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Well it has been a big day for the apostles. In the morning there was 120 believers in Jerusalem.
At the end of the day there are over 3000.
A bestselling church growth book could have been written with those credentials. That is a pretty big jump in numbers.
It doesn’t stop there, we read in verse 47
47 … And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
With all of these new converts … let me ask you what do you think happens now? What is next for these people that are being added day by day?
They believed they have been baptised as an evidence of their conversion. They belong to Jesus … now what?
I think that there would be people today who would say … well now nothing. They have become follows of Jesus Christ that is a personal and private thing. There is nothing else that needs to happen, they now follow Christ by themselves.
That is certainly not what happens here nor in the book of Acts.
Look at vs 42:
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers..
Becoming a follower of Christ is a personal thing, that is true … no one can become a follower of Christ for you, in your place, you must do it personally … but that does not mean it is an individual thing … not even close.
Something happens quiet naturally when these people are converted. Luke says: “they are added to the gathering of other believers”.
It is interesting isn’t it? Luke doesn’t say 3000 were converted. Rather, verse 41 says “3000 were added that day”.
In verse 47, “The Lord added to their number day by day”.
In Chapter 4, verse 4 “Many believed the message and the number of men grew to 5000”.
In Chapter 16, verse 5, “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily”.
Every time Luke speaks about these people being converted, he just doesn’t say … they were converted … he says they were added to the number … added to the gathering … added to the church.
You see friend, when people come to the Lord Jesus Christ, they also come into the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, into the local church. The two go together.
When we are joined to Jesus we are also joined together in the local church, we are part of the family.
One day we will see that in the new heavens and the new earth, but God means it to show in churches like ours and the one here in Acts chapter 2 here and now.
If you find a person who says they belong to Jesus but they don’t belong to a local gathering of his people, you have found a contradiction. You have found something you won’t find in Acts.
Here in Acts 2 is a new race that Jesus is creating a new Israel, a new humanity, and you are a part of that, it is a corporate thing which you enter when you become a follower of Jesus Christ.
This is a big deal. It is a big deal to Jesus, and I hope it is a big deal to you. I hope it sadness you whenever you see people making light of the local gathering of the people of God.
It is easy to do. Every time we make it second place to other stuff, or just an optional extra, or flirt between many churches so that we can consume but never a part of any community. It may be that we complain when it doesn’t suit us or don’t hang in where it’s hard.
Here is the local church, front and centre for these new converts and for the Lord Jesus and precious to him.
Many years ago now … when my kids were all little I happened to get home before anyone else and so I decided to start the cleaning and preparation for dinner. It is that routine that we go through at the end of the day.
I started with the kitchen table which was absolutely covered with pencils and paper and drawings done by the kids. Without looking at the drawings I picked them all up and put them in the recycling bin.
When Esther came home, she saw the clean table and said, “What have you done with the children’s art works? You haven’t thrown it out have you?”
Now I am sort of use to this, (Esther’s definition of art and mine are slightly different). In this case, it turned out that what I had thrown out was a menu painstakingly copied out by the kids and coloured in, a menu with tick choices for breakfast Father’s Day.
Now, for any Father that is a very precious piece of paper, and I hadn’t even noticed. I certainly hadn’t treated it with the care and love it deserved. I had however stored it safely in the recycling bin.
I hadn’t seen it for what it was.
I hope you see Jesus blood bought church for what it is.
His new Israel, his new human race, because it is front and centre for him, and if it matters to him, then it will matter to us won’t it?
Now I think these 3000 new converts got that. They were converted and without even taking a breath they sign up for church, they were there, they were a part of the family. It wasn’t just an optional extra, or a burden, no, as I said it was front and centre.
Here we have in verse 42 a pattern for church. We may not do everything they did, we can’t meet at the temple, or go and listen to the apostles.
Not everything that you read about in the New Testament is an instruction to us, but where these instructions are repeated, in the Epistles in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. These are the books that give instructions on the church, here we have information regarding are churching together.
This morning I want to bring just two things to your attention.
Let’s keep Christ’s word front and centre
It is the very first thing we discover about this new church isn’t it?
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching
The apostles were the witnesses to Christ.
They spoke with special revelation from Christ, about Christ. Interestingly, by the end of Acts, when the apostle Paul is soon to die he say to the church he is visiting:
32 And now I commend you to God and to ….
The next generation of apostles (they are no more)?
The traditions of the church? No.
The authority of the pope? No.
To your own special revelation? No.
“the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified”.
The word of his grace is Paul’s way of speaking about the apostolic teaching which had been given to them. Those words were guarded and written down and put into a book we call the Bible.
That is why in the pastoral letters of Timothy and Titus, the instructions all focus on the need for the elders in the churches to teach the Word, be urgent in season in and of season, preach, correct, rebuke and read the Scriptures.
Jesus builds his church, and keeps on building his church, and matures his church, by his Word. It is a central point to take notice of.
If we are to be a healthy it will be seen in the priority, we give to the preaching and teaching of Jesus Word.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching”
Devoted. It’s a strong word isn’t it?
