Summary: Do you ever wonder what heaven is going to be like? Well I have a feeling Jesus wanted us to experience a little taste of it through the church.
Do you ever wonder what heaven is going to be like? Well I have a feeling Jesus wanted us to experience a little taste of it through the church. We hear things like he has made us a Kingdom of Priests for God His Father, when speaking to the seven churches in Revelation. And again in Revelation 5, “For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and nation and people. And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they are reigning on the earth.”
In Matthew, Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is near, and he also makes several references in the gospels that at least the partial Kingdom is present on the earth now. I believe he’s saying in all this, that the church is to be a representation of heaven on earth, where a Kingdom of priests ministers to each other with love and worship for the Lord.
So today I want to talk about what the Bible suggests a gathering of believers should look like, and the effect we should have on the world around us. Way back in Leviticus three we read of what is called the fellowship or peace offering, and it was a shared meal that usually followed another burnt offering for atonement or cleansing forgiveness. Therefore the fellowship offering was a participatory meal that represents peace with God through atonement, and peace with each other as recipients of that atonement.
Forgiven believers who have found peace with God are to share time and fellowship together, and we see this illustrated in detail in Acts 2 where I want to point out several characteristics of Christian fellowship. Before that though, I want to show you what a group of believers actually is, what the church is supposed to be made up of.
In Acts 2:1 we see that all the believers were meeting together in one place, but we need to know what it means that they were believers. Peter begins his sermon in verse 14 and look at how he addresses the crowd that was made up of devout Jews from every nation and all different languages, that the Holy Spirit spoke to in their own languages at Pentecost. (Show video clip)
He says, listen carefully all of you. Then he says “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”. Then he basically preaches the Gospel and ends with, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptised”. The promise of the Holy Spirit which is the seal of the members of the Church of Christ, is for everyone, and those who believed Peter were baptised.
So let me give you a definition of a I. true member of the capital C church of Christ. It consists of people who have called on the name of the Lord for forgiveness of their sins, repented and turned to God, and been baptised. The church is a group of people who believe the saving work of Jesus and have been baptised. If you don’t meet those qualifications, you are not a member of the Church, and no other scripture passage will refute this.
Now obviously many people who do not meet these qualifications attend church, but they are not yet the Body of Christ to which the Bible refers when it talks about the church. Let me refer you to our statement of faith which comes from early Baptist councils hundreds of years ago… that is a representation of what we hear in Acts.
So what we are going to talk about today are the II. characteristics of Christian fellowship that apply to true members of the body. And I would go so far as to suggest that if you do not desire these things you may not have completely joined, there is a little lack of belief, little lack of repentance, and/or lack of baptism. Because these things we hear in Acts are not commands, they are natural out workings and desires of saved believers.
So what are they, what is the church supposed to look like when a group of truly saved, baptised believers gets together? Let me read Acts 2:42-47, and then we’ll look in more detail at the specifics.
So the first one we see there is that all the believers devoted (they didn’t do it begrudgingly or in a half-hearted way), they devoted themselves to learning God’s word. We don’t have the apostles but we have their writings, their teachings. Now when it says “all the believers” we need to take that as a clear directive that all believing, repentant, baptised people are to be involved in community with other believers unless you are completely unable. The majority of the activities we read about here can only happen in community.