I hope you had a fantastic 4th yesterday! As you went about your day, I hope you thought not only about the freedom of our wonderful country, and all of the many sacrifices made, so that we continue to enjoy it, but the freedom offered to us in Christ Jesus.
After all, the freedom offered in Christ, in the long run, is far more important than the physical freedom we have here and now. The freedom Christ offers has eternal value.
Remember, John tells us in 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” And Paul tells us in 2nd Cor 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” So, what does this mean exactly?
It means we’ve been freed from shame and guilt, (“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, Romans 8:1), freed from the power of sin and from the penalty of sin, freed from fear of the evil one, from fear of death, and freed from the grave itself!
Through the Cross of Christ, we are given genuine, lasting and ultimate freedom. We are truly free – whether we live down the street, in a prison cell, or in a communist country where we have to worship underground. Christ offers us freedom and freedom is a beautiful thing……
Now, as you know, we started our journey into the Acts of the Apostles last Sunday. Yes, Acts is a historical record of the early church, but it’s also a theological book. Acts is the connecting link between the life of Christ and the life of the church, between the Gospels and the letters.
We discussed how throughout Acts, Luke was concerned with demonstrating the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit. The church itself began through the Holy Spirit’s empowerment of the apostles.
Now in chapter two it opens on Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, who had been waiting for it as instructed by Jesus. Through this impartation, the disciples were then equipped for the task of both witness and mission.
Remember Jesus’ last words to His disciples before His ascension were, “Therefore go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” Matthew 28:19-20. So now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were ready to carry this out.
Next, Peter addresses the crowd and gave his first message as an apostle, and what a message it was! It was extremely powerful! It was so powerful, when the people heard it, they were cut to the heart – they were convicted – so they asked what they should do.
Peter’s reply, which is still the same today when someone has been convicted, and/or is seeking the Lord is, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39).
Thank You Jesus, because as stated here, this promise applies to us too! And it’s why we now live in the freedom of Christ!
Which brings us to our scripture passage for today – where we learn about the fellowship of the believers – the early church. Three thousand people became new believers that day, when the Apostle Peter preached the Good News about Christ. These new Christians were united with the other believers, taught by the apostles, and included in the prayer meetings and fellowship.
Now keep in mind, the Jewish believers at first did not separate from the rest of the Jewish community. They still went to the temple and synagogues for worship and instruction in the Scriptures. But their belief in Jesus eventually created great friction with those who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, which of course, was the majority of the Jews.
Thus, the believing Jews were forced to meet in private homes for fellowship, prayer, the apostle’s teaching about Christ, and communion. By the end of the 1st century, many of these Jewish believers were excommunicated from their synagogues.
But that didn’t stop them from following Jesus! They continued meeting with each other. And when they came together, there were four activities the believers took part in – fellowship, prayer, the apostle’s teachings and communion.
The word used for fellowship in this scripture passage means “sharing,” which most likely refers to the holding of a common meal or to a common religious experience.
Next, we have the apostle’s teaching. The apostles were qualified for the task of teaching about Jesus because of their own personal relationship with Him, as well as their constant companionship with Him.
Prayer was conducted, which could have been part of the Christian meeting itself, or it could refer to the way the Christians observed the set Jewish hours of prayer. And if that is the case, we are talking about before they were excommunicated.
Finally, the last component the fellowship of believers engaged in when they met together is the breaking of the bread, which is Luke’s term for what Paul calls the Lord’s Supper. Jesus had told His disciples at the Last Supper when He broke the bread and passed the cup “to do this in remembrance of me.” And some two thousand plus years later, we are still breaking bread and passing the cup in honor of and remembrance of the tremendous sacrifice our Lord made for each one of us.
Holy God we love You and praise You for all the many blessings you bestow upon each one of us. Thank You for Your provision, Your protection, Your love and mercy. Thank You for this great country we live in — for the freedom we find here, but most importantly for the freedom offered through the sacrifice of Your Son. We cry out to You on behalf of our country and the trials and tribulations we are now going through. Please help us as Your children, to walk in love and peace — to shine Your light and share Your joy. And now let us pray the words our Lord and Savior Jesus taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, now and forever. Amen.
Have a safe and healthy week. Jesus loves you and so do I!