“The Necessities of a Church”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Acts 2.37-47
Acts 2. How far can you reduce something before it is no longer that thing? I wrote this sermon while at my desk. At what point if you take away certain things is it no longer a desk? If you take away its ability to stand on its own, is at the desk?
My well water is made up of many different elements, including, unfortunately, lots of iron. If you take away the iron and you take away the calcium and you take away all the different minerals, you still have water. Two hydrogens and one oxygen together is all you need for it to be water.
Now, what about the church? If you strip away the pews, the building, the pulpit…what are the basic necessities of a church?
READ Acts 2:37-47…On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter is preaching. And after he preaches we have the response of the people and historical commentary by Luke……In this passage, you have the necessities of a local church.
Acts 2:37–47 37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
Now that is the response for salvation. Repentance, a radical change of mind. A changing of the mind to the point where you submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Now, what did the 3,000 people who trusted Christ do to be a church?
42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Without verse 42, you don’t have the church. Not only can you not have a successful church without these, a true church will not abandon any of these, either.
TRANS: This is my 3rd message that is setting a vision once again for this new year. We’re to receive training from pastors and teachers, and we’re to do so as we saw last time from the inspired word of God. And in these verses we have the topic of the necessities of a local church. And what we see here is apostolic leadership and fellowship. And we also see the results of those two things: apostolic leadership and fellowship.
Intentional leaders lead (Acts 2:42-46)
So first we’ll discuss apostolic leadership. The point for us will be that intentional leaders lead. A necessity of the church is intentional leaders leading.
Verse 42, they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching…. Verse 43 in the middle of the verse, “many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.”
This is apostolic leadership. They were leading in their teaching and they were leading through their miraculous works.
Now of course we do not have the miracles today but we do have apostolic teaching, in the New Testament. And the church it says was continually devoting themselves to their teaching. They were persistent at it and they stayed by it. They were loyal to it they had attached them self to the apostles’ teaching.
This would’ve been true of them in their actions and their attitudes. In their actions, they would be teaching each other wanted the apostles taught. The apostles themselves were to be actively teaching the word of God to the people. The people would be discussing among themselves the things they learned and heard from the apostles.
In their heart of hearts, the people longed for the word of God as it was given through these apostles, who were working miracles by the power of Jesus Christ. They thought about the word of God, they spoke of the word of God, and they were diligent to be faithful to the things that they had heard.
APP: and this is basic to the church. Of necessity a church must be dedicated to the teaching of the apostles. Without this, there is no actual church. Where a gathering of people that claims to be a church fails to give attention to the words of the New Testament and is not devoted to those words, this is not a New Testament church.
And as we apply this today, a biblical New Testament church will have intentional leaders leading. They will be leading by the words of the New Testament and they will be submitted to apostolic doctrine, the doctrine of the 12 apostles, which we have recorded for us in the letters of the New Testament.
Church leaders in a NT church today will be leading the church by learning from and submitting to the words of the apostles in the New Testament. Elders and deacons and other teachers will be leading other church members to a greater understanding of the requirements of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the people will wholly devote themselves to those teachings.
And they also believed the apostles words. Verse 44 “and all those who had believed were together.” They were trusting in the Messiah, the Lord Jesus. They also understood that those original disciples who had followed Jesus, the apostles, were speaking forth the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so they believed in him and in those words.
TRANS: So, if you strip down all the activities and programs and complexity of a local church, what needs to be a top priority is the dedication to apostolic doctrine on the part of the teachers and those who listen. Second, is that the church builds godly relationships. The church builds godly relationships…
The church builds godly relationships: fellowship (2:42)
Let’s notice the text. We see in verse 42 that not only with a continually devoting themselves the apostles teaching, but also they were devoted to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
This describes the building of godly relationships. Verse 44, those who had believed the word were together and had all things in common. That’s a kind of relationship. That idea continues in verse 45 where they began selling the property and possessions and were sharing them with all as anyone might have need.
That’s a relationship of meeting physical and material needs. Verse 46 they are unified. “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple and breaking bread from house to house they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.”
We see here is spiritual and material fellowship.
Verse 42 the early church was devoted continually to fellowship to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Verse 46 describes how they broke bread from house to house.
Fellowship, as someone wisely pointed out, is not just two fellows in a ship. That word fellowship is translated a different way at the end of verse 44. And that word in verse 44 is “common.” They had all things in common. There was then a spiritual commonality and a physical or material commonality.
Spiritually, they broke bread and prayed together. To break bread is to practice the Lord’s table. And the breaking of the bread, the Lord Jesus says, is a remembrance of him and it is a proclamation of his death.
Not only are we dedicated to apostolic doctrine, we are dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ himself as represented in the breaking of bread. Of course, one could break the bread and not be dedicated to him. That happens all the time. And there is no requirement as far as how often we eat it, for the Lord says, “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup.”
Prayer is also important to Christian fellowship. There is to be commonality in our devotion to Jesus Christ as represented in the bread and that devotion is also represented in prayer. We pray to our Heavenly Father has Jesus instructed us; we are talking to Him. As we study apostolic doctrine God has spoken to us. And as we pray, we are talking to him.
Prayer is a vitally important aspect of a true church. Where there is a new testament church, there will be a dedication to prayer.
APP: Now, are you praying? Are you praying with other believers? Every Wednesday night, we have opportunity for praying with other believers. Praying with other believers is what the early church was doing. A New Testament church will also have a focus on praying together.
