What does the Church do? Part III – February 11, 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.

What does the Church do? Over the last several weeks we have discovered five essential activities that are found in Acts 2:41-47 from looking at the example of the first local church and throughout the New Testament. Thus far, there are five things found in Acts 2:41-42 that a local church does. They pledge to membership, preach the Word, partner in ministry, practice the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and they persist in prayer. This week, we come to the final three contained in this passage: worship, giving, and evangelism.

Worship in the Old Testament comes from a Hebrew word that means “to bow.” Worship is about submission and obedience to God (Romans 12:1-2). We worship by giving God what He has asked of us. Abraham worshipped God by doing what God told him and taking His son Isaac to offer him (Genesis 22:5). Acts 2:43 records for us a sixth essential aspect of local church activity and that is worship. Here, the “fear,” or reverential awe, that the early church experienced and how they held God in proper reverence. Too much of local church gathering today is done with a man-centered type of mindsight. This type of mindset is revealed in the focus of questions like: How appealing is this to people? How entertaining can we make our service? While it is good to be able to evangelize while we meet, our primary purpose in meeting is not to attract people, but to honor God and grow from His Word. While it is not wrong to do our best in presentation because we are honoring and representing God, it is wrong to do so for the praise of men and promotion of ourselves. While Christians should not be boring people who have no demonstrated love for Christ, we are not called to cater to the flesh. Instead, we should meet the real needs of people, which are spiritual. Worship in Scripture is about submitting to God. It is about whether you and I are obedient to God from the heart. Without true obedience in our lives, all ritual and religious activity we engage in is not worship. We must base all that we do on a right understanding of God’s Word and then live in obedience to His Word. The local church is to promote worship. We are to call people through all that we do to love Christ and honor Him. It is when we honor God with our lives in surrender to Him that He demonstrates His power in salvation to the world around us.

A seventh vital aspect of church life is that of giving. Giving is a touchy subject in Christian circles today. We all know of the schemes of televangelists that have turned many people sour to the subject of churches and money. Afterall, 1 Timothy 6:10 tells us, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” However, we must note that it is not money itself, but “the love of money” that is wrong. Money is a valuable and necessary tool that is stewarded to God’s people to be used, like everything else He has given us, to further His kingdom and glorify Him in the world. The early church voluntarily sold their own possessions to meet the needs of others. The necessity of this was brought on by the fact that there were many dispersed Jews in Jerusalem that came to faith in Christ at Pentecost. By staying for a length of time, they would have had basic needs. The members of that church sold their own possessions to provide for them. This pattern of selfless giving is echoed throughout the New Testament. In addition, the practice of giving regularly is clearly taught in passages like 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 that teach that believers should give regularly (when gathered together on the Lord’s Day) and proportionately (as God has blessed them). The motive in giving is also not some legalistic demand, but rather a voluntary giving that is to be done cheerfully according to 2 Corinthians 9:6. Giving is a part of our worship and, in our giving, the ministries and needs of the church body are provided for. By giving, we are demonstrating that God is the source and provider of all we have. We are also showing that our money does not have control over us, but the Spirit of God does.

A final essential of church life is the spread of the gospel message. The early church had a powerful testimony because they preached the truth faithfully and genuinely lived out what they preached. The whole community recognized the drastic change in these new believers and knew that something supernatural had happened. As a result, the gospel message went forth in power. The church must proclaim the gospel, but we must also be sure that we are not a stumbling block with the testimony that we bear before the watching world. Our ultimate goal should never be to build bigger buildings, or have larger ministries, but rather to make more disciples. Bigger buildings and larger ministries can be good if they are used in making disciples, but our motivation must always be the gospel. We can never allow disagreements, pragmatism, or cultural accommodation get in the way of biblical truth and gospel ministry.

As we have answered the question, “What does the Church do?” with eight essentials, there are two questions we must ask ourselves: “Is my church doing these things?” and “Am I participating in these things personally?” If the answer is “no” to either then there is a simple matter of obedience we need to submit to the Lord in our lives. We must never let anything in our lives or our church that we do to get in the way of doing these things. Just like God blessed and used the local church in Acts 2 greatly to spread the gospel, He desires to use us. We must simply be humble, willing, and surrendered vessels. When we do God’s work God’s way in humble obedient faith, we will be amazed at what He will do.