************ Sermon on Acts 2:42-47 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 23, 2015
"Devoted to Fellowship"
Did Christ command the church to make converts? No, Christ commanded the church to make disciples:
(Mt 28:19-20) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.What's the difference between a convert and a disciple. A convert is simply a number, someone to swell the ranks, someone to add to the statistics. In many American churches, they go out the back door as quickly as they come in the front door. A disciple, on the other hand, is someone who follows Jesus and joins with God's people in doing the work of the Lord.
Do you remember what happened on Pentecost Sunday? Some three thousand new converts were baptized and added to the church. The Temple mount had many immersion pools used by worshipers to purify themselves; thus it was no problem for three thousand baptisms to be done quickly and efficiently. But now what?
The new converts needed instruction in the Word. They needed to fellowship with God's people. We see that in our Bible reading. It describes for us how converts were turned into disciples.
We stand at the start of another church year. In the next number of weeks all of our programs and ministries will be starting up again. Will we simply be converts or will we be disciples?
I The State of the Church
A Do you know what the State of the Union Address is? Or, the State of the State Address? Or, the State of the City Address? The President, the Governor, and the Mayor all report on the condition of the country, the state, or the city. They report on things going well. They commit themselves to fixing the problems they have identified.
Our Bible reading is Luke's "State of the Church Address." So, what is in his report?
B Luke reports that the church is unified. He writes, "all the believers were together" (Acts 2:44). They were of one heart and one mind. A song based upon Psalm 133 speaks about this:
How good and pleasant is the sightThe early Jerusalem church is unified. She is not like the church in Galatia. Remember what Paul wrote to the brothers and sisters there? He wrote that they were "biting and devouring each other." "Watch out," he says, "or you will be destroyed by each other" (Gal 5:15). What a mess that church was in comparison to the church in Jerusalem. Paul prized unity. He asked the Philippian Christians to make his "joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose" (Phil 2:2).
When brethren make it their delight
To dwell in blest accord;
Such love is like anointing oil
That consecrates for holy toil
The servants of the Lord.
C Luke also reports that the church is magnified. He writes, "everyone was filled with awe" (Acts 2:43). And, he writes the church was "enjoying the favor of all the people" (Acts 2:47). The unsaved Jews were impressed when they looked at and watched the early church. They liked what they saw. They spoke favorably about the church. In light of the later persecutions we see that the church challenged the Pharisees for the hearts and minds of the people.
D Luke further reports that the church is multiplied. He writes, "the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). The early church had quite a beginning. She gained three thousand souls the first day and she kept on growing. We know even some of the Pharisees joined with the church (Jn 3:1; cf 12:42; 20:38). Now, keep in mind there were about six thousand Pharisees in all of Palestine. Again, in light of the later persecutions, we see that very quickly the church was a credible rival to the Pharisees in terms of size.
E The state of the church, writes Luke, is unified, magnified, and multiplied. What a church! It is obvious, isn't it, that the risen Lord is working in and with His people. It is obvious that their faith is a day-to-day reality. It is obvious that the Spirit of Christ is at work in them.
Now, what is the state of Trinity United Reformed Church? Can we use the same three words to describe us: unified, magnified, multiplied? This morning -- and for the next five or six sermons -- I want to ask how we too become unified, magnified, and multiplied?
Our starting point is being filled with the Spirit. We will take that as a given. A church is unified, magnified, and multiplied only because of the indwelling presence of the Spirit. But there is also a human dimension. Do you think the church is unified, magnified, and multiplied if, like the children of Israel, she "resists the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51)? Do you think the church is unified, magnified, and multiplied if she "grieves the Holy Spirit of God" (Eph 4:30)? Of course not! For this reason Paul instructs the church, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire" (1 Th 5:19). And, "fan into flame the gift of God" (2 Tim 1:6).
