Scripture Text: Acts 2:42-47
What is worship? That is the question we have been answering for the last few weeks. Three weeks ago we looked at Jesus’ instruction for worship. We learned that where we worship is not important because wherever the Church is, there ought to be worship. We also learned that God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and truth. Two weeks ago we looked at a passage when the Israelites were bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem and David gave instructions for worship. We learned from the passage that worship includes giving thanks to God, seeking Him, remembering His faithfulness, and telling the world of God’s salvation and glory. Last week we looked at a passage from an unknown psalmist about worshipping God with song and music. That psalm, Psalm 98, encouraged us to sing new songs and to play with musical variety in order to celebrate the marvelous things God has done and in anticipation of the coming of our Lord. This worship style is a joyful noise unto the Lord.
Today, we look at a passage that tells us something about worshipping together. In fact, for many, that is the primary place where worship occurs — when the Body of Christ meets. Some people call this corporate worship. That does not mean this worship is related to some form of big company. Corporate worship is just a name for worshipping together when the church gathers. It is what we do every Sunday morning when we meet. We will look more closely at our personal or individual worship later, but for today, we will look at what we do together to worship God. To be clear, this is not the only time for worship. We ought to be worshipping God before we come together, while we are together, and when we leave. Worship is a way of life for the believer.
A Very Special Worship Service
This passage occurs just after a very significant day in the early church — the Day of Pentecost. The church had a very special worship service that day. After Jesus ascended into heaven following His resurrection, He told the church to remain in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came. On the Day of Pentecost, which was fifty days after Passover, the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples as they were gathered in the upper room and everyone just had a great time. This was a time of worship that we would not want to miss. The disciples must have had a great time together because some of those who saw them thought they were drunk. Then the Apostle Peter gave a heart-piercing sermon to the crowd, perhaps the first time Peter delivered a sermon. This is the same Peter who over a month earlier cowardly rejected Jesus, just as Jesus predicted he would (Matthew 26:69-75). This is also the same Peter who Jesus later told to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17). Therefore, Peter fed the crowd at Pentecost a healthy supply of God’s Word. So impactful was his sermon that those who heard it were “cut to the heart”. They asked Peter what they should do, and Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized”, and so they did. There were about three-thousand people who accepted Peter’s invitation that day (Acts 2:37-41). It was a very special day!
Devoted to Worshipping Together
Now we come to a passage about being devoted. What is something that you are devoted to doing? Maybe it is work. Maybe it is staying out of debt. Maybe it is spending time with family. Maybe it is all of that and more. How devoted are you to worshipping God? Do you waiver in doing it? Most likely, we all do. We get off track and we focus on other things when we should be focusing on God. How devoted are you to worshipping together with the church? I mean, how devoted are you to be with the rest of your church family when they gather together for worship? Do you come to worship with the church when it is convenient to you? Do you come to worship with the church when things are going well for you? How devoted are you? I think we see in this passage that the first church was very devoted to one another. Look at verse forty-two.
Acts 2:42 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
It is possible that this verse is really the conclusion of the events at Pentecost and Peter’s sermon. If so, it provides a glimpse into the way new believers were discipled in the Christian community. It also shows us that the church devoted themselves to worshipping together. One thing some translations may not accurately convey is the sense of the church’s continual worship. What this verse really is saying is that they remained constant in worshipping together. They did not waiver in doing it. They stuck together in worshipping together. We can see this later in the passage in verse forty-six with their daily worship and in verse forty-seven with God’s daily blessing on the church. They kept on worshipping. Do we have that same kind of devotion to corporate worship? Do we treat corporate worship as something that might happen once or twice a week when we feel like it? Do we treat it like something that really does not matter? One thing we might say about this is when the church is devoted to the right things about worship, incredible things happen. Look at verse forty-three.
Acts 2:43 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
Would it not be nice for the community to be in awe of what God is doing here? Would it not be something if we were so devoted to Jesus Christ and to each other that the community was speechless, maybe even in fear of what God was doing? Sure, the Holy Spirit was working in very powerful ways in the first church. They were speaking in tongues and people were hearing the message in their own language without an interpreter. People were also being healed. There were many wonders and signs being performed. These were incredible things, but the Holy Spirit still works in powerful ways today through the devoted worship of God’s people. God is not promising us signs and miracles like what happened on and after the Day of Pentecost, but when we are devoted to worship like we should be, the world cannot help but take notice of it. What was this devoted worship the church was doing together? We see four very specific ways in which the church was devoted to worshipping together. These were things the first disciples must have learned from their time with Jesus.
Devoted to God’s Word
The first way we see in this passage that the church was devoted to worship was in what was taught. Most churches spend a significant amount of time teaching something. The ministry of teaching is an important, ongoing part of church life. It is important that the church teach the right things, though. Some pastors and teachers spend their time teaching feel-good messages that tickle the ears of hearers. Some teach their opinions. No doubt over the next year there will be much teaching on politics and the upcoming election. This passage, however, tells us that the first church was continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching. We should not think of this as teaching that the apostles created, as if it was their own material they taught. Their teaching included those things that Jesus taught them and what the Holy Spirit revealed to them. The apostles’ teaching may have been similar to Peter’s message at Pentecost, meaning, it focused on making Jesus Christ known by sharing their eyewitness testimony and the prophecies of the Old Testament. For us today, we should be devoted to the apostles’ teaching by faithfully teaching and following God’s Word. God is the authority for what we believe and the Bible is the source of God’s revelation to us. We are devoted to that!
