By Toni Ford
In the second chapter of Acts, we discover the first definition of the early church. Not only do we read about how it was formed but we see the qualities and characteristics that defined the New Testament church. Acts gives us the foundations of the early church.
Acts 2:42-47 says, “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs in one place and shared everything they had. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the good will of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”
As I read this scripture, there are at least three characteristics of the early church that stand out to me and that I can’t help but ask myself, “Do these same qualities and characteristics define my church and the church overall today?”
Devotion. Verse 42 begins by saying, “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to fellowship and to sharing in meals and to prayer.” So, what does it mean to be “devoted?” Webster’s Dictionary defines devoted as, “loyal, committed, faithful, true, dedicated, constant, and steadfast.” In order for a group of people to be devoted to something, they must be in agreement. In the second part of this verse, we see what the believers were actually devoted to: the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, sharing in meals and prayer. These were the core elements of their church.
Fellowship. Several times throughout these verses, we read about the people fellowshipping together, worshipping together, sharing meals together, meeting in homes to have communion together, and then as a community giving to others in need. The key word is ‘fellowship,’ which means more than just “being together.” It also means “having in common.” The church was unified and others saw the love they had for each other and for others outside the church and how they served their Lord. Thus, the reason why Acts tells us the Lord added daily to their fellowship those who were being saved!
Simple. In the description of the New Testament church, we never see a denomination mentioned, a specific design of a church building or a theology discussion taking place prior to others being added to their numbers. The believers were focused on God and the basic foundations on what it means to love God and pursue Him. Those foundations are the Word of God, worship, prayer, communion, fellowship and giving to others. As a result, Acts 2:47 refers to the believers with “great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the good will of all the people.”
Often times it is easy to blame those within the church or to be disgruntled with things within the church. However, the New Testament church began with individual believers. My prayer is that we as believers would first begin living out Acts 2 in our own personal lives and then take what we have learned into the church. Imagine what the Lord could do within our churches if we as believers would practice these qualities and characteristics in our own lives first!
So, Lord, we pray for fresh revelation and understanding of what it means to be devoted to you and you alone, to be in fellowship with others, loving and serving others as you do and help us not get caught up in the opinions of others and the denominations of others. Instead, please help us keep our eyes on you and you only!