We are in a series called “Devoted.” It is straight from Acts 2:42. In it we see three things that the early church devoted themselves to, and we see in that what we are to be devoted to. Primarily, they were devoted to Jesus, but their devotion to Jesus is played out in their devotion to God’s Word, the fellowship, and prayer.
What the word “devoted” means here in this passage is “continued steadfastly.” These things are what they constantly and continually did. Today we are going to see through scripture some of why fellowship is important and why we should, as the early church was, be devoted to fellowship.
Turn to your neighbor and say, “I need you.” Turn to your other neighbor and say, “The world needs us.” Say to yourself, “You don’t need to be alone.”
God created us for community. (Gen 2:18)
Did you know that not everything in the original creation by God was good? It says over and over each day that God created, “and it was good.” But there’s one thing that wasn’t good.
Genesis 2:18 – Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
God created us to be in community. We were not intended, from the very beginning of a perfect creation, to be alone. We need each other.
Tim Challies says it this way,
Humans were created to be in community, both with each other and with God. Seven times in the story of creation (Genesis 1) God looked at what He had created and saw that it was good. What follows in Genesis 2 stands out in contrast. In a perfect and sinless world, where man enjoyed perfect community with his Creator, God, looking at His creation, said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” The only thing in all of creation that was not good was man’s solitude. Though perfect, sinless and in perfect harmony with God, humans still needed to be in community with other humans. Thus God created woman to be a companion to man and to allow him true community. Though the world has changed since the advent of sin, the need for community remains.
Fast forward thousands of years and the togetherness we are supposed to have becomes even more important. It’s not just something we need, but it becomes something we are.
We are one body in Jesus. (1 Cor 12:12; Rom 12:5)
1 Corinthians 12:12 – For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
Romans 12:5 – So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
We, together, are how the world sees Jesus. Before he went back to heaven, he said that we will do greater things than he even did (John 14:12). How is that so? Because we are, collectively, his body here on earth. And although each part is different, each part is important for the effectiveness of the whole. This body includes people of all kinds. We are the body of Christ, and each are members of it. And each member is different. And each member is necessary. That includes you. It is essential that each member is together.
Show of hands (favorite ice cream | sports, band, school, nothing | introvert, extrovert)
We differ in our backgrounds and our personalities and our abilities and our hobbies. But all these different types and kinds come together and are made one. There is this unity that is far deeper than all of our differences.
When the world looks at Christian fellowship, it should make them question, “Why are they hanging out with them?” It’s so different than the world around us. We aren’t one because we have all things in common. We are one because we have one thing in common – Jesus. Not only are we one body for the purpose of mission, but it’s much deeper and far more profound than that.
We are unified by the blood of Jesus. (Eph 2:13; Gal 3:28)
Ephesians 2:13 – Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
We are not just one body because we are called to be. We are one body because Jesus died for us to be. We are united to Jesus through his blood, and we are united to one another through his blood. This also means that this blood relation is even stronger than your family blood relations (Matt 10:37; Luke 14:26). You have more in common with one another in Christ than you do an unbelieving family member. Jesus died to make you one.
We are to “one another” one another. (see handout)
Turn to your neighbor and say, “I one-another you.”
The phrase “one another” occurs 100 times in the New Testament. Especially in this individualistic culture we are in, we need to “one another” one another. We so often live for ourselves and don’t think about others. This isn’t how the New Testament says we are to live as one body in Christ.
We don’t always live this out. Actually, often we don’t live this out. That’s why…
The New Testament often calls for unity in the church. (1 Cor 1:10; Rom 14:19; Eph 4:11-13)
1 Corinthians 1:10 – I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
Romans 14:19 – So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Ephesians 4:11-13 – 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Fellowship is good for us. (Prov 27:17; Acts 2:44-47)
Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Acts 2:44-47 – 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Did you know that depression is at an all-time high for people your age? Part of the reason has to do with what the culture promotes as what will make you happy actually does the opposite. Another aspect has to do with our smartphones and social media. Social media is supposed to connect us more, but it has left us less connected. We think we are experiencing community, but it’s not real and it leaves us empty. Even loners don’t need to be lonely. But you can also be lonely while being in a crowd.
We need to know each other, and we need to be known by each other. And it’s for our good.
The greatest Christians I know are all people who have stuck with a church and a people through thick and thin. They stuck it out when it was hard and unpopular, maybe even when their friends were leaving and going elsewhere. The most mature Christians I know are all people who committed themselves to a people.
Church hoppers are all about the self. Let me go to where God is working and where I feel good or am fed more. God is working everywhere! And you should be feeding yourself and others by now! (Heb 5:12-14) This is not how the early church was.
The early church modeled fellowship. (Acts 2:42, 46; Heb 10:25)
Acts 2:42, 46 – 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.
Hebrews 10:25 – [Do not neglect] to meet together, as is the habit of some, but [encourage] one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
They not only came together regularly. They came together willingly. They were there day by day, constantly, consistently. You couldn’t keep them apart.
I listened to a sermon on this by the great Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and he said that one of the first tests of a Christian is fellowship with believers. This new life is bound to express itself. And the first way it expresses itself is they come together and do so constantly. He also said…very boldly…If you don’t desire to come together with other Christians, there is only one real explanation…you are not a Christian.
It got me thinking through why some people who claim Christ don’t gather with other Christians. A lot of people don’t attend church because they have been hurt by the church or there are so many hypocrites in the church. You might say, like Mahatma Gandhi, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Well, that’s the point. Christians are not like Christ. Christ is the only perfect one. Christians seek to follow Christ but so often fail. Christ never fails. But he is the one who offers forgiveness and grace and mercy. Gandhi was a Hindu. He didn’t know the grace of the Christ he was talking about. The fact that the church is full of hypocrites actually, in a way, reveals the gospel!
(Turn to your neighbor and say, “Apart from Jesus, you shouldn’t be here.” Tuck your chin to your chest and say the same thing to yourself.)
The great preacher Charles Spurgeon is often quoted as saying,
“You that are members of the church have not found it perfect and I hope that you feel almost glad that you have not. If I had never joined a Church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all! And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect Church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.”
He said elsewhere,
“If you wait for a perfect church, you must wait until you get to heaven; and even if you could find a perfect assembly on earth, I am sure they would not admit you to their fellowship, for you are not perfect yourself.”
And going along with our text and the need for fellowship with believers, hear what else he says.
“…the Church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers.”
Fellowship is necessary for the mission Jesus has called us to. (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1; Acts 2:47; John 13:35)
Jesus sent out his disciples two-by-two (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1). They weren’t to do the mission alone but were more effective together. We see at the end of the early church’s example of living out fellowship…we see the outcome.
Acts 2:47 – praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Your togetherness…your oneness in Jesus…your unity though your differences are glaring…your fellowship…is how the world will see Jesus and see that you belong to Jesus.
John 13:35 – By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
How is your love for one another? Are you devoted to fellowship? Right now’s the time to start.