I’ve accepted Christ as my savior, but… now what? In this message on Acts 2 from Jim Shaddix of Southeastern Seminary, we are taught that once we are a Christian, we are to commit ourselves to other believers through joining a local church. By doing so, we are both encouraged by and invested in the work that God is doing through his people.
- Identify with the body of Christ.
- Invest in the body of Christ.
- Invite others into the body of Christ.
Please turn to Acts 2 in your Bible, church. Let’s worship the Lord through the study of His Word. We’ve played instruments to Him. We’ve sung songs to Him. We’ve prayed to Him, read Scripture. Now let’s honor Him by letting Him speak to our hearts through Acts 2. I’m going to read in just a moment beginning at verse 36. So, I want you to have that open and maybe the Worship Guide where you can follow along and take some notes. If you don’t know where Acts 2 is, look in your Table of Contents. Acts is the fifth book in the New Testament—second major division in your Bible. And we’re in the second chapter. So find that place.
While you’re turning there, let me just say we come tonight to the end of a teaching series that we have been in for a little over two months now called, “Threads.” We’ve been talking about what the gospel is, really, and specifically then about how to take strands of that gospel and weave them into conversations in everyday life. God has honored that. You have given testimony, many of you, to not only being able to do that, but people actually responding and saying “Yes” to the Lord Jesus Christ for the very first time. Not only that, but last week as we celebrated Easter together, Pastor David gave a very clear presentation of the gospel to all of the people who were here. There were many who said “Yes” to that message: “I want to believe in Jesus for the very first time.”
All that to say, God has saved a number of people in recent months by virtue of the witness of the gospel that you have given—that this church has given. There is no doubt tonight—just as Dennis prayed a minute ago—that there are new believers in this place, in this room, in this context. And we thought that it would be really important for us to finish this series by simply asking and answering the question, “What now? Where do I go from here?” Even if you are not a new believer, but you’re an old, seasoned believer, the reality is that God is going to continue to give each of us opportunities to share the gospel. He is going to use our witness to save people and to bring people into relationship with Him. And at that point, we will find ourselves in a position to be able to help those people get a good start.
So, this information tonight is for all of us. We want God to speak from His Word into our lives as new believers but also into our lives as believers who will continue to give witness to the Lord Jesus Christ and see people come to know Him. So, let’s see what His Word says. I want to begin reading in Acts 2:36. I am going to read to the end of the chapter. You follow along. I am picking it up really at the climax of the Apostle Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost. This is kind of the way that he concludes it or brings it to the point of decision. And he says this to the people:
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Now, some of you who have read this part of the New Testament before will immediately recognize this passage of Scripture as the description of the birth of the very first local church. This was the Day of Pentecost when God poured out His Spirit and for the first time every follower of God in Jesus Christ was indwelt by the Holy Spirit. And when that happened, the church was born.
What we’re looking at tonight is a description of this first church that paved the way for all churches including this one here at Brook Hills that would come behind it. Now, that raises a really important question: Why in the world would we come to this passage of Scripture that talks about the church in order to ask the question, “What am I as a new believer in Jesus Christ supposed to do? What does my life look like from this point forward?”
And there are some really important answers to that question. One is an answer of reality. The reality is this church was full of new believers. If you go back to Acts 1, there were about 120 people who were waiting for this to happen—that were followers of Jesus Christ that were gathered in Jerusalem. When we come to 2:41 that I just read a moment ago, 3,000 people signed up and said “Yes” to Jesus and were added to those 120. Do the math on that deal: That’s 3,120 in this church at Jerusalem and 3,000 of them are new believers. This is a good place for us to look.
There is another issue. It’s an issue of unity. The fact of the matter is—listen to me very carefully—the New Testament doesn’t entertain the idea of an individual Christian separated from the body of Christ. And so, what we have here, yes, is a description of the church in Jerusalem with a lot of new believers in it, but what we look at there is a unified picture of what it means to be a believer in Jesus Christ and what that walk looks like.
There is another really important thing and that’s an issue of purity. When we come to Acts 2, we see the church in its purist form before it had the opportunity to be affected in any way by the sinfulness of people. And mark it down: Every church since the Acts church has been affected by the sinfulness of humanity. If you and I are a part of it, it is going to be affected by our sinfulness. And that would happen in the book of Acts. In Acts 5, we would see it infiltrated with self-seeking and self-service and dishonesty on the part of Ananias and Sapphira. In Acts 6, there were people who were murmuring and complaining. In Acts 8, we might call it extortion and bribery, but Simon the magician wanted the Holy Spirit just to glorify himself and exalt himself. It would not be very long before the church in Acts had been affected by the sinfulness of humanity.
But, you see, here in Acts 2 in its birth, the Holy Spirit gives us a blissful picture of the church in its purist form. And do you know what that means? It means we get to see what it means to be a new believer in its purist form. This is good place for us to be and it is a good place for us to come back to. So, I want us to look into and dive into this text and see what God would say to us about what it means to be new believer—and what are the first steps we need to take.
