Elevating Community 2: Christian Fellowship (Acts 2:42-47)
Last post we began digging into the Bible to look at what Biblical Christian fellowship/community looks like. Though we have many ways to “stay connected” these days, in many ways we are more isolated than ever before. We have more ways to gather facts about people but less ways to have true fellowship with people; we have more acquaintences but less community. We are experiencing the difference between knowing ABOUT people and really KNOWING them. What is our Biblial responsibility to other Christians—how has God designed us to interact with each other? We primarily looked at 2 Timothy 1:1-14…in this post we will look at a couple of the reasons why Biblical Christian community is often difficult to cultivate:
Why Christian Community Is Difficult To Cultivate
- Because we aren’t devoted to it; Christian fellowship/community is often a hobby at best, something we do in our spare time.
- Acts 2:42-47: The Fellowship of the Believers: 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching [God’s Word!] and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Breaking bread—regular meals as well as communion, the Lord’s Supper. The Lord Jesus died for them to be connected, to be His body, to be in His family. We are not connected primarily because we like the same hobbies—we are connected by the death of our Savior—that is the cost the LORD paid for our community and fellowship. Oh how we dishonor Him by not being devoted to cultivating it. Look at the four goals that the early Christians focused on above: does that describe Christians in the United States in the 21st century? Is that what WE are focused on?
43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Non-Christians get saved/forgiven/adopted as Christians have deeper Biblical community with each other. Wow.
Another Reason Why Biblical Community Is Difficult To Cultivate
- Similarly, because we aren’t out on our mission each day; we are busy with almost everything BUT the mission on which the Lord Jesus has sent us out.A running team that only warms up but never races, a sports team that only practices/works out but never faces the opposing team, such a sports team never develops the chemistry and camaraderie that only comes through competition, through blood sweat and tears, through victories and defeats, through pressure packed situations and the mundane moments of a long season.
Similarly, those on the team grow close to each other in a way that spectators never do, even though those watching the athletes spend much time together watching; the field produces a bond in a way that the stands do not. I am convinced that many of the people who are bored as Christians are often just watching, aren’t often out on the field learning to sacrificially follow Jesus with other Christians in ways that cost us much, or are participating in the 21st century suburban American version of Christianity and not the 1st century Biblical reality of Christianity. My heart grieves over this, and a lot of it is my fault at this local church—I need your prayers and active participation to partner with the Holy Spirit and the Bible to become a 1st century Biblical local church. Oh how can we read the book of Acts and think that Biblical Christianity is boring, that fellowship with Christians is just about sports and jokes and chicken wings and hanging out? It is ANYTHING but that…
Soldiers who have been in combat are so close to each other, in many cases closer than they are to their blood families. Risking and shedding blood together in the pursuit of a common goal/mission bonds soldiers like nothing else, and when new recruits arrive on the battlefield, though the new recruits are truly soldiers, they are not quite truly part of the team until they go through danger and suffering on the battlefield shoulder to shoulder with their fellow soldiers. We often just look at passages like Acts 2 and say that we wish we could have that fellowship. Well we don’t have to wish, but we will have to work; and we will have to suffer—not alone, but together.
People on a cruise ship can grow close to each other relaxing and hanging out and having fun, but not anywhere like those on an aircraft carrier, those in battle together, those risking much together.
2 Corinthians 1:3-11: 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ,
[not just general suffering—e.g. a flat tire on a car when you can’t afford it; suffering for being a Christian, for faithfully agreeing with the Bible and telling others about the grace & Truth of Jesus—suffering FOR Him!]
so also our comfort abounds through Christ
[there is a closeness to Jesus that comes only with suffering in our mission from Jesus].
6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
[the early Christians suffered together–and were comforted by the Lord Jesus together!–as they carried His mission for them (see Matthew 28 and Acts 1)]
8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia.
[what were they doing in Asia? Spreading the Gospel, being about Jesus’ mission! And they shared with each other–they informed each other about!–their suffering. They didn’t keep their trials private but shared them.]
