And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42)
Four Points Of The First-Century Church
Jerusalem was filled with a great multitude of devout Jews who had come for the celebration of Pentecost following the seven weeks after Sabbath-rest during the Feast of Unleavened bread. As they had done for centuries, those assembled were keeping the Law of Moses traveling many miles to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Little did the Jews know what changes would take place in their lives when they arrived in the city of God. Instead of celebrating the full harvest with thanksgiving to the Lord for the bounty of the land, three thousand souls would be harvested in the spiritual field of God’s kingdom. As the devout Jews from every nation under heaven gathered in one place suddenly a sound filled the whole house where they were sitting. Twelve men began to speak in the languages of those gathered and there was a notable sign of tongues, as of fire, appearing on the men. Peter stood and delivered a moving and powerful message of God’s will being accomplished by Jesus of Nazareth and how that seven weeks earlier the Jews had killed their own Messiah or Christ. The message struck the hearts of many for the guilt of killing the Son of God and they cried out to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do.” They were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and three thousand honest souls accepted the saving grace of God. What happens next is a remarkable testimony to the sincerity and honest hearts that first obeyed the gospel of Christ.
Imagine the scene for a moment. Three thousand devout Jews came to Jerusalem to fulfill the commandments of the Law of Moses. They did not know how their lives would change. As they heard the message of Peter their hearts were moved to obey the message of God’s love and they were immersed in the waters of baptism. Rising up from the water they rejoiced at the good news that God had forgiven them for killing the Christ, the Son of God. The first Christians were the first Christians that stood on the face of the earth. They had no form or pattern to follow as an example. The church was literally in its first moments of birth. There was not a pattern of two thousand years of church history to examine the writings of four gospels, letters of a man named Paul or examine the exhortations of Peter, James, and John. Luke would not write his historical account of the first days of the church for many years. Three thousand Jews stood dripping wet from the waters of baptism along with the twelve apostles asking the question, “What’s next?” The Lord did not leave them without a witness. Luke shows in the Acts of the Apostles the first Christians did four things: they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine; they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ fellowship; they shared in a communion meal; they enjoyed devoted times of prayer. Four points of the early church establish a pattern as God unveils His will to the first Christians to be shown for centuries to come. The New Testament would be written based on these four principles. Worship in the First Century church was crafted through the will of the Lord and revealed to men so that all those who follow would know how to worship God in spirit and truth.
Worship must be established by the authority of scripture. The first Christians learned the will of the new covenant through the teaching of the apostle’s doctrine. This was not the word of the twelve men but the word of God revealed through the agency of the apostles. The teaching of the apostles was what Jesus had revealed to the eleven prior to His death of the coming of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to guide them into all truth. Doctrine is the foundation of salvation and should be an integral part of the work of the church. The first converts would learn the elements of the new covenant from the blood of Christ instead of the Temple sacrifices and human priesthood. Fellowship was an important part of the first Christian experience. This would indicate the will of God for His people to spend time together. As the early church unfolded the pattern of worship they would learn of the importance of assembling on the first day of the week to receive the teaching of the apostles and to enjoy the breaking of bread or the supper of Christ and the power of prayer. Three thousand Jews began to gather on the first day of the week listening to the twelve apostles explain the new testament, the life of Jesus, worship according to spirit and truth, growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ and the powerful testimony of the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms. The Lord’s Supper would be defined as the manner of remembering what Christ had done. Prayers would flow from the lips of thankful Jews saved by the grace of God. What a marvelous time those first years must have been as the early church began to grow in number and spirit as the Holy Spirit revealed the nature of the church of Christ. The apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, communion, and prayer were the foundations of the church in the first century and must remain the foundation of the church today.