One of the easiest things a person can do is quit. It takes determination and faith to continue but quitting can be done without faith or determination. Our text calls attention to the early Christians being steadfast or continually devoted to four aspects of the Christian life.
What does this term, translated in the KJV "continued steadfast" or in the NASB "continually devoting themselves" mean? In the Greek it is one word. However, it takes at least two words for us to glean its meaning. Mark 3:9 in KJV says ". . .a ship should wait on Him" while the NAS translates it, "a ship should stand ready." It's the same Greek word as in Acts 2:42. Notice Acts 10:7 in both KJV and NAS. It says, ". . .waited on Him continually" (KJV) or "who were in constant attendance" (NAS).
Continuing steadfast means "standing ready" or "in constant attendance". It is not haphazard but deliberate and constant devotion.
They were standing ready in constant attendance to:
(1) The teaching of the apostles
(2) The fellowship of the saints
(3) Breaking bread with the saints.
Follow as these 4 areas are expounded.
1. BE STEADFAST (In constant attention--(standing ready) for the Apostles teaching. v 42 b.
The primary meaning of the phrase ". . .Apostles' teaching. . ." is an eagerness to hear. The early Christians went to great lengths to hear the teaching of God's Word. It was not easy for them. They had a seven day work week. The people worked from sun up to sun down. If they heard the word of God it would have to be early in the morning or late at night. But because they were steadfast and standing ready to hear they made whatever sacrifice necessary.
The secondary meaning of this phrase would be "they were stable in their doctrine." Now these early Christians did have some theological controversies. When they paid attention to the collective wisdom of the apostles, those problems were erased. They were steadfast in following their leaders; not just one man, but collectively the apostles and their teaching.
These folks had a hunger and thirst for righteousness. They knew their association with the teachings of God's Word would greatly affect their lives.
An acquaintance of mine served as an educational director. Many of the church men worked the night shift. They desired to be trained but could not come at the normal time for the training events. Some of the men asked if they could have a training event at 1:00 a.m. just after the men got off work. The training was scheduled. The workers eagerly attended.
Are we eager to hear the Word of God? Do we make any sacrifices to hear
the teaching of the Word. The example of the early Christians would challenge
us. How about our doctrine. Is it sound with the scriptures? Some of a
theology of experience rather than a doctrine based in the Word of God.
We need a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Look to verse 42c.
II. BE STEADFAST-(In constant attendance, standing ready)-In Fellowship. vs. 42 c.
What does the N. T. word "fellowship" mean? It has a much greater meaning than an after church get together or a social activity. What we call fellowship may or may not include what is meant in the N. T.
Notice how the Greek word is translated elsewhere. Rom. 15:26 "contribution", 2 Cor. 6:14 "partnership", Gal. 2:9 "the right hand of fellowship", Philemon 6 "communication of the faith".
We must ask if our fellowship is a contribution, partnership and communication of faith. I have noticed at times our gatherings have the same people talking together. If we don't make an effort to know one another, there is not real fellowship. Several people have said to me, "I can't get a friendly hello or a good handshake from __________." It's not the right hand of fellowship; it's the right hand of indifference.
Some people talk about changing churches, but they probably just need to change.
A few years ago I served as a Trustee at Midwestern Seminary, I met a delightful gentleman named A. C. Woodburn. A.C. is from New Mexico. He told me a story that serves right here to illustrate fellowship.
Years ago a man sat at a watering hole. He was asked by a shabby fellow on a shabby horse what kind of people lived in the town up ahead. The man answered, "What kind of people did you leave?" The anser came, 'Unfriendly critical people." The man then replied, "That's the kind of people you'll find up ahead." Then a fellow who cared about his appearance and horse came by. He asked the same question. The man also asked, "What kind of people did you leave?" The rider said, "Great people, friendly, really cared for a fellow." The man answered, "You'' find the same kind of people up ahead."
Do you have fellowship with this church in the N. T. sense of the word?
It is available and many folks rejoice in this fellowship. They are communicating
faith and making a contribution through time, talent and possessions. Fellowship
needs steadfast, standing ready people. Notice the 3rd point.
II. BE STEADFAST-(In constant attendance, standing ready) for the Breaking of Bread. v. 42 d.
In the N. T. the term "breaking of bread" has three different meanings. You will find occasions when its meaning is just a meal. Other times it will mean the "Lord's Supper." The more prominent usage combines the two. It was a love feast meal followed by the Lord's Supper. The early Christians were eager, standing ready for this time of worship, without a question it was a time of joy and fellowship accompanied with the teaching of the apostles.
Once upon a time there was a nation who had holidays given to them for religious reasons. The employers recognized the observance of these Christian holidays helped their employees. But by and by the employees took the days off for other reasons. The churches at Easter time had Maundy Thursday services and special Good Friday celebrations, but the people did not attend. The employers learned that their employees were not attending worship as they once did. The holidays were removed.
We are going to observe the Lord's Supper this Friday night. It's a
unique time of worship. We really have fellowship and communication of
our faith as we break bread. Some have never missed. Some have never attended.
We need to be steadfast like the early church. Now notice the fourth area
IV. BE STEADFAST (In constant attendance, standing ready) In Prayer. v. 42 e.
There are several Greek words translated "prayer." The word in this phrase is the Greek term most often used for prayer. It means making request to God.
This early church was steadfast in prayer. They stood ready to pray. We need to be people who pray!
Many of you have heard of Mr. George Mueller and his orphanage in Scotland. A middle aged man found in his father's papers many receipts for gifts given to Mueller's orphanage. Although the son had not followed in the Christian life as his father, he thought he would check out the orphanage. When he went there they were having a revival. He went in and during the service was saved. Afterward Mr. Mueller shared he had had prayer for 38 years for this son to be saved.
We need to be steadfast in prayer. Revival is coming in May. At this
date we have 35 more days to pray for Revival. Revival waits on prayer.
God blesses in proportion to our prayer life. Last prayer meeting we had
40 adults. We should average that many or more in prayer meeting. We should
stand ready in prayer,
The early church was steadfast in:
(1). The teaching of the Apostles
(3) Breaking bread
Let's follow their example.
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And Beyond. Amen? Amen!