They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 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 favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The Apostles' Creed says, "We believe in the holy catholic Church". What does that mean?
The Church is Holy not because it is perfect, but because it is the work of the Holy Spirit and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
The Church is 'catholic' because it 'catholic' means universal. It has one source: God. It has one message: the gospel of the Kingdom of God, breaking in through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
And what do we mean by Church? Through a quirk of translation, we have a word there which primarily has come to mean a physical building or social institution. But the biblical word - ekklesia - means people. That doesn't mean that buildings or institutions are a bad thing, but biblically speaking the Church is that called people of God across the world, and across history.
And what does the Church do? Every local church is an expression of the universal catholic church. We shouldn't assume the early church was perfect, but in Acts we have a model of what local church should look like.
1. They met. In the temple for worship. In each others homes to eat together. And they did these things with joy - glad and sincere hearts.
2. They devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching. Their desire to know about about Jesus drove them to those that knew him and followed him find the Apostle's teaching in the Bible. Our love for the Word should take us to the word, if you see what I mean.
3. They broke bread. For us this too often becomes a sort of optional extra, but the bread and the wine are the great articulation of the gospel. It speaks of our individual and collective dependence on God's grace.
4. They deepened their fellowship. Koinonia is the Greek term for a deep togetherness, a belonging to each other that churches often honour in theory but fall short of in practice.
5. They prayed. They prayed alone and they prayed together.
I sometimes hear people say, “if Jesus were around today he wouldn’t be in the church”.
I know what that person is trying to say, but it’s just not right. We can set Jesus and the church apart any more than we can set you and your body apart. Jesus loves the Church, in spite of all it's failings and mistakes, and in spite of the way it seems weak, peripheral, even silly. This is what the Scriptures say - (Ephesians 1.20-23 from Peterson's, The Message)
All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the centre of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.