“And they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42 ESV)
In reading the New Testament, it is striking to see how simple the church was at its earliest. We can see this vividly in the second chapter of Acts, where it is described after three thousand people are baptised and added to the church.
In Acts 2:42, we see that “they”—that is, the church—devoted themselves to four things; the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. These four aspects of the early church ares still foundational to the modern church.
The Apostle’s Teaching
This survives today in a form we are all familiar with: the New Testament. In the New Testament we find recorded many of the teachings the apostles, all of which supports the teaching of Jesus. Since it is the teaching of the apostles and those closely associated with them, we now include the New Testament as Scripture.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of Godmay be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
In the midst of a world constantly bombarding the church with it’s carnal cares, we hold firmly to the truth passed down for two thousand years which was written in the Holy Spirit by the early disciples.
All believers can recognize the importance of meeting together. Paul writes in Romans,
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5)
It is in fellowship that we can exhort one another in our faith, that we can pray with one another, that we can teach one another, that we may raise our voices in worship as one congregation. It is our brothers and sisters in Christ whom we fall on when the world presses in—they who share in our suffering because they live for the same purpose.
Wee are all “… saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)
So Christianity is not a solitary enterprise. We were and are meant to work together for the gospel and to the glory of God, and we should not neglect to be together.
Breaking of Bread
The breaking of bread is twofold; it is eating together in fellowship and it is also specifically the sharing of the bread and wine which are the body and blood of Christ given for us (c.f. Luke 22:14-23, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
There is something purposefully intimate about sharing a meal; it is something you do with family, and it is a way of serving others, by extending hospitality to them, welcoming them into your home.
The Lord’s Supper, likewise, is an intimate occasion, where we think of Jesus’ body broken on a cross and His blood poured out for our sins. We each participate in eating and drinking to demonstrate that we are “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” in our own bodies, day by day.
Prayer is another foundational devotion which we see permeating every activity of the early church. Jesus himself often withdrew to pray, and we read of all the disciples meeting together right from the beginning of Acts—they prayed as they waited for the Holy Spirit to come in power, and they prayed when the Holy Spirit came in power.
Throughout history, devotion to prayer has always preceded major events in the church, and it is recorded in Bible prophecy that it will be a driver behind end-time events, too:
And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:3-7)
If it was important to Jesus, the apostles, the early disciples, throughout history, and at the end of the age, it is critical to the Church now, too.
Still Foundational to a healthy Church.
Let us not be put off or distracted by the many things that are added on to the church community. These things may be helpful or not—like electric guitars or liturgy—but we must also recognize that underneath it all, we must be eagerly attending these four devotions as a church, and we must be willing to lay those other things aside for a season (or for good) so that we might ensure we have the basics in place.
Every congregation should examine itself carefully and regularly to ensure that it is devoting itself to these four foundational activities. To move away from any one of these elements leaves the church without a crucial leg; leaning precipitously on its own power or worldly wisdom.