“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)
“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.” (Acts 4:32-35)
Above are two classic passages that describe the culture of the early church. It is dangerous to assume that this is the model for what the church should look like, in all locations and cultures, and in all times. However, I think it is fair to say that the core values represented in these passages are overwhelmingly reiterated in the rest of the New Testament. So, while the local church may be organized differently over time (and in differing cultures), these core values are key components to the biblical calling of the church.
I would like to argue that the overarching thing the church is called to is to be a community of faith. Neil argued this a few blog posts back. Ike highlighted in the last blog that we are a community on mission. And three blog posts back Terry reminded us that the church is called to feed the sheep – and sheep do not do well wandering around as individuals. They only survive in a flock: a community, cared for by a shepherd. There are numerous New Testament metaphors for this community. We are God’s holy temple (I Corinthians 3), Jesus’ body (I Corinthians 12), a holy nation, royal priesthood (I Peter 2) and so much more. All the metaphors point towards a community of faith. The passages in Acts reflect a generous, loving community of mutual submission – where my “stuff” belongs to God – and His community of faith.
We are called to live out the “one-anothers” in this community. We are not individuals saved for heaven. We are saved for community and a redemptive mission.
The church is not just called to be any type of community. It is Jesus’ community of faith. The early church met for the apostles’ teaching about Jesus the Messiah. They shared meals and their lives with each other. They “gloried”, especially in their (new) equal status as they celebrated the Lord’s Supper as a family meal. They prayed – seeking the Lord to move redemptively among them and those they loved and met. I love that the apostles “testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus!” This is that mission component Ike was talking about. Yes, we are people of the cross – but we are even more, people of the empty tomb. So often I hear us talk about the cross and how Jesus saved me, a sinful individual. And then? Complete silence on the resurrection. This sin management gospel is half right – but fully wrong! It is perfectly fitted for our individualistic, “Jesus and me, and now I have my ticket to heaven” culture. Yet in I Corinthians 15 Paul reminds us that we are people of the cross and the resurrection. Without the resurrection we are still dead in our sins. The resurrection raises us to new life in the here and now. The resurrection places us into the community of faith (by His Holy Spirit)! As His people we have the privilege in joining the apostles in testifying to the reality of the resurrection in word and by living in resurrection community.
May we answer His calling to be His generous, loving, community of faith!
EFCC Executive Director