonders came. The issue is people want to see the divine but do not want be the disciplined. But why would God entrust the ability to prophesy, and to heal, and to perform miracles to people he don’t communicate with Him everyday? People want the miraculous, but it won’t happen if we don’t delight in “daily holy desperation,” meaning every time we approach God we do it with an incredible sense of desperation and urgency. When we are devoted to those things, prayer, fellowship, the apostle’s teaching, and the Lord’s Supper, they might seem routine and mundane at times, but God will honor our devotion, and then take us to another level. And then the next step is for us to be patient, because the Spirit of God always moves when and how He wants to move…
With their devotion to fellowship, teaching, breaking bread and prayer, the early church tapped into a power source that changed the Roman Empire, one heart at a time. The key to changing the world then, lay in their willingness to be unified.
Acts 2:44 (NLT) 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.
The scripture tells us that all who believed were together and had all things in common.
However, we know today that unfortunately the church is not together and we don’t have all things in common, or so it would seem, right? Well, there is a passage of scripture that I looked at that gave me peace about that whole situation
Revelation 1:10-13New Living Translation (NLT) 10 It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. 11 It said, “Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”12 When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. 13 And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest.
Jesus is the Son of Man, and he is in the midst of the lampstands of the Seven Churches of Revelation. So Bible interpreters say that those 7 churches represent the entire 2,000 years of church history, and many also believe that each church falls into one of those 7 categories. But the common theme in each of those churches is that Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God, the lamb of God, is walking in the midst of every church that proclaims his name. So it doesn’t matter what particular group within Christianity that you claim at long at is Bible-based; real believers will always love each other and seek fellowship.
All the true believers will come together for the common good –
I want to say something very sobering and issue a warning statement here. For you and I, let’s not worry about whether we are Lutheran or Presbyterian or Baptist or Pentecostal. Let’s worry about if we devote ourselves to the apostle’s teachings, and fellowship and prayer. Of course we pray to tear down those walls that divide us, but I also want to say that unfortunately, not everyone has the right motives. And not every one who claims to know Christ is really serious. There are a lot of people in church who are just going through the motions. I feel for those people. I can’t make them get serious, I just hate for them to die and then open up their eyes and face Jesus Christ and explain to the Son of God why they didn’t take Him seriously. But again, we just simply have to pray and make sure that we are reaching across denominational lines and all those other things.
Christ walks in the midst of his churches. So all of the things you think are wrong, Christ will rectify and make right. In the meantime, since he still walks in the midst of the lampstands, let us all be committed to reading the lessons that the apostles left for us. Let’s be devoted to being with the Lord’s people and loving the Lord’s people. Let remain committed to prayer and crying out to his name. Christ will forever remain in control of His Church no matter what things look like. As long as he is walking in the midst of all these lampstands around the world, he will bring healing, restoration and restoration. And there are some things that he may have allowed for his own purposes that he won’t disclose to us. He has allowed denominations, He has allowed many of the non-denominational groups and independent churches to be established. He knows what he is doing. But our part is being devoted to prayer, and let’s pray for revival. We can cause awe to come on every soul that sees the way God moves in our churches and our homes. Amen!