Now, there is something that is just kind of foundational for that journey. It is important for us to understand something basic about the Christian life and that is that the Christian life is really just a response of what we receive from the Lord. We are just every day as believers in Christ waking up, recipients of the goodness and the grace of God and all of His blessings. And therefore, our lives are not about a ton of rules and regulations. They are about simply responding to the goodness of God. And guess what? That’s the way we start the Christian life. That’s the way we begin. That’s the way these people began. And so, that is what I want us to think about.
I want us to think about how we got to this place of being new believers, what we have received, and then how we responded to that. I want to show it to you in Scripture. Look at Acts 2:41 in your text. Look down at your Bible, there. Verse 41 is kind of a hinge verse. And actually, the first phrase there says, “So those who received his word…” That’s kind of the breaking point, the dividing point. Everything before that talks about what the people received that day from God. Everything after that describes how they responded to what they received. And if you are a new believer here tonight, I want you to know that’s the way it is with Christianity. It is simply a worshipful response every day to the goodness and the grace of our Lord.
What You Received …
So, let’s start at this point and talk about how you got here. Let’s talk about how every one of us who name the name of Christ got to this point right here—especially those of you who have recently named the name of Christ. Let me remind you about what you received in order to come to this place of beginning the Christian life.
You received Jesus as your Lord.
First of all, you received Jesus as your Lord. This is what Peter says in Acts 2:36. I mean, this is the way he brings all of chapter two to a climax. Do you see it there? “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ…” And if there was any question about who “Him” was, he says, “…this Jesus whom you crucified.” That’s how you came to this place is you heard that and you said, “Yes” to it. You said, “There’s a new order in my life. There is a new king from this point forward. My allegiance for the rest of my life is to the person of Jesus Christ.” Why? Because that’s who God made Him to be. He made Him Lord. Jesus is Lord whether you and I acknowledge it or not. But becoming a Christian and a child of God means embracing that, acknowledging that, and aligning your life under that. And that is what you did.
You received forgiveness for your sin.
Not only did you receive Jesus as your Lord, you received forgiveness for your sin. Do you see what Peter said in Acts 2:38? He said, “Repent.” They ask him, “Man, what do we need to do? We just killed the one God said is Lord!” “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ…” For what? “…for the forgiveness of your sins…” This is emphasized in another title that God has given Jesus. Back up there in 2:36, He not only designated Him as Lord but He designated Him as Christ: That’s the term for God’s Messiah who would save His people. And Peter describes what He would save His people from and that is their sin. And that’s what you did when you accepted Christ. You received the forgiveness of your sin.
You received the gift of God’s Spirit.
There is a third thing that brought you to this place. And that is, you received the gift of God’s Spirit. Peter says it there in 2:38: “…and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Here’s what God did. He said, “In Christ, when a person acknowledges Him as Lord and receives the forgiveness of their sin because of what He did on the cross, I will put my life back inside of them.” And that’s what He does. That’s what He did for you when you confessed Christ. He put the life—watch this now—that you were created to have but you lost, you denied, because of your sin. You were separated from in your sin. God in Christ put that life that you were created to have back inside of you: His life through His Spirit. And that is how you came to this point of beginning the Christian life. We received all of this goodness and this grace of God and it is a good and glorious gospel.
If I could just press “pause” on talking to new believers just for a second at that point and say to some of you that are here tonight no doubt in a crowd this size who are still on that journey. You’ve not yet accepted Christ, confessed Him. You’ve not acknowledged Him to be your Lord. You’re still running your own life, or trying to. You still get up every day and go to bed every night responsible for your own sin. And you still continue to try to go through life with a dead spirit because the God’s life, your Creator, is not inside of you. I want you to hear this word tonight. This word about how some sitting around you got to this place tonight of being on a new journey as disciples of Christ by receiving God into their life through Christ, acknowledging Jesus as Lord, accepting the forgiveness that He bought on the cross, and receiving God’s Spirit, His life, back into their lives. This gospel is available to you.
I don’t know if you are looking at a Bible tonight, but if you are, look at Acts 2:39. If you’re not, just listen very carefully because this is a word for you. Peter said, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” That is His invitation to you. And my appeal in extending His invitation to you tonight is to say before you walk out of this building tonight—even while I am still talking—in your heart right there at your seat I plead with you to cry out to God to save you; in your heart acknowledge that Jesus is God’s Lord and He is His Messiah and He died on the cross for your sins. And He rose from the dead to give you back the very life of God that you were created to have. I compel you, I invite you, I plead with you to join a host of others in this room who have said, “Yes” to that. Say “Yes” to Jesus tonight.
Acts 2 36–47 Helps Us Know How You Respond …
So, how do we respond to this good gospel? What do we do with that? Well, everything after that first phrase in Acts 2:41, everything in the rest of the passage describes this response. And so, that is what I want us to unpack for the rest of our time together. I want you to write down three words. Write them up at the top in your Worship Guide. We’re going to take these three words and we’re going to plug them in. And we’re going to see what God would say to us about being new believers in Jesus Christ. The first one is the word, “identify.” The second one is the word, “invest.” And the third one is the word, “invite.” Identify, invest and invite. And if you’re a new believer in Christ tonight, I just want to go ahead and tell you straight up: Those three words provide a really good summary of answering the question, “Where do I go from here? What do I do? What are first steps in my life as a new follower of Jesus Christ?”
Identify with the body of Christ.
