From the being of time, humanity has been trying to fix itself. Humans are trying to make things right in the different communities that they have destroyed. Environmentalists try desperately to reconcile the environment. Animal rights activists try to reconcile the animal kingdom to the human kingdom. Psychologists try to reconcile man to each other. Ultimately, humankind is on a quest to reconcile itself to God.
What we don’t realize is that God is the only one who can reconcile man to Himself. If you read the New Testament, you will quickly see that the early church believed that God did reconcile the world to himself in the person of Jesus. The narrative goes something like this: God sends his son Jesus to earth as a man, fully man and fully God, to die on the cross for our sins; to make right what was made wrong. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead and he went home to prepare a place for us. One of the interesting things about this narrative is that Jesus doesn’t choose Rambo to pass on his story and its reconciling power. He passes the baton to the disciples – these 12 men who followed him for at least three years. He passes it on to a community, and he entrusts this group of men to move the gospel forward.
If you look at the gospel of John, the last of the four gospels in the New Testament, in particular John 13:34, you get this small indication of what Jesus thought about how this gospel was going to go forward. In verse 34 he says “A new command I give unto you, love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this shall all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
How are people going to know Jesu? They are going to know Jesus and know you as followers of Him by the way you interact with each other and the way you interact in community. Community is an interesting word. If God is entrusting us the church, the ecclesia, the community, with the gospel, with this reconciliation, this offering of Jesus’ victories to the world so they can be reconciled to God so they can be made right, so they can have perfect relationships with God. What is this word community because community is not in the bible? There idea of community is prevalent within the New Testament and the Old Testament but the word itself does not exist, so what is community?
To have community, you have to have something in common. Think about it in basketball terms. There are a bunch of guys who like basketball so they have the game of basketball in common. Most likely, they will play basketball together, or at least they will watch basketball. There are two parts to community. First, what we have in common, and second, the response to what we have in common.
It might sound kind of silly to ask, what does the church have in common? What does the community of faith – followers of Jesus – have in common with itself? That should be obvious in the name – Jesus is who we have in common, but do we truly grasp the depth of this statement?
If we have Jesus in common, how should we respond to him? Acts chapter two verses 38 through 47 offer us a look into how the early church responded to Jesus as a community. Leading up to verse 38, Jesus has given his disciples the command to go preach the gospel to all nations. He has handed off the baton to 120 people who are his close followers. They are waiting, in an upper room of some unnamed building, for the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised he would send them – the one who was going to help them talk about the gospel.
The Spirit of God shows up in the upper room. Everyone who was gathered together began to speak many different languages, and they probably didn’t have soundproof walls! So everybody outside heard it, and they think. “Man, there is a big gigantic party going on in there and everybody’s drunk.” Peter realizes this. He dashes out onto the balcony and he says, “No, we are not drunk” and he preaches the gospel. At the end of his talk, it says, with many other words he warned them and he pleaded with them save yourself from this corrupt generation. Those who have accepted this message were baptized and about 3000 were added to their number that day, so the first church was planted.
Acts is about the being of the early church. Peter oversees the first church being planted after Jesus ascends into heaven – 3000 members. Peter is the forerunner to Billy Graham.
If you continue to read chapter two, you discover how the early church responded to Jesus. Starting at Verse 42 it states, they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship and to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Stowing their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as they 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 favor of all the people. Lord added to their number daily those who are being saved.