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Acts #9 (chapter 2:42-47)
The Book of Acts
The Ordinary Church
Acts 2:42–47
 
By the time we arrive at Acts 2:42, where we begin our study tonight, Peter has concluded his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, given the invitation, and seen three thousand souls come to believe that Jesus was God's Messiah, and have publicly identified as His followers by being baptized into the church. 
 
Then after telling us about that extraordinary day, Luke then gives us a snapshot of the church.  It's as if he says, "Three thousand were added to the church, and by the way, here's what I mean by the church."
 
So what we have in verses 42-47 is actually a picture of what I would call an ordinary church.
 
Acts 2:42-27
 
I don't know about you, but I kind of like the word ordinary.  We live in a day where everything has to be radical, epic, revolutionary, transformative, impactful, life-changing, extreme, awesome, alternative, innovative, on the edge, explosive breakthrough and a whole new level.
 
But there is built into the human spirit a need for stability and foundation. And in that regard, I like ordinary.  There are some things that don't need to change.  They don't have to be revitalized or revolutionized.  They can just be ordinary in a scriptural sense and that would be extraordinary!
 
And you do realize that ordinary is not the same thing as average.  The average church is prayerless, struggling financially, never shares its witness and preaches a watered-down gospel while the ordinary church is what we read about here in Acts 2. 
 
And I’m not saying God is ordinary.  God is not ordinary.  But God works through ordinary means, ordinary people in ordinary churches, doing very ordinary things.  God uses real language and ordinary folks as his instruments to move his ordinary church to high impact in the world. 
 
In fact, when you think about it, Jesus, God incarnate, stayed nine months in His mother’s womb and was born in an ordinary way in an ordinary place and “grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man” in an ordinary way. 
 
And what we read about here in these verses is a description in scriptural terms of an ordinary church.  Now, no doubt, , there were “many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles” and that was a different element than the ordinary life of the church today, and we don’t expect that because that was associated with the apostles, and there are no more apostles, but by and large, it was ordinary people doing ordinary things.
 
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  Those are the ordinary things that every church should be engaged in.  This is the life of the church.  There’s nothing in there about entertainment.  Nothing in there is spectacular.  There’s nothing in there that is even particularly evangelistic by today's terms. 
So what was the early church, this ordinary church like?  With what kinds of activities was this ordinary church involved?  Well, before we look at the specific activities , notice, first of all, the word "they".  If we are going to study "them", then we need to know who "they" are. 
 
"They" are the 3,000 souls that were saved on Pentecost.  So the first thing to say about this church they were saved.  The ordinary church is made up of true believers.  Now that may seem like a given, but we need to be reminded that unless the church is the redeemed, the church is seriously compromised.  Could part of the reason we see so little happening is because lost people are trying to do saved things? 
 
The church is made up of people that are saved.  Non-believers are welcome to come but they are not a part of the church.  If you are here tonight as a lost person, you need to know you are not the church.  We invite you to come to Christ and become a part of the church. 
 
But there is a very distinct differentiation made here in verse 41.  Those who gladly received his church were baptized and added to them, that is the existing church.  Now if that were added to then they were not a part of before that, right? 
 
So the first necessary component to identifying this ordinary church is that they were saved.  Beyond that there were several things that marked them as followers of Christ. 
 
1.  Ordinary Activities
 
 
For instance, this ordinary church was a church
 
- Committed to the Word of God
 
verse 42
 
"they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” 
 
Now obviously they didn't have a New Testament to open and read as we do.  They weren't afforded the privilege of Sunday School classes and discipleship opportunities.  They couldn't get on the internet or turn on the TV or radio and listen to a message from God. 
 
They depended up the apostles' doctrine.  That is a reference to the teaching of the apostles who were the recipients of divine revelation.  So a key component of the early church was devoting themselves to the teaching of God's Word. 
 
Now that is extremely important because an ordinary church is a church that is completely involved in the study of biblical truth.  And the phrase used to describe what they were devoted to is the apostles' doctrine, which is what eventually got written down and composes the New Testament.
 
Sometimes you hear people who are a little skeptical of, or even repulsed by the word “doctrine.”  But there is no need to be because the word doctrine is just another word for “teaching.”  In fact, some translations of verse 42 use that very word.  So the content of their teaching was doctrine and it’s just truth that is being taught and dispersed.
And I don't think it is by accident that teaching is the very first thing on the list. 
I think good, scriptural, doctrinal teaching should dominate the church where the people of God are gathered. 
 
In fact, the Great Commission makes this vital link between being saved and being indoctrinated.  The Lord said we are to God and make disciples of all nations, and teach them to observe the things He commanded. 
 