So, let’s take the first one and plug it in. Here it is: And that is, identify with the body of Christ. Let me encourage you tonight to identify with the body of Christ. Now, I want to explain that to you. When God saved you, when you came into relationship with Jesus Christ, He did one of the coolest things that you could ever imagine. And I want to show it to you in Scripture. Now, when we look at what comes after that phrase in Acts 2:41, one of the things that we see is the statement, “…there were added that day about three thousand souls.” I mentioned that a minute ago. I want you to drop down to the end of the chapter. I want you to go all the way down to 2:47 that we finished up reading a moment ago. Look at the second half of the verse. You find something really similar. It says, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
I want you to notice that this journey of response kind of begins and it ends in this text in the same way. It’s kind of framed up—book-ended that way. That means that it is really, really important. God really wants us to get this idea that He was adding you to something. Now, it begs an important question: What was He adding you to? Now, just on the surface we would be tempted to answer that question with the obvious. He was adding the 3,000 to the hundred and twenty to make 3,120—to make a bigger church if you will. He was adding to their number. He was putting more people in there. But I think if we do that, we really, really risk missing why these people were doing some of the things that they were doing.
And so, I want to show you spiritually what God added you to. I want you to turn over a few pages in the book of Acts to chapter five. So, you’re in Acts 2. Go to chapter three, four and chapter five and when you get there, look at verse fourteen. Acts 5:14 says, “And more than ever believers were added to the…” What? All right, this is the audience participation part of our program and some of you are not playing. Added to the what? To the Lord, right?
Now, keep going. Go over to Acts 11. And when you get to Acts 11, I want you to look at verse 24. The verse starts off describing a guy by the name of Barnabas but then, right in the middle it says this: “…and a great many people were added to the…” What? To the Lord, right?
Look, this is what God did when you came to Christ. There is something that He did in the unseen world that you and I—we don’t necessarily visualize with the naked eye—but this is what He was doing in the universe when you became a Christian. Something almost unfathomable and that is, He was taking your life and adding you to the Lord Jesus Christ. You were coming into relationship with Him and being made one with Him—actually as part of His body the Bible describes it. What an incredible truth! This is what the Lord was doing. He was adding you to His body. And beloved, let me just tell you, when Jesus adds somebody to Himself, when He adds somebody to Himself in relationship, that is something that He is proud of. That is something that brings joy and pleasure to His heart. This is why He went to the cross. This is why He was raised from the dead: To take you and add you to Himself.
And so, you know what these new believers were doing in this Acts church? They were giving physical expression to that reality. And they did it in two ways. So, let’s look at what this looked like for them as they gave physical expression to this spiritual reality. Really it plays out in two ways: They were baptized into the local church and they were united with the local church. Let me show you these two physical expressions.
Acts 2 36–47 Discusses Baptism and its Meaning
Look back at Acts 2:41. We’re back in Acts 2 now. “So those who received his word…” first of all. Here’s the first response: They “were baptized.” Language of the New Testament, the word means “to immerse.” It means to dip under and draw out of—much like you would take a cup and put it in a sink of water and draw out a scoopful. This is the word that God chose to use to describe the physical expression that these new believers were giving to that spiritual reality.
The Apostle Paul made the identification real clear in Romans 6:4 when he said, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death…” indicating that someone is lowered below the water as a physical expression of their old sin being buried just like Jesus was buried. And then he said we were raised with Him to walk in a new life. When someone was raised up out of the water it was a picture. It was a representation of that spiritual reality of now having Christ’s life inside of you, being immersed in Christ’s life, being one with Him.
And so, these believers were doing that in being added to the physical body of Christ. That number—that 120 that was already there. The way that they did it is they were baptized as an expression of this spiritual reality. Now, let me just pause right there and say: I want you to understand there why it was important for us to look at the spiritual reality because I could have just come in here today, looked at Acts 2:41, and said, “Hey, new believer, you need to be baptized.” And you would look at this kind of ritual, this process of people being dunked under the water, and you might wonder, “What in the world is that about?” I want you to understand the physical expression is simply a manifestation and a response to the spiritual reality of what Jesus Christ has already done in adding you to Himself. But Jesus wanted to add you to Himself and that brings joy to His heart. He desires for you to give physical expression to that and that to bring joy to your life as well.
Something else was happening. Not only were they baptized into the local church, they were united with the local church. That’s what we find at the end of 2:41 when it says, “…there were added that day about three thousand.” End of 2:47, “And the Lord added to their number day by day…” Yes. This was addition, numerical addition to the physical body of Christ. But why were they doing that? Because it was a physical expression of what Jesus had already done in adding you to His body and adding these people to His body.
And listen, let me point something very important out to you. There was some—I don’t know exactly what it was—but there was some identifiable way for people to do this. There was some identifiable, distinct way for them to say, “I am uniting with the rest of you people that have been added to the body of Christ. I’m uniting with you.” You say, “How do you know that?” Well, do you remember that passage we read just a moment ago in Acts 5? You might flip back over there and look at this. I want to read a verse that came before it. Acts 5:13 says, “None of the rest dared join them…” Do you see that? This is talking about people who were hanging out with these Christians. They were showing up where they were gathering together but there were some people who wouldn’t dare unite with them. But that verse goes on and says, “…but the people held them in high esteem.” And then verse 14. “ And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women…” Mark it down. There was some way to step over the line. There was some card to sign, box to check, new member class to go through. I don’t know what it looked like but these people just didn’t hang out together. There was a way for them to say, “Count me in. I’m signing up. I am uniting with you.”
