In Acts 2:42 we read: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
This is the testimony of a faithful church, a devoted assembly, dedicated to fulfilling the will of the Lord in their midst. The Scripture lists four major things that these early believers were devoted to:
1. The Apostle’s Doctrine: This is the teaching which the Apostles of Christ were laying down as the foundation of the church (Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone, of course). As this was a transitional time in terms of the canon of Scripture being written and fulfilled, the Apostles that Christ appointed were the highest authority in the church, teaching with authority of Christ, inspired by the Holy Spirit to establish the Church, which the Scripture calls, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Now, however, the Word of God is complete, and we have the Bible, the perfect word of God. Now to be devoted to the Apostles’ doctrine is to be devoted to the teachings of the Bible, to believe the Bible, teach the Bible, fellowship around the Bible, and obey the Bible. The Bible, especially in the fullness of the New Testament revelation, contains the sum of the doctrines of the Apostles, which is really the teaching of Christ Himself.
It has to be said here that doctrine is extremely important. There are many movements today which are speaking of “doctrine” as if it’s a bad word. Great pains are taken to promote “ecumenicalism” (the united of all denominations, even with the harlot Catholic Church), and to downplay the importance and role of doctrine as the firm bedrock of the Church. This is great error. We cannot have true biblical unity apart from fellowship around the real truth, Biblical truth. If we throw out Biblical truth, we throw out the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of Truth, and thus throw out God Himself. We need to guard against heresies and false doctrines and elders in the Church need to constantly be teaching and emphasizing sound doctrine.
2. Fellowship: The Greek word for fellowship here is actually “koinōnia”. According to Thayer’s Greek Definitions, it means:
1) fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse
1a) the share which one has in anything, participation
1b) intercourse, fellowship, intimacy
1b1) the right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship (in fulfilling the apostolic office)
1c) a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship
This is the real fellowship of the early Church. It was association, communion, and joint participation of the early Church around the feet of Jesus Christ. It was a perfect unity of the saints, adoring the risen and glorified Lord, taking pleasure in His presence, devoting themselves to the doing of holy things. This has to be said because there is a lot of so-called “fellowship meetings” in so many churches today that are anything but fellowship. Call them a social club, call them a complaint meeting, but whatever you do, don’t call it “fellowship” unless there is an actual conscious devotion to the glory of Christ. The best fellowship I have had in my Christian walk has come naturally, as I hang out with brethren in the Lord and we naturally speak together of the things of Christ and pray together –not because it was planned or programmed, but because it was what we love to do, and we have an even greater time when we do those together.
3. The breaking of bread. I believe that this is speaking of what we call “Communion”, or the “Lord’s Supper”. In the early church, judging by Biblical texts and by historical records of the early church, the early believers placed a great importance on this ordinance that Christ commanded for His Church. And when they met together, they didn’t eat just a tiny little wafer and a thimble of grape juice, but they ate the bread and wine in the context of a full meal in fellowship with one another and in adoration and thankfulness to Christ, fulfilling His command to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). True communion should not just be a religious ceremony, it should be of a deep spiritual significance of remembering the Lord’s death till He come, and bringing the Body of Christ into a deeper harmony and unity with one another and with Christ the Head.
4. Prayer. Here’s one where the vast majority of the modern church is severely lacking. Prayer was the strength of the early church. They were constantly devoted to prayer. They would “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). And there were great wonders done as a result. Multitudes were swept into the Kingdom. The sick were healed. The demoniacs were delivered. The apostate and sinful were judged by God. The gifts of the Spirit operated in great power in the early church. Their passion for Christ burned like a raging fire as they kept adding to it the fuel of prayer. Missionaries were sent out, and the heathen came to know Jesus Christ.
It seems like so many in the modern church now have time to do everything except pray. But I think it was Martin Luther who said something to the extent of (possible paraphrase), “I’m such a busy man that I can’t accomplish anything if I don’t take two hours every morning to pray”. Now I’m not saying that there is a rule in God’s Word saying that every Christian has to pray for two hours every day, but maybe the Church would be a lot more holy and have a lot more power if a little more believers practiced this. The early church “continued steadfastly”, or in other words, were “devoted” to prayer. It was a constant consuming passion to pour out their hearts and burdens before the Lord. They didn’t lean on the chariots of Egypt, but on the power of YHWH. We need to imitate them.
So these are the four major things the early church was dedicated to. Tragically, many times today we find churches devoted to nearly everything except these things. “The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19).
In Christ -Josef