Summary: A study on the New Testament Church
It is very unfortunate that we live in an age where someone can be recognized as a respectable church member without being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. People like this remind of cartoon that had a rather large lady saying to a friend, “My reducing club is a great success. We’ve lost 148 pounds. However none of it is mine personally.” Some church members keep their names on the list, attend every Sunday morning, criticize the congregation’s short comings and even boast in the accomplishments. However, they have never committed themselves to becoming personally involved in the ministry of the church. They want to have a church for assistance when there are births, marriages, illness and funerals. They desire all the benefits but ask they to become personally involved and they just don’t have the time. What these people have failed to understand is that church membership without discipleship is a slap in the face to Jesus Christ. These types of attitudes completely go against everything that the Lord has taught. If this type of church membership is meaningless then what should a church member do? To answer this question we need to once again turn to page one in the history of the church. The first Christians had noting casual or nominal about the commitment; they consider themselves to be disciples. We need to examine the word disciple which appears 232 times in the Gospels and 27 times in the book of Acts. It does not appear in the epistles where the predominate word used for Christian was saint which appears 57 times in the epistles and the book of Revelation. Disciple means learner, student or apprentice. It was used in Greek and Roman society to designate someone as a follower of a philosopher such as Aristotle or Socrates. The word saint is a much broader term reflecting the idea of someone being set apart for God’s exclusive purpose. Today we want to concentrate on the word disciple since we modern church members have lost touch with the true meaning and challenge of the word disciple. If you recall, Jesus did not commission His followers to go into all the world and make church members; especially with our modern compromised idea of church membership. He ordered them to make disciples which are to be made according to His definition of church membership. Today let’s answer the question: “So…I’m a part of the church…now what?
I. The early disciples met together to study and learn from the apostles teaching.
A. These new Christians naturally wanted to learn everything they could about their new Lord.
1. "The apostles’ teaching" refers to a body of material considered authoritative because it was the message about Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed by accredited apostles.
2. These new believers accepted the fact that Jesus was the chosen one of God.
3. However they just didn’t know that much about Him and wanted to learn so much more.
4. Since the New Testament hadn’t been written yet they relied of pre-Christian scriptures and the testimonies of the apostles and others who had know Jesus first hand.
5. It undoubtedly included a compilation of the words of Jesus, some account of his earthly ministry, passion and resurrection, and a declaration of what all this meant for man’s redemption.
B. “The apostles’ teaching” provided the foundation of their faith. As is evident in the New Testament documents, this teaching was always Christ-centered, yet relevant to life.
1. These new believers wanted to do anything they could to fulfill Christ’s expectation. (John 8:31-32)
2. They were to learn all that the apostles could teach them.
3. Like the first century believers Christians are to be students of the Word of God.
4. We should be driven to learn all we can about the one who loved us enough to die for us.
II. When they met together they not only studied, but they devoted themselves to fellowship and the breaking of bread.
A. This familiar term refers to two important elements in the life of the church.
1. They met together in each other’s homes to sit down and share a meal together.
2. These were very much like our church dinners today where everyone pitches in to make sure there is plenty for everyone.
3. At the meals according to the ancient customs of hospitality, all participants were treated equally and experienced unity in Christ with other members.
4. Nothing expresses friendship and fellowship more than eating together.
5. In a Christian setting, where hearts were warmed by devotion, it would have been an occasion for joy, love, and praise connected inevitably with Jesus.
B. In addition to the common fellowship meal the early believers share together in the Lord’s Supper.
1. From Acts 20:7 we learn that the practice of the early Christians was to break bread on the first day of the week.