Devoted to the Apostle’s Teaching
by Pastor Gene
Today’s reading is from James Montgomery Boice with questions I’ve developed from the text. Enjoy!
“Acts 2:42–47 describes the early church. It is presented as a model church … [I]t was a model in many important respects … These verses tell what developed in the church and how it functioned in those remarkable days after Pentecost …
The key verse is verse 42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
The first phrase says that they devoted themselves to “the apostles’ teaching.” In other words, this was a learning, studying church. There were a lot of other things Luke could have said about it … Nevertheless, the first thing Luke talks about is the teaching. He stresses that in these early days, in spite of an experience as great as that of Pentecost, which might have caused them to focus on their experiences, the disciples devoted themselves first to teaching.
It could have been a temptation for the early believers to look back to Pentecost and focus on the past. They might have remembered the way the Holy Spirit came and how he used them to speak so that those in Jerusalem each heard them in his or her own language. They might have longed to experience something like that again. They might have been praying, “Please, Lord, do something miraculous again.” This is not what we find. They are not reveling in their past experiences. Instead, we find them reveling in the Word of God.
I suggest that this is always the first mark of a Spirit-filled church. A Spirit-filled church always studies the apostolic teaching. It is a learning church that grounds its experiences in and tests those experiences by the Word of God.
It is also interesting that the object of their study was the apostolic teaching. The apostles were people specifically chosen by Jesus Christ to remember, teach about, and authentically record the events and meaning of his ministry …
Many people had witnessed the events of Christ’s ministry, but the Lord did not choose all of them. He chose a certain number …
[So,] when Peter and John and the other apostles spoke, saying that Jesus Christ did so-and-so and taught so-and-so, the early Christians could receive their words as an authentic record and interpretation of Jesus’ life and rightly devote themselves to studying it. They studied this teaching and tested it against the Old Testament.
We live in a different age, of course. We live thousands of years after this teaching. Peter is not with us. James was martyred. John has died. So have all the others. Even Paul, who came along later, has gone. How is it possible for us to focus on the apostolic teaching? These men gave us the New Testament. This is the deposit of their teaching. When it came time to collect the books that were to become our New Testament, the criterion by which that was done was whether they came from the apostles or bore the apostolic blessing …
Let’s put that in terms easy to understand: A Spirit-filled church is always going to be a Bible-studying church. Those two things go together.
There have been periods in history when the Bible has fallen on hard times and been neglected by God’s people. These have been dry ages for the church. There have also been periods when the Bible was not always readily available, sometimes because of political pressures. Sometimes even church officials kept the Bible from God’s people.
Nevertheless, wherever the church has been greatly blessed, where the Spirit of God has come upon God’s people and the gospel has gone forth in great power and people have responded to it, these have always been ages in which the Bible has been studied carefully. Why? It is because the closer men and women come to God the closer they want to get to where he speaks to their hearts, and that is in the Bible.
What is true of the church is true for individuals also. If you are Spirit-filled, then you will be drawn to this Book … Because the Holy Spirit, whose chief task is to bear witness to Jesus Christ, inevitably draws the people of God to Jesus through the Scriptures.
This means, among other things, that evangelical, Spirit-filled, Bible-oriented churches should offer many ways for people to get to know the Bible. It must be done through the preaching. In fact, that is the preacher’s chief task: to expound the Word of God. He is to study it and then teach it to others. It may be done through Bible classes and home Bible studies. We are going to see that the early Christians worshiped in their homes. So I am sure they studied the Bible in their homes. If we had been there, we would have said, “They’re having home Bible studies.”
Boice, J. M., Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997) pp. 55–62.
- The Scriptures are of supreme importance to the life of anyone who truly seeks to follow Jesus.
The feelings that we have, the things we feel the Holy Spirit is leading us to do, the opinions we form about current events, etc. must all be subject to the scrutiny of God’s Word.
God will never contradict His Word and the objective truth of the Bible must always supersede any subjective thoughts we may have.
What place does reading Scripture hold in your life? Is it a priority?
What place does God’s Word have in the decisions you make?
- Because the teachings of the Apostles (our New Testament) were very important to the early church, they devoted themselves to them.
They valued them. And because they valued them, they built their schedules around the spiritual discipline of studying them.
What does your answer say about the esteem in which you hold the Scriptures?
DON’T give yourself a pass here! Remember: we all find time to do the things that are most important to us.
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