I have a question for you: do you know the Gospel? Do you know it well enough to explain it to somebody else? How about this: Has the Gospel truly impacted your life? Could others truly see the Gospel in your identity and your actions? These are convicting questions, but they’re essential. James 2:19-20 says “19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is [h]dead? He’s saying that it’s not enough for a Christian to simply believe that there is a God. We must put our complete faith in him. This is signified through our actions, or “works.” What are these “works”? Paul tells us in Galatians 5: Galatians 5:22-23: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. True faith in the Gospel promotes a response, both internally (through faith) and externally (through action). The book of Acts describes how the Church grew and multiplied as early Christians placed their faith in God and responded to the Gospel. This is why we always bring up the identity statement: Who Christ is and what He’s done determines who I am and how I live. Our identity and actions as Christians should be formed in direct response to the Gospel. Last week, in the first part of Acts chapter 2, we saw Peter lay out the Gospel message. We then saw 3,000 people respond to the message by placing their faith in Christ. Now, we’re going to see how they form their identity and actions in response to the Gospel. Let’s read: Acts 2:42-47 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[d] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 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 passage describes the first “church.” (Big C vs little C) Many people like to use this passage as an “instruction manual” for how to run church, and for good reason. (Examples in passage). However, if that’s all it is, we’re missing the point. Each of these believers were acting in response to the Gospel, and we can see each of their actions reflecting a specific aspect of who Christ is and what He had just done. Today, we’ll examine three overarching responses of the church in this passage: 1. Devotion 2. Unity 3. Generosity 1. Devotion 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Devotion = proskartereó which means “to steadfastly continue in.” It’s used twice in this passage (42 and 46), and it gives us a true gauge of the attitude of the people here. We as Christians often “devote” ourselves to Christlike things, such as setting up a reading plan, praying on the drive to work, or signing up to serve at Church, only to find ourselves out of the habit soon after. That’s the difference between “works” of ourselves and “works” inspired by faith in the Gospel. This is an example of a church that is continually and steadfastly devoted in response to the real and lasting impact of the Holy Spirit entering their lives. We can see their devotion to several things: “apostles’ teaching”, “the fellowship”, “the breaking of bread”, and “the prayers.” 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Teaching: This appears at first to focus on the teachings of the apostles themselves. This is a dangerous position to take, as it is a view that elevates man above the word of God. There are many instances in the Bible where God condemns those who speak out of their own wisdom rather than His (such as several prophets in the OT), - examples show us that it can be understood as the Gospel itself. Devotion to the Bible is paramount. We cannot respond to the Gospel as believers or as a Church if we don’t know what the Gospel is, and/or are not continually reminded of who God is and what He has done. Hebrews 4:12 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Romans 10:17 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. If we are to live lives that reflect the Gospel, we must be devoted to the word of the Lord. 2. Unity 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[d] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. The term “breaking of bread” reflects this, as it’s a symbol used throughout the Bible to demonstrate unity with Christ and amongst the body in response to Christ. (Communion as an example) Fellowship = the church - the family of believers that God has called together. The church is a visible representation of Christ to the world - in worship, in love, and in acts of service to others. We can see that clearly in this passage. This cannot happen without the members of the church being devoted to each other. Jesus himself recognized this, and specifically prayed for unity amongst the body three times in his final prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Romans 12:4-5 4 For as in one body we have many members,[e] and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12:10-13 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[g] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. It’s easy to read through these passages and say “that’s nice, yes I’ll do that.” But consider what it actually takes to accomplish this. It takes, time, money, energy, emotions, and the ability to step outside of ourselves and care for others. It takes genuine love, genuine selflessness, genuine acceptance, and genuine forgiveness. These are not things that can be done by asking each other about the weather on a Sunday morning and saying “have a good week” on the way out the door. These are things that can only be done through a reaction to the Gospel in our own lives. At the beginning of this Romans 12 passage, Paul says that we must present ourselves as a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” For a Church to truly impact a city, we must be individually open and responsive to the Gospel. It’s only through this that others will see the love, grace, and hope of the Gospel in our actions. If you find yourself in a position where this is tough for you to accept, I urge you to explore the Gospel once more. Open yourself to the truth of who God is and what He’s done for you. If we are to carry out the great commission as a church today, we must live in unity and devotion to each other. 3. Generosity 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. Throughout the Bible, we see generosity counted as one of the most powerful responses to the Gospel. It’s an act that goes directly against our own human nature, yet it so clearly displays an absolute faith in who God is and what He has done. James 1:27 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Jesus even uses generosity as a “standard” - a penultimate test of faith in response to the Gospel (story of “rich young ruler”) Matthew 19:21-22 21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. There are so many ways that the Church can reflect the nature of God through the gospel to others, but the Bible makes it very clear that none are so drastic or impactful as generosity. When we can truly appreciate the fact that Jesus willingly gave up His place in Heaven to pay the penalty for our sin, so that we can be righteous before God the Father, (the ultimate act of generosity and love), it should inspire us to be generous with each other and with the world as well. The Great Commission cannot happen without a generous outpouring of our energy, our priorities, our love, our passion, and (often) the material things that God has given to us. As believers, we must allow the Lord to use the Gospel to prompt us to be generous with others. As a church, we must use the generosity of our members to serve the Lord and others. I want to be part of a church that is so inspired by the Gospel that it cannot help but overflow into acts of devotion, unity, and generosity. On Sunday, at GC, and in the community, we must keep our focus on what is truly important in our lives - the fact that our identity and our actions are completely and solely inspired by who Christ is, and what He has done.