And beloved, I want to encourage you tonight as a new believer in Jesus Christ. Jesus has chosen to identify with you by adding you to His body. I want to encourage you to identify with Him by being baptized into a local body of believers and uniting with that body—not as a religious ritual, not as a ceremony, but as a physical manifestation of a spiritual reality.
I was sitting right over here in this section last Sunday when Pastor David got to the end of his message and he told us to take out that slip of paper. Many of you were here. And he said, “Put your name on it. You don’t have to fill out all of the information but I want you to put your name and some contact information.” And then he asked us to turn it over and then he walked us through those possible responses to the gospel. “Put ‘A’ down,” he said, “if you’ve already confessed Christ and are a child of God. Put ‘B’ down if you are believing in Jesus for the very first time today. Put ‘C’ down if you’re not quite there but you’re willing to consider it.” And so on and so forth.
So, I put my name on it and, you know, I really wasn’t paying too much attention about all of the information to put on there. And so, I kind of went through it quickly and I turned it over and I recorded where I was in that deal. And then I started to fold it up. As I was folding it up, my wife was sitting next to me and there was this stern voice in my left ear that said, “Married!” And I said, “What?” She said, “You’re married. Check the box.” In my haste to fill out the form and get to the decision, I obviously overlooked a really important box to check! But you know something, I am so glad that I have a wife that wants to be identified with me and me with her. That’s why we wear these things called wedding rings, isn’t it? These wedding rings don’t make us married. We could take them off and it wouldn’t make us stop being married. They just tell people that we are married.
And you know what? Jesus added you to His body and made you His bride in the most important marriage in all of the universe. He is not ashamed to identify with you and He wants you to identify with Him. Now, I know we do this just about every week in most of our services. We actually baptize people who are giving expression and they’re on a journey of going through our process here to unite with this church. But sometimes we don’t think about the spiritual reality that is behind that.
And so, I want tonight before we go any further us just to watch a video of one of the baptisms that took place at 9:00 this morning. Not because there aren’t a lot of you that have seen this and see it every week, but just so we can have a visual of why we do what we do and see one sister in Christ who is saying, “I identify with the Lord Jesus by uniting with this Church at Brook Hills.” So watch the video:
My name is Laura Dunham and I’m 44 years old. Following a personal tragedy in 1992, God readied my heart to hear the gospel. I began reading the Bible and searching for truth. My eyes were opened to my sinfulness and I saw that in my present condition I was headed toward an eternity without God. In 1994, I walked down an aisle, confessed my sin, and told the pastor that I wanted to be saved. I was baptized a short time afterwards. However, I continued to live in sin and disobedience to Christ. In essence, I was seeking Jesus as my Savior but not as my Lord.
In 2001, God brought us to The Church at Brook Hills where we joined a small group. I began to crave gospel truth and God used His Word to change me. I can’t point to a specific day when I turned from myself and my sin and trusted in Jesus as my Lord, but somewhere in that amazing season of life I did. God took all of the old, powerful desires of my flesh and completely destroyed them. He changed my heart and made me a new creation. When I was baptized the first time I was not a repentant follower of Christ, but now I seek to live my life in a way that gives Him glory and honor, dying to my selfish ways daily. I confess to the church and to the whole world that Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior.
David: Well, Laura, based on your testimony and your stated desire to follow God in every area of your life, it is my privilege to baptize you, my sister, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life.”
It’s all right to clap for a video. That’s worth clapping for, isn’t it? Isn’t that cool? This is not everybody’s testimony. Not everybody goes through two immersions. You don’t have to. You don’t need to. That’s intended to be a one-time thing. But here’s somebody that said, “You know what, I did this one time but it wasn’t representative of a spiritual reality. That spiritual reality didn’t happen in my life.” And this is what God desires from us. He desires our identification with the body of Christ by being baptized into the local body and uniting with the local body.
Invest in the body of Christ.
Now, let me show you a second one. We identify with the body of Christ but then here is where it becomes boots on the ground: invest in the body of Christ. That’s the second word. Let’s plug that one in. Invest in the body of Christ. When we come to Acts 2:42, I think we really come to the heart and soul of this response. Because, you see, when you look down at verse 42, there are identified in this verse four activities that these new believers joined these other believers—these ones that were already trusting in Christ—in as part of this new church. Look at it. It says they devoted themselves to four things: the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers.
And I want you to note that Luke (the biblical writer here) under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit chooses the word, “devoted” to say, “These people did these things with a commitment.” In some translations that word, “devoted” is translated, “continued steadfastly.” You know what that means? It means they were non-negotiables. Now watch this. I don’t think Acts 2 describes everything the church ultimately did, but I think right here in verse 42 there’s a pretty good indication that they said, “If we don’t do anything else, we’re going to do these four things.”
And so, new believer in Christ, I want you to hear that today. I want you to see a group of people who said, “This changes our life. This changes our lifestyle and we’re going to be committed to certain things.”
