And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
What is the purpose of the church? How should she spend her time? There are a lot of answers floating around to those questions, but what does Scripture teach? Our text reveals what the early church was like in its purity just after God gave His Spirit on Pentecost. These Christians are an example to us, and we should measure our assemblies today by their standard. We find there are four things here in which the early church “continued steadfastly.” We want to consider the first two today.
First of all, there was a steadfast continuance in the “apostles’ doctrine,” i.e. the word of God. Many churches today have diminished their focus on faithfully teaching and preaching the word in favor of more entertaining forms of “worship”. Why? Because the people that gather have no heart for the truth! Paul warns of this day in 2 Tim 2:3 stating, “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” Brothers and sisters, the time is here! We would do well to encourage our pastors and teachers to faithfully do what Paul tells Timothy in v. 2: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
A brother told me recently that he was convicted many years ago at a conference when the speaker said the biggest issue in the modern church was spiritual illiteracy. As the speaker expounded on that thought, my friend realized he was included in the spiritually illiterate. He attended church regularly but couldn’t tell you what the word of God said! Sure, he could quote the verses we’ve all heard repeatedly, but he had no deep understanding in the word. If you ever get a taste of the richness of the word of God, you’ll seek it continually! As 1 Pet 2:2-3 says, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”
The second practice of the early church was that they were characterized by unity. They continued steadfastly in “fellowship.” They loved the brethren! Isn’t that how Jesus said everyone would know that we were His disciples? (Jn 13:35) Their unity is evident all throughout our portion of Scripture. V. 44 says “all who believed were together, and had all things in common.” V. 46 reveals they were in “one accord” and broke bread “from house to house.” In other words, the early Christians spent much time with each other, and enjoyed rich fellowship in the Lord. As Ac 4:32 further describes them, they “were of one heart and one soul”.
One of the issues in the modern church that greatly hinders her witness is division among the brethren! We have been so divided by denominational and doctrinal lines that the church is weak and fragmented today. Paul warned the Corinthian church against this division. “Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor 1:12-13) He says plainly that such activity is fleshly and inordinate. “…for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?” (1 Cor 3:3-4)
I understand that Christians sometimes have differences of opinions, but we should have a bond that unites us together that is far stronger than such disagreements. If we both love the Lord Jesus above all else, why should our fellowship be hindered. 1 Cor 3 closes with “Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” We ought to rejoice together in the Lord, exalting Christ with one accord! May we be continually “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” remembering that there is only “one body” of believers. (Eph 4:3-4)