Today’s reading: Acts 1-3.
Jesus poured himself into his twelve disciples for three years, but when he returned to heaven there were only 120 persons who could be counted as believers (Acts 1:15). But little with God is much. As a result of his discipling, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, thousands of new believers were soon filling the homes and crowding the temple in Jerusalem. The church, literally the assembly or gathering, sprang up and grew rapidly.
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:40-42
The longing of the church: Jesus’ return. As the disciples watched Jesus ascend to heaven, they were told that he would return in the same way. “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus” is the cry of believers who watch and wait for his return.
The power of the church: the Holy Spirit. The believers were gathered together on Pentecost, fifty days after Passover, when the Holy Spirit came and filled them. Jesus had been sacrificed on Passover, and had risen from the dead at the time of the First Fruits celebration. Pentecost celebrated the first of the wheat harvest, and a great harvest of new believers came into the church as a result of the work of the Spirit on Pentecost.
The growth of the church: preaching to the lost. I think it’s significant that the growth came from preaching outside the gathering of believers, but in view of the remarkable work of God among the believers. So much of our preaching focuses on the people already in the church. Peter’s effective preaching reached the outsiders. Our preaching would be more effective if today’s believers showed more evidence of God’s power in their lives.
The maintainance of the church: fellowship. Acts mentions four things going on in the early church. Teaching was done by the apostles. Fellowship involved sharing time with each other and sharing resources with each other as needed to meet needs. They had a common purpose and held their possessions loosely in order to fulfill that purpose. They broke bread together, an everyday word for everyday eating, but they likely followed the meal with a celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Finally, they prayed together, uniting them in communication with God.
They kept up the communion of saints. They continued in fellowship, and continued daily with one accord in the temple. They not only had a mutual affection to each other, but a great deal of mutual conversation with each other; they were much together. When they withdrew from the untoward generation, they did not turn hermits, but were very intimate with one another, and took all occasions to meet; wherever you saw one disciple, you would see more, like birds of a feather. See how these Christians love one another. They were concerned for one another, sympathized with one another, and heartily espoused one another’s interests. – Matthew Henry
Image by Trey Ratcliff on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0