A Model Church (Acts 2:42-47)
As a kid, I loved to get models and put them together. I assembled models of airplanes and battleships, but what I collected–and absolutely loved–were models of the space shuttle. I had models for all the different orbiters NASA used. Some of the models were metal, but I loved putting plastic models together. I would carefully separate all the pieces, sand down the rough edges, and glue the pieces together. I’d then paint my model and carefully apply the decals. I would try to make the model look as much like the real space shuttle as possible. You guys who spent time with models as a kid will appreciate this—As I stand here and talk about my models, I can smell the glue and the paint.
Whether or not you put together models as a kid, most of you have models today. Maybe you have a village you set out at Christmas or maybe it’s a train set that goes around your Christmas tree. Maybe you have a birdhouse that resembles a real house or some other structure. Maybe you have a cookie jar that resembles an animal or something else. Maybe—just maybe—you still have that Sports Illustrated football that was really a telephone. Whatever it is, I’m confident that you have in your home something—probably several somethings—that is a model of something else.
But some models, of course, have real benefit. NASA had models of the space shuttle, not little plastic ones they put together, but models they used in wind tunnels to test the aerodynamics of the spacecraft. I know some ladies who like to go to furniture stores to get ideas for decorating their homes—they use the furniture store as a model. You probably try on clothes—model them—before you buy them to make sure they’re going to look right on you.
God has used models to demonstrate what he wants. Concerning the Tabernacle, God told Moses, “See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain” (Ex 25:40). “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21).
This morning’s passage provides a model of what the church should look like. The early church serves as a model of what the church today should look like because the apostles and prophets were inspired to guide the church into what God wanted it to be.
The language Luke uses here is reminiscent of the descriptions of utopian societies in the ancient world. In other words, what Luke tells us here about the early church is what the writers of his day thought societies should look like. It’s actually what the church did look like.
This morning, we want to look at the model church in Jerusalem. This morning, we want to learn “A model church is an active church.” A model church isn’t a dead church, a model church isn’t a congregation that is barely getting by. Instead, a model church is active and moving and doing much good.
Scripture (Acts 2:42-47)
The model church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.
In Greek, the term “devoted” means to be firm, to persevere, or to be faithful to someone. The model church was faithful in adhering to apostolic teaching. There is certainly activity here—the model church had to be listening to the teaching of the apostles. Before he ascended back to the Father, Jesus told the apostles to make disciples of all the nations, baptize those disciples, “and [teach] them to obey everything [he had] commanded [them]” (Matt 28:20); the apostles were being faithful to the commission Jesus had given them, and the church was being faithful to listen to that Word.
The model church devoted themselves to fellowship.
Fellowship refers to a joint participation that brings about intimacy. Most of this passage points to the intimacy the model church had:
- They were together and had everything in common.
- They sold possessions and gave the proceeds to those in need.
- They were meeting together daily.
- They were eating together daily.
- They had favor with all the people.
- The Lord himself was adding to their number.
The model church devoted themselves to the breaking of bread.
“Breaking bread” was simply a first-century idiom which meant to “eat,” and context must determine if you’re talking about the Lord’s Supper or a common meal. Some say that the “breaking bread” mentioned here in the model church was the Lord’s Supper and others say it was simply eating together. Admittedly, I cannot say with absolute certainty which idea Luke meant; however, the fact that the other three activities mentioned in Luke 2:42 can occur in the worship assembly, makes me see this as the Lord’s Supper.
The model church devoted themselves to prayer.
The Jews had set times for prayer; in the next chapter, Peter and John “were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon” (Acts 3:1). It appears, therefore, that the model church kept the tradition of their Jewish heritage and prayed at regular times during the day.
That’s the model church. That’s the church you need to emulate. From that church learn that “A model church is an active church,” for the church in Jerusalem was busy, busy, busy doing the Lord’s work of continuing in the apostles teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayers.
Do you want to be part of a model church? Do you want to be a part of a congregation known throughout town for doing great things? Do you want to be a part of a church people desperately want to join? Do you want to be a part of a fellowship that shows Jesus to the world?
The Jerusalem church is your model. If you want this church to be what God wants her to be, you’ll do what the church immediately after Pentecost did. Well, if you want to be a model church, you’ll be an active church. How can you be active?
You need to continue in the apostles’ doctrine.
You need to be a people who spend considerable time studying the Word of God. How else will you know what God wants this church to be? How else would you ever know what God wants your life to be?
Studying the words of Scripture is so very important. To the seven churches in Revelation, the Lord Jesus said, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (e.g., Rev 2:7). As Paul, an apostle, was preparing to die, he wrote to Timothy, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments” (2 Tim 4:13); I don’t want to make too much of that short statement, but it certainly seems that the scrolls and parchments would be Scripture.
You need to spend time in Scripture. You need to be participating in our Bible study; if you can’t be here physically, watch online. Spend time this week reading the Book of Acts; that book will show you precisely the model God wants his church to follow.
You need to fellowship.
The early church spent a great deal of time fellowshipping. “All the believers were one in heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). “You and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Rom 1:12).
You need to fellowship with each other that you might be encouraged in the common faith. I know that’s a challenge right now because of COVID, but it’s far from impossible. This congregation still meets in the assembly, and that’s a perfect opportunity for worship—By the way, the church carefully follows the CDC guidelines, and it is very safe. But if you just can’t bring yourself to being in close proximity to people yet, pick up the phone and fellowship with your brethren by phone or send a card or FaceTime or find a way to keep your 6 feet of distance. God created man as a social being, and you need each other.
This coming week, I want you to fellowship with a brother or sister outside your home. Write a note or pick up the phone or go grab a cup of coffee. Be safe, but be together!
You need to break bread.
The breaking of bread—the Lord’s Supper—is the very reason the church comes together on the first day of the week: “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7). The purpose of the assembly isn’t to sing or to hear a sermon or to pray or to give—yes, those activities are part of the worship assembly; however, the purpose of the assembly is the Lord’s Supper.
You need to break bread on the first day of the week. When you take the Lord’s Supper, you need to remember Jesus: 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. Communion is not something to check off your list so you can get out of here and beat the Baptist to the restaurant. Communion is not something you do just because you have to. Communion is not something you do to pass the time. Communion is a time to remember Jesus.
When you take the Lord’s Supper, be sure to clear your mind and go back to the cross of Jesus. See Jesus hanging there for your sins. See his agony. See his love. See his mercy. See your forgiveness.
You need to pray.
From our text, we see the early church made prayer a regular part of life. As you read Acts, you discover that the early Christians spent much time in prayer.
You, too, need to spend much time in prayer. “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray” (Lk 18:1). “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Eph 6:18).
While Paul told God’s people to pray “with all kinds of prayers and requests,” for our purpose this morning I want to encourage you to narrow your prayers for the next several days. Pray for this church. Pray for me—pray that I might fulfill my ministry. Pray for the elders—pray that they might shepherd this church as God would have them. Pray for Todd—pray that he might have the proper strength he needs. Pray for the Sunday school teachers.
Here’s what else you need to do: Pick a member of this congregation and pray for him or her night and day. Pray that God will bless that brother or sister. Pray that he or she might be an example in this dark world. Pray that he or she might grow in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Send a note or a text and say, “I’m praying for you.” Pray for one another and encourage one another this week!
Can you imagine the good that could be done for the Lord’s cause if this church really understood “A model church is an active church?” This community would see Christianity in action. This community would see Jesus alive and well in this church. This community would see a church full of devotion to Jesus and love for one another.
With the model church, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Do you need to be saved this morning? Do you need to be a part of the church this morning? If you need to come to Jesus, come right now as we stand and sing.
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.