Devoted to Fellowship
The second way we see the church being devoted to worship was in their fellowship. We use that word, fellowship, a lot. For some of us it means that time we spend together, whether on Sunday morning or at other times. The word “fellowship” seems to focus on the idea of a close relationship, a type of unity with one another, that results in sharing things together. A church certainly ought to be in fellowship with God, to be one with Him. That is what God’s grace is all about — bringing people who were once enemies of God, into fellowship with Him. A church also ought to be in fellowship with one another. Jesus Christ came to bring people together so that they can be His Church and they can be one with each other and share life together with Him. Fellowship is a huge part of being the Church. This Christian unity is expressed by the disciples holding “everything in common”. Look at verses forty-four through forty-six.
Acts 2:44–46 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
Notice the unity they had. They were together and were united in purpose. Many think this church practiced some form of communism. There is no doubt that the church was voluntarily generous in sharing their possessions with one another. We should notice, however, that they still had their homes as they met in their homes often. Also, the distribution of things to other members took place according to a person’s need. The church members voluntarily sold their possessions to benefit others whenever a need arose. They shared their possessions with each other not because they were required to do so, but because they were generous and committed to one another. Notice where the church met in verse forty-six. They were in the temple and in their homes. This shows us that our Christian fellowship is not confined to one place.
Devoted to Sharing a Meal
The last part of verse forty-six reminds us of another way the church was continually devoted. The early church devoted themselves to a fellowship that was expressed in eating together and praying together. The passage said that each day they were “breaking bread in their homes” and “they received their food with glad and generous hearts”. The third way we see the church being devoted in worship was in sharing meals together. Let us look at verse forty-two again.
Acts 2:42 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
This is something many of us do well. As Baptists, we are devoted to eating. This part of worship should not be hard for us. This may be more than having lunch or dinner together, though. This may be a reference to observing the Lord’s Supper as well as to sharing other meals together. “Breaking bread” may be Luke’s way of referring to the Lord’s Supper, one aspect of corporate worship in the church. For Luke, the Lord’s Supper was an experience with the risen Lord that might echo the Emmaus story. If you recall, on the Emmaus Road, two disciples walked and then ate with Jesus. They then reported to the other disciples how Christ was “made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). We worship God by remembering what Jesus did for us every time we participate in the Lord’s Supper. Our worship by “breaking bread” does not have to be confined to that event, though. In the intimacy of our homes, or wherever we are, sharing a meal together can be a worshipful time. It can be marked by our rejoicing in fellowship with one another and with our unity in Jesus Christ. So, let’s eat together!
Devoted to Praying
The fourth and final way we see the church being devoted to worship was in prayer. Praying was an essential part of their worship time together. We have to not just include prayer as part of our worship, but it must be an essential element, if not the most important part, of our worship. This goes for both corporate worship and our individual worship. We read in the first chapter of Acts, just after Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples were devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). While being devoted to prayer includes our individual prayers outside of our fellowship meetings, Luke’s reference to prayer here probably involves primarily the church praying together in their corporate worship. Praying together can be a powerful experience. As we each worship God through prayer, others can be encouraged and share in our communion with God. Our meetings during the week and on Sunday mornings are opportunities where the church at Good Hope Baptist get together for prayer. These are powerful times as we lift each other up in prayer and as we pray for the church and our community. Similar to what the Catholic Priest, Father Patrick Peyton, once said, a church that prays together stays together. Therefore, let us be devoted to praying for and with one another.
God Blesses Devoted Worship
One of the characteristics we see in the church in Acts is a desire to spend much time in worship. They were devoted to it. Do we have that same desire? If we do not, then something is not right. From the moment God calls you to Himself, He is drawing you into fellowship with Him and with His Church. We are called to worship Him together. The writer of Hebrews gave a similar exhortation.
Hebrews 10:24–25 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
That passage tells us to do good for one another, but it also tells us to not neglect meeting together. Why would the writer say that? It is because many Christians do neglect gathering with other believers for worship. Maybe they think it is unimportant. Maybe they have been hurt by other Christians. Maybe they think churches are a waste of God’s resources. God does not think that, otherwise, He would not tell us to gather together. These people are neglecting a significant part of worship and spiritual growth. We worship together not only because God tells us to do it (which should be enough reason), but we worship together because it is good for us. We see in this passage that God blessed the church’s devotion to worship. Look at the last verse in this passage.
Acts 2:47 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
The church’s corporate worship was praise to God and it resulted in favor with others. Remember, awe struck those around the church after Pentecost. God also added to their number, an affirmation of God’s sovereignty in salvation, but also an affirmation of His growing the church from a few faithful followers. God responded to their faith and blessed the young community, adding new converts daily. That is not to say that God will bring thousands of people here, but He will bless our faithfulness. People want to see genuine devotion and faith. They want something real. Will we show it to them?
In closing, God reveals to us in this passage that once again worship is diverse. It includes a variety of things. While we ought to be worshipping individually before and after we gather together, we are called to come together, to devote ourselves to worshipping God together. This passage shows us that corporate worship includes faithful teaching and hearing God’s Word. It includes fellowship and unity that is rooted in fellowship with Christ and in the unity of His Spirit. This fellowship compels us to share our lives and possessions with one another. Corporate worship also means we are devoted to eating together, particularly the Lord’s Supper, where we remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Lastly, corporate worship means we are devoted to praying together. Let us pray together for each other and with each other. Will you devote yourself to these things? Will you worship God in this way? May it be so! Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.