The first local church (1)

Bible Reading: Acts 2:41~47 (NLT)

Those who believed what Peter said were baptised and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

The Believers Form a Community

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper, and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Our first view of a local church is to be found in Acts 2, where we see the first converts to Christ, following His ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit. We are told how they were converted and how they conducted their lives in that very first New Covenant church. There are principles of truth recorded here which are foundational and should be followed even now.

A. What attracted men to Christ?

Our Lord had commanded His disciples "Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised" and "be baptised with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4,5). "But you will receive power" He said, "when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). They waited and were baptised! Prior to this they had not attracted too much attention. Upon being "filled with the Holy Spirit" a great crowd came to see them. Christ draws men to Himself through men whom He has filled with His Spirit. This is not the whole of the matter, but this is the beginning.

Acts 2:6 (Amp.) — "And when this sound was heard, A CROWD GATHERED, and they were bewildered because each one was hearing those in the upper room speaking in his own language or dialect."

B. Was the multitude unanimously receptive?

Spirit—filled men will attract MANY but only convert SOME. We must not turn from God's method, which is Spirit—filled men, just because some do not respond to the Spirit's invitation.

Acts 2:12,13 (JBP)- "Everyone was utterly amazed and did not know what to make of it. Indeed they kept saying to each other, 'What on earth can this mean?‘ But there were others who laughed mockingly and said, 'These fellows have drunk too much new wine'!"

2 Cor. 2:16 — "To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume"

C. How were men converted?

a. HEARING THE WORD

Acts 2:37-39 — "Now WHEN THEY HEARD this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will CALL."

b. OBEYING THE WORD

Acts 2:41 (Amp.)- "Therefore THOSE WHO ACCEPTED AND WELCOMED HIS MESSAGE WERE BAPTISED."

D. How was the church formed?

Acts 2:41 — " ... were baptised and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all."

Acts 2:47 - "And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved"

Amp. "And THE LORD KEPT ADDING [to their number] daily those who were being saved."

Here we see the Lord "building His church". The "saved" are the "living stones" which He "adds" to the stones already in the building. The word translated "added" literally means 'to place forward'; that is, the placing of certain things next to things already in existence, for the increase of that which is already in existence. Therefore, those who "gladly received His word and were baptised", not only came into a saving relationship to God, but were also divinely "added" to their fellow believers, to become living members of the Church universal and the local Church in Jerusalem. They were added to the Lord and to one another. This blessed "addition" continued.

Acts 5:14 - "More and more believers in the Lord were added to their number, crowds of both men and women."

Acts 11:24 - "And a great many people were added to the Lord."

E. The nature of the new life as a church (Acts 2: 42~47)

a. They Continued Steadfastly

These first believers came to stay, Perseverance has always been the mark of genuineness. There are several words translated "continue". This one is particularly strong and means "to be earnest towards, to persevere, be constantly diligent, to attend assiduously all the exercises, to adhere closely to, to be intently engaged in, to remain constantly in a place." The Lord Jesus had spoken about "continuing" as a mark of true discipleship. John 8:31 — “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples"

Amp. - "If ye abide in My Word — hold fast to my teachings and live in accordance with them — you are truly my disciples."

The apostles constantly urged the new converts to "continue". Becoming a Christian is not just a temporary excursion into a religious experience, it is a permanent move into a whole new life. It is not just a single event, it is a whole life program.

Acts 11:23 - "When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers tostay true to the Lord."

Amp. - "When he arrived and saw what grace (favour) God was bestowing upon them, he was full of joy; and he continually exhorted — warned, urged and encouraged them all to cleave unto and remain faithful and devoted to the Lord with (resolute and steady) purpose of heart."

Acts 13:43 (Amp.) - "And when the congregation of the synagogue dispersed, many of the Jews and the devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked to them and urged them to CONTINUE [to trust themselves to and stand fast] in the grace that is, the enabling power and blessing - of God."

Acts 14:21,22 - "And when they had preached the gospel to that city (Derbe), and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra (the place of Paul's stoning), and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming (establishing and strengthening) the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to CONTINUE IN THE FAITH, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."

Col. 1:23 (Amp.) - “(And this He will do) - ('present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight' - K.J.) provided that you CONTINUE to stay with and in the faith (in Christ), well—grounded and settled and steadfast, not shifting or moving away from the hope (which rests on and is inspired by) the glad tidings (the Gospel), which you heard ...."

1 John 2:19,24 - "These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us. ... So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father."

b. They Continued Steadfastly in the Apostles Doctrine

i.) THE IMPORTANCE OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS

Eph. 2:2O - "Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself."

ii.) THE DISTINCTIVE PLACE OF THE APOSTLES

A. CALLED Luke 6:12,13 - "One day soon afterwards Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles."

B. TRAINED Mark 3:14 — "He appointed twelve (whom he named apostles), so that they would be with him .... "

The twelve disciples were to be something more than travelling companions or menial servants of the Jesus. They were to be Christ‘s chosen and trained agents for propagating the faith after He left the earth. From the time of their selection, the twelve entered an apprenticeship for the great office of apostleship, in the course of which they were to learn, in the privacy of an intimate daily life and relationship with their Master, what they should be, do, believe, and teach, as His witnesses and ambassadors to the world. From then the training of these men was to be a constant and prominent part of Christ's personal work.

C. INSTRUCTED AND COMMISSIONED AFTER OUR LORD'S RESURRECTION

Acts 1:1-5,8 (NET) - I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 To the same apostles also, after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. 4 While he was with them, he declared, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. ... But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” In addition to the training and instruction the apostles had received from the Lord in the days of His pre—resurrection ministry, they were "instructed and commanded" during the "forty days" between His resurrection and ascension."

D. THE FOUNDATIONAL "WITNESS" OF THE APOSTLES

Acts 4:33a - "With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus."

Acts 5:29-32 - "Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

Acts 1O:39—41 - "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead."

Acts 13:30,31 - "But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had travelled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people."

Acts 22:14,15 - "Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard."

Acts 26:16 — (Paul before Agrippa recounting the Damascus road experience) — "(And Jesus said,) ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.'

1 John 1:1,2,4 - "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. ... We write this to make our joy complete."

E. THE FINALITY AND AUTHORITY OF THE (APOSTOLIC) WORD

2 Tim. 1:13 - "What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus."

1 Cor. 14:37 - "If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command."

STUDY QUESTIONS FOR LESSON #5