Study 10 THE INNER LIFE OF THE CHURCH
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 1 – 3)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 2:41-47
In these verses we have a pattern for the whole dispensation of what the church should be like. If we ask the question, What should our local church be like? – we find the answer in these verses. What are the marks or characteristics of a true church?
1. This church was spiritually constituted by Christ
This means it was not the work of man but God’s work. He made this church. He constituted it and put it together. In Matthew 16:18 we have the Lord’s promise that He would do this, and if you look at Acts 2:41 and 47 you will see that it was the Lord who made this infant church in Jerusalem by adding to it those who were saved. How is a church formed? Well, the gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit produces conviction, the Word is received, the miracle of new birth takes place, and those who are born again are added to the Lord. So, the Lord’s church is constituted by Him of believers, those who have received His Word (verse 41), those who have been added to the church by Him (verse 47).
2. This church was openly committed to Christ
The people in this passage of scripture had heard the gospel as Peter had preached it; they had been convicted of their sin and had repented and received the Word – all this is described in Acts 2:37-40. But verse 41 follows verse 40! – and in this verse we are told that those who accepted the Word “were baptised”. What a great baptismal service that must have been because about 3,000 were baptised! What a glorious testimony this was to the power and grace of God! Here we have God’s blueprint, His picture of the early church, and we are told that when 3,000 were converted these 3,000 were baptised. Why was this? They were baptised in obedience to the Lord’s command (Matthew 28:19-20). They were also baptised as an open confession that they had renounced their old life and were now trusting Christ as their Lord and Saviour – compare verses 37 and 40. Baptism does not make Christians, nor does the New Testament teach adult baptism, any more than we think it teaches infant baptism. In the early church, when people believed they were then baptised; believing and baptism always went together. There is no case recorded in the Acts of an unbaptised believer.
3. This church was gloriously united in Christ
The key word in verse 44 is the word ‘together’. They were different in age, background and temperament but now, having trusted Christ and been added to the church, “all the believers were together”, which means that they were not only together in the sense that they were in each other’s presence, but they were “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). What is this ‘togetherness’?
- 1. They grew together (verse 42). They were babies in God’s family, and together they “devoted themselves” to Him, growing in grace (2 Peter 3:18).
- 2. They fed on the Word together (verse 42) – “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”. They had no New Testament so depended on the teaching. The greatest need is for God’s people to be biblically indoctrinated.
- 3. They spent much time together (verse 42) – “devoted themselves…to fellowship…” – look up Malachi 3:16. Fellowship is our common inheritance in Christ.
- 4. They remembered the Lord’s death together (verse 42) – there is reference here to the breaking of bread which was at the very heart of their united worship. At His Table we look back to Calvary, up to the Throne and on to His coming.
- 5. They prayed together (verse 42) – “they devoted themselves…to prayer”. How we have drifted away from this early pattern!
- 6. They shared together (verse 44) – we read here of the grace of generosity that was apparent among these early Christians. Is it a pattern for today? – look up Acts 20:35.
- 7. They rejoiced together. What exciting reading verses 46 and 47 make! Has your love for the Lord and His people, for His house and His Word, grown stale? Have you lost the thrill of being a Christian, the wonder of being saved?
4. This church was dynamically empowered through Christ
See what the apostle said in Philippians 4:13. The church pictured here in Acts 2 was what it was “through Christ”. In Acts 2:4 we have the record of the empowering which took place on the Day of Pentecost, and in Acts 4:31 we read of a repetition of the Holy Spirit’s filling in the hearts and lives of these Christians. All that we have seen of this church was the manifestation of the Spirit’s work. Christ Himself, by the Holy Spirit, made this church what it was.
Notice two special ways in which this empowering affected the members of the church, and through them the outside world:-
- 1. The members of the church were characterised by holiness, and this made a great impression on all the people. In verse 43 we read, “Everyone was filled with awe”. These early Christians were holy and Christ-like; they were characterised by godliness, and verse 47 tells us that they enjoyed “the favour of all the people”.
- 2. The members of the church were characterised by power. Verse 43 tells us that “many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” Are we powerful or pitifully weak? In Acts 1:8 we have the secret of power to live the gospel and to preach this gospel.