You know how the internet learns things about you and shows you advertisements it thinks you’re interested in—like when you google the word “marriage” and all you see for the next two months is ads for diamond rings? Well, a funny thing happens when the internet learns that you are a pastor. You start to see a lot of ads for church growth conferences and Facebook posts about the “57 marks of a healthy congregation.” I’ve learned to just ignore it, because most of it is really just some marketing guru’s opinion rather than biblical instruction of how a congregation is to function.
But there’s one formula I can’t get out of my mind. I didn’t find it on the internet. Instead, we find it in the account of the first Christian congregation. It comes right after Pentecost, when 3,000 souls received the Word, were baptized, and added to the Church (Acts 2:41). It’s interesting what they did next:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).
Did you notice the four things they devoted themselves to? The apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers.
Now, it’s important to recognize that the book of Acts is descriptive and not necessarily prescriptive. That is, it simply describes what happened, but it does not necessarily prescribe all of their activities as something all Christians everywhere should emulate. Nevertheless, some things are really good examples, and this is one of them. There is certainly no guarantee that we will grow like they did, but we would do well to emulate their example, because these four things are really, really good. So we will consider them one at a time in this space.
The first among them is “The apostles’ teaching.” It’s mentioned first and stands out as the most important of the four. But how are we to emulate their example if there aren’t any apostles left? One of the requirements of an apostle was being an eyewitness of Jesus’ resurrection. But there simply aren’t any eyewitnesses left anymore, so the New Testament office of apostle has ceased. But we do still have their teaching. It’s called the New Testament. Furthermore, as we consider the teaching of the apostles as it is recorded in the New Testament, we see that the Old Testament Scriptures were their source. So today we devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching by devoting ourselves to the reading and teaching of the Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments.
The apostles also teach us how to understand the Bible. They teach us to recognize Jesus Christ and his work as the central teaching. Your homework for this month is to read through all the sermons in the book of Acts and look for the common themes. Spoiler alert: you will see the apostles preaching about Jesus over and over and over again. They are constantly talking about how his death and resurrection are the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. This is the nature of the apostles’ teaching, and this is what the New Testament Church devoted themselves to. Following their example, we learn that the Christian life—from beginning to end—is all about Jesus.
This is the primary reason we gather together for worship and Bible study. We devote ourselves to the hearing of God’s Word, because the Word delivers to us the Lord’s kindness. It is the food that strengthens and preserves our faith.
The peace of Christ be with you all,