What does the Church do? Part I – January 28, 2024

Acts 2:41-47

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Having established what the Church is, we now come to answer the ever-important question, “What does the Church do?” To understand this, it is very helpful to go back to the beginning of the Church and find the essential things that the Church regularly did when they met together. The context of Acts 2 is that the Holy Spirit has come to the disciples of Jesus, Peter boldly proclaims the gospel to the Jewish people who were gathered in Jerusalem from all over the world, and many of the crowd are convicted and turn to Christ in faith. This early group of believers constituted the first local church. What would this group do together? Acts 2:41-47 provides for us eight things echoed throughout the rest of the New Testament that are the essentials of what a local church does. This week we will look at the first three of those things listed for us.

The first thing that the passage records for us that a local church does is they pledged themselves to membership. While there may not have been an official roll with all the names on it, the group of people committed themselves to one another in a very real way. First, they were baptized. Baptism is a public profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and it visibly marks out a person as a committed follower of Christ. This group was counted (3,000 souls) and identified as followers of Christ. Those that were baptized became a part of a real fellowship of people that diligently continued to gather together. This committed, continual gathering of Christians to practice the things a church is called to do constitutes church membership. It is God’s will for every Christian to be a faithful (committed) member of a local church. In fact, you will not find a believer in the New Testament who does not have this commitment. The local church is how Christ’s authority is lived out in the lives of His people (Matthew 16:19; 18:15-20). Even the great Apostle Paul was submitted to the authority of the local church in Antioch when the Holy Spirit led that church to send out he and Barnabas on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:1+). Jesus builds His kingdom, trains His people, and calls His missionaries through the local church. Are you committed to a local body of believers?

This early church was also continually taught the Word of God, “the apostles’ doctrine.” Since the church is the “pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) and is called to make disciples by teaching people to observe all Jesus has commanded (Matthew 28:20), the most critical aspect of church life and of discipleship is the teaching and preaching of the Word of God. The apostles were those called and gifted by Jesus to give to the early church His Word which we now have recorded for us in the New Testament. They were led by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-15) to teach what they taught and their teaching was a foundation laid by the Lord to His Church (Ephesians 2:20). It is through their preaching of the Word that the church grew in Acts and it is through the preaching of the Word that Christians and churches grow today (1 Peter 2:2; Ephesians 4:11-16). A local church is to gathered for the preaching and teaching of the Word. It is through this that the Church is equipped to do what God has called us  to (Ephesians 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Are you regularly under the teaching of the Word of God?

Next, the local church is called to partner in ministry together. The word “fellowship” (Greek koinonia) is an important word in the New Testament. It describes a partnership or sharing in something. In this case, the word is used to describe the shared life and ministry that the early church had. Likewise, all local churches are a fellowship of believers who share life and partner together to do the Lord’s work. One of the purposes in gathering together is so that believers might encourage each other in “love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24-25). God has not called believers to live the Christian life alone. There is no such thing as a lone Christian. We need each other because God has designed the Christian life to be lived in such way. In the New Testament, there are no Christians that are not regularly connected with a local church. We need the regular fellowship of other believers in our lives. We need other Christians to serve alongside us. All of the “one anothers” of the New Testament stem from this committed fellowship (Ephesians 4:25, 32 and many more passages). Are you in real, committed, regular fellowship with a body of believers?

These first three functions of a local church are the first in series of essentials that Christ has called His church to. The local church, that is submitted to His Word, is where Christ’s authority is lived out in the lives of His people. We are committed to Jesus by being committed to His people in a local church. It is there that we live out our commitment to Him in membership, grow through the instruction of His Word in preaching and teaching, share life, and service alongside other believers who are invested in us and we in them. The only way to truly love and be a part of a church is first through a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus. We must first be a member of The Church to be a member of a local church. We must first surrender to the gospel message to truly grow in His Word. We must first have fellowship with the Father, Son, and Spirit in a saving relationship (1 John 1:3) to have real fellowship with other believers. Do you know and love Jesus? Are you committed to His people?