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Re-Thinking Church
Part 3

Whatís a Body to Do?

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

Read Part 2

Welcome to Emmitsburg Community Bible Church. What do you think of when you think of the word-Church? Church has been part of the American culture since the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Church buildings dot our landscape. If you walk out the back doors of this auditorium, you will see 5 steeples on the horizon. Church has been a part of some of your lives since child-hood. What is the visual imagery that you see or think of when you hear that word, church? What do you envision?

  • People standing with hymnbooks in hand?
  • Pipe-organs?
  • A preacher dressed in black or even white robes?
  • A solemn sanctuary?
  • A ceremonial service with a processional and a recessional and banners, and candles?
  • A Hell-Fire, pulpit pounding, preaching evangelist?
  • A meek and mild mannered pastor with folded hands?
  • Choirs and robes?
  • Pageants and programs?
  • Suits and dresses, perhaps hats and gloves for the ladies?
  • Perhaps hand raising and hips swaying to the worship music?
  • A new language, including Hallelujah, Amen, justification, regeneration, sanctification, propitiation, glorification, and more?
  • Or is it some other image when you think of the word Ė Church.

May I suggest to you that after two thousand years, perhaps we should take a time out and with the ownerís manual in hand, letís explore the Bible and re-think this thing called, the Church. Perhaps much of what has become church culture has born out of tradition and possibly is missing the mark of what the Lord of the Church had in mind as we Re-Think Church in this 3rd sermon of our series. Here is what we have discovered so far.

  • Church is the Idea, the brain Ė child of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord (Matt. 16:18). It is His idea and His desire.
  • He is also the Head of the Church (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:22-23; Col. 1:18). Therefore, everything we do should be under His direction.
  • The Bible- His Word is our ownerís manual. It contains our instructions. We are to read it, obey it, and seek its direction for everything (Luke 6:46; John 8:31; 14:15; 23).
  • Church is not a building, or a place; neither is it a denomination, or a name for organized religion.
  • Church is (as we compare scripture with scripture), a special, unique group of people bonded, together by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of ministering as Jesus, (our Lord) in this world. (see week oneís sermon for a break-down of this definition)

So what should church look like? What should the church, the body of Christ be doing? It may surprise you or not, that while we will see that there are specific things we instructed to do, we arenít always told how to do them. For example, while we see in the Bible that the church gathers on the first day of the week, because that is the day on which Jesus rose from the dead and therefore every Sunday is Easter Sunday, it doesnít tell us what time to gather, how long to gather, or the form of our gathering. So, letís go back in time to the very first church and see what that Church did and why it had such an impact in itís time, and I believe, can still have in our time.

Stand with me (in respect of Godís Word) as we read together Acts 2:36-49.

We know that the church began on Pentecost. A Jewish Spring Holiday of Thanksgiving as the first fruit of the spring harvest was offered to God. It is celebrated 50 days after Passover. By the way, did you know that last Wed,-Thurs, was the Jewish Holy Day, Rosh Hashanah or the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23) or that this week Friday- Sat, is Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16)? I had an acquaintance with Jews for Jesus that believes that Jesus will return for His church (the Rapture, 1 Thess. 4:17) on a Rosh Hashanah, because God likes to do things on Jewish Holidays. Jesus died on Passover, rose on the Feast of First Fruits (Lev. 23:10-14), and started His church on Pentecost. The next event for the church is Jesusí return and the next Holy Day after Pentecost is the Feast of Trumpets, when the trumpets sound and all labor stops and the people gather together to worship. Wow! Thereís a sermon in there, but I digress.

The apostles and some of the disciples including our Lordís brothers and mother, and other women had been meeting to pray and do business while they waited in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spiritís coming (ch.1)

After 10 days, on Pentecost Sunday, He came and wow, He filled the disciples, and in the languages of countries outside of Israel, they began to speak the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:1-12). They must have left the room and gone into the streets as a huge crowd that had gathered for the Holy Day began to assemble and were amazed. Peter saw the opportunity and began to preach Jesus crucified, dead, and risen. Many knew that they were hearing truth and they grieved in their hearts for their sins and their participation in Jesusí death. They listened to the invitation of Godís grace and repented of their sins and received Jesus as their Savior and Lord. That day 3000 new believers confessed Jesus in Baptism. Without hymnbooks, pew Bibles, constitutions, bulletins, pews, pianos, organs, or guitars, offering envelops, Sunday School, liturgy, buildings, budgets, committees, or councils, the church took off and the world has never been the same. Like a snow ball off a mountain, it just kept growing and growing as you will see when you read the book of Acts. Letís notice what they did.

A. They Devoted Themselves to the Apostles Doctrine (2:42a). The word doctrine simply means teaching. Because they realized that Jesus died and rose again and is the Living Lord, and because they knew these 12 and perhaps many of the 120 had been with Jesus for at least 3-4 years and had heard Him preach and teach and clarify Godís word, they wanted to learn.

  • What does God want us to do?
  • What does God want us to be?
  • What is truth?

They wanted to know what Jesus said. The apostles had been instructed by Jesus to make disciples and to teach them to observe all the things He had commanded them (Matt. 28:19-20). They probably went over the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and the similar Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6), as well as the parables and the upper room discussion Jesus had with them the night before He died.

These continued steadfastly; that is, they were deeply devoted. They had lived the wrong way, the religious way all their lives and now they wanted to live the right way.

