What does the Church do? Part II – February 4, 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.

One of the most disastrous things that can happen to any business, organization, or cause is for the people involved to lose sight of what they are supposed to be doing. When people lose their purpose, it is impossible to be unified and accomplish much. Proverbs 29:18 tells us, “18 Where there is no vision, the people perish.” In the local church, it is even more critical to be clear about what we are to be doing and then do it. It is vital that we are all on the same page and committed to what Scripture teaches we are to do. We must prioritize what the Bible prioritizes and we must be committed to what the Bible calls us to be committed to. There is something unique about the early church in Acts. This group of a few thousand people had just come to faith in Christ and been indwelt by the Holy Spirit. They became a part of the Church (the universal body of believers). What did they do with this new found faith and belonging?

Acts 2:41-47 records for us eight commitments of the first local church in Jerusalem that are reflected throughout the rest of the New Testament as essential to what the church does. Last week, we looked at the first three of these commitments. First, there was this clear pledge to membership. These believers were baptized and publicly identified as followers of Jesus. Then, they committed themselves to the other believers in a real way. Second, there was the commitment to preaching the Word of God. The “apostles’ doctrine” was a first priority of those who were committed together. It is listed first by way of importance because everything that a local church does and that a Christian does is to be directed and rooted in Scripture. Thirdly, they had a commitment to fellowship. This fellowship was their commitment to one another in partnering together to disciple each other and make other disciples. This week, we will continue with more of these essential activities as we answer the question, “What does the Church do?”

A fourth aspect of life in the early church was a commitment to practice the ordinances. An ordinance is a command, but it is not just any ordinary command. It is a command with a practice associated with it. Jesus has given two ordinances to His Church: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both are given as commands to the Church as ways of publicly proclaiming and demonstrating the gospel message. Baptism is the immersion of a believer in water as a visible sign of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and the new life that a believer has in Jesus (Romans 6:3-4). It is the initial step of obedience for a new Christian and marks out a Christian as publicly identified with Jesus. Acts 2:41 tells us that all who believed were baptized as result of their faith. The “breaking of bread” mentioned here in Acts 2:42 is not just about eating a meal, but speaks to the practice of the Lord’s Supper where believers partake of bread and the fruit of the vine as reminders of the body and blood of Christ. While baptism is a one-time initial act of profession of faith, the Lord’s Supper is an ongoing practice to remember Christ’s sacrifice and His Second Coming (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). It is given to encourage the Church to proclaim the gospel, promote love (1 Corinthians 11:27-32), and pursue holiness (1 Corinthians 11:33-34).

Prayer is also a critical part of the gathering of the people of God in the local church. It is not only important for believers to have a private prayer life in which they commune with God, but it is vital that the body of Christ partner together in prayer. Jesus promised at several points to equip His disciples with whatever they needed to carry out His will if they would only ask the Father in His name (John 14:13-14; 15:16). In the Christian life, there are certain things that God will do that are conditioned on whether or not you and I ask Him. James 4:2 tells us, “ye have not, because ye ask not.” You and I are called to be like the persistent friend asking for help in Luke 11:5-9, recognizing that our loving Father will equip us with what we need and wisdom to carry out His will (James 1:5-8; Luke 11:9-13). We are called to pray for all people for salvation (1 Timothy 2:1-6) and for one another (James 5:16). We are also to pray for the furtherance of the gospel in our church’s community and around the world (Colossians 4:2-4).

The ordinances and prayer are essential parts of the body of Christ and they are carried out in the local church. Perhaps you have never come to know Christ. Maybe He is calling you to follow Him in Baptism. Perhaps you have never truly considered His amazing sacrifice for you as you’ve taken the Lord’s Supper. Maybe, you need to make a new commitment to pray. Pray for your church family, pray for the salvation of the people around you. Pray for your nation. Pray to know the Lord’s will and for the strength to follow it. Pray for your enemies. Pray that God will use you for His glory.