Summary: Family portraits are wonderful. But they can also be deceiving as many families are far from the happy group pictured. Acts 2:42-47 is a family portrait that portrays the early church when they were a happy group. What can we learn?
“Connected: A Family Portrait”
Dt. 4:5-14; Acts 2:42-47
Family portraits are wonderful. We cherish seeing loved ones all connected together, providing a picture that will produce memories for the ages. But family portraits can also be deceiving. Many families are far from the happy, smiling, loving group that is pictured. So why take a family photo? I suppose there are many reasons. One such reason is that we all like to dream about being that happy, smiling, loving group that is pictured; it provides us with dreams and motivation.
That’s why Acts 2:42-47 can be called a family portrait. It pictures the early church during a time of growth and excitement, when everything seemed to be going perfectly – the Christians appeared to be a happy, smiling, loving group. A few chapters later things had changed; but at this point, the loving connection was real. What was it that made it that way? What were the ABC’s of the early Church family?
The “A” of the Church family was an ADDICTION TO LEARNING. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” The Holy Spirit had opened up a school with 3,000 kindergartners! But we cannot dismiss learning as something only for new Christians – the Bible is unequivocal about learning and growth. Learning is not a one time event or something that we do only in phase one of the Christian life. LEARNING IS A CONTINUOUS JOURNEY. Dt. 4 laid out the importance of devotion to and teaching of God’s truth. As Proverbs 19:27 put it: “Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” So the believers, from that strong Jewish tradition, came together daily to study the apostles’ teachings about Jesus Christ.
Continual education is not an elective; it is essential. IF WE DO NOT LEARN, WE DO NOT GROW. IF WE DO NOT GROW, WE STAGNATE. On July 5, 1926, President Calvin Coolidge spoke at an occasion observing the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. At one point he said, “A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up: a tree will whither if its roots be destroyed.” Listen to Jesus (John 15:5-8): "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, (does not continue to learn and grow) he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you (continue to learn and grow), ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” JESUS IS NOT A BODY OF TRUTH TO BE MASTERED, BUT A TRUTH THAT MASTERS US. Yet too often we Christians feel we have arrived – that there is no need to study anymore, as if we know all there is to know of Jesus. But Paul speaks of the un-searchable riches of Christ; if we learned for a thousand years we would never know all there is to know. To the Colossians he wrote (3:16 GNT) “Christ's message in all its richness must live in your hearts. Teach and instruct one another with all wisdom. Sing psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing to God with thanksgiving in your hearts.” Drink deeply of Jesus. Pursue a life of learning and study. Develop an addiction to learning.
The “B” of the early Church family was that it was BUILT ON SHARING. Verse 42: “They devoted themselves …to the fellowship.” And 44-45: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” A common theme throughout Acts is stated often by Luke; “And they were all together in one place…” The Greek word used here for ‘fellowship’ (koinonia) is not even found in the Gospels. This is the first occurrence of the word in the New Testament.(1) John Stott, in fact, claimed that “the word ‘fellowship’ was born on the Day of Pentecost.” (2) This is because Christian fellowship means “common participation in God,” which is what had drawn the early Christians together. As John wrote in his first letter (1:3) “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” THEY WERE OPEN AND IN TUNE WITH EACH OTHER BECAUSE THEY WERE OPEN AND IN TUNE WITH JESUS. He was the center of their lives, their conversations, their activities. As we experience fellowship (koinonia) with the Father and the Son, we draw closer to each other and enjoy fellowship (koinonia) with one another.