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
How glorious is this Biblical community!?ALL Christians participating in the biblical mission, all hands on deck of aircraft carrier Jesus, not just for the “Navy Seal Christians” to do the majority of the work or the “really hard stuff.” Everyone involved, sharing sufferings together and praying for each other in the mission as they follow Jesus in His mission they suffer; as they keep following the Lord Jesus in His mission they receive comfort from Him; they then pass on that comfort to other Christians who are suffering as they follow the Lord Jesus in His mission; they share with each other the specific ways that they suffer; their shared suffering and communication leads to praying for each other; thus their fellowship grows closer and closer!
But by itself, suffering in general does not guarantee community. On the average block in the average American neighborhood, every house is going through some kind of challenge and suffering. But simply because all are suffering doesn’t mean that all are suffering together; they suffer separately, literally in separate houses, often with nothing more than a quick smile and wave.
But those within a family who live in the same house suffer together, getting up close and personal with each other and seeing each other on our best days, worst days, and everything in between—we are literally “behind the scenes.” That doesn’t guarantee community, but all true community has this “suffering together”-ness. We Christians are in the same house—God’s House!—and we are to suffer together, not separately, not hiding our sinfulness, and not CELEBRATING our brokenness, but sharing and confessing and asking for help with our brokenness, asking the Lord together for His forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9) as we tell others about the forgiveness and cleansing that the Lord Jesus freely gives to all who receive Him as their Savior & follow Him as their King!
My friends, we will never have true Biblical community with other Christians until we are suffering together in the mission the Lord Jesus gave us in Matthew 28, Acts 1 and elsewhere—“filling Jerusalem with His teaching” and telling others in words and actions about the glorious Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the cross and the empty tomb. When we don’t intentionally and prayerfully and strategically go together arm in arm to spread this Gospel, we are merely practicing and warming up constantly, even though we are busy doing many religious things—we aren’t actually in the race; like forever dating but not actually getting married.
Philippians 4:1-3, 10-20: Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! 2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life…10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.
17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God & Father be glory for ever & ever. Amen.
[Sacrificially serving other Christians is an act of worship to our heavenly Father–it is an acceptable and pleasing sacrifice for Him! And as we sacrificially serve each other in our mission from the Lord Jesus, God the Father will take care of meeting our needs so that we can continue to sacrificially serve other Christians! What a promise, what a God!]
2 Timothy 1:8-9: 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…
Philippians 3:10: 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…
Paul wanted to suffer with Jesus, wanted to follow Jesus into hard times, not because Paul enjoyed suffering but because the suffering would knit Paul even closer with the Savior. The same happens to Christians when we suffer together as we follow Jesus sacrificially—the Holy Spirit knits us closer to each other as well. We won’t have to learn about how to have community & fellowship, we will RUN to have community & fellowship with each other because we will need to in order to survive the hard parts of our mission…
This pattern of deep fellowship between Christians as they suffer together by living out the Lord Jesus’ mission for them–this patterns occurs throughout the New Testament! Think of it:
The Lord Jesus sent out His followers in pairs of two! Why did He do that? They could have gone to twice as many places if they went alone…more efficient, right? No. The Savior sent them out in pairs for many reasons, but also to build community, to strengthen their fellowship as they followed Jesus together, as they lived out their mission side by side and suffered together! Do you go out with other Christians to live out Christ’s mission—telling others of His grace & Truth with your words & actions? We won’t have true fellowship & community until we do…
Think also of the Lord’s disciples right after He was crucified—just a couple dozen of them. Where were they? Were they mourning and trying to make sense of everying alone, separated, getting busy with their lives again in their separate houses? NO! They locked themselves in a room TOGETHER! True community & fellowship had been built over the previous three years as they followed the Lord Jesus together and suffered for Him, and so it was perfectly natural for them to mourn together and continue the fellowship after He was crucified–they were discouraged and confused, but they were those things together! And let’s no tbe surprised what happened next, as they were together in fellowship and community: the Lord Jesus appeared to them all. Oh what we miss out on when we merely have Christian acquaintances…