They were serious and committed to these things. They were not casual and easy going. We however, live in a time where it is not trendy to be serious or intense about anything,
It is trendy to be casual to hang loose, to wait before committing.
Those words would not have described theses new converts.
They were intense, about the truth of Jesus.
They already knew the Old Testament, but now as the apostles opened the scriptures and brought new revelation from Jesus, they were devoted to it.
Never apologies for being a church that is obsessed by the word of Jesus will you? Never be sad when a sermon goes into extra time will you?
Let’s devote ourselves to the teaching of Christ.
We try and do that in our practice. We preach from it each week, we hear it read and we read it together. It is the focus of our small groups and our ‘what we believe nights’ and ROCK and GRANITE and SKIDS (Groups within our church).
We encourage each other to read it personally.
We try and show it in the symbolism of our meeting.
We gather around a pulpit with a bible on it.
Not because we worship the bible, but because we worship Jesus who reveals himself to us in the words of the Bible.
We do this because the only way we will grow and mature and love Christ more and live for him with a passion is if we are a gathering centred on the words of Jesus.
His Word will set the agenda for the church, we do what we do, not because the majority likes it, or because it is the preference of the elders, or the wider community will approve it, but because it is what Jesus says in his Word he wants for his church.
His Word will be taught, not on rare occasions, not in little bite-size bits, not simply so we can know what the words say, but understand what God calls “the sound doctrine” that is contained in the words.
Our overriding concern will be to believe what he says. Then to obey what he commands and delight in the Jesus we meet.
How in earth did it ever get to the point where:
You throw the word of Jesus, then you throw out Jesus.
Let’s keep Christ’s word at the centre of our lives.
Let’s keep ministering to one another, also front and centre in our lives.
The picture described here is quite extraordinary isn’t it?
This group of 3000 gather together to hear the apostle teaching and preaching. They are getting there thinking straight on what it means to follow Jesus, and who he is.
When dinner time comes around, they all break up into smaller groups and head to people’s homes for the breaking of bread. Which I think simply means they ate together. I imagine they would talk about the things they had learned and prayer together.
It is quite a remarkable change that has happened to this group of people, after coming to believe in the Lord Jesus, they now belong together in a new way, in a way they have never belonged together before.
And they are quiet an ethnically diverse group.
A few days ago, they didn’t know each other, but now there is a new relationship, now they belong to Jesus and because of that they belong to each other in a new and real way.
They are more than a group, they are more than a club. They are a community, they have become a family.
So much so that when they realise that some people do not have enough money for food and other things they sell some land, they go to the bank, sell things on gumtree and they share the money this those in need. No one tells them to do it.
They do it because they have become a family.
That is what you do when you are family. You look after each other’s needs.
A friend of mine was talking to her hairdresser, and when she said she was a Christian the hairdresser said: “You won’t believe it by my daughter who goes to a church just had a baby and people in the church made meals for her family for a month”.
Now, none of you here will think that is a big deal at all, but the hair dresser had never seen anything like it. Of course, we would do that and so much more … because we are family.
This group of believers belonged to each other and shared with each other and helped each other. Had each other in their homes, and encouraged each other.
Wonderfully ministry minded.
I think some people have the idea that churches resemble football games. Where 26 or 30 exhausted players are doing all the running while 40,000 overweight under-exercised spectators are looking on and shout.
We have not helped that by saying there are ministers and lay people. That is not a correct distinction, neither by dressing leaders in funny clothes.
Now don’t get me wrong, there needs to be leaders. Jesus has a structure for his church which includes leaders. Just like a team needs coaches and captains who set the direction and train and teach. From this passage, however, it is really clear that everyone else has a part to play.
No one is along for the ride. Just as well.
There were 3120, not long later they were 5000.
How well do you think 12 apostles could do among so many? You can’t spread 12 people around very far. The apostles weren’t the only ones ministering, not even close. Whilst they had an important part, they were witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. They spoke the words about Jesus. Out there publicly day by day.
So who did all the ministry? The members of the church did it. The people having people in their homes, the people sharing money and time. The people providing food.
The praying and the talking and the encouraging that all must have happened in the smaller groups.
It is a wonderful picture of the ministry that happens when Christ brings people into his church. Most of the people in this church don’t hold any formal position, or public ministry.
Most don’t, but they are ministry minded, and so minister in heaps of ways.
There are people in this church who do so many things, and you will never know about them.
You know the danger this morning? Have you already done this? If you have, I am speaking to you right now.
Some people will say, “no one has ever done that for me. What about me?” I am not asking who has done this for you, I am asking, what have you done? It is the wrong question, what have people done for me.
It is about ministry, it’s about giving, not taking.
So before you start saying, “I’ve been neglected, I’ve been this and that”. I’m asking you this morning to whom are you seeking to be a minister, to be encouraging, edifying, helping, praying with. Who comes to mind?
Don’t spend another year will you, standing on the side lines of church calling out “run faster”.
No one is along for the ride.
The picture of Jesus’ church here is extraordinary.
His new Israel, his family, his blood bought church.
Let’s be deliberate, intentional in 2019
As we help each other be:
Devoted to the words of Christ and minister to each other.