2 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Lesson: Why God Design The Church Introduction:
A purpose is a reason for being. Everything God does has a purpose. Everything God has made has a reason for existing. The reason some Christians neglect the local church is because they really don’t understand its purpose in their lives. The law of purpose states that unless you know the purpose of a thing, you will be likely to either neglect, misuse, or abuse it.
I. To bring about a spiritual transformation. “I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever. This companion is the Spirit of Truth whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you… The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will remind you of everything I have told you.” – John 14:15-17, 25-26
II. He created the church so that you can come to Church and be faithful to the church.“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25 NLT)
III.To Make Disciples by Teaching God’s Word “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42 NLT). “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’Amen.” (Matthew28:19-20). Every believer needs to regularly hear the teaching and preaching of God’s Word in order to develop in faith and grow to spiritual maturity. Paul told us to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Anointed preaching in the local church is the cornerstone of this transformation.
When the Lord Jesus left the earth, He appointed ministers to lead His church. “And He himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints in the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). They are referred to as the ministry gifts because Jesus personally chose, called, equipped, and sent them as gifts to minister to the local church.
The primary way these ministers lead the church is through anointed preaching and teaching. If the ministers of the church are Christ’s gifts to us, then we need to receive them in order to reach our potential and fulfill our purpose! There is a difference between reading the Bible on your own and hearing the anointed teaching of God’s Word through the pastors and ministers of the church. When the church gathers to hear God’s Word, the Holy Spirit speaks through the pastor to equip God’s people to transform their lives.
The teaching of God’s Word is the most important aspect of the weekly worship event. No matter how long one has been a Christian, we never outgrow our need to be fed by our spiritual shepherd(s) by the living Word of God. The Bible tells us to “remember your leaders who taught you the word of God” (Hebrews 13:7 NLT).
There is a difference between reading the Bible on your own and hearing the anointed teaching of God’s Word through the pastors and ministers of the church.
From the beginning, the church met weekly to hear the teaching of God’s Word (Acts 2:42; 20:7). Because most believers did not have personal copies of the available Scriptures, church meetings involved lots of Bible reading and teaching. The local church was the place the Lord’s “flock” came to be “fed” (1 Peter 5:2). One of the first Christian historians who lived less than one hundred years after the resurrection of Christ was Justin Martyr (AD 100-165). He wrote about the practices of the first believers: “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place and memoirs [letters and gospels] of the apostles or the writings of the prophets [Old Testament Scriptures] are read, as long as time permits. Then, when the reader has ceased, the president [pastor] verbally instructs and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.” (Justin Martyr, First Apology 67, Public Domain.)
Purposes of Local Church Preaching and Teaching · Increases Our Faith
Paul taught that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The Greek term translated “word” in this verse is the word rhema which means “that which is spoken in the moment.” Paul was teaching that we need to be present to hear the inspired message of the preacher (Romans 10:14-15). When we gather to hear a sermon each week, the Holy Spirit works through the gifts in the pastor to inspire our faith. Strong faith is essential to pleasing God (Hebrews 11:6), receiving answers to our prayers (James 1:6-7), and living a victorious Christian life (1 John 5:4). · Enables Spiritual Growth “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Just like a newborn requires the proper diet in order to grow physically, our spirits need the “milk” of God’s Word in order to develop into maturity. ·
Renews Our Minds
Anointed teaching and preaching can often help us to change our thinking and renew our minds faster than private Bible study alone. The Holy Spirit anoints the pastor to minister God’s word in such a way that it takes deep root in our hearts and minds. The more we hear the preaching of the Word, the more our minds are strengthened in new and better patterns of thinking. Preaching and teaching uproots worldly thinking and replaces wrong and self- destructive thoughts with the inspired revelation of God’s Word. Paul told the Corinthians that when he arrived to preach he was going to “cast down” their unhealthy mental strongholds and take every wrong thought into “captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This process is critical to our growth. ·
Corrects and Protects Us
Timothy was a young pastor of the enormous local church in Ephesus. Paul wrote Timothy two letters instructing him how to lead the church effectively. Much of what Paul told Timothy had to do with His teaching and preaching ministry. Paul wrote: “Preach the Word! Keep your sense of urgency [stand by, be at hand and ready], whether the opportunity seems to be favorable or unfavorable. [Whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, you as preacher of the Word are to show people in what way their lives are wrong.] And convince them, rebuking and correcting, warning and urging and encouraging them, being unflagging and inexhaustible in patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2 AMP). The pastor needs to do more than encourage us. It is also the pastor’s responsibility to correct and warn us. When God speaks correction through the pastor, He is actually protecting us from error and deception (Ephesians 4:14)
. IV. Fellowship
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer…And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had…They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity” (Acts 2:42, 44, 46 NLT). The word translated “fellowship” in this passage means “to partake of something together, to share, to experience intimate relationship with.” One of the most important purposes of a healthy local church is to connect believers to one another in fellowship. In the verses above, we see that they did not just attend services to hear teaching. They opened their homes, shared their possessions, and ate together with great joy. Nearly every change that occurs in our lives for the better or worse comes by way of relationships. People have gravity. That means that they have a certain spiritual, emotional, and natural force of influence. Whether we intend it or not, the people we habitually associate with have gravitational influence on our feelings, thinking, and behavior. The people we associate with will either pull us upwards towards positive transformation or pull us downwards towards negative or distracting patterns of thinking and behaving.
