They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2.42-47)
At the conclusion of Acts 2, Luke gives four identifying characteristics of a “living church” – evidence the first Christians were drawn together in relationships.
First, they were related to the apostles. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. They sat at their feet and submitted to their authority. A living church is an apostolic church, committed to believing and obeying the teaching of the apostles.
Second, they were related to each other. They devoted themselves to fellowship. They loved each other. They looked after each other, providing for one another’s needs. A living church is a caring church.
Third, they were related to God. They worshipped God in the breaking of bread and prayers, formally and informally, with joy and reverence.
Fourth, they were related to the world. They saturated the community around them with the message of the Gospel and as a result “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” A living church is an evangelizing church.
John Stott relates an experience he had in Latin America. He was introduced to a group of Christian students who had dropped out of church. They called themselves Cristianos Descolgados, “unhooked Christians.” They visited every church in their city and had been unable to find what they were seeking. And what was that? Without knowing Luke’s “four marks,” they were looking for a church in which
- the Bible was taught
- there was a loving, caring fellowship
- there was sincere, humble, and reverent worship
- there was a compassionate outreach to the world outside.
Simple characteristics identifying the church of Christ that was established on the Day of Pentecost when the Gospel of Christ was preached for the first time. Let that be our sole model – and pray those four marks of a living church reflect our fellowship at Westside.
– grace and peace to you all, Bill
[John Stott, Through the Bible – Through the Year, 312]