Yesterday we thought briefly about how fellowship should be expressed in practical ways. Luke had mentioned that aspect as one of three ways of engaging in fellowship. The second area of fellowship mentioned by Luke is the public meetings that took place in one of the temple courts.
Probably the reason they met there was because of the large number of believers – there would not have been many places where over three thousand people could gather. At that time, they met daily in the temple because their circumstances allowed for them to meet so frequently. Today we do not meet so often, and the number of times we meet is governed by local conditions.
The obvious point to note is the necessity of public worship. Those were the occasions when they received the instruction of the apostles and engaged in corporate praise and prayer. As they gathered together, the Old Testament would be explained in a totally new way because it was now the means of conveying to them information about the person and work of Christ. The apostles would mine the depths of teaching found there, and the listeners would hold on to their discoveries in the way that a miser holds on to gold.
Public worship is essentially fellowship with the triune God. It is two-way fellowship – our praise and prayers ascend to him and in his word his purposes and promises are conveyed to us. In our gatherings, the heavenly Father is active, smiling in grace over his children; the Lord Jesus is active, especially in his role as Prophet of his people; the Holy Spirit is active, enabling them to understand the truth that they are being taught, and to embrace it with eagerness and wonder. Together, as a corporate body, we meet with and interact with God and share the secrets of the kingdom of God.
The third aspect of fellowship highlighted by Luke concerns what took place in private homes. It is possible that he mentions two distinct happenings. First, he mentions that they broke bread. While this could be a reference to eating normal meals, I suspect that it is actually a reference to the Lord’s Supper. It is unlikely that they would be able to have the Lord’s Supper when they gathered in the temple courts. So instead of having the Supper there, they held it in private homes. Today, we do not need to do so because we have church buildings. Yet there will be believers in other parts of the world, especially in countries where the church is persecuted, who will have the Lord’s Supper in private homes. Of course, whether we have the Lord’s Supper with a large number of people in the equivalent of the temple or with a smaller number of people, there is no doubt that sharing together at the Lord’s Table is one of the best ways for Christians to have meaningful fellowship with God and with one another. At the Lord’s Table, Jesus is present in a real way in which we receive from him in a manner that is unique to the occasion.
The other activity that took place was fellowship around shared meals. This was a common feature of the way that Jesus did things; many of his times of instruction were connected to a meal. There they shared with one another earthly food and heavenly food. They fed their bodies and their souls at the same time as they spoke about the things of the kingdom.