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Building a Powerful Fellowship

 

Acts 2:42-47

 

Jim Davis

 

What was the essential element that made the first century church so successful? Vance Havner said, “The early church had none of the things that we think are so essential for success today—buildings, money, political influence, social status—and yet the church won multitudes to Christ and saw many churches established throughout the Roman world. Why? Because the church had the power of the Holy Spirit energizing its ministry. They were a people who were “ignited by the Spirit of God.” (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Dynamic, Victor Press, 1987, pg. 23.)

 

Jesus gave his disciples the Holy Spirit after his resurrection. However, they were to wait in Jerusalem for the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

John 20:21-23

21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." NIV

 

On Pentecost the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit jump-started their faith. It is evident that the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit was manifested by the miraculous signs done through the apostles on Pentecost. The people were filled with awe as they observed.

 

However, the greatest miracle on Pentecost was the transforming power of God manifested in the lives of the 3,120 believers. There was an unblemished authenticity permeating the first fellowship of believers. There were no theological discussions to divide the fellowship. Everyone present was sure of Christ—they were sure of what they believed. Of course, as we read through the book of Acts we realize first century faced many problems. Amazingly, they always seemed to be solvable. Those believers serve as a poignant reminder of the possibility of our fellowship today.

 

A Spirit Possessed Fellowship

 

First century fellowship of believers reveals the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit.

 

Acts 2:42-47

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. NIV

 

The first fellowship of believers was drinking deeply of the Spirit of God—this is what is meant when Luke says they devoted themselves to the apostle’s doctrine. The apostles were overwhelmed by the Spirit’s power as they spoke. However, it was the message the 3,000 obeyed that developed that first fellowship. They experienced the power of Holy Spirit in their fellowship as they sought to follow the Spirit’s message.

 

Pentecost believers were not only baptized in water, they also received the Holy Spirit.

 

Acts 2:38-39

38 Peter replied, "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. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call." NIV

 

They were actually baptized by one Spirit into the body of Christ. However, it didn’t stop there; they began to drink deeply of the same Spirit that guided the apostles.

 

1 Corinthians12:13

13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. NIV

 

Jesus instructed his disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high—that power came through the Holy Spirit. In Judges 6:34 the word of God says, “the Spirit of the LORD took possession of Gideon” (RSV). The Holy Spirit took possession of those believers on Pentecost. A genuine fellowship is possible when the Holy Spirit takes possession of each of us. Today God desires to clothe his Spirit with you and me.

 

We must remember that it was the presence of the Holy Spirit that set the tone for the fellowship on Pentecost. His presence is simply designed to resurrect us, rather than increase or decrease our emotional response, although it will affect our emotions.

 

A Fellowship Abandoned of Self

 

Jesus promised the Samaritan woman at the well whoever drank of the water he provided would never thirst—in fact they would become a spring of living water welling up to eternal life. Of course, he was speaking of the Holy Spirit.

 

John 7:37-39

37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. NIV

 

They were drinking deeply of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit had led them to abandon themselves.

 

There was a potent message in the fellowship of those saints. The message was that they had given themselves to the Lord. They sold their possessions and goods to give to those in need. But that wasn’t the most powerful indicator that they had given themselves to the Lord. The most powerful proclamation came from the needy within the fellowship. Most students of the Bible believe they were in need because they chose to become Christians. They had been deserted by their loved ones in one fashion or another. They were left in need. They had abandoned their own personal welfare to become Christians. Only God’s Holy Spirit can empower you to make such a decision.

 

Those early believers were together and had everything common. That means they had a central purpose. They purposed to abandon themselves to obey God.

 

2 Corinthians 8:1-5

8:1 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.   5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. NIV

 

The first fellowship of the saints had abandoned themselves as they were baptized into Christ in response to the Spirit’s call. As a result they experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in their fellowship.

 

1 Corinthians 16:15-18

15 You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, 16 to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it. 17 I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition. NIV

 

The best investment you can make with your life and possessions is to invest both in the lives of others. This is what Jesus did with his life. He is asking you to follow him. The problems of humanity are here so that the works of God can be done by those who have given themselves to the Lord (John 9:1ff).

 

”We are fundamentally selfish. The best of human relationships, apart from the Holy Spirit, are based on the barter of mutual needs, interests, causes, or fears. We do not naturally live in close, harmonious, giving and forgiving relationships. Unless there is something we need either to get or provide, we are not drawn into either friendship or partnership. Without, the Holy Spirit, we use people or are used by them depending on our dominance-subservience personality quotient. Loneliness drives people into one place, but that does not mean they are together.” (Lloyd Ogilvie, The Communicators Commentary, Acts Word, Books Word Publisher, Waco, Texas, pg. 74)

 

We have been placed in the fellowship of the saints to be to each other what Christ has been for each of us. This is the only basis of genuine fellowship. Christ died and continues to live and reign through the presence of the Holy Spirit to make this possible. This is the only thing the church was ever meant to be.