V. United Prayer
There is something powerful that occurs when believers gather to pray. Each of us needs prayer. It is our living source of communication with our Father. The Bible teaches that we should pray both privately and with others. When the church prays together, there is a multiplication of our power in prayer. The Scriptures teach this principle in the Old Testament (Ecclesiastes 4:9; Deuteronomy 32:30). When Jesus was teaching about the church, He said,
“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19-20).
When the church gathers to pray, Jesus Himself is present and the Father has promised to do whatever is asked of Him. This is an astounding promise for the local church. In the book of Acts, we see that the Holy Spirit was poured out as the church gathered on Sunday to pray in one accord (Acts 2:1-4). Then after the church leaders had been threatened, the church gathered to pray, and something supernatural occurred: “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
Paul told Timothy, pastor of the Ephesian church, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them” (1 Timothy 2:1 NLT). In the New Testament, we see that some of the most powerful miracles occurred when the church gathered to pray about the needs of the moment. It is the faith we offer in prayer that moves the heart of God to work on our behalf (Hebrews 11:6; 2 Corinthians 5:7; James 5:14-15; Mark 11:24).
VI. Participation in Sacred Events (Sacraments and Ordinances)
Last, but certainly not least, of the ten purposes for the local church is so that believers can participate in sacraments and ordinances. The word sacrament comes from a Latin word that means a “sacred or holy practice.” The word ordinance means a “commandment or sacred ritual.” Church groups sometimes use these words differently to describe various practices within their church communities. However, there are two special events that Christians agree should take a special place in the life of the local church: water baptism and Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper as it is sometimes called. Additionally, the Bible teaches there is special ordinance of the church called the laying on of hands. Each of these three holy experiences are given to the local church for the purpose of experiencing and building the transformed life.
A. Water Baptism
Water baptism is a sacred rite of initiation into the body of Christ. While the event in itself does not save us, the Lord never intended for us to be saved without experiencing it. Baptism is designed to accompany our faith as an outward expression of our love for Jesus Christ. Throughout the book of Acts, whenever anyone believed in Jesus Christ they were immediately baptized in water. Baptism is the doorway into participation in the local church community. Jesus began His earthly ministry by being baptized by John at the age of thirty. This event marked the moment the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus with power to preach, teach, heal, and perform miracles. Later, when Jesus had been raised from the dead, He told the apostles to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18). He said that, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). When the church began on the day of Pentecost, over three thousand people were born again and water baptized that same day.
“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’…Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:38, 41).
Some churches baptize infants, believing with the parents that these children will grow up in the church community and know the Lord. While this practice is not mentioned in Scripture, it is nonetheless a very ancient tradition. What the Bible directly teaches and commands us topractice is the baptism of believers. When a person is mature enough to understand the gospel message, sense the conviction of the Holy Spirit for their sin, and believe for themselves in Jesus Christ, the church is to baptize them in water as soon as possible.
During this special moment, the believer declares they are separated from sin, Satan, evil spirits, and every curse that was a part of their past life. God’s Spirit is present in baptism to sever the claims of darkness and the past. The love of God enfolds the believer through the experience, bringing comfort and assurance that they have died to sin and been raised with Jesus to a new life.
Important Truths about Believer’s Baptism: ·
Baptism Follows Believing “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned’” (Mark 16:15-16). “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12).
“Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done” (Acts 8:13).
“Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). ·
Baptism is the First Step in Becoming a Disciple of Jesus Christ
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20). ·
Baptism Claims the Forgiveness of Sins
“Peter replied, ‘Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 NLT).
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41 KJV).
“And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). ·
Baptism May Precede or Follow the Gift of the Holy Spirit
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, ‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days” (Acts 10:44-48). ·
Baptism Connects Us to the Work of the Cross
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Romans 6:3). ·
Baptism Initiates Us into the Church (Body) of Christ
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). 7. Through Baptism We Claim Our Sonship and Inheritance “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-27, 29).