Now, I want us to unpack each of those four, but before we do, let me call your attention to some really important characteristics about all of them. The first one is these were things that they did together. This passage of Scripture indicates this was not solo stuff but they did these things as a group. Look in 2:42: The plural “they,” the plural “themselves.” And then if you look in 2:44–46, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions… And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food…” All of this is speaking about stuff they were doing together.
And not only were they doing it together but they were doing it on an ongoing basis. That word “devoted”—it’s a word that is in a tense in the language of the New Testament that means a continual action. They kept coming back to these things. These things weren’t random or haphazard. They weren’t hit and miss on these things. In fact, I don’t know if it’s in your English translation or not. It’s not in some, but in the language of the New Testament, each of these four activities in Acts 2:42 have the definite article “the” in front of them. So, it is “the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, the prayers” indicating that these were, for lack of a better term, formal activities. These were regular happenings that they kept coming back to together. They invested in this body by participating in these things
So, what did that look like? Well, let’s look at these four. First of all, they studied God’s Word together. That’s what the apostles’ teaching represents. The apostles’ teaching would have encompassed the apostles’ interpretation of the Old Testament Scriptures as they were interpreted in the person of Jesus Christ. That would have been combined with their own eye witness, personal record of having lived with Jesus, walked with Him. They listened to Him teach. They saw Him work miracles. They were witnesses of His resurrection. And you put all of that together and you know what you have? You have our Bible. That’s what we’ve got. The Old Testament record that points to Christ and then the apostolic testimony recorded in the New Testament. These people studied the Bible together. They studied God’s Word together.
Now, why did they do that? Well, they did it first of all because Jesus told them to. Every member of The Church at Brook Hills knows that at the end of the service every week—we’ll do it here in just a little bit—we stand and we commission one another by quoting the Great Commission. And we talk about going and making disciples. That’s what Jesus told us to do. And we make disciples by going, by baptizing—do you remember what the third one is? Jesus said, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This was Jesus’ instruction.
But listen to me. There’s something else. Do you know why they studied God’s Word together? New believer, listen very carefully: Because God’s Word is the primary agent that the Holy Spirit uses to transform you and me into the image of Christ. It is the primary agent that the Holy Spirit uses to grow us spiritually and progress us as children of God. Let me show it to you. I want you to look at these on the screen. The Apostle Paul would write to young Timothy about this. In 1 Timothy 4:16, he says, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Now, Timothy was already saved as far as he was a Christian. He was pastoring the church at Ephesus. Paul wasn’t talking about salvation as in conversion; he was talking about growing up in salvation—looking more like Jesus—our salvation being fleshed out and we being made more and more holy day by day. He said, “Persist in the teaching.” In 2 Timothy 3, he said this:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Paul pointed back to the Scriptures, the Word of God. It is supernatural. Peter would write in his first epistle in the first chapter talking about the Word of God. In the beginning of 1 Peter 2, he said, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk [and some translations say “the milk of the Word”], that by it you may grow up into salvation.”
Beloved, this is the primary agent that God’s Spirit will use to make you grow spiritually and make you look more like Jesus. So here’s my challenge to you: Some of you will end up in this church here, but if you don’t and you go find another church to be baptized into, to be united with, you find a church that preaches and teaches the Bible. You find a church where they are studying the Word of God together and they’re making much of it. And you go and get in on that and you engage it when it’s being preached and taught. Take notes and then go home and check your Bible to make sure that stuff is true. And then look to see how you can apply it to your life. Watch God transform you as a result of studying God’s Word together.
This is why here at Brook Hills we do this in two primary venues. We do it in these worship gatherings like this when the Word of God is preached and taught from this platform. But then we do it throughout the week in small groups where the Word of God is taught and people study the Bible together. And they can ask questions and they can engage in discussion and they can talk about how that looks in their everyday life. I want to encourage you, whether it’s here or somewhere else, find a place that you can do that and be devoted to the study of God’s Word with God’s people.
The second way that it looked: They did life together. Look back at Acts 2:42. They did life together. That’s what the word fellowship is. The language of the New Testament—it’s kind of a familiar word. You may have even heard it before: it’s the word “koinonia.” It means “association with, participation with, partnership in or sharing in.” All of those words are words that describe people doing stuff together. And Luke uses this word simply to say, “These New Testament believers just did a lot of stuff in everyday life together.” What did they do together? Well, if you look at Acts 2:44 it kind of gives you a kind of a launching pad, a summary of the rest of the text. It said, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” And then if you look down at the verses that follow you will see some examples of stuff they did together. Now, listen very carefully. I don’t think this list is exhaustive. I don’t think this tells us everything they did together. But we are given some pretty good starting places in this passage of Scripture. Let me show some of them to you.
One of the things they did together was sacrificial giving. You see it there in Acts 2:45. “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Now, some of you believers a minute ago when I just read this passage may have begun to panic a little bit when you got to that verse right there, thinking, “Man. What have I gotten myself into?” Well, let me tell you something. This is not a description of some type of Christian communism where nobody owned any property and they gave it all to the church. This was not a sell everything you’ve got and give it to the church kind of deal.
