Summary: Can people recognize you as a disciple of Christ by how much you show your love for the brethren?
Intro—Some of you may be wondering why this message is titled “Philadelphia”—what could pastor be thinking when he starts naming sermons after a city in Eastern Pennsylvania? Well, the answer is that Philadelphia is not just nicknamed “The City of Brotherly Love” because everyone there is so loving to his neighbors—“philadelphia” is actually the word translated “love of the brethren” in verse 22 of First Peter 1. And that’s what I want to continue talking about today...love of the brethren. Last week, we said the reason love of the brethren is so important is because Jesus commands us to love one another...in John 13:34-35, Jesus told his disciples that the way they would be recognized as His followers in the world was by their love for one another. In fact, Jesus said His followers should love one another as He loved them.
So the “why” of brotherly love is clear...we ought to love one another “fervently, and with a pure heart,” Peter tells us in verse 22 of Chapter 1, because we are commanded to, because it is how we will be recognized as Christians, and because God loves our brothers and sisters in Christ, so we ought to also...but how? How can our love for one another be so apparent that the world can see that love in us? I said last week that there are few, if any, Christians, that seem to so clearly demonstrate love for one another that their Christianity is apparent in the way they love other Christians. And as I say that, I am not questioning the fact that we are committed to Christ and that we want to follow His commandments, I just want to make the point that we may not know how to follow His commandment.
So this week, I want to take us to a passage of Scripture that demonstrates for us what Jesus’ disciples actually did in the early church as they sought to follow His commandment. As we look at that passage, I want to notice several habits that were developed in the church, so that they might be the people Christ wanted them to be...Turn over to Acts Chapter 2, verses 41-47, and lets take a look at the habits of the early church. READ. Why is this passage the place to start? Look at verse 47. This new church, just after the day of Pentecost, was “having favor with all the people.” It was not just liked by religious people, they didn’t just like one another, they had favor “with all the people.” I believe the reason they had favor with all the people is because this early church had developed the habits we’re going to look at that made their love for one another apparent to all.
I. In Acts 2:42, we are told the following...that the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Here are four distinct habits of the early church. They “continued steadfastly” in each of these… “continued steadfastly” might also be translated as “devoted” or “continually insisted on”...these were the habits of the early church that resulted in them finding favor with all the people…
The first habit they acquired was to devote themselves to the apostles doctrine...Now, what does learning doctrine have to do with love? Let’s think about that...the apostles would have been teaching many things, but among them certainly would have been two themes: First, that everything in the Old Testament, their Scriptures, pointed toward the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ—they would have been teaching that God loved the world so much, that He had always planned the salvation of men through One who was to come—Jn. 3:16...and second, they would have been teaching that Jesus was positively identifiable as that One because of the way He fulfilled prophecies like those contained in Isaiah 53. They would have been teaching about who Jesus was and what He did on earth...how He loved us so much that he voluntarily gave up His life so that our sins might be forgiven.
The apostles doctrine was and is absolutely crucial to an understanding of how to love the brethren, because Jesus didn’t just say “love one another” in John 13…He said, “Love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” If we are going to learn to do that, to love one another as Christ loved the church, the very first step to that is to learn the apostles’ doctrine...the Old and New Testaments, and to not be casual readers, or once a week readers, but to habitually devote ourselves to the Word of God. (Think of loving others as a skill that needs to be developed, not just an emotion...golf? ice skating?)