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AM Bible Study Archives
"And the Lord Added to the Church"
Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
September 12, 2007
Theme: This passage describes the conditions under which the Lord Jesus saw fit to grow His church after Pentecost.
What really constitutes “church growth” from the Lord's standpoint? After all , He is the one who said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). Acts 2:47 tells us that “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” What were the conditions under which the Lord saw fit to add those who were being saved daily to His church? This remarkable passage gives us the answer.
So far in Chapter 2, we've been given a view of the Holy Spirit's work in the church from the standpoint of a singular event—that is, His coming upon the disciples at Pentecost, and the resulting sermon of Peter to the Jewish people. But now, we are given a view of His work in the church from the standpoint of its ongoing, everyday life. This is shown to us (1) by the fact that the imperfect tense is used throughout (the imperfect being the tense that describes "incomplete" action in terms of its ongoing, habitual, continuous sense), and (2) by the use of phrases and words like “continued steadfastly” (v. 42) and “daily” (v. 46). Here, we're being given a 'moving panorama' of daily life in the early church; and are shown those regular features that so characterized the church that the Lord saw fit to add daily to it.
Someone once said that the Lord will not bring healthy babies into sick incubators. May we study these favorable characteristics of the early church and seek to make them our own; and as a result, may the Lord likewise see fit to add to our number those who He is saving.
I. THE FOUNDATIONAL FEATURES (v. 41).
A. From the standpoint of the larger context of this chapter, the first foundational feature of the early church is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The first 21 verses of this chapter described His coming in power; and the sermon of Peter (vv. 22-40) culminated with the call to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as the promise of God to the Jewish people (v. 38-39). In no respect can the church grow in the Lord's way except through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
B. Assuming the above, verse 41 tells us that the second foundational feature of the early church was the proclamation and reception of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We're told that, literally, “this word” was received by those who heard it—the “word” being the message of the gospel proclaimed by Peter in verses 22-36. Clearly, an active response was required (vv. 37-39); and an ongoing explanation of the demands of the gospel was provided (v. 40). Again, in no respect can the church grow in the Lord's way apart from a faithful proclamation of the message by which people are saved—that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17).
C. Finally, the third foundational feature of the early church was a public testimony of faith in Jesus Christ on the part of those who believed through baptism (v. 41; see also Matthew 28:19; Acts 8:36-38; 10:48; 16:30-33; 19:5). The suggestion of verse 41 seems to be that, on the day that Peter preached his great sermon, the three-thousand individuals that were added to the number of disciples (see 1:15) were also baptized.
II. THE FEATURES OF THE CHURCH GATHERED IN FORMAL WORSHIP (vv. 42-43).
A. That the following features should be considered an aspect of the 'corporate' life of the church (that is, the church gathered together in formal assembly) is shown by the fact that the definite article (“the”) is used throughout. The believers where characterized by a persistent adherence to these things (see Acts 1:14):
1. The teaching of the apostles. This, no doubt, described the believers in their careful attention to the regular instruction that the apostles gave with respect to the content of the faith. This is the content of what we have in the New Testament; and it affirms the absolute necessity of regular biblical preaching and teaching in the church.
2. The fellowship. This certainly spoke of their faithfulness to assemble together (Hebrews 10:23-25); but it may also have included the ideas of loving church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20) and mutual exhortation to obedience to Christ (Romans 15:14)—both of which
were informed by faithful biblical instruction.
3. The breaking of the bread. This suggests the formal observance of the Lord's Supper together (Luke 22:14-20; 24:28-31); but it may also have included the idea of other forms of formal worship—including “love feasts” (1 Cor. 11:20-34; Jude 12).
4. The prayers. This seems to suggest times of formal corporate prayer (see 3:1ff). It could be that the new believing community retained a sense of continuity with the formal times of prayer that they had originally observed in the worship life of the temple—but now with a new sense of meaningfulness and joy in Christ. They made sure that they prayed together corporately.
B. In this context, it is added that “fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles”. This speaks of an authenticating force with respect to the ministry of apostolic leadership (see 2:22; Romans 15:18-19; 2 Corinthians 12:12; also Acts 14:8-10; 15:12; 16:16-18; 19:11-12; 20:7-10; 28:3-6). A very ready example of this may be found in Acts 5:1-11; and especially the reaction of the people in verses 11-16. This underscores the ongoing sense of the Holy Spirit's ministry in the midst of the church. (It also leads to the question: When was the last time people came away from church with a sense of 'fear' falling upon all of them? May we see the Spirit demonstrate Himself more!)
III. THE FEATURES OF THE CHURCH SCATTERED IN EVERYDAY LIFE (vv. 44-47a).
A. There was togetherness. The believers were "together"; and were not separate, individual, free- agents. This is in the imperfect tense, suggesting a regular "togetherness" as a habit (see Acts 1:14; 2:1)—probably not in the more strict sense of always dwelling together in the same place. The Lord blesses a church in which its believing members cherish being together. They became one another's best friends. Cliques and disagreements didn't separate them from each other.
B. There was a mutual sharing of needs. They had all things in common. There was a mutual concern and care for one another. This was not compulsory 'socialism'. It was a voluntary impulse in response to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and was according to the needs of the saints as those needs arose. They sold their possessions and goods willingly in order to meet each other's needs—bringing all the proceeds to the apostles for distribution (See Acts 4:32-37).
C. There was a unity of spirit. They continued daily in one accord. They met either in the temple (perhaps for formal worship), or in each other's homes (for informal fellowship)—"endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3).
D. There was social fun. They enjoyed sharing meals together. They ate with gladness and with simplicity of heart (i.e., without any hidden agendas). No one sought to impress anyone else. If they only had beans available, they served beans to each other and didn't apologize.
E. There was a prevailing joy and thankfulness toward God. They actively praised Him in the daily affairs of life. They rejoiced together in God's daily victories in each other's lives.
F. There was life-style evangelism. They had favor with all the people. They were conscious of the impact their lives were having on others around them. They sought to live toward those who were outside the faith in such a way as to not bring dishonor to the name of Christ. They paid their bills on time. They contributed positively to the community.
IV. THE ONGOING WORK OF THE LORD (v. 47b).
It was the Lord who brought these charactieristics about; and who, in this context, added daily to the church those who were being saved. We can count on Him to do His part, if we faithfully do ours.