You say, “Well, how do we know that?” Acts 2:46: there were still people that had houses for them to go to. If you go over to Acts 4, there’s another similar description. And there were people that still had property and houses that they were selling. Acts 5: Ananias and Sapphira owned a piece of property that they were told they had a choice whether or not to sell and give that money or not.
No, that’s not what you have here. You don’t have Christian communism. Let me tell you what you’ve got. You’ve got a group of people who loved one another so much that everything was negotiable in order to take care of each other. This was a group of people that was so committed to one another that they were willing to leverage everything they had in order to supply the need of someone else who didn’t have anything. And so, they were constantly assessing needs and people were saying, “Well, you know what? I have this deal over here. A little piece of property. I’ll sell that. I’ll liquidate it so we can meet that need right there.” They were committed to sharing life together to this degree that everything was negotiable.
And they also understood this: They were pilgrims in this world, waiting for another world. This was all temporary. And so this is what caused them to look at their worldly possessions and say, “You know what? If I need to put something on Craigslist, take the money, and bring it so the church can meet this need of this brother or sister, I am willing to do it.” And they gave sacrificially.
That’s why we take offerings here. That’s why we collect on a periodic basis family-assistance offerings. We’ll actually do that when we’re leaving today because we want to do everything we can to be committed to taking care of one another. This church here was just on a mission to do what Deuteronomy 15 said in the Old Testament. God’s desire was to eliminate poverty among the people of God.
Listen. All of us Christians know we’ll never eliminate poverty in all of the world in this life. We’re going to make some good stabs at it. We’re going to try. But we’ll never eliminate poverty completely in this world. But let me tell you what God wants to happen. He wants to eliminate poverty within the body of Christ. And He does that by men, women, boys and girls sacrificially giving because they know this is temporary and our life is eternal. And so, they’re willing to leverage whatever it takes to love one another and care for one another. Sacrificial giving.
Let me show you another one: Authentic worship. You just notice how many descriptors there are here in this passage of their worship? The worship that was in their heart that gave expression together in corporate worship. Acts 2:46, “And day by day, attending the temple together…” That’s where they went and some of the sacrifice ceremonies that were acts of worship. It says there in verse 46 that they were operating “…with glad and generous hearts, praising God…”
I love this term, “generous hearts” in my English translation. This is the only time it’s used in the New Testament. It’s used nowhere else. Do you know what it means? “Free of rocks.” Their hearts were free of rocks. They were bent on worship in gratitude to God and it gave them generosity. It compelled them to say, “I want to come together and put that together with the rest of these people and exalt the Lord.” That’s why we come and we do this. That’s why we play instruments and sing songs and pray prayers. We come praising God and we do it with hearts that are bent on worship. And we combine those with the hearts of other people who are bent on worship as well because our God deserves it.
There’s another thing here that sometimes is missed and that is: They just hung out. That doesn’t sound very spiritual, does it? Do you see it there in verse 46? They were “…breaking bread in their homes, they received their food…” I like to just describe this as flipping burgers. I mean, they were just getting together and cooking out. Sometimes they just hung out, even when they weren’t having a Bible study or they weren’t singing songs. They were just eating and watching the Final Four and playing cards because in their lives together, they strengthened one another. And this is why I love just hanging out with you. You sharpen me. You strengthen me. You encourage me. And so, as a new believer, I want to encourage you. You don’t want to spend all your time with believers because you want to be out there with unbelievers to invite them to Christ. We’ll talk about that. But you need to hang out with believers. You sharpen them and they sharpen you. All of this stuff was an expression of their “koinonia”, their fellowship. They did life together
Third thing: They took communion together. You see it in verse 42. It’s described as them being devoted to the breaking of bread. Now, this is different from flipping burgers. I think this is different from that description down in verse 46. One of the reasons we know that is it has that definite article: “the breaking of bread” indicating something specific. This is a phrase that represented what has come to be known as communion, or the Lord’s Supper, or in some traditions the Eucharist. This table that we’re going to participate in before we go today—that we do at the end of all of our worship gatherings—that is what’s described here. And you’ve got to ask yourself the question, “Why did that make the top four? Why did that make the list of the top four things that they were devoted to?”
Well, I’ll tell you why. It was one of two ordinances—two running videos—that Jesus gave to the body of Christ that would constantly be replayed before us so that we wouldn’t forget some really important things. One of those running videos is baptism. He gave us a running video of identifying with being added to Him, and through Him to the local body of believers. And every time we do it, just like we watched a video of it a moment ago, we are reminded of our identification with Christ in His death and His resurrection.
But the other running video He gave us was the breaking of bread, the Lord’s Table. Why? Because it was a reminder of the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. And I think Jesus knew something. I think He knew the longer we went in this world, the heavier life became, the greater chance that we’d be discouraged. The longer He tarried in His coming, the chances of us wondering, “When is He going to show up?” would be insurmountable. We would need to be reminded about the hope that we have in Him.
Acts 2 36–47 Reminds Us of Christ’s Sacrifice
This table is a reminder of the hope that we have in Him in the past in the forgiveness of our sins. Every time we partake of it we remember His death and how His death provided the forgiveness of our sins. This table is a reminder of our hope in the present. The Apostle Paul said, “When we partake of this bread, are we not identifying with the body of our Lord? When we drink from this cup, are we not identifying with the blood of our Lord? Are we not identifying with Him in His death and identifying with the life that now He lives within us?” It’s a reminder of our hope in the present.