With this in mind, we see that the church of our Bible reading took steps, concrete steps, so that she would be unified, magnified, and multiplied. She took concrete steps to cooperate with the Spirit of God instead of resisting or grieving the Spirit. She took concrete steps to fan into flame the gift of God. She took concrete steps to turn converts into disciples.
So, what did she do? And, what can we do? Here is what the church of Jerusalem did. She devoted herself to six things:
-the apostles' teaching
-the breaking of bread
Today, in looking at how the early church was unified, magnified, and multiplied, we want to look at how she devoted herself to the fellowship.
A Take note of the word "devoted" in our Bible reading. It is the most important word in front of us this morning. Filled with the Spirit, cooperating with the Spirit, not resisting or grieving the Spirit, the early Christians "devoted" themselves to the apostles' teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and so on.
"Devoted." Meaning what? Telling us what? Telling us it was deliberate action on their part. Telling us it was a deliberate decision on their part. They weren't going to grieve the Spirit. They weren't going to resist the Spirit. They weren't going to fight the Spirit. They weren't going to put out the Spirit's fire. Instead, they fanned into flame the gift of God. They fully cooperated with the Spirit of God.
B "Devoted." Devote means to be loyal to someone or something. It means to give the highest priority to something or someone. It means to identify what is most important to you and to stick with it.
This past week we received a prayer letter from Penny Schering, our missionary in Papua New Guinea (you can find a copy on our website). Penny wrote us about the death of her sister. She said:
On August 7 in the early hours of the morning my sister Leah Heidema left her worn out body and stepped into the clear reality of God's everlasting light. Doug ... cared for Leah these last few years ... With tears we say "thank you" to Doug for loving his wife and our sister the way he did.Do you know what word we can use to describe Doug? Doug was a "devoted" husband. He did what we are supposed to do as husbands and wives. We are to be devoted to each other and look after each other even in drought, lean years, sickness, poverty, depression, and old age. Too many husbands and wives, however, want nothing to do with their spouse when bad times come. Instead, they pack their bags and leave the relationship.
Filled with the Spirit, the early church "devoted" herself to God and the things of God. She made a commitment and kept that commitment. Her relationship with God was a high priority. In fact, it was the highest priority.
"Devoted." Does this word describe you? Does this word describe me? Does this word describe Trinity United Reformed Church? Are we devoted to God and the things of God? If we want to be unified, magnified, and multiplied "devoted" needs to be one of the things we deliberately decide to do.
C As I thought about my life and the lives of those around me, I realized we can be "devoted" to many things in today's world. We can be devoted to the people around us: children, spouse, grandchildren, friends. We can be devoted to money. We can be devoted to career and work and business. We can be devoted to computers, bicycles, and cars. We can be devoted to a healthy life-style with exercise, nutritious food, an absence of drugs and alcohol and tobacco. We can be devoted to power and authority and position. We can be devoted to books and education. We can be devoted to Kingdom causes like the Christian School, Bethany, Love INC, Right to Life, Crisis Pregnancy Center. We can be devoted to conservative causes like the NRA, Ducks Unlimited, and the Republican Party or liberal causes like the NAACP, Sierra Club, and the Democratic Party. We can be devoted to sports, hunting, fishing, golfing, football, basketball. You get the picture. There are lots of things to which we can devote ourselves.
But number one in the life of God's people should always be God and the things of God. If we want to be unified, magnified, and multiplied we need to be devoted to God and the things of God.
III Be Devoted to the Fellowship
A We notice that the early Spirit-filled church devoted herself "to the fellowship." The Greek word is "koinonia." I see the word koinonia every time I drive to Hanford. There is a church advertisement along the freeway for "Koinonia Christian Fellowship." The sign bugs me because "fellowship" is unnecessary. Or, "koinonia" is unnecessary. You don't need to say the same thing twice in your name. It is like calling ourselves "Reformed Trinity United Reformed Church."
