The Church: What Is Absolutely Essential? PT 1
It's pop quiz! Clear your desk, take out a pen or pencil, and circle the answer or answers that correctly complete the sentence below. Top Priorities of a church should be:
o To gather together a large # of weekly attendees or participants.
o To build an impressive physical plant w/ a large campus and beautiful buildings and landscaping.
o To conform to the most popular style of worship
o To subscibe to a specific form of church government elder rule or congregational rule
o To make sure that @ 20% of the annual budget goes to mission.
o None of the above.
Which options did you circle? The only correct answer is "G" - None of the above. Some of the items above are important, and a couple of them are very important, but they're not top priorities. So let's turn to Acts 2:42-47 to see the top priorities of the church.
There are 4 essentials for the church; In all scripture this is probably the clearest statement of the church's priorities. Acts 2 is where the church started. After Pentecost and Peter's Sermon, which brought approximately 3000 people to faith in Christ, Luke tells us about the community of new believers.
The first thing we notice about these new believers is that they were "devoted" members of the church, despite the hate, ridicule, and persecution they suffered, they remained faithful.
"They were continually devoting themselves" (v42a)
The term "devoted" means a (steadfast and single mindness - to a certain action) In other words they gave themselves wholeheartedly (totally) to their new faith and their new church.
Priority #1 - Learning To the Apostles Teaching (v42b)
• First they were devoted (wholeheartedly) to the apostle's teaching. Why do you suppose teaching is the first item listed in the order of activities, because no matter where believers are in their spiritual journey, they need nourishment to grow and keep growing. Babies need milk; adults need meat - the Bible supplied both. Peter tells us in
1 Pet 2:2 - "as newborn babes, desire (crave) the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby". Furthermore, Peter tells us in 2 Pet 3:18 To grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
John the apostle in 1 John 5:20 tells us "And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him, who is true. Paul greatest desire is that he may know Christ Phil 3:10.
• The apostles considered the ministry of God's Word to be a top priority. In Acts 6 they elected deacons in order that they may (v4) devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
They knew their primary task was that of feeding the flock.
• The reason why we preach and teach the Bible here @ Cornerstone;
1. It gives substance to our faith
2. It gives us stability in times of testing
3. It will equip us to handle the Word accurately
4. It equips us to spot and confront false teaching
5. It makes us confident in our walk
6. It calms our fears
• Just a word of caution: learning is only one of the church's priorities. Here @ Cornerstone we are not committed to producing academic smugs. Paul in 1 Cor 8:1 tells us that knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.
• John MacArthur say's The church today ignores the exposition and application of Scripture at its peril, as the warning of Hosea to Israel suggests: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hos. 4:6). The church cannot operate on truth it is not taught; believers cannot function on principles they have not learned. The most noble are still those who search the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11).
Priority #2 - Loving and to fellowship
• In our culture, community is not a strong emphasis, even in the church. We live in a very individualistic age - a group of rebels. The "Lone Ranger" mindset was not considered a virtue in the early church. They gathered not only to sing songs and listen to sermons, but to be with one another, to care for and share with one another. The Greek word for "fellowship" koinonia means a close relationship, everything in common.
• As believers in the N.T. we have responsibility with each other to;
1. Confess Your Sins to One Another - James 5:16 tells us "Confess your sins to one another,." Confession of sins is one believer confessing to one other-not publicly before the whole church or the world. Christ commands us, "If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way, first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering" Matt. 5:23-24. You are not to pay homage to God until you have made everything right with other believers.
2. Forgive One Another Some Christians have a hard time forgiving one another, but all believers are commanded to forgive fellow believers. Nevertheless, you sometimes hear people in the Body say things such as, "Well, if somebody ever did that to me, I'd never forgive him!" Such an attitude is unworthy of a Christian. Paul's warning to the Colossians: Col. 3:13 "Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against any one; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you" No one deserves to be forgiven by Christ. Therefore, it is not right to accept Christ's forgiveness and then refuse to extend forgiveness to a fellow Christian Eph. 4:32.
3. Bear One Another's Burdens - Gal 6:2 exhorts us to "bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ." Burden-bearing means sympathetically loving one another and holding one another accountable. But we can't bear another Christian's burden unless that person shares it. So burden-bearing happens only when it follows in the sequence of fellowship's responsibilities: believers confessing their sins, forgiving each other, and then carrying each other's burdens.
4. Love One Another - Peter also called for this when he wrote, "Fervently love one another from the heart" 1 Peter 1:22. "Fervently" is a word from the medical vocabulary that means "stretched." Christians are to stretch their love like an extended muscle that reaches out to all. First Peter further defines this kind of equal, stretched love as "sympathetic" 3:8, "hospitable to one another" 4:9, submissive 5:5, and physically demonstrative 14.
Verse 45 paints for us this kind of stretching "began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all as anyone might have need."
5. Encourage One Another - Paul, writing to the discouraged Thessalonian believers, encouraged them to "comfort one another" 1 Thes. 4:18; 5:11. "Comfort" and "encourage" come from the same Greek word, parakaleo "to come alongside to help." This is the ministry of personal care.
6. Build Up One Another - Three additional "one anothers" make a fitting conclusion for this chapter. The first one is to "build up one another" Rom. 14:19; 1 Thes. 5:11. The tool for this is the Word of God. Paul commended the Ephesian elders "to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up" Acts 20:32. Christians have a far-reaching responsibility to know the Word, not only for their own sakes, but also for edifying one another. Personal ignorance of Scripture brings damage to the entire Body.
7.Admonish One Another Rom. 15:14; Col. 3:16. Apparently, this kind of encouraging counsel implies sin is present. It means encouraging a brother or sister in sin to turn from it and live righteously and godly. Admonishing is never harsh, unloving, or abusive. It is to be done gently 2 Thes. 3:14-15.
8. Pray for One Another Jas 5:16 This responsibility is at the heart of relationships in the Body. It is something no Christian can avoid and still be a contributing member of the Body. Such mutual prayer is based on the honest sharing of personal needs and the personal discipline involved in setting aside a regular time for it.
• The early church was a close, sharing group A cts 2:44 "And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common." Sermons and song are uplifting & necessary but involvement with others is as vital to the growth and power of the church.
•Community is a desperate need, not only in our church, but in every church which names the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.