But not just in the past and the present, but our hope in the future. When Jesus gave this supper to His disciples, one of the things He said to them, recorded in Matthew 26:29, is “ I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” And it was as if Jesus took that cup and He toasted His disciples. And He said, “Men, I’m coming back for you. And every time you drink from this cup, every time you come to this table, you will be reminded that I have made a promise to you. I will not leave you here. I am coming back for you.”
And that’s why we do this. Because it runs in our mind the replay of what Christ has done and what He has said. It is an expression of the hope that we have in Him. So, new believer, listen. If it’s not this church and you find yourself uniting with another church, you find a church that makes much of this Supper. You find a church that makes much of this table and runs this video before you. And then you get in there and you participate with them in that Communion in order to be reminded of the hope that you have in Jesus Christ.
There is one more thing that they did. The Bible says that they prayed together. You see it in Acts 2:42. It’s at the end. “They devoted themselves to… the prayers.” These new believers lived in utter dependence on the Holy Spirit. There’s no doubt. Jesus had told the 120 in Acts 1, “Stay in Jerusalem. Don’t do anything. Don’t go anywhere until you get the Holy Spirit.” That’s what Acts 1:4 says. In Acts 2, God made good on His promise and He poured out the Holy Spirit. Peter connected the dots for everybody and in so doing he said, “You can get in on this. If you confess Christ as your Lord and Savior, you’ll get the Holy Spirit.”
And then in Acts 2:41, 3,000 people said, “Sign me up! Yes. I want the life of God.” These people understood. They were completely dependent upon the Spirit of God in their lives. But let me tell you something else they understood. They understood that God had sovereignly determined that there was a trigger that would put the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. His effects and His influences would become a reality. And that trigger was prayer. Jesus taught this in John 14, 15 and 16 before He was crucified. For three chapters He teaches on the Holy Spirit and woven all the way through that is the necessity of prayer.
Believer, listen. You have the Holy Spirit living inside you. But just because He’s living inside you doesn’t make His effects and influences automatic. These believers knew that and they knew that His effects and influences were tied to their prayer-lives. So, you know what they did? They just did it as a way of life. That’s why in Acts 1 they prayed while they were waiting for the Holy Spirit. They prayed as they chose leaders for their group. In Acts 2 they prayed as they did life together. In Acts 3 they prayed at designated times in the temple, at hours of prayer. In Acts 4 they prayed in the midst of persecution that God would give them boldness so that they would tell other people about Jesus. You just see it in every chapter going all the way through. They just breathed it like air. Why? Because they were utterly dependent upon the Spirit of God to live the Christian life through them.
And do you know what? I don’t think it’s any accident that Luke wrote what he wrote in verse 43 in this passage, right after he mentioned prayer. Do you see it? Verse 43 says, “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” I think their prayer lives fueled the supernatural works of God that were being manifested in their midst that caused people on the outside to look and say, “Whoa. There is something to this. I need to know this God that they worship.”
And so, I want to challenge you tonight. I want to encourage you when you find a church, whether this one or some other local church, you find a church that prays together, that makes much of prayer. And you show up when they pray together. You may not be right out of the gate ready to pray out loud with them. And if somebody asked you to do that, feel free to say to them, “Hey. I’m on a brand new journey here. I just started this deal and so I’m not really ready to do that. But I want to listen to you pray and listen to them pray.” And keep going back, listening to them pray. Learn to pray as you listen to them pray. Go home and do it on your own and practice it. Show back up the next time they gather for prayer.
You know how our children learn to talk? They don’t learn to talk because we just send them to a quiet place and expect them to do it. They learn to talk by listening to us talk. They learn to walk, yes, by experimenting but they only know to experiment because they see us walking around on two legs. They learn everything they learn by watching us.
And some of you that are seasoned believers may be listening to this tonight and you might be wondering, “Well, is he ever going to talk about quiet time? Is he ever going to talk about a private, personal devotional life?” And I want to say to you as I say to these new believers, do you know where you’re going to learn to study God’s Word on your own? You’re going to learn to do it by studying God’s Word with the rest of the body of Christ. Do you know where you’re going to learn to talk to God? You’re going to learn to talk to God by talking to God with other Christians and listening to them talk to God. And when we come to this passage of Scripture here, the church in its purest form—listen to me—new believers in their purest form, we don’t find anything in the passage that speaks about our personal, private spiritual lives.
You say, “Do you not think that’s important?” Oh, listen, I think God is honored when we carve out time on a daily basis to read His Word and to talk to Him. Just like we have pictured here, the way we learn to do that is by showing up when other believers are doing that and engaging in the process with them. And so I want to encourage you to do that. Find a church that prioritizes these things.
Acts 2 36–47 Calls Us to Invite Others Into the Body of Christ.
