Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Church: First Century and Twenty-first Century

In Acts 2, Luke gives us an account of the first days of the early Church. Verses 42-47 describe what the earliest believers did as a group:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

I don't believe that the accounts of the practices of the first century churches are prescriptive. Many of the things they did would not fit in another time or another culture. However, I do believe that the attitudes that the first Christians had, and the actions driven by those attitudes, are necessary for any group to be vital and show Christ to a watching world. This is especially true in smaller fellowships where it is not easy to get lost in the crowd.

Notice verse 42. The early followers of Jesus were devoted to four things. We'll talk about the first two in this post, and the next two in another post. The first was the teaching of the apostles about Jesus Christ. They were committed to learning how to follow this Lord from the ones who had spent three years as his disciples. They weren't learning how to be a better ____________________. Somehow in the last 2000 years, we have drifted away from that original teaching and replaced it any number of teachings that could easily pass for motivational lectures, or sermons that betray the speaker's desire to control the lives of his listeners.

The second thing they were committed to was fellowship, or as The Message puts it, "the life together." Again, we have drifted away from the original. Fellowship now means a covered dish supper or some other type of special event where church members get together. To the early church, fellowship carried the idea of living life together, of being involved in one another's lives, of having an intimate relationship with their brothers and sisters and fellow members of the Body. There was a bond that they were committed to.

You could say that the first century Christians were devoted to Jesus Christ and to each other. In a later post, we'll look further at the devotion of our spiritual forerunners.

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