Basic Church

Basic Church

“Basic Church”

(Acts 2:41-47)

Series: Back to the Basics (Acts 1-9)

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson

  • I invite you to take your Bibles and open to Acts, chapter 2.

While you’re finding that let me say, “Happy National Coffee Day!”  Of course, to the true believer, every day is coffee day.

We’re in a series of messages entitled, “Back to the Basics.”  We’re looking back to the pattern of the early church, studying the qualities of the first church.  This is First Baptist, but what about the First Church?  What can we learn from them?

Last week we learned about how the first Christians gathered together in that upper room with one accord and prayed.  And one of the things for which they were praying was that the holy Spirit would come upon them as our Lord promised.  That happens in chapter 2 at Pentecost.  And the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost meant that God indwells believers in a sustainable way, making possible a real change to our human nature.  The apostles are now very different because they have the Spirit of God within them.  Peter is not so proud anymore.  And rather than promoting themselves, James and John are full of love for others.  

Now after this coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter stands up and addresses a large crowd gathered in Jerusalem.  And he preaches Jesus Christ to them.  And the result is that a large number are saved.  We’ll pick up there at verse 41 and I’ll invite you to listen for some of the marks or qualities of the early church.

  • Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.

41 Then those who gladly [NU omits gladly] received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 

43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 

44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 

45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 

47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church [NU omits to the church] daily those who were being saved.

  • Let’s Pray: “As we study Your Word, Lord, we recognize that we are hearing You speak to us; that what Scripture says, You say.  Help us listen intently, to learn, and then to do what You say, for Jesus Christ’s sake, amen.”

How would you describe the local church?  How important is it to gather together?  How important is membership?

A Gallup poll this past April revealed “a 20-percentage-point decline in church membership over the past 20 years…the lowest it has been since Gallup began polling the question in 1937 (Christianity Today, April 22, 2019).”  

Ask the average person to describe the local church and you’ll get any number of responses.  Most continue to think of the church as a building rather than a body.  And most continue to think of the church as a place you go to watch others do things.  You sit and watch while they do the work.

Howard Hendricks once described the local church as a football game: twenty-two people on the field, badly in need of rest, and forty thousand people in the stands, badly in need of exercise!

What can we learn from the early church?  Last week we saw how they started with 120 people gathered together in that upper room.  And after Peter’s sermon, the number grows to 3,000.  How did this happen?  Well, the Holy Spirit moved in a powerful way.  Peter preached Jesus Christ and he was very direct there in verse 40: “Be saved from this perverse (or crooked) generation.”  And the Bible says many “received his word.”  That is, they were cut to the heart, convicted of their sin, and believed in the gospel.  Where there is conviction of sin there will be conversion of souls, 3,000 on this particular day.  And Luke, ever the careful historian, gives this number 3,000 suggesting that records were like kept of both conversions and baptisms.  Nothing wrong with counting; behind every number is a person created in God’s image.

Those who received the word were baptized.  And note that only those who received the word were baptized.  Baptism is an ordinance for all who believe the word and are soundly converted.  Once we believe the gospel and receive Christ, we are baptized.  We had 3 baptisms in the 9:30 service.  Three folks who have received the word, believed the gospel, and were baptized as a way of identifying with Jesus Christ and becoming members.  A reminder to you that after the service, you are invited to respond to the word by stopping by the Response Room—right out these doors here—and you’ll find a helpful, trained volunteer to pray with you, give you information about the church, register you for baptism. 

**How Can We Describe the First Church?  

  1. A Learning Church (42)

42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostlesdoctrine (or teaching)

Literally the word is “Didache,” teaching.  Some of you may have heard this word before; Didache.  It’s the name of an early Christian treatise dating to the first century.  The Didache. It’s a collection of the apostles’ teaching as well as providing order and instruction to the church.  The first line of the Didache reads: “The teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the twelve apostles.”

The point is, from the very beginning, the first church was a learning church.  Teaching was central and crucial to the development of Christians.  Teaching.  The New King James has the word doctrine.  Same idea.  Teaching of the word.  Theology.  The study of God.  Didache.  Theology is important.

