Jan 3, 2011

Four hallmarks of the body

The Scriptures teach us many things. We learn more about God and ourselves because we have God’s revelation of Himself and His plan through His word. Praise God. 

When I study the lives of those believers in the first few years of Christ’s church, I come to a better understanding of why there are problems in today’s churches. When studying Acts 2, we read about these people and they should be inspiring to us. I drew out from a recent study of Acts 2 four hallmarks of the body of Christ as found in the example of the early church. 

In Acts 2:42 we see these hallmarks. “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (NASB)

Notwithstanding the Greek grammatical construction of this verse, I feel confident in asserting four things are revealed as important for any local assembly. These four are for the body of Christ to be continually devoted to:
  • God’s teachings
  • Fellowship
  • Celebrating the Lord’s Supper
  • Prayer
The first thing we have to observe isn’t about the four hallmarks themselves, it’s about the idea that we are to be “continually devoted” to the four. This means Christ’s body is to practice these four with regularity and with consistency.

God’s Teachings
Being devoted to the apostles teaching means committing ourselves to studying and applying God’s word in the Scriptures – not for specific circumstances, but as a way of life. Through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, our pulpits, lecterns, classrooms and assemblies must be focused on proclaiming God’s word, not homiletic stories or on the felt needs of the listeners. 
Too long our churches have turned fellowship into a social event where there is no sharing. The word we translate into fellowship actually means to share. We must share with each other as a body in order to experience the joy the Christian community can bring, experience the working of God in all our lives, in order to be strong together as a group. Finally, we must share in order to bear one another’s burdens. 

Celebrating the Lord’s Supper
We have no basis as a community without Jesus Christ. He is our cornerstone upon which we have a relationship with God the Father. It is in Christ that we are viewed as righteous by the Father and are rescued from the punishment of our sin. Christ Himself asked us to remember Him by a simple act of celebrating His death, burial and resurrection and what those facts mean to us. As a community of believers, we must never forget God’s plan He executed through Jesus Christ for our atonement. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper is one way to remember Christ’s atoning work. 

We learn from that great hymn that it is a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. But, more so than this, prayer is our direct connection with our creator. God still communicates with His people. And, thanks to Jesus’ intercession, we have direct communication to God. The body of Christ must be devoted to prayer individually and corporately because it is our direct link to God. Scriptures also teach us that God wants to hear from us. It is God’s desire that we pray to Him, therefore, it is paramount that we do so. It is also a powerful means to bond a body together, praying for each other and praising God for the results.
This is by no means an exhaustive description of the believing body. But, it gives a good filter through which to view any given local church – do they exhibit these four critical hallmarks.

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