The Scripture-Driven Church
After three and a half years of ministry, Jesus was left with a mere 120 followers on the Day of Pentecost. But on that day the Lord added about 3,000 souls to this group of believers. In one day. What a remarkable work of the Spirit of God!
How did these new believers grow? It was all very simple. Luke spells it out for us in Acts 2:41-42. He says, “So then, when they had eagerly welcomed his word, they were baptized, and on that day about 3,000 souls were added [to the church]. And they devoted themselves [persistently and constantly] to the teaching of the apostles and to the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.”
As the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 shows, the Body of Christ grows in two ways – by the addition of new members (“baptizing” = evangelism), and by the nourishing of existing members (“teaching” = edification). The same pattern occurs here in Acts. First of all, evangelism takes place (they received the word, were baptized, and were identified with a group of believers), followed by edification (Bible study, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, prayer). These believers were learning to love the Word of God (the apostles’ teaching), and they were learning to love the people of God (fellowship). And this was not just an occasional affair. They persevered in it! It was not a fad. It was a pattern.
As these new Christians began to meet all over Jerusalem in small groups, they devoted themselves to the Bible. Their thinking was changed, and as a result their lives were changed. They also enjoyed “fellowship” – they had a common love, a common mission, a common concern for each other, and a common conviction about the Word of God. What a joyous, brotherly fellowship! The atmosphere must have been akin to a wedding banquet. It was a time of magnificent companionship, edification, caring, sharing, catching up, getting to know others, praying with others, exhorting and admonishing one another, maturing in the faith. This banquet atmosphere is not surprising. The Lord’s Supper was indeed a banquet that foreshadowed the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. This was not just a time for eating but for sharing together in that symbolic testimony to the basis of their unity – the life and death of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Might we draw a definition of the church from Luke’s description here in Acts 2:41-42? Try this on for size: A local church is a group of baptized believers whom God has assembled for Bible study and fellowship, for the Lord’s Supper and prayer. These might be considered the minimum requirements for a group of New Testament disciples:
This is a picture of the Scripture-Driven church. And it began with a handful of faithful disciples.
It seems to me that these seven things are the minimum of what it takes to be considered a New Testament church. Later, the church developed into a more mature Bride. The church took on additional marks. These characteristics were at least seven in number:
A lot of nonsense has been written about how these characteristics are impossible for churches today. Impossible, yes – unless the Spirit of God is at work! I believe there is an incredible awakening sweeping across the churches in our nation today. People are realizing just how far today’s institutionalized, professionalized church has departed from the New Testament. They are convinced that the Scriptural patterns for doing church are as valid in 2005 as they were in the Book of Acts.
There is a stirring afoot, and when we understand that Jesus is the Head of the Church, the Husband of His Bride, we will not be content to be anything less than what He desires for us in love.
February 7, 2005
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. If you would like to know more about becoming a follower of King Jesus, please feel free to write Dave.