Being Spirit-filled, the early church devoted herself to koinonia; she devoted herself to the fellowship. This means that she worked -- and worked hard by the strength of Christ's Spirit -- at this. You see, in a sin-filled world it takes much sweat and dedication to experience fellowship; it is never easy or automatic. This is part of what the early church did to be unified, magnified, and multiplied.
B In a Spirit-filled church koinonia or fellowship is always experienced at two different levels. First of all, the members have fellowship with God. John can say "our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ" (1 Jn 1:3); and, Paul can speak of the "fellowship of the Holy Spirit" (2 Cor 13:14). Koinonia, in other words, is a Trinitarian experience. Together we share in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Second, in a Spirit-filled church the members have fellowship or koinonia with each other.
IV Koinonia - Focused on Christ
A Let's make sure we know exactly what we are talking about. The best way to do this is to first define what we are not talking about.
Koinonia or fellowship is not the same as being chummy or friendly with one another. Koinonia is not liking everyone in the church equally or being friends with everyone.
Koinonia is not going to all the church functions and having a wonderful time every time that we go.
Koinonia is not something sentimental or syrupy sweet, like those camp outs or retreats where we sit around the fire and hold hands while we sing or pray.
Koinonia also is not a gathering of people for whatever reason you can think of. For instance, people gather around their TV sets to watch a football, basketball, or hockey game or to watch Le Tour de France. People gather together for birthday parties and weddings and funerals. But gathering together for these kinds of purposes -- however good any of them may be -- is not the same as koinonia.
B Well, then, what is the koinonia that we find in a Spirit-filled church? Koinonia -- true koinonia -- takes place because of an event that happened some two thousand years ago. I am talking about the death and resurrection of Jesus. Because Jesus was put to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification, we today can have koinonia. Koinonia is something that God works in His church as a direct result of Christ's work upon the cross and in the grave. Koinonia means to share or participate in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ to the point that with Christ we died and with Christ we have been raised. Koinonia, in other words, is to share in Christ and His work as Savior and Redeemer. The focus of koinonia is our common life in Christ.
C This means that koinonia is not for everyone and anyone. Koinonia is only for those with faith. Koinonia is only for those who, because of Christ, have died to sin and have been raised to new life. Koinonia is only for those who, because of Christ, have had their sins forgiven and have been credited with righteousness in God's sight.
One of the reasons the early church was unified, magnified, and multiplied was because they devoted themselves to the fellowship that was theirs in Christ.
V Koinonia - Coming Together
A Koinonia starts off with faith in Christ on the part of Spirit-filled people. And it ends with our relationship to and with fellow believers. Don't forget, its focus is our common life in Christ.
This presupposes something, something we find scattered throughout our Scripture reading and all of Acts 2. And that is "togetherness." Listen to what these verses say about being together:
(Acts 2:44) All the believers were together ...At the very beginning of the chapter we read this:
(Acts 2:46) Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts ...
(Acts 2:1) When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.They kept coming together for worship.
It is self-obvious, but koinonia can only take place when God's people gather together. Further, they gather together for not just any reason but because they are God's children in Christ.
B Do you realize what this means? If you claim to be a Christian, then you gather together with other Christians for worship. It is as simple as that.
Many today say they don't need the church to be a Christian. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. When God saves us, He puts us together with other Christians for worship. He puts us together to experience koinonia.
C This is becoming increasingly difficult in our culture today. More and more jobs require Sunday work and keep Christians from gathering together with other Christians. Too many local and national sporting events take place on Sunday and keep Christians from gathering together. We find it too easy to travel, fish, golf, or shop on Sunday. Many times we go away for the weekend and skip Sunday worship.
As Christians we are increasingly surrounded by an anti-Christian culture. It is reaching the point where we have to make some real choices concerning what we stand for and what we are committed to. To experience koinonia we have to make time to be together. As we learn from the Catechism, the fourth commandment means "I regularly attend the assembly of God's people."
The early church was unified, magnified, and multiplied. The early church turned converts into disciples. Why? Because, by the power of the Spirit, they devoted themselves to the fellowship that was theirs in Christ.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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