Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Acts 2:42 – Teaching in church life

In this verse, Luke mentions four regular features of the life of the first church in Jerusalem.  It may be that Luke lists the features in the order in which they would have occurred in a Christian gathering. Their time together would have begun with teaching, followed by fellowship, then the Lord’s Supper, and finally a time of prayer. Whether this order was always followed cannot be proved. What is clear is that these were the four features of the corporate life of the early church.

The first feature mentioned is that these new disciples were devoted to the teaching of the apostles. This phrase does not mean that they believed the doctrines that the apostles also believed, although there is no doubt that they did so. Instead it means that they attended upon the teaching of the apostles. They came to the locations where one or more of the apostles were giving instruction to the church.

Their method of teaching described in Acts 2:42 reminds us that communication of the truth must be given by those who have been themselves instructed by Jesus. Such instruction is more than head knowledge of particular opinions. Rather there is an inbuilt conviction of the truth of the message, and this conviction comes by spending time with the Teacher. Although it is not possible for today’s preachers to spend time with Jesus in the way that the apostles did when he was on earth, it is the case that they interact with him today through the same means as they did – the Holy Spirit. By listening to the Spirit in the text, we can have true spiritual teaching.

Of course, it is possible to have spiritual teaching falling on deaf ears, just as it is possible sadly to have nonsense falling on spiritual ears. The ideal situation is a combination of spiritual teaching and spiritual listening. Luke highlights the fact that the members of the church were hungry for such teaching.

These early Christian did not regard listening to teaching as intellectually stifling. Instead they wanted their minds expanded by the truth, and there is no limit to the extent by which our minds can be gradually extended; and if we persevere, we will make great spiritual discoveries as we listen to biblical teaching. We can imagine the new disciples realising in deeper ways the amazing details of the plan of salvation.

In that they listened to the teaching of all the apostles, it is evident that the church in Jerusalem was not yet affected by the tendency to follow particular teachers. This problem raised its head later in Corinth, and it has abounded ever since. Rather we are to be like the church in Jerusalem which was so hungry for teaching that they would listen eagerly to whoever of the apostles was explaining the faith. No doubt, these apostles would have differed in style and emphasis, because each would have communicated the truth through their own individual experience of Jesus.

The point is, hungry Christians should enjoy good spiritual food.

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