We’ve got one more word, don’t we? Identify with the body of Christ, invest in the body of Christ. New believer, let me challenge you tonight. Invite others into the body of Christ. You saw it there in Acts 2:47. This passage ends this way: “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved…” That brings us full-circle from where we came in verse 41 where we started when the Lord was adding day by day these 3,000 souls that came to know Christ. And you see, it’s really easy, isn’t it, at that point to listen to that terminology. We know the spiritual reality. Jesus is the one that adds us to Himself, to the body. To look at this addition to the body of Christ and think, “Well, you know what? Jesus is doing all of this. I don’t have any part of this.”
But let me just remind you of a couple of things. Let me remind you how those people in Acts 2:41 were added that day. They were added because a guy named Peter stood up in the midst of all the crazy things that were going on when the Holy Spirit was being poured out and he connected the dots. He opened his mouth and he told them about Jesus. And beloved, you can be sure tonight that when we come to verse 47, the Lord was adding people day by day the same way. All of those new believers were now joining in on opening their mouths and telling everybody they could about Jesus Christ and how they could be added to His body if they would repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ.
Let me just remind you about three quick things that we’ve already observed in this passage that were part of that process. This is what it looked like. First of all, they lived an attractive lifestyle. We’ve already noticed that. Oh, listen. Be careful. Not attractive from the standpoint that they had the biggest houses and they drove the nicest cars and were in the positions of influence. (Or the nicest chariots, or whatever.) Oh, on the contrary. They were, most of them, quite poor and most of them were just common people.
But I’m going to tell you what was attractive. What was attractive is when people looked and saw them leveraging everything because they loved people in the body of Christ; being willing to sacrifice everything in order to take care of them. They didn’t see that when they went to work. They didn’t get that when they went to school. They didn’t observe that in the world. But they saw it in the church. And the Bible says that awe came upon every soul in Acts 2:43. And verse 47 says that they were having favor with all the people because that is attractive. They were living an attractive lifestyle that stands in contrast to everything else we see in this world.
Secondly, they lived in reliance on God’s power. We’ve already seen that they sought Him in prayer. And one of the things that they were praying about is they were praying for boldness, for the Holy Spirit to give them an otherworldly boldness so they would open their mouths. This is why He told them in Acts 1:4, “Wait until you get the Holy Spirit.” And then in 1:8 He said, “When you get the Holy Spirit, you will be my witnesses.” This is exactly what Jesus says in the Great Commission when He says, “Make disciples by going and baptizing and teaching.” He finished it out by saying what? “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20). What was He saying? “I’m going to put my Spirit inside of you and enable you to do something that doesn’t come natural.”
New Christian, listen. Witnessing can be awkward at first. It can be awkward. And understand it doesn’t come naturally for any of us. This is why God put His Spirit inside of us to enable us to live a life that we can’t live on our own, and do some things like open our mouths boldly and tell other people about Him. And you take those two things: Their attractive lifestyle and their dependence on the Holy Spirit and it was against that backdrop that we come to this last one.
And that is, they lived to tell everyone about Jesus. They understood this. This is why Jesus left them on the planet. This is why He didn’t just take them on to heaven when He ascended back. And new believer in Jesus Christ, listen to me. It’s why He’s left you on the planet. It’s why He didn’t just go ahead and take you to heaven the day that you received Him as your Lord—received the forgiveness of your sins, received the gift of the Spirit of God, the life of God in your life—because He left you on the planet to invite everybody you can into the body of Christ through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
I want to challenge you to make that part of your first steps in being a follower of Jesus Christ. And you know what, church? Every time we come to this table, we’re reminded of that very thing. We’re reminded of all of these: We’re reminded of our identification with Him. We are reminded of our investment in the body because Jesus invested His life and gave all for us. And we’re reminded that He made a promise to us that He is coming back to get us. When we anticipate that promise, we can’t help but think that the reason that we’re still on the planet is to tell—invite—as many people as we can that they can get in on this as well.
What you received…
- You received Jesus as your Lord. (Acts 2:36)
- You received forgiveness for your sin. (Acts 2:36, 38)
- You received the gift of God’s Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
How you respond…
Identify with the body of Christ.
- Acts 5:14; 11:24)
- What did it look like?
- They were baptized into the local church. (Romans 6:3 –4; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12)
- They were united with the local church. (Acts 5:13 –14; 1 Corinthians 12:12 –13)
Invest in the body of Christ.
- (Acts 2:42 –47)
- What did it look like?
- They studied God’s Word together. (Acts 2:42; cf. Matthew 28:19 –20; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 2:1 –2; 3:14 –15; 1 Peter 1:25 –2:2)
- They did life together. (Acts 42 –47; cf. Acts 4:32 –35)
- They took communion together.
- (Acts 2:42; cf. Matthew 26:26 –29; 1 Corinthians 10:16 –17; 11:26; Revelation 19:9)
- They prayed together (Acts 2:42; eg. Acts 1:14,24 –25; 3:1; 4:23 –31; 6:4; 13:1 –3)
Invite others into the body of Christ.
- (Acts 2:47)
- What did it look like?
- They lived an attractive lifestyle. (Acts 2:42 –47; 5:13; 6:7)
- They lived in reliance on God’s power. (Matthew 28:18 –20; Acts 1:8; 2:1 –47; 4:29 –31)
- They lived to tell everyone about Jesus. (Matthew 28:18 –20; Acts 1:8; 4:29 –31; Romans 10:14 –18; 1 Thessalonians 1:8)