By the way, remember that theology is simply “the ordinary rules of grammar and logic applied to the text of Scripture.”  That’s all theology is; the ordinary rules of grammar and logic applied to the text of Scripture.

Sometimes people say, “Well, I don’t want any doctrine, just give me Jesus!”  Sounds really spiritual.  Like, “I don’t have time for all this theology, I just need Jesus.”  Well how do you really know who Jesus is if you never study Him!  Peter’s sermon in chapter 2 is all about Jesus.  He’s teaching them doctrine. 

The Great Commission includes Jesus’ saying, “teaching them all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”  The “all things” is an awful lot of information.  It’s a lifetime of learning!  

In a capitulation to contemporary culture, some churches have said, “Well folks just can’t learn doctrine.  Let’s cut back the teaching.  They can’t pay attention long.  Let’s cut back the sermons, preach little sermonettes.”  And the result is the American church, stunted little Christianettes produced from little sermonetts.

“A church only grows as the members grow.”  They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.  Let’s continue to be a church that teaches doctrine.  May the pastor always be a man of God who teaches the Word of God, to the people of God, to the glory of God.  The first church was a learning church.  Secondly, we can describe the first church as:

  1. A Sharing Church (42, 44-45)

42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship

The word translated “fellowship” there is the word “Koinonia.” We often point out that this word “fellowship” doesn’t mean coffee and donuts, which is really too bad because I happen to like coffee and donuts a great deal!  Happy National Coffee Day again.  Of course there is a sense in which biblical fellowship may include those kinds of things, coffee, donuts, barbecue, campfires, and so on.  

But at its core the word means “sharing” or “participation with.”  Fellowship means to share together something in common.  Christians share a common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Christians observe that faith together through ordinances like baptism and the Lord’s supper, what is conveyed I believe in the next phrase, “the breaking of bread.”  Fellowship.  Communion.  Sharing together.  This sharing is further expressed in verses 44 and following:

44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 

45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Sharing of faith led to sharing of resources.  This is not communism, by the way.  It was a voluntary sharing.  Communism is not voluntary.  Communism says, “What’s yours is mine.”  Communism or socialism is enforced by the state; confiscating your property.  The early Christians retained the rights to their own property, that’s especially clear in Chapter 5.  This is simply generous giving.  It reflects the spirit of “holding our possessions loosely,” always ready to give away.

A sharing church is a loving church.  There is a genuine love for one another.  Remember what our Lord Jesus taught in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples: you have love for one another.”  

To become part of the church is to enter into a love relationship with a people so near and dear that we refer to them as brother, sister, a father in the faith, a family.  To love and be loved is to be vulnerable.  

Some 10 years after he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis wrote a book called, The Four Loves, a book in which he describes the four different Greek words used to describe love.  In the book, Lewis writes of the necessity of love, a point that is especially significant given that many don’t want to be part of the church because they’re afraid to commit or to be hurt or let down.  Here’s an excerpt, Lewis writes:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable….The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers . . . of love is Hell —The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.,1960) 169 Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. 

Wow!  Give your heart to Jesus Christ.  Give your heart to others.  That’s what the first church did.  They were a learning church and a sharing church.  Thirdly, they were:

  1. A Praying Church (42-43)

42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 

We noted last week how the 120 folks gathered in the upper room to pray, pentecost comes after prayer.  No church is a powerful church that is not first a prayerful church.  The first church prayed often.  They gathered together regularly “in prayers,” plural.  They prayed often.  So often, it seems, that verse 43: “fear came upon every soul,” fear or awe.  If there is one thing seemingly lacking in so many modern notions of church today is the lack of “fear upon every soul,” lack of awe and wonder in the church.  

Maybe because of what we’ve warned against before: doing too many things in our own strength or power.  No real awe and wonder and majesty of the One True and Living God.  Genuine spirituality in the church.

Someone said, “The less spirituality a church has, the more entertainment it takes to keep it running.”  I suppose that’s true.  The first church was a praying church.

Let’s continue to be a praying church.  I hope you’re continuing to pray every day through our 52 Days of Prayer Guide.  There are still a few copies over here and you can access it online at our website.  

