In a recent lesson, we looked at how we deal with a lack of satisfaction in our spiritual lives and how we can break that pattern and set a new direction. Another way of putting this is, “How do I start again?” We’re going to look at this as a congregation in this lesson. In being a local church, how can we return to square one?
Returning to Our Pattern
In Isaiah 2:2, the prophet speaks of the House of Jehovah towards which many nations will flow, an eternal kingdom built on peace and spirituality. This is how God’s church is to be typified, and, in Acts 2 we have the establishment of the church recorded. We see people in Jerusalem who are excited about God’s word and steadfastly continuing in His worship. This church can be considered our template.
The church at Jerusalem had some very distinguishing characteristics. We have zero to three thousand in one chapter. Imagine the strains this could create just in terms of facilitating these numbers. There were language differences in these numbers, and this could create additional barriers between the members. Coupled with the languages would have been cultural differences. Yet, in all of this, Acts 4:32 records that these many individuals were of one heart and soul. They were a pattern of unity.
A Pattern of Unity
- They had the same purpose. In Acts 2:42-46 (a passage we will return to often), we see them “in one accord.” They had the same heart, the same mind, and the same purpose – Christ and His return. In Acts 3:19-21, Peter speaks of this hope to people gathered as the result of him healing a man.
- They Prayed Together. In Acts 1:14, we read that the disciples continued in prayer together. Chapters 2:42, 4:24, and 12:12 all contain examples of Christians praying together.
- They Were of the Same Doctrine. John 14:26 records Jesus promising the Spirit to make sure the apostles know what to teach. Acts 4:12-20 is an example of how the disciples remain faithful to Christ’s word. They did not go beyond, and they did not omit anything.
- They Worshiped Together. Acts 2:42 and Acts 20:7 record the communing of Christians in worship. Worship is the best form of encouragement, and they made sure they participated together in honoring their God.
- They Spent Time Together. Acts 2:44-46, Acts 5:42 record Christians spending time in each others homes, discussing spiritual matters, encouraging each other. They could have been separated in so many ways, but they chose to associate with each other.
- They Were Concerned for One Another. Acts 2:44-45 records Christians sharing possessions with each other, distributing wealth as needed. Acts 4:32 makes it clear that they were not self-centered in terms of material possessions.
This congregation was successful despite the obstacles around them. They remained enthusiastic and steadfast for God. They prayed for boldness in facing the trials before them. They were generous, and they shared with each other liberally. They immediately took care of internal problems and discipline issues. They demonstrated endurance in their commitment (Acts 8:4), and they continued to endure even when the problems came from internal struggles (Acts 6), addressing the situation with consideration and compassion.
We sing the song “Blessed Be the Tie.” Do we consider that tie binding us together as our relationship with God. Our hearts are joined in Christian love. Do we take this relationship seriously, or do we take it for granted as casual acquaintances? We should be trying to emulate the unity and closeness shared by the Jerusalem church. If we do not have this, there are changes we need to make so we can be the church that God wants us to be.
lesson by Tim Smelser