Summary: The common communion of Christians includes conviction, conversion, and commitment to membership. And the benefits are out of this world.
The Common Communion of Christians – A commitment to Membership
A young man came to the Grand Canyon for the first time and when he got to the edge and saw it he gasped, “Wow! Something big happened here!”
150 years ago an Indian from the dessert plains made it across the Rocky Mountains and down to the Pacific Ocean. Amazed by the vastness, he stared for a long time then ran into the water and dipped up a leather bag full and began to run back toward home. It so happened that someone watching him do this asked him, “What are you doing?” The Indian replied, “My people have never seen the great waters. I bring this to show them what they are like.”
At the end of Acts 2 we discover 117 Greek words penned by Luke that describe the first days of the Church. It appears that Luke faces the same problem that the Indian at the Pacific or the young man at the Grand Canyon. How does one describe the common communion of the first Christians and capture their commitment to Christ and one another? What do you say that measures the meaning of membership among God’s New Covenant people, the Church.
These last few verses in chapter 2 of Acts are compacted and intensely loaded with information about the first days of the Church. Every word counts. As we consider them let’s try to unpack some of this and apply it to ourselves today.
First we ask, What does the Holy Spirit filled church look like? Of course there are some differences between them and us, so we also need to ask, What aspects or characteristics do we see in them that are identifying marks that we should look for and expect to see in the church today?
Last week we looked at the coming of the Holy Spirit and his inspiring the message of praise in various languages. Then we looked at the explanation of the event of his coming and saw the message of the gospel preached by Peter. That was the beginning. You can’t repeat the beginning of a relationship or the beginning of the church. Some of these events are a once and for all experience. But the effects are lasting. The heart and content of what began is still with us today. That is what we will focus on now. In today’s lesson we see the effects of the Holy Spirit’s coming and the new life he gives to those who receive the message. We will find five identifying marks that make up membership and provide the common communion of Christians today.
What we see described in verses 41-47 is God’s work of grace in the new covenant people. Notice first, This is not about everyone that heard the message, but only those that received the message that they heard. A person can sit in church week after week all their lives and hear the message of God’s grace in Jesus sacrifice over and over but never receive it. Most of you know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you. Nearly all of us know someone who has heard the gospel a thousand times and yet has never received the word in faith and obedience. The message interests them, but it doesn’t convert them.
They are comfortable not convicted. They may be impressed, but they are not compelled. Coming but not committed. Listen to me… that’s NOT what we see in the people of Acts 2:41-47. They are entirely different, changed, converted, compelled, committed, in a common communion in Christ.
When a person receives the word planted in them, we see what happens to them here. The very first thing the Bible tells us is that they are baptized and added. They are not added without baptism. Also, this word for “added” in verse 41 is also found in verse 47. Who does the adding? The Lord! You know, I’ve heard that all my life. “You can’t join the church, the Lord adds you to the church!” Well, I never appreciated it’s meaning that much. But studying this lesson has opened my eyes. Jesus is the head and he determines who is and who is not in the membership of the church. By the way, verse 47 also shows us who he adds. It is those who are being saved. Those who receive his word and are baptized vs 41 and those who are being saved vs 47. And between these verses is a description of these new members of this church. I am beginning to see the amazing meaning of membership afresh.
There is nobody on earth that can add or remove members of the church. That’s God’s business. It is the Lord’s doing. He can bring you in and he can take you out. But there is another aspect to membership: as members we all have privileges and responsibilities. You have a part! You have a place! Membership means a whole lot more than showing up for church services.