Are you reading the devotions our church members are writing?  They’re being posted on our church’s Facebook page.  Different members writing a devotion based upon the day’s Bible verses recorded there in the guide.

Darrin Phegley wrote one for last Friday.  I saw him in the church office and I said, “Good devotion, brother!  You dealt with the context, and good application.”  I was joking with him and said, “You’ve obviously been under good teaching for 17 years!”  Pray daily for your church family.

Jacob mentioned “Pray and Go” last Sunday evening.  Praise God.  We’re praying not just for ourselves and for our church, but also for the lost and unconnected.

We have a prayer gathering tonight.  Prayer gathering last Sunday of every month.    And praying for your “one.”  Let your wristband remind you to keep praying daily for your one.

How can we describe the first church?  It was a learning church, a sharing church, and a praying church.  Finally, number four, it was:

  1. A Worshiping Church (46-47)

This week’s theme in our 52 Days of Prayer prayer guide is the theme of worship.  Brother Seton Norris wrote today’s devotion from Isaiah 6.  He writes about how we need to prepare our hearts and minds before we come together in worship.  Another good devotion.  The first church came together regularly for worship, even daily:

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 

47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church [NU omits to the church] daily those who were being saved.

They “continued daily” in this fashion.  Their worship was a daily worship.  We often think of worship as only, “going to church,” or going to the building where we have the worship services.  It’s more than that, but I am stuck that the first church gathered together in the temple daily.  We go to a building once or twice a week.  They went every day.

Adrian Rogers used to say some people go to church only three times in their entire lives: at their christening when they’re a baby, then when they’re married, and then at their funeral.  He would say, “When they’re hatched, matched, and dispatched!”  The first time, you throw water on ‘em, the second time you throw rice on ‘em, the third time you throw dirt on ‘em.

These folks gathered together daily.  They didn’t demand perfection of one another.  They were an imperfect people, comprising an imperfect church.  But that didn’t stop them from lovingly gathering together in regular worship.

You know my saying.  Someone says, “Well, I’m not going to that church!  The church is full of hypocrites!”  I like to say, “The church is not full of hypocrites—we always have room for one more!”  We’re an imperfect people who share love for a perfect Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He binds us together.

It’s love for Jesus Christ and the gospel that motivates our gathering together.  They are a people who live for God—verse 47: “praising God.”  They are a people who have—verse 46 “gladness and simplicity of heart.”  They love Jesus!  

This is why they were able to give away their possessions.  Because they knew that real joy does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions.  These joyful folks were gladly giving away their stuff because they loved the riches of Christ more than their stuff.  Above all things, it is love for Jesus Christ and the gospel that defines the biblical church.  The first church was a basic, gospel-centered church.  May we be known for being a gospel-centered church, as well.

Listen to this and we’ll close.  Jared C. Wilson teaches at Midwestern Seminary.  He pastored for a number of years and now he’s teaching at Midwestern.  He writes:

A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the nicest church in town…A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the most popular church in town…A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the smartest church in town…

No, a gospel-centered church doesn’t aim to be the anything-est church in town because it’s not comparing itself to other churches, but to the holiness of God, which will shrink the church down to size in its own estimation and make her hunger for the holiness that only comes from the riches of Christ in the gospel…A gospel-centered church is okay with its own decreasing—in reputation, in acclaim, in legacy, even in numbers (he adds, ‘gasp!’), but especially in self-regard—so long as it serves the increasing of the sense of the glory of God.

  • Let’s pray: “Father, that’s what we want in our church—the glory of God.  Help us always to be a gospel-centered church, a church that is learning, sharing, praying, worshiping.  A church that loves Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything.  We confess our sin, we repent, we turn to You afresh and anew and ask for Your grace to build us into the people You would have us be.  And as we get ready to leave here in a few minutes, help us arise and put our armor on.  Give us grace for every hurdle until the final day when with Christ we stand in glory, in His name we pray, amen.”
  • Stand and let’s sing our hymn of Response.  As we sing, you respond however you need to respond: “O Church, Arise”
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