What is the Unified Devotion of the Church?
In Acts 2, after Peter’s Spirit-empowered preaching at Pentecost, a multitude of people began to follow Jesus as His disciples. We are told in verse 41 that:
“…there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41b)
We know from earlier in the chapter that those who heard Peter’s sermon were “from every nation under heaven” — verse 8. So a number of the people who began to follow Jesus that day were from foreign countries. I assume that many of them carried the good news of Jesus back to their hometowns and made disciples there. But many stayed in Jerusalem and joined the other disciples. We are told starting in verse 42 what their day to day activity looked like.
The text says,
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Ac 2:42)
These were the things they were devoted to and unified around. Let’s look at these one at a time.
They were devoted to and unified around learning more about Jesus and how He would have us to live.
Each day they would be taught by the apostles more about God, Jesus, and how they were to live. That wasn’t just an early church practice. We should be unified around the idea of learning more about God, Jesus, and how we are to live as well.
You see, being a member of a church shouldn’t be like being a member of a Country Club. We shouldn’t join for status, connections, or for what we can get out of it. Instead, we join and come to church to help one another become better disciples of Jesus. That should be our focus as a church — to learn how we can better follow Jesus and help others to do the same.
They were devoted to and unified around fellowshipping with one another
As well as we should be unified around fellowshipping with one another. This means that we should be close. We should know what is going on in each other’s lives. How we can encourage and be in prayer for one another.
Even if that is occurring in the community to which you belong, there’s always room for improvement. One way to actively improve fellowship in your Christian community is to pick someone out, it could be anyone — someone you know well or someone you don’t know well, but pick someone out, and invite them to do something with you. Maybe that involves grabbing a coffee or having them over for lunch or dinner one day. When you are gathered together, make it a point to ask them how you can pray for or encourage them.
Now, I know that sounds a little uncomfortable, but if we truly want to experience the level of fellowship Luke is writing about in the book of Acts, that’s something we need to start doing regularly. The easiest way to start is to just do it. So take some time this week to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to fellowship with others in your congregation, and then invite them to hang out.
They were devoted to and unified around breaking Bread Together
Next, we see that along with focusing on learning what it means to be a disciple and fellowshipping with one another, the early church was also unified around breaking bread together. What this means is that they participated in the Lord’s Supper with one another regularly. The reason they did that, and the reason we should do that, is to constantly remind ourselves of Jesus’ work on our behalf.
When we keep what Jesus has done in front of us, it’s hard to keep sinning against one another and God. That’s because when we are thankful for what God has done for us by sending His son to die on our behalf, we should want to please Him. Not to earn or keep our salvation, but simply as a way to worship Him. So by regularly observing the Lord’s Supper, we should be driven to obedience and unity with one another.
They were devoted to and unified around praying for one another
Lastly, we learn that prayer for one another unified the early church. That’s what we should be doing as well, we should be praying for one another. Not just for each other’s physical ailments, but for one another’s spiritual life. That means we have to be willing to ask others how they are doing spiritually, as well as we have to be willing to tell others how we are doing spiritually. It’s a two-way street and we have to be willing to drive down both sides.
Telling others how you are doing spiritually doesn’t necessarily mean that you are always telling them what’s wrong. While that is not a bad idea. Telling others how you are doing spiritually might also mean that you share with them how God is working in your life for good. By willing to do both, you’re not only setting yourself up to receive encouragement, guidance, and prayer, but you will also be a catalyst to worship, as others are driven to praise God for what He is doing in your life. Either way, we are bringing glory to God, and glorifying God is what our life should be about.
What are the Benefits?
So these are the things we should be devoted to and unified around as a church. Honestly, when we are unified around these things, fights and disagreements will be at a minimum. When they do occur, we will seek reconciliation quickly.
As well as, when we are unified around these things, we will always be on the lookout for one another’s spiritual health. When we see others slipping, we will be in a place where we can pray for and admonish them. Or when we see others doing well, we will be in a place where we can encourage them to keep on keeping on.
Moreover, being unified around these ideas will allow us to be better witnesses to the world because we will come across as a unified and loving family that others will want to be a part of.
But again, we don’t do these things in our own strength, nor do we accomplish our mission in our own strength. It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to be devoted to these things and to make disciples. Which means, when we see ourselves or others slipping, we shouldn’t just encourage them or ourselves to try harder. Instead, we should pray that the Spirit would work in our lives, empowering us to keep pressing on as Jesus’ disciple.
So let me encourage you to be faithful to your Spirit-empowered mission — to make disciples and to be devoted to the teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.
Question for Reflection
- Are the above a point of unity for your congregation?
Post adapted from my sermon The Unified Mission, Devotion, and Power of the Church