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This past Monday was the one year anniversary of my installation as your pastor. It has been my privilege to preach to you each Sunday, and to lead this church, not only as your interim for nearly a year, but now as your chosen pastor. I’m both humbled and honored. Thank you.
In the church worldwide today we celebrate Reformation Sunday! It was 501 years ago on October 31st 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his now famous 95 theses or points of contention on the doors of the church at Wittenberg and sent them to the Archbishop of Mainz. It was a bold move to be sure. He was literally challenging anyone to debate regarding 95 specific points where he saw the church was out of line with what the Scriptures actually said.
At the time the Bible was still written in Latin, and most people were not educated to be able to read the ancient language. Luther helped take care of that problem as well in translating the Old and New testaments from their original languages into the common German vernacular.
One quote of his I came across recently says,
LUTHER: Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.
This morning, in the time we have together during this worship service I want to lay out a bit of our heritage. A sort of where we come from and the purpose of the church in the larger scheme of thing. Then in our after service potluck we will talk about our church specifically, and where I can see us going from here.
As we start, it’s always important that we allow God to lead us, and so let us go to God in prayer and ask that our Scripture be illumined by the Holy Spirit.
[PRAYER]
Our Scripture this morning is one that I’ve not preached on a lot. I will be borrowing from another preacher for an acronym that I think illumines it nicely. But first, let’s look at our text. Let’s look at the Book of Acts together, chapter 2, verses 42-47.
Acts 2:42–47 ESV
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
This is God’s Holy Word to us today. Thanks be to God.
Let’s examine this a little closer and try and gain some understanding of what exactly God might be telling us this morning and for our future as His Church.
We’re looking at the early church and we see that they were:
Devoted to the apostles’ teaching.
This teaching would have included what Jesus had taught during his time on earth and what he had taught his apostles during his 40 days of resurrection appearances.
The disciples now are sharing their understanding not only of what Jesus taught, but how that impacts their understanding of what we call the Old Testament as well. I’ve always found it almost startling that when we read the story of Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, we learn that they knew about the resurrection - even before Jesus had done so.
The early church was devoted to learning what it was the Scriptures said in light of Jesus’ teaching and so they went to the closest source they could find, that was his apostles. They devoted themselves to this teaching, and one can imagine that they were not merely hearers of the Word, but they sought to do it as well.
We also see that they were committed to the fellowship.
Devoted to the apostles’ teaching
Devoted to the fellowship
The word used here is koinonia, which can be translated “participation”, or “sharing”. It included the sharing of material goods as we see in vss. 44 and 45.
The fellowship included the sharing of possessions and the deep caring for one anoth
Acts 2:44–45 ESV
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
The fellowship included the sharing of possessions and the deep caring for one another. It is important to recognize this wasn’t just an ingrown celebration, but they would reach out to those around them that had need as well.
As we continued we see that they enjoyed eating together.
Acts 2:46
Acts 2:46 ESV
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
One has to wonder if this is the beginning of the church potluck?
We also see in that last verse that they were committed to going to the Temple together.
Devoted to the apostles’ teaching
Devoted to the fellowship
Devoted to attending temple together
Just like we see in todays world religious services easily can become mundane or something that not everyone does because…well…there are more exciting things one can do. I suppose they’re right from a very small perspective.
But in the larger perspective, think about this. On any given day when God’s people gather for worship, the family of God comes and joins their heart together lifting up praises to God. They commune, share in fellowship with the One who spoke the Creation into being, with the One that knows every single thing they’ve ever said or done and welcomes them into the Heavenly Throne room, not based on their actions but because of grace! You are my sisters and brothers in Christ.
Here at Mission Woods we don’t have a huge band, towering speakers, moving stage lights or special effects. And though I do my best each Sunday to bring God’s Word to you, I’m no Billy Graham, or ________________(fill in your favorite dynamic preacher).
In some parts of the world there’s not even a Bible present, but my guess is that we could pull up at least one hundred of them in a moments notice.
Yet we gather. And you know why? We’re family, and our Father God loves it when we’re together.
So far, we’ve seen the early church’s devotion:
Devoted to the apostles’ teaching (Instruction)
Devoted to the fellowship (Fellowship)
Devoted to attending temple together (Worship)
Let’s look at the last verse of our passage.
Acts 2:47 ESV
praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
You know what I love about that last line? Notice the one who is acting. It’s the Lord that adds to their number. When they are faithful the Good News spills out of us. It gets out. It’s not about us standing on a street corner, handing out tracts, arguing with people trying to get them to agree to accept Jesus now so we can get a notch in our Bible.
The growth of the church is from Good News, as people see people living under Grace and in the Love of God it is naturally attractive. The number will be added to. That does not mean we just are quiet - anymore than we are quiet when we’re in love with another person. Everyone around us knows.
This is God’s work.
Devoted to the apostles’ teaching (Instruction)
Devoted to the fellowship (Fellowship)
Devoted to attending temple together (Worship)
The Lord added to their number (Evangelism)
The Gospels refer to Jesus as the Bride Groom, and the church is often presented as the Bride waiting for the Bride Groom’s return. With a nod to Chuck Swindoll for this acronym, I want to Re-order these for the sake of our memory. The groom’s bride is now his WIFE.
W - Worship - Devoted to attending temple together
I - Instruction - Devoted to the Apostles’ teaching
F - Fellowship - Devoted to the fellowship
E - Evangelism - The Lord added to their number.
The early church left us a great heritage. As we continue to devote ourselves to Worship (both corporately and individually of our Lord), to Instruction by studying God’s Word, to Fellowship by not giving up meeting together but encouraging one another, then God will continue to add to bring in others to join in this venture we call seeking God first.
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