Saturday, unity in the church
In Acts 2:42–47, the Scripture provides a beautiful and compelling vision of Christian community. This snapshot of the early church offers powerful traits of genuine Christian community and a picture of its resulting power.
1. Full Devotion to Christ and His Cause
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (v. 42)
Halfhearted, semi-devoted people cannot build a God-honoring, effective church. Part of the character of a true Christian community is full devotion and passion of the people contained in it. The Church as established by God is supremely important and its mission is a cause worthy of even death. These facts demand our full devotion to Jesus and to the causes of Christ.
2. Anticipation of God’s Supernatural Work
“Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.” (v. 43)
People want to be a part of something God-sized. In truth, God stands ready to work in and through a willing community who believe in Him and seek Him. Here in Acts 2, people prayed and expected God to answer. We should likewise seek to build churches that believe that God still works miracles in this world, that He still changes lives, and that prays to achieve that which can only be accomplished through God’s supernatural grace and power.
3. A Strong Commitment to One Another
“All the believers were together and had everything in common.” (v. 44)
This passage reflects a loyalty and commitment that believers had with each other. In truth, they acted as a family. Care, concern, dependability, mutual support, respect, and grace was given and received. Community did not have to be sacrificed for the sake of cause. In fact, community fueled the cause and gave life and credibility to it.
4. Generosity in Meeting Needs
“They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (v. 45)
In the course of work and achieving mission, needs arise within individuals. People become disheartened. They experience distress. They incur personal hardships that on the surface may have little connection to the work they are doing. Good, godly leaders understand that people, whether consciously or not, bring their personal matters with them into every area of their lives. Therefore, in biblical community, people are not blind to the needs of others, and they respond by seeking to assist, encourage, and generously meet needs. Where there is true community, there is generosity. You cannot have Christian community without people possessing generous hearts.
5. Laughter and Fellowship
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” (v. 46)
People in healthy Christian community enjoy one another in relationships. They know they must give effort and hard work, but they also spend a measure of time in fellowship and relaxation. They eat together, laugh together, and pursue common interests outside of work or “ministry.” This provides levity to offset the sometimes-difficult labor that people are doing, and it also allows them to get to know each other in a context beyond the work environment. This reaps the benefit of even greater unity and commitment.
6. A Sense of Shared Destiny from God
“. . . praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (v. 47)
Along with the sense of awe that resulted from seeing God answer prayer, those in the first church saw evidence that God was doing something outside their requests or expectations. They saw that God was doing a work of his own and that they were connected to a power beyond them. This was a work that transcended their efforts and connected them to God’s eternal purpose. God was transforming the real lives of people through divine salvation and was bringing them into this church. I imagine that as they witnessed life after life, person after person coming to faith, this created a sense of shared destiny—a feeling that they were being swept along by the current of God’s Holy Spirit for some sovereign purpose and were joined by God himself to his eternal plan.
This final trait of community is one that cannot be manufactured by a leader or his or her people. It is in fact a divine result of community—in other words, a gift of grace. But be sure that, while people cannot produce this sense of shared destiny, they can certainly undermine it and prevent it from occurring. They do this by failing to seek to build the kind of authentic community God desires between his children.
Acts 2:42-47 clearly reveals that Christian community is the chosen receptacle of God’s activity and power, as well as the instrument through which He seeks to manifest Himself in the world. God longs to pour out Himself among and through people where genuine love, unity and oneness of purpose is expressed. Pray that God will use to you to build in your church the context and environment for His presence and power to be expressed in this world which so desperately needs it.
“Father, we pray the we would be the kind of authentic leaders who both build and model Christian community to our churches. Use us to grow churches that live out the expression of sincere community as found in acts 2:42-47. Allow the power of that community and our unity to become the receptacle of Your favor and blessing so that You might bring others outside of faith to discover the Christ that makes us one. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.”