In our previous two articles, we have talked about the fact that the church was planned by God, designed by God, and built by God in Christ (cf. Matthew 16:18).
God has a plan for His church and He expects that plan to be carried out. Thus Paul told Timothy, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13) When we change God’s design, we change the ability for the church to work as intended, effectively changing its purpose. We cannot do this and remain pleasing to God. The Holy Spirit has taught us, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9)
In our last article, we specifically talked about church leadership, a thing for which God gave us named offices in the church, each focused on the task of teaching the word of God. God gave us no offices or officials who had the authority to usurp Christ’s place as the head of the church (cf. Colossians 1:18) nor any means by which we could or should change the doctrine of the church.
In this article, let us look briefly at the pattern for the activities of the church, three of which are described in Acts 2:42. There we read concerning the apostolic church in Jerusalem, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
As we attempt to learn how the apostles taught the early church to operate, we firstly notice that the early church were themselves devoted to the apostle’s teaching.
God gave the church men who could teach them His word, but He did so with the expectation that the church would, in turn be attentive to what was being taught. The words of the apostles are recorded for us today in the pages of the New Testament, and a church which seeks to emulate the pattern of the early church should turn their attention to God’s word just as devoutly as the early Christians did. A church which disdains the word of God as important is already on the path of heresy and has cut itself adrift from the pattern God provided for the saved. We need to earnestly give ourselves over to the study of the Word and obedience to the same.
We notice, secondly, that the early church spent a good deal of time together, devoting themselves to fellowship. God’s church was not meant to be antisocial; God wants us to assemble together with frequency.
This agrees with what Luke records a little later concerning the same group: “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” (Acts 2:46) The word translated “church” in most English Bibles is the Greek word “ekklesia,” which is most properly translated as “assembly.”
The word denotes a body of people called together for a purpose. As the word church means an assembly of people, it is easy to understand why it might be important for such a group to, in fact, assemble together. The writer of Hebrews chastens us saying, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10”24-25) If we wish to part of the church Christ built, following the pattern taught by the apostles according to the will of God, then we need to devote ourselves to fellowshiping with other Christians.
Thirdly, we observe that the early church spent time in worship, indeed, even as they devoted themselves to doctrine and to fellowship, so too did they earnestly and diligently spend time praying and worshiping.
The term “breaking bread” in Acts 2:42 is generally understood as the partaking of the Lord’s Supper (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26), a thing which the early church did each Sunday (cf. Acts 20:7). This, along with prayers, serves as a synecdoche in which the two activities stand in for the whole of worship. Jesus said concerning New Testament worship, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) The worship of God is an imperative for His people, one of the reasons for which we have been saved. Thus we read, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) A church that is not worshiping God in Spirit and truth is not acting as the church God saved.
At the church of Christ we seek earnestly to be the church Christ built, as taught by the apostles. If you are interested in learning more about God’s plan for the church, we invite you to study and worship with us at the church of Christ, 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.