Tuesday
Oct272009

They Devoted Themselves

It is difficult enough to start congregations these days – in regions or nations where the New Testament or its church are little known – but imagine the task before the apostles in starting the church itself from scratch.

As the Acts of the Apostles opens, 120 believers are gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem to plot their shared spiritual fate. After ordaining a new twelfth apostle, the Holy Spirit falls upon that select dozen on the day of Pentecost, enabling them to preach the good news in a way that the assembled throng of thousands could all understand in their native tongues. Peter’s speech is preserved by the historian – it is a sermon that convicts the visitors who when last in Jerusalem had witnessed the execution of one Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews and very son of God.

They were cut to the heart and wondered what to do about their mistake. Peter told them to repent – to confess their sin and abandon it – and to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins – to be immersed in water to wash away their guilt (Acts 2:38). “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).

Later in the chapter, Luke refers to this new association as the church – the ekklesia in Greek, the assembly of called-out believers. Luke also gives the modern reader a little insight into the early church’s function.

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

The work of the infant church, which must be imitated by the modern one, involves evangelism, edification, enthusiasm and education.

The early Christians – not just the apostles – shared the gospel with their neighbors so that the Lord continued to add “to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47; see also Acts 8:4).

They edified one another and whipped up the believers’ enthusiasm for the work by regularly assembling, sharing in praise and prayers and in the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper (see Acts 20:7, First Corinthians 11:17-34). They spent time together beyond the worship assembly as well, “breaking bread in their homes” and seeing to each one’s peculiar needs.

The early church was concerned with education, for they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching as part of the Great Commission to instruct believers to observe all things Christ had commanded them (see Matthew 28:20). There was so much to learn.

The early church was equipped for this kind of work because her members were devoted to it. The work was not characterized by entertainment, recreation, dramatics or philosophy, but by the simple and pure plan of salvation and sustaining the redeemed. One wonders how much the church could grow today if such devotion could be reproduced!