Continuing Steadfastly (Acts 2:42-47)
In the fall of 1992, I walked into the Florence Boulevard church of Christ in Florence, Alabama. I had no idea that that day I would begin a lifelong association with Bill Bagents. Bill was the preacher at Florence Boulevard at that time. I cannot remember what he preached about the first time I heard him, but I remember that I was impressed with how biblical and understandable his lesson was. I remember that about a week before that I had spoken in front of a big crowd at school and I remember thinking that I had fallen on my face. Bill found me that first time I attended Florence Boulevard and thanked me for the fine job I had done.
In the summer of 1993, I interned at the Florence Boulevard church, and I would continue working with them in a small way all through college. During that time, Bill took me under his wing and mentored me. He would patiently help me with the mechanics of sermon preparation and take me visiting and help me in a number of different ways.
Bill has continued to be a helper and an encourager since I left school. He has gone out of his way to help me on so many occasions and in so many ways. I have sought his advice a number of times–even a few times since coming here–and he patiently answers with sound counsel every time.
I say all of that to say that I knew our meeting would be a great week with sound and encouraging preaching.
Each of you contributed mightily to our efforts last week. You took postcards and flyers to pass out to neighbors. You invited friends and family to come and hear Scripture. You greeted guests in a warm and welcoming manner. I was never more thankful to be a part of the Dale Ridge church than I was last week.
But, you might be thinking “Now what?” We’ve had a great meeting, we had many guests and we’ve sown the seed. What do we do now? Scripture tells us what’s next. I’ve preached a couple sermons where I compare the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 to a gospel meeting. I don’t want to stretch Scripture, but think of the similarities: A great crowd comes to hear the Word of God (even though they don’t realize it), a preacher delivers a message about Jesus, a preacher calls for a change of life. At the conclusion, you have many folks baptized into Jesus.
This morning, we want to think about what the early church did after Pentecost. What they did after Pentecost is: They continued. What we wish to learn this morning is: “We need to continue steadfastly.”
Scripture (Acts 2:42-47)
“They continued steadfastly.” Some of the newer translations put “They devoted themselves.” I’m really not sure why the translations do that. The Greek word means “to continue” or to “persevere.”
Important for our discussion this morning is the idea that these folks understood the need to continue with good works. Luke’s wording here strongly implies that there is some lapse of time between verses 41 and 42. In the time between these two verses, the new disciples begin doing good works and they continue them.
“In the apostles’ doctrine.” The term “doctrine” really means “teaching.” The idea is that the apostles were teaching these babes in Christ to make them strong in the faith. The teaching of the apostles–teaching we now have recorded in Scripture–has great power to mature folks in the faith. As Paul leaves the Ephesian elders, he says, “Now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). If those shepherds of the flock needed building up in the faith through the word of God’s grace, we certainly do!
Obviously, continuing in the apostles’ doctrine also means these new converts practiced what they heard. The early disciples did not view the teaching of the apostles as a good “after dinner” speech; they obeyed what they heard. You know that we cannot be those who simply hear the Word of God and refuse obedience. Matthew 7:24-27. Will you be one who will obey what the apostles taught?
In “fellowship.” The term “fellowship” refers to the act of sharing, the idea is that we have things in common. The root word of “fellowship” occurs at the end of verse 44: “common.” The idea is that we are sharing together. As Christians, we share much together: We share a Father who loves us, we share a Son who died to save us, and we share a kingdom in which we labor together. We also have lives that we share as we journey from here to heaven.
“In the breaking of bread.” “Breaking of bread” is a figure of speech from the day of the apostles that simply means “to eat.” There are places in the New Testament where the phrase simply means “to eat” (cf v 46). But, the context of verse 42 is what the early church is doing in worship; therefore, I believe the “breaking of bread” here refers to the Lord’s Supper. The early disciples wished to commune with Jesus and with each other around the Lord’s table, and they did so regularly.
“In prayers.” The early Christians were living lives saturated with prayer. They well understood the need to call upon God for daily strength.
The early disciples and apostles continued to do God’s work on a daily basis. Because they were so faithful in their work, God added to the church on a daily basis. Think about the beauty of that: The early church on a daily basis lived lives that brought honor and glory to God. Therefore, people were responding on a daily basis to the message they proclaimed and lived.
“We need to continue steadfastly.” I know of no better works in which we can be involved than the ones mentioned in Scripture. We want to think about ways we can continue steadfastly.
We need to continue steadfastly in preaching.
The early church did; “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.” There are two main ways we need to continue steadfastly in preaching.
- We need to hear the word for ourselves. The word of God allows us to be born again to a living hope (1 Pet 1:23-25). We need to commit to continuing in the apostles’ teaching. We have so many opportunities to hear the apostles’ teaching: Sunday morning Bible study, Sunday evening worship, Tuesday morning Bible study, and Wednesday evening Bible study. Some of you do as well as schedules and health permit, but others of us need to step up to the plate and make a commit to persevere in the apostles’ doctrine.
- We need to be sharing the word with others. Your invitations gave many an opportunity to come and hear the apostles’ doctrine last week. But, we must persevere in preaching now that the meeting is over. I have three and maybe four Bible studies scheduled for this coming week. I personally like being that busy. Only the gospel has the power to save: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). I could use a partner for some of these studies; if you can help, see me. We need to see more Bible studies set up. You can set one up for you to do. Or, we can visit someone together and try to get going. If we set up many more studies, I’m going to need to hand them off. Can you help?
We need to continue steadfastly in participation.
The early church did; “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship.” We need that fellowship and participation. You did so well with participation last week–the way you loved and welcomed guests went a long way in making a big difference in eternity.We don’t stop now; we persevere. We need to share our lives, because burdens are often heavy to bear: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). This world is a dark, dark place full of misery, and God intends His church to be place of warmth and love.Always speak with our guests; don’t let them leave this assembly without knowing they are loved by the Lord and by us! Send a card to demonstrate your love.
We continue steadfastly in partaking.
The early church did; “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread.”The Lord’s Supper must be the most solemn thing we do week after week. It’s the way Jesus wants us to remember His death: 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. As we partake of the Supper, we remember who we are: sinful people who must have the blood of Jesus. As we partake of the Supper, we remember who Jesus is: the loving Son of God who freely took our place. We must be faithful in partaking and focus our hearts on Jesus. Such remembering strengthens us to move closer to Jesus.
We continue steadfastly in prayer.
The early church did; “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
Scripture urges us to be steadfast in prayer. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). Why “pray without ceasing”? “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Js 5:16). We need to pray for:
- This congregation to stand firm and allow her light to shine.
- Me, that I might proclaim truth in love and simplicity.
- Hearts that are open to hearing the gospel.
Do you need us to pray for you this morning? Do you need to come to Jesus?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.