Now, a New Testament church will also have a focus on meeting each other’s material needs. Spiritual fellowship and now material fellowship. Verses 44-46 describe how we are to meet each other’s physical needs.
In the early church, many of these people were poor. And those who were of some means would meet the needs of others. This was all voluntary. Nobody was requiring this to happen, but they were willingly selling property and possessions and sharing.
They saw the need, and they met the need.
APP: And today, we do the same. We happen to live in one of the most wealthiest cultures in the history of the world. So our material needs amongst our members is not great. We do have times where something arises where we need to meet those needs. For example, if one of our members is sick, we can make meals for one another.
So we need to build relationships with each other. And this makes sense, because God himself is relational.
All the way back at the beginning God made man in his own image. And after Adam and Eve have rebelled against Him, they hid themselves and the Lord God calls to the man and says, “Where are you?” The Lord desires to be with those whom He created.
And similar to Moses. In Exodus 33, it says there that the Lord used to speak to Moses face-to-face, just as a man speaks to his friend.
And it delights the Lord to be with his people and to comfort them. He says in Psalm 36 that the children of men take refuge in the shadow of His wings and they drink their fill of the abundance of God’s house and God gives unto them to drink of the river of His delights.
And the Lord Jesus himself in John 15 says, “a greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends.” And Jesus indeed calls us his friends… Us, who believe in his name and who have loved him.
Even though we were once enemies of His even while that was the case, Christ died for us! He died on our behalf, to bring us into his kingdom that we might be with him forever and ever.
The Lord God is relational. We are relational …
ILL: Several years ago, former American prisoners of war were interviewed to determine what methods used by the enemy had been most effective in breaking their spirit. Researchers learned that the prisoners didn’t break down from physical deprivation and torture as quickly as they did from solitary confinement or from being frequently moved around and separated from friends. It was further learned that the soldiers drew their greatest strength from the close attachments they had formed to the small military units to which they belonged.
We are relational; we actually do need each other. You can’t just serve God on your own; you need real Christian fellowship with other Christians, meeting spiritual and material needs.
We are in a war and the enemy has had thousands of years of warfare practice. We need to depend on Him and on His people in times of difficulty and trial, in the good times and the bad.
Christian relationships are a necessary component to our growth and faithfulness to the Lord.
We need to build relationships with Christians and truly hold things in common with them: our time, resources, and our Christ. The Lord knows we need this in order to be blessed and be a blessing.
Dear people, it is not that complicated. A true church ministry will be focused on the ministry of the word of God and fellowship with one another. And so we endeavor here not to complicate things. Everything we do stems from this. By God’s grace, we will continue to make the main things the main things and not get sidetracked into other issues. This is why we have a great emphasis on preaching and teaching the word of God and on discipling one another. We need to form those relationships… As the people were doing in verse 46 they were breaking bread from house to house.
There are in each others’ homes taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.
This is basic Christian living. Having all things, spiritual and material things, having all things in common and devoted to apostolic teaching.
TRANS: Now, by God’s grace this is our part. And we leave the results up to God. But the results are given here in the passage. If we keep the main things the main things and seek to honor the Lord by honoring his word and by holding all things in common with one another, both spiritually and materially, we have here an example of how the Lord blesses.
We can see the results of God’s work in a church that is simple like this. Verse 43 everyone kept feeling a sense of awe, likely due to the miracles being performed.
But they had, at the end of verse 46, gladness and sincerity of heart …. that’s a work of the Holy Spirit that occurs today. Verse 47 they were praising God and having favor with all the people.
They had favour with all the people. I wonder how that happened?
Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” And because of their love for one another and that they held all things in common, that would gain great favor among all the people. Everyone would have seen how much love they had for one another.
And finally, end of verse 47, the result is that the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who are being saved.
It is the Lord who adds to our number here. He it is who builds the church. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18… “I will build My church; and the gates of hell will not overpower it.”
That is just as true today as it was some 2000 years ago when it was uttered first. We may plant or we may water, but God is the one who causes the growth.
ILL: Now, do you think if we are faithful to these things…to His word and to fellowship, that the Lord will bless us? I do! He may save many or save a few, but I believe from this passage that the Lord will use us for His glory in the lives of people inside and outside our assembly, for their eternal good.
But we have to recognize what our Lord says. He says that the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction. Many enter into that way. But the gate that leads to eternal life is small on the way is narrow and there are few find it.
That is true of our communities. There is a small percentage of people who choose by the grace of God to enter into that narrow way that leads to life. If we are faithful to this calling of leading with apostolic teaching and to fellowship, we won’t have the masses knocking down our door to pray with us.
But perhaps there will be “few” as He himself even said, “Few are they who find it.”
But if the Lord desires to bring many to salvation through this ministry, that is up to him. He is the one who builds the church; he it is who adds to our number day by day those who are being saved.
We can’t expect the many to come and be saved, but we can expect the few that will be on the narrow path, we can expect them to come and be saved and to grow with us.
If we recognize that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few, we should pray to the Lord of the harvest that he would send out workers into his harvest.
And those workers will preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. And there will be some of those people the Lord calls and justifies and glorifies.
But we are totally dependent on the Lord for all of these things. So we must express our dependence on the Lord and seek Him to build His church, being faithful to apostolic teaching and to fellowship.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Acts 2.37-47
By His grace, we’ll be faithful and we’ll leave the rest up to Him. If we continue with Acts 2:42-47, we will by His grace have a true church that is a real New Testament church that glorifies the Lord Jesus. And we’ll simple watch Him build His church.
697 O Zion, Haste