So doctrine is the very heartbeat of the church. We believe the Bible is the source of truth. We believe we are to bring our lives into alignment with it.  We believe God speaks through His Word. 
 
That's why we've made a commitment to Sunday School as the primary tool we have to, not just reach people, but see them grow as disciples of Christ.  That's why we ask our teachers to teach the Bible and be people who model discipleship.  That's why we have a Wednesday worker's meeting.  It's one way a teacher can say, "I believe in the Sunday School and what it does.  It's a high priority!  It's important!" 
 
This church may have been an ordinary church, but itw as a group of folks saved by the grace of God who placed a high premium on knowing and living and being devoted to the apostles' doctrine. 
 
Second, not only were they “devoting themselves to the apostles’ doctrine", but also to
 
 
 
 
 
- Fellowship
 
The Greek word is "koin┼Źnia" and it means "partner" or "teammate".  It carries the idea of spiritual togetherness.  The church is a partnership.  And although the verse doesn't specifically say it, I think it safe to assume this church gathered together.  And it was not just to sit in a pew and listen to a sermon.    They were not spectators.  They were not part-time attendees.  They lived out their life in a wonderful kind of fellowship.
 
And we need to be reminded that an ordinary church is not an event for people to come and watch.  An ordinary church is a fellowship.  It’s a shared life.  It’s a practical, practicing fellowship. 
 
Hebrews 10 tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together because we encourage one another to love and good works.  It’s where we use our spiritual gifts to build each other up.  It’s where we do the “one anothers,” loving one another, instructing one another, praying for one another, rebuking one another, whatever.
 
And when you think about these two components of bible teaching and fellowship you see that church is not just a dry, classroom setting where we learn cold, hard facts.  It has life and vitality and fellowship and love and all those things are guided by sound doctrine. 
 
That makes us more than a social club or fraternity.  We're not like the Mooses and Gooses and Elks and Kiwanis, who do a lot of good things, by the way. 
 
We are a unique gathering of God's people, guided by His Word to provide encouragement and correction and guidance for each other and to impact the world around us for the cause of Christ. 
 
Then we are told the church continued steadfastly in
 
- The Breaking of Bread
 
When we think of the breaking of bread, the first thing that comes to mind is the Lord's Supper, and I think it most probable that is included in the reference.  Certainly, the Lord’s table is critical to the life of the church.  As you well know, only baptism and the Lord’s table are ordinances left to the church. 
 
And I'm quite sure the early church was faithful to gather to take the bread and the cup and remember His death.   But the early church also observed a fellowship meal that Paul identified as a “love feast”.  It was a supper that culminated in a remembrance of the cross. 
 
And I think what needs to be kept in focus is that everything the church does is to be cross-centered.  If we have a fellowship meal together, there needs to be a reason to celebrate Christ and His work ont eh cross in that gathering. 
 
Or else, as Paul said to the Corinthians, just stay at home and eat there instead of coming to the church gathering and making it all about yourself and your selfish desires. The ordinary church is a church that remembers the significance of the cross. 
 
 
There’s one other element in verse and that’s
 
- Prayer
 
Again, remember we're just looking at an ordinary church and its activities.  People saved by the grace of God are continually devoting themselves to the teaching of the Scriptures, they share life and fellowship with each other, the focus, even in routine matters like eating a meal, on the Cross and they pray. 
 
Now they had a promise from Jesus when he met with them in the upper room after his resurrection that whatever they asked in His name, the Lord would do that the Father would be glorified in the Son. 
 
And here we are after that and we find the church steadfastly continuing to pray. When they met, they prayed.  They came together, not just to learn, not just to share fellowship and a meal, but to be involved in corporate prayer. 
 
That's why I love our Wednesday night prayer groups.  They are simply little microcosms of what we read here in Acts 2.  And if you don't come, you are missing out on a wonderful blessing that was demonstrated here by the early church. 
 
Now it seems to me that church was not an event or place where entertainers and leaders got up on the platform and lead others to worship.  It was an ordinary place where the people of God who were genuinely converted devoted themselves continually to the Word of God, to fellowship, to the Lord’s table, and prayer. 
So we see these ordinary activities, but we also see
 
2.  Ordinary Attitudes
 
Verse 43
 
Notice the word
 
- fear
 
It’s actually the word from which we get our word for “phobia.”  It is reserved for times when people’s minds are stunned because of some powerful divine reality. There was a sense that something supernatural was present.  That was hard to miss in the day of signs and wonders that were taking place through the apostles. 
 
But I will tell you, even though that time has passed and there is not more need for the ministry of the apostles, in an ordinary church where the activities are the Word of God, fellowship, focus on the cross at the Lord’s table and prayer, there should still be a sense of the presence of God.
 
