Saturday, July 27, 2013

Early Christian Teaching 2

... continued from Thursday
Acts surely wants us to see the picture of the earliest Christians in Acts 2:42-47 as an ideal one.  This is the ideal way believers are supposed to behave and relate to one another.  Acts is not some mere, dispassionate history. Luke told the story in a certain way to emphasize certain things about earliest Christianity. Nowhere in Acts do we get the slightest critique of the way these early believers behaved. On the contrary, Acts probably portrays them more ideally than they actually were!

The picture in these verses is thus an ideal picture of what a community of faith should look like when it is full of the Holy Spirit. [1] Acts gives us at least seven features of this early community here, all of which apply equally to today as they did back then.

First, there was teaching. The apostles were no doubt still figuring a lot of things out at this point, but they knew more than the new believers. They had all the teaching they had heard from Jesus before his ascension. And they were now filled with the Spirit to lead them into more truth (cf. John 14:26, 16:13).

But again, Acts is not just giving us history here.  To Luke, the apostle's teaching probably represented more of something like what 2 Timothy calls a "good deposit" and a "pattern of sound teaching" (2 Tim. 1:13-14).  Ephesians 2:20 also says that the church was built on the foundation of the apostles and (Christian) prophets of its formative period. For us today, these things amount to the New Testament Scriptures.

The ideal church thus involves a teaching of the Scriptures. It will not stop with the Bible, of course, because the Spirit has not stopped working in the church.  For example, God used the first few centuries of the church to clarify a number of key things in the Scriptures, like the Trinity.  Even today, God uses the church to help connect past teaching with new issues and situations. And, of course, God speaks to individual Christians to help them make decisions in their own lives.

Another important point is that discipleship--training of believers to become followers of Christ--is not just a matter of filling people's heads with information.  It is more importantly about formation, about seeing people changed to be more like Christ. It is far more about "training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16) than a multiple choice test.

Fellowship is a second key element of healthy church life, and it is also a mechanism for discipleship...

[1] We probably should add, an ideal community of believers in the first century, since the picture no doubt changes a little from time to time and place to place. However, the picture here seems to have a timeless quality to it.

1 comment:

Susan Moore said...

Funny thing...Before I was healed and was then able to be in community, I expected church to be like the early church, and that is indeed what I saw. After I was healed my friend took me to his church, an AG church, and church remained as I expected. But then about 3 years ago a damper was put on my initial college plans as I learned about the false beliefs of cessassionist thinking (I'm not sure I'm spelling that correctly.) I always knew God could heal me because He had made me. Of course He could; we have authority over that which we create. But as I started being faced with the reality of what false teachings the Church, at least in the U.S., has been influenced by my joy became anguish, then anger, I'm aiming for hope and back to joy, but the seen world is so persuasive to the legalistic minded. I'm glad Jesus opened my eyes to the truth by miraculously healing me, but sometimes it seems like a burden, because those false teachers are now so obviously wrong to me, and kill so many people.