30 Days in the Bible, Day 23: Acts 2:40-47
When Luke described the practices of the early church in Acts 2:42-47, the first thing he mentions is that “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” I don’t think this is an accident. When we look at what the church did in these verses, we see actions that arise out of an understanding of God’s Word. The fellowship, worship, and outreach of the first century church are built on the foundation of God’s revelation of truth to them.
What was the content of the apostles’ teaching? It began with the proclamation that Jesus was the fulfillment of the hope of the Old Testament. The Law, Prophets, and Writings of the Jewish Scriptures looked forward to the coming of the promised Messiah and to a salvation that would reverse the curse of sin. The apostles believed and taught that this Messiah was Jesus of Nazareth.
The Bible of the early church was what we call the Old Testament today. The earliest books of the New Testament wouldn’t be written for another 15-20 years, although some of the gospel accounts probably started circulating almost immediately. Since they still considered themselves faithful Jews, the apostles would have gone to their Scriptures to teach about the meaning of the coming of Jesus. Jesus Himself had gone to those Scriptures to explain to the two on the road to Emmaus the OT teaching about the Messiah.
Over about the next 60 years, the apostles’ teaching was written down in the recognized Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypse we now call the New Testament. This teaching explained and filled in the details about the person and work of Jesus and about the role of the Holy Spirit. As a result, we are able to read and study the apostles’ teaching today. When we read and study the Bible, both Old and New Testament, we find ourselves in the same place as those early Christians who based everything they did on that teaching.
If we want our modern Christian fellowship, worship, and outreach to have power and lasting effects, we need to follow the example of the first Christians. What we do in the name of Jesus must be founded and built upon what He reveals to us in His Word. A church may meet together, go through some defined worship practices, and speak a message, but if those are done in human power and wisdom rather than in the power of God’s Word the results will not have eternal value.
Christians and churches today must worship the Lord in Spirit and truth, fellowship with and build up each other, and reach out to our world with the good news of Jesus Christ. We can’t do this unless we hear what God says in His revelation, and put what we learn there into practice. As we continue to dig into the Word individually and as a group, we will find that all we do as Christians will be honoring to Jesus and will draw us closer to Him.