When we come together with the attitude we are supposed to have and do what we're supposed to do, there ought to be an awe, an anticipation of something wonderful, that God is moving and the experience of church ought to be different than any other place or experience we find anywhere else.
 
I've heard people be frustrated because they go to ballgames and people acts like idiots and get all excited and show their enthusiasm and then don't do that at church. 
But when I come to church, I'm not at a ballgame.  I don't want church to be like the ballgame!  I want church to be like church!   
 
There is an awe and a reverence that comes because we are in the presence of Almighty God and He is inhabiting the praises of His people.  he is at work in hearts and lives.  Churches try to manufacture that with lights and smoke and music and drama, but that’s not awe.  If we have to work it up and generate it, then it is not the presence of God.
 
That is not the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom.  I think there ought to be a sense of awe every time we come here.  It’s not mystical.  It’s the evidence of the working of God in a way that brings to Him and Him alone the glory and brings an awe and reverential fear to His people.   
 
Another attitude shows up in verses 44-45 and that is
 
- love
 
All that believed were together.  It was as if no one felt he had a right to anything of his own.  They were all together.  Some would have us believe this is the origin of communism.  No, it wasn't communal living.  It simply means that they held whatever it was they possessed lightly in their hands and if anybody else needed it, they released it easily, even to the point of selling what they had so they could share with those who had needs. 
 
By the way, it should be noted this never happens again in the New Testament in any other church.  In fact, nothing like it is mentioned anywhere else.
However, there is an attitude portrayed through this church that should be found in every church because it is a demonstration of the heart of God. 
  
The background here was that there were thousands of pilgrims in the city of Jerusalem and many of those from distant places are in this crowd that is saved and baptized.  They need to stay and be taught the apostles' doctrine so that when they do leave, they leave equipped to teach others. 
 
But how can they stay?  They have no homes or jobs.  they came to Jerusalem for Pentecost, expecting to be home in a few days.  So how will they survive?  Who’s going to meet their needs? 
 
Their needs would be met by those who had stuff selling it and sharing what they had with others.   And at it's very core, that is simply generosity motivated by the love of God.  But I want to quickly emphasize, even though it is unusual to find people who are generous, it is, normal and expected in the ordinary church.  It’s just the way the Lord designed it to be. 
 
And, notice, when we give like that to one another and love one another like that, there will be a joy and a sweetness in the fellowship that results in unity. 
 
So there we see three attitudes that are given in rapid-fire succession. 
 
verse 46
 
 
 
There is
 
- unity (in one accord)
 
- joy (described as gladness) and
 
- simplicity of heart (their lives were uncluttered)
 
And by the way, the fact that they continue to break bread from house to house means not everybody sold their house.  There were still people who owned their houses. 
 
Obviously, the emphasis is not so much on liquidating all the assets and living in a communistic environment, but rather being sensitive to the nedds around them and giving and sharing with one another to meet those needs, and doing it with a joyful spirit. 
 
So another attitude in an ordinary church is just simply
 
- taking care of each other
 
joy, gladness, joyous unity, singleness of heart, caring for each other, simple definition.
 
Then in verse 47, we find them praising God
 
An ordinary church is a church that
 
- worships
 
I don’t think I need to tell you that corporate worship is to be a central part of our life.  We look forward to worship.  We elevate worship.  We prioritize worship! 
So this is the ordinary church.  There’s nothing flashy, or radical or extreme about them.  They are note watering down their conviction so they are more in line with the culture.  They aren't doing sensitivity training so no one is offended by what they say or do. 
 
They just come together as the people of God in a systematic, disciplined way to study the Scriptures, pray, remember the work of Christ on the cross, fellowship, and meet one another's needs.  They made sure their activities were God-honoring and their attitudes were God-reflecting.  And notice what happened:
 
verse 46b-47 
 
There we see
 
3.  The Effect
 
When it was all said and done, this ordinary church experienced extraordinary blessing.  Even though this little group of followers was uniquely different from the world around them, they experienced tremendous growth and outreach. 
 
I find it extremely interesting that there is nothing especially evangelistic about anything they did.  They didn't go out knocking on doors.  They didn't have evangelistic campaigns.  They didn't have evangelism training.  They just had church the way God designed it and God blessed it.
 
And please note, it was "the Lord" that was adding to their number each day those who were being saved.”
We must never lose sight of the fact that it is the Lord that builds the church.  He adds.  He doesn’t ask us to be radical or extreme or cutting edge or innovative. 
 
He just asks us to be ordinary, Biblical followers and He will take care of the extraordinary part.  It is the slow, steady, consistent, faithful loyalty to Christ and obedience to His Word that honors God.  And when we do that, then we will see that an ordinary church can have an extraordinary impact.
 
Let's pray.
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