One of the most important things that the church is to do is to teach Godís Word, not giving quaint feel good sermon-ettes, but the systematic or expositional teaching of the Bible. Disciples continue in the Bible (John 8:31-32). Paul told Timothy that no matter what happens, he was to stay in the Bible and teach it always (2 Tim. 3-4).

Here is a question. Are we deeply devoted to hearing and learning Godís Word and Godís Will? Bible teaching and Bible learning is the first thing we must make sure we are doing as His Church. By the way, since there were no buildings, they probably met in homes and in the temple areas when they could (v. 46). They loved the Father for His salvation, and their loved the Lord of Grace, and obeyed the Holy Spiritís leading.

B. They Devoted Themselves to Fellowship (2:42b). This probably was not just covered dish dinners or picnics, though they might have been included, but a sharing of their lives in many ways. The word for Fellowship is Koinonea, which means, to have, or to share in common. It is translated as partners, communion, and fellowship in the Bible. We as the Church and Godís adopted Children share a common adoption experience, the same Father, the same Lord, the same Holy Spirit, the same Hope, the same purpose, the same enemy, and more. John said that one of the reasons that He wrote His First Epistle (under the Holy Spiritís inspiration) was so we would all share the same fellowship with the Father and each other (1 John 1:1-4). Fellowship has the Lordís New Commandment and what we call the Golden Rule as its basis. It is the action of loving each other, which we share this new life with, by caring about them as Jesus cared for us. Three things are involved.

  • Sharing Things to Help Each Other (2:44-45; 4:32-33). This could be food, clothing shelter, etc.
  • Sharing In Things with Each Other (Rom. 12:13-15; 1 Cor. 12:26-27). This is sharing in the good things like children, promotions, weddings, etc. as well as the bad times of illness and death, and such. We rejoice with each other and we weep with each other. We are to share this new life.
  • Sharing Ourselves with Each Other (Hebrews 10:24-25). As we will see in a few weeks, because the Holy Spirit lives in each of us, He has equipped us to be able to minister to each other. In fact there are about 25 things we are instructed to do for the benefit of each other, (love, pray for, encourage, comfort, admonish, etc). When Peter, James and John realized that Paulís conversion was real, they extended to him the right hand of fellowship (Gal. 2:9). You may have thought that was just a Baptist thing. Life is to be about others.

The first church had a closeness that is rare today. They really cared about each other. They devoted themselves to caring for each other. They shared their entire lives together.

C. They Were Devoted to the Lordís Table Ė Breaking of Bread (2:42c cp. Acts 20:7). Most scholars agree that this is what the breaking of bread refers to. We will look at this more closely in a few weeks, but our Lord Jesus gave us two ordinances to observe.

  • The first marks our conversion and that is baptism. Every new believer was baptized confessing their renunciation of their old life and beliefs, and their embrace of Jesus as Lord.
  • The second marks their communion with Jesus and each other. When we eat together we symbolize the partaking of Christ and our trust in His sacrifice and His resurrection bodily for us. We also remember that we are one with each other and Him. That this would be a constant with them, they probably broke bread every week, perhaps as part of a shared meal (pot-luck), after their Bible Study and Worship. They drank the cup as a reminder of the New Covenant that we are under because of Jesusí death and resurrection. It was a constant reminder to live Holy and set apart for Jesus.

Every Local church should make the time and opportunity to regularly remember the Lordís sacrifice and resurrection for us so we could be a family with an eternal hope, by way of the Lordís Table.

D. They Were Deeply Devoted to Prayer (2:42d). Prayer was not a spectator sport. We donít gather to watch the pastor or M.C. pray.

  • It was a primary activity of the disciples as they waited for the Holy Spirit (1:14).
  • It was a lesson that Peter, James and John never forgot (Matt. 26:41).
  • Jesus said that we should always pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1)
  • Paul would tell Timothy (1 Tim.2:1), that prayer is of the highest priority.
  • Our Lord Jesus would tell us several times in John 14, 15, and 16, that prayer in His name would be how we would do great things for Him.
  • Paul would tell us that it is part of the offensive weaponry to overcome Satan in Ephesians 6:18.
  • It includes all prayer (Eph 6:18; 1 Tim. 2:1), Praise, Thanksgiving, Intercession, Specific requests, casting all of our care on Him, and seeking Godís wisdom and direction.

Chuck Swindoll makes two statements in his book, The Church Awakening that I strongly agree with. The first is that God will answer any prayer that is rooted in His Word. The second is that a church can do more than these 4 things, but no real church can do less. This is a reason that we make the time most weeks to have family prayer time. Our prayers are to be both private (Matt. 6:6) and corporate (Acts 1:14; 4:24-31). I am not sure how prayer works, but I know this, it is the way we express the aligning our desires, wills, and purposes with that of our Lordís.

Because this first church was deeply devoted to the study and obedience of Godís Word; to sharing their lives together; to expressing their worship in communion; and to praying together and God did great things in reaching people with the truth of His grace. He will do the same thing again, if we make these 4 things a matter of our devotion today.

Where are you church? Can it be said of us as it was of the Jerusalem Community Bible Church that we are deeply devoted to:

  • The Bible
  • The Body of Christ
  • The Celebration of our life with our Family
  • And to Prayer?

Many of us keep looking for a secret formula, a new program, the newest fade to make the church grow. However, the secret is right here in verse 42. Wouldnít today be a great day to rededicate ourselves to being the Church and doing What a Body Should Do? Letís do that now as we pray and prepare for communion on this World Wide Communion Sunday.

Read part 4

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman