In our Bible Study Groups on December 6 entitled Transformed By The Holy Spirit, we were reminded that programs and positions don't grow the church, the LORD does. But He does it through His people. Here is an excerpt from the Leader's Guide that was so helpful.
41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Salvation is of the Lord. Whatever numerical growth happens is only because God the Spirit works through the church to be the church. Therefore, we should work toward growing spiritually in the basic ways laid out in this passage and leave the numerical growth in God’s hands:
- First, the early church was devoted to the apostles’ teaching. They understood the Scriptures, believed right theology, and were devoted to the true gospel that had been preached to them.
- Second, they were devoted to fellowship and the breaking of bread. They spent time together, ate together, and lived life together. They were not solo Christians but a body of Christians.
- Third, they were devoted to prayer, thus empowered by the Holy Spirit. We don’t pray in private only. We also pray together, bearing each other’s burdens and rejoicing together when prayers are answered.
- Fourth, they held all things in common. Put another way, they shared their possessions. They didn’t draw their shades, lock their doors, and hoard their belongings. Instead, they considered their possessions as belonging to everyone in the church as others had need.
- Fifth, they were generous to outsiders and those in need. Jesus said that loving God and loving neighbor are the summation of a godly life (Matt. 22:36-40). As He taught in the parable of the good Samaritan, our “neighbor” is not just our friends, family members, or even literal neighbors; our “neighbor” is anyone in need, even those furthest from us socially (Luke 10:25-37).
- Sixth, they met at the temple for more structured corporate worship. Sometimes we think of the early church as a scattered house-church movement. While there is some truth to this, we forget that they still gathered together for larger corporate worship.
- Seventh, they were joyful and humble. They allowed the gospel to shape their affections and emotions so that they were able to joyfully and humbly love God and others.
- Eighth, they had a good reputation with outsiders. Think about it: If the seven descriptions above are true, then, of course, the church will be a light shining in the darkness of this world.
For all of these reasons, God used the first believers in the church to reach many others for the gospel.
Excerpt from The Gospel Project® for Adults / Leader Guide ESV, Unit 28, Session 1 / © 2020 LifeWay Christian Resources