Devoted to Fellowship
February 2, 2017 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
This last Sunday at Oak Hills we looked closely at the habits formed by the early church as revealed in Acts 2:42. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Being cautious to not make a descriptive passage purely prescriptive, we considered the nature of their “devotion” and to what they were devoted.
Devotion involves three aspects: sacrifice, consistency, and endurance. To be devoted to one thing means that other things must be sacrificed. If I am devoted to my job, I sacrifice the search and longing for another job. Consistency is vital to devotion because repeated actions reveal what is most valuable to us. We can hardly be “devoted” to something if we don’t return to it on a regular basis. Endurance plays into devotion as other things compete for our attention. Our devotion wanes if we easily become distracted.
So the early church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. They sacrificed other activities and commitments in order to be consistent and enduring in these practices. On Sunday mornings we have considered our own devotion to Scripture, prayer, and communion. Let’s consider here the nature of devotion to “the fellowship.”
The word “fellowship” does not appear in many contexts outside of the church. Within the church, “fellowship” often conjures images of coffee, chatting, potlucks, and such. Food certainly can play a part in fellowship, but let’s see what fellowship looked like for that early church.
1. Christo-centric Time Together. In the verses that follow Acts 2:42 we read that “all who believed were together” 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” (2:44, 46-47). Fellowship certainly involves being together and even spending time together over food, but the early church used those as avenues to center their attention and hearts on Christ. Why did they attend the temple together? Because, in those early days, that is where the apostles were teaching about Christ. Why were they breaking bread in their homes? Because, in Luke’s writings, breaking bread was a celebration and remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice (communion!). How did they receive their food? With grateful hearts, “praising God,” because they had come to see every good and perfect gift coming from him.
The time spent together in “fellowship” was not simply a shooting the breeze or catching up on family activity or discussing the latest sporting events. Fellowship is time centered on Christ.
2. A Genuine Care for Others’ Needs. Acts 2:45 says “they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” This continued as a habit for the early church so that in Acts 4:34 we read, “There was not a needy person among them…” Physical needs, however, were not the only focus of the community. Acts 12:12 says, “many were gathered together and were praying,” while Peter was aided by an angel in escaping prison. What did they pray for? Acts 4:29 says, “grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.” Even when their leaders were being persecuted for their faith, the early church prayed for spiritual fruit. In their time of fellowship together, the early church genuinely cared for one another’s physical and spiritual needs.
This kind of fellowship is commanded for the church through the apostles’ teaching (see, for example, Romans 12:9-13; Galatians 6:1-2, 10; Ephesians 5:18-21; Hebrews 3:12-14, etc.). Time centered on Christ. Genuine care for needs. Are you devoted to the fellowship? Do you make sacrifices for the fellowship? Are you consistent in the fellowship? Do you endure in fellowship? God has blessed us with these avenues of his grace in order to build us up in Christ. Let us be devoted to his grace.