A Gospel-Centered Community
After the church was birthed through Spirit-empowered preaching of the gospel in various languages on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41), we notice the early church doing the following:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common (Acts 2:42-44).
So we learn that the early church—as it united around the gospel message—faithfully devoted itself to two important practices: (1) gospel-centered teaching and (2) gospel-centered fellowship.
The early church faithfully devoted itself to the apostles’ teaching. A natural question arises: What was their teaching? To begin, it is evident their teaching included Christ’s 40-day, post-resurrection teaching on the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). It is also evident—by turning to the overarching plot line of Acts—that the teaching centered on the gospel message. After all, Acts itself is an account of the spread of the gospel message from Jerusalem to Rome. It could be said, therefore, that the apostles’ teaching was the gospel message itself, and what the message then meant for life and faith as expressed in the New Testament epistles.
Dear church: We must similarly devote ourselves to the apostles’ gospel-centered teaching. This means we must continually point each other to the gospel. This can be done by actively and faithfully committing ourselves to a growth group or Bible study group. But, especially for those who’s schedules make it difficult to commit, let us not forget that this can be applied first-and-foremost in our individual homes. So I encourage you: Figure out a way to point each other to Christ, beginning in your own homes.
If you need some help doing this, try reading Donald S. Whitney’s Family Worship. It’s a short, 67-page book on leading gospel-centered devotionals in your own homes. And if you need help learning how the entirety of the Word of God points to Christ, try reading Trevin Wax’s Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in all the Scriptures. This, too, is a quick read, and both are available on Amazon.com for under $8. Nothing like a low-cost investment that pays high spiritual dividends!
The early church was also faithful in its devotion to unity and fellowship as a response to the gospel. It was a tripartite fellowship which included (1) shared meals, (2) prayers, and (3) fulfillment of one another’s needs, all out of love for one another.
My dear church: Let us continue to do likewise, out of gospel-centered love. The Apostle John reminds us:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 Jn 3:16-48).
Let’s continue faithfully devoting ourselves to shared meals. Let’s continue faithfully praying for one another. Let’s continue to lovingly fulfill each other’s needs. This means an active willingness to listen to the Spirit’s leading as you hear about or come across others in our church family in need, and then responding with generous love.
On the other side of the same coin, let’s also be willing to allow ourselves to receive love. Let others invite you over for a meal. Especially when in need, allow others to bring meals to your home. Trust me, we want to help! Let others pray for you, too. This means a willingness to allow others to know the hardships you are walking through. You not only need us to point you to Christ, you also need us to pray for you, too. And last—and probably hardest—allow others to help you with your needs. Pride will tempt you. Pride will want to get in the way. But point yourself to the cross, and be reminded that in the same way you need Christ for eternal life, you also need God’s people as you sojourn on this broken earth.
It Starts In-House
Don’t forget: The context of the practices being done in Acts 2:42-44 are within the church itself. Yes, we must obey the Great Commission. Yes, we must be involved in missional outreach. But let us never forget: Pointing one another to the gospel and loving one another out of a response to the gospel starts in-house, within the church. Jesus Himself said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
Let us, therefore, not grow weary in our faithfulness to gospel-centered teaching and fellowship. Christ has done something amazing for us (1 Cor 15:56-57); let us, then—as a response to this great news—”be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).
Keep pointing one another to Christ. Continue loving one another in Christ.
—Pastor Marttell Sánchez