 

Hebrews 10:19-25

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching. NIV

 

What first century Christians were doing was thoroughly rooted in the words of the apostles. Those words given by the Holy Spirit we have today in the Bible. Those letters written to first century congregations empowered their walk with God. We have the same powerful message today. Those words reveal the precepts by which we create a dynamic fellowship today.

 

What God Does Through Us

 

How often do we reduce being a Christian down to what we should be doing for the Lord? However, the emphasis in Acts 2 is what God was doing through those Christians. Prior to Pentecost the twelve had witnessed Christ’s death with anguish. They were scared out of their wits when they beheld the resurrected Christ. They went into hiding. They had tried to be loyal. They were seeking to be dependent upon Christ. All of that was commendable, but they had no faith. They were not truly converted to Christ until God revealed himself to them on Pentecost. Suddenly the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together. The truth they had heard during Jesus’ earthly ministry—the truth they had sought to obey—suddenly began to resonate within their hearts.

 

As we find them on Pentecost they were no longer struggling to accomplish God’s will; they had surrendered to allow God to work through them. What a powerful difference it made in that first fellowship of believers.

 

Faith cannot be forced any more than you can force corn to grow. You cannot force yourself into a life of faith. The fruits of the Spirit are fruits the Spirit produces. You cannot force yourself to love, to be kind, to be godly, but you can allow the Spirit of God to take possession and produce his fruit. A forced faith is a fleshly faith.

 

Peter couldn’t force himself to confess Christ when Christ was arrested. However, on Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit took possession of him he stood up and confessed him boldly. He confessed Christ in the midst of those present at his denial.

 

The tone of the fellowship on Pentecost was the Spirit’s work. We can’t force ourselves into that kind of fellowship.

 

The essentials to having what they had on Pentecost are: to continue in the apostles teaching and to pray for God’s Spirit to take control of our lives. Of course, before the Spirit can take control of your life you must surrender. You go into some churches and they are hanging from the rafters in the name of the Spirit. Other churches resemble a funeral service in the name of the Spirit. God’s spirit is present to simply write his message upon our hearts. He is here to shape the way we live. Today we can pray ourselves into that kind of fellowship as we seek to embrace God’s word. God is willing, he is able, and his door is always open.

 

On Pentecost they experienced God’s power as they became partakers of God’s divine nature. This means they allowed God to begin his work in their hearts.

 

2 Peter 1:3-11

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

 

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

 

10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. NIV

 

Real faith is a gift from God. Paul speaks of “the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3). Those on Pentecost had struggled intellectually to develop their own system of faith about Jesus before Pentecost. They understood more thirty minutes after the Holy Spirit took possession of them on Pentecost than they ever understood during their time spent with him in his earthly ministry.

 

A Confident Fellowship Results in Praise

 

You can’t find a more expectant confident fellowship than the one on Pentecost. They believed what God had done for them was a clear clue to what he was going to do for them. Their faith was the kind of faith that eventually turned the world upside down for Jesus Christ.

 

Luke writes, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” I want you to observe that their praising God was not confined to a formal worship service. Their praise was the result of what God was doing among them, and it led them share their everyday lives with one another. God’s praise became a part of their everyday lives.

 

This kind of fellowship can only be duplicated as we allow God’s Holy Spirit to clothe himself with you and me as he clothes us with the life of Christ.

 

Conclusion:

 

Today Christian fellowship begins the same way the first Pentecost fellowship began.

 

Acts 2:38-39

38 Peter replied, "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. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call." NIV

 

May God’s Spirit enable us to have a first century fellowship that results in God’s praises being sung everyday?

 

 

 

BIBLE STUDY QUESTIONS

 

  1. Did the apostles receive the Holy Spirit on Pentecost or just the power of the Holy Spirit?

 

  1. When do Christians today receive the Holy Spirit?

 

  1. In what way was the Holy Spirit’s presence felt in the first fellowship of believers?

 

Acts 2:42-47

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. NIV

 

  1. How is a Christian filled with the Holy Spirit today? Does each of us have the same measure of God’s Spirit today? Why or Why not?

 

  1. What are the essentials to experiencing the kind of fellowship they experienced in the first fellowship?

 

  1. Is it possible to have the Holy Spirit without experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit?

 

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

19 Do not put out the Spirit's fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. NIV

 

  1. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says, “we were all given the on Spirit to drink.” Do we drink of the same Spirit the apostles drank of?

 

  1. How does the Holy Spirit make us springs of living water today?

 

John 7:37-39

37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. NIV

 

  1. What is the purpose of Christian fellowship?

 

  1. How is the life of Christ reproduced in each of us? Can you grow as a Christian solely by human effort?

 

  1.  Do you agree with the statement that “Real faith is a gift from God?”

 

  1.  Is it our lives or our formal worship services that lead others to praise God today?

 

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