B. Holy Communion
Jesus began His earthly ministry by receiving water baptism, and ended His earthly ministry by introducing the new practice of Holy Communion. Communion is a sacred event that demonstrates our ongoing fellowship and intimate connection with the body of Christ. It is a celebration of our relationship with Jesus and His family—the church. While there is nothing in Scripture that forbids believers from receiving the Lord’s Supper in private devotion, the biblical purpose of communion is to commune with Christ and His assembled family. The word commune means to share intimately with another. It is the basis of the word community. Therefore, Holy Communion is a sacred event that should be experienced with the full community of believers in the local church. ·
Jesus: Our Passover Lamb At Jesus’ baptism, John prophesied, “Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). In this moment, God was declaring through John how His Son had come to deal with the problem of human sin—as a lamb. There is one Jewish feast that involves the sacrifice of a lamb. It is known as the Feast of the Passover.
Every spring, the nation of Israel would celebrate the Feast of the Passover in memory of the last night they spent as slaves in Egypt. God had warned the pharaoh that if he did not let His people leave Egypt, terrible plagues would come upon the land. Pharaoh resisted God’s command, and plague after plague came upon the Egyptians. The final plague was the most severe. Unless Pharaoh released His “first born son,” Israel, God would send an angel to take the lives of all the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 4:22-23).
God told Moses to instruct the people to sacrifice a spotless lamb and spread its blood over the lintel and side frames of their homes—forming the endpoints of a cross. As the Jews feasted in their homes that night, the angel of death passed over every house that was covered by the blood of the Passover lamb. This terrible judgment was what it took to let the people of Israel go. Afterward, God commanded the Jewish people to have an annual feast to remember how they were delivered from bondage through the blood of His Passover (Exodus 12:2-14).
On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus sat with His disciples to share the Jewish Feast of the Passover. As Jesus broke the unleavened bread of the traditional Passover meal, He said, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” After they had eaten, He took the cup that traditionally was filled with red wine, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22:19, 20). With these simple words, Jesus was proclaiming that a new era had come—a new covenant between God and man was being forged. The Lord was declaring Himself as the final Passover Lamb who would be sacrificed. His body and blood would fulfill the prophecy of John the Baptist and “take away the sin of the world
.” The first Christians regularly met together to receive the Lord’s Supper. Different churches practice the communion event in different ways. Some Christians receive it weekly—others monthly, quarterly, or annually during the Feast of the Passover. The Bible does not tell us how often to receive the Lord’s Supper, but the practice of weekly or monthly communion goes back to the earliest histories of the church.
Three Necessary Elements in Holy Communion
1. The Bread. Following the Lord’s example during the Feast of the Passover, the communion bread is consecrated in prayer and broken into pieces and distributed to each believer. The breaking of the bread shows that Jesus’ body was broken in death upon the cross. It also demonstrates that the local church is one loaf—made up of many members (1 Corinthians 10:17).
2. The Cup. The fruit of the grape is lifted and consecrated in prayer and then distributed to each believer. The cup represents the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin and has given us eternal life. Just as Jesus’ blood is necessary for each believer to be forgiven and transformed, each believer drinks from the cup to show that Jesus’ one life was given for many (1 Corinthians 10:16).
3. The Gathered Church. After the Last Supper, the only direct instructions given in the Bible for Holy Communion is in 1 Corinthians. Here we learn that communion is a special event that is to occur when you come together as a church in one place (1 Corinthians 11:18, 20). The gathered church represents many believers as parts of one unified body of Christ. In communion, we are declaring our union with Christ and one another. As Paul indicates, “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17).
Purposes of Holy Communion ·
Receiving the Benefits of the Body and Blood of Christ
The body and blood of Jesus have a physical and spiritual reality. The physical body of Jesus was broken upon the cross, raised from the dead, and ascended to heaven. The physical body of Jesus exists today at the right hand of God. Jesus is seated in heaven next to His Father in the same body that purchased our redemption (Hebrews 1:3; 12:2).
The blood of Jesus was poured out upon the cross, and later taken by Jesus into heaven. Jesus presented His blood to our Father as a continual reminder of the price that was paid for our sin (Hebrews 9:11-14; 20-24). When we consecrate the bread and cup in Holy Communion, we identify them as earthly symbols of the actual body and blood of Jesus in heaven. As we eat and drink together, we commune (or intimately connect) by faith with the real body and blood of Jesus and all of its benefits. Whatever we need is made available to us in that holy moment.
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16).
In this way, Holy Communion enables the believer—through the local church—to connect to the living benefits of Jesus’ sacrifice. Together, as a believing community, we receive the forgiveness of sins, deliverance from evil, healing for our body and soul, protection from the enemy, and every other good thing that belongs to us in Christ Jesus. The bread and the cup are like earthly extension cords that the church collectively places a hand upon and uses to plug into the power that flows from the presence of Christ’s body and blood in heaven!
It is important to note that every believer may claim and experience the benefits of Jesus’ body and blood as individuals at any time. After all, we each have received a direct personal relationship with our heavenly Father and can access His love and grace whenever we need by faith (Hebrews 4:16). In Holy Communion, however, we are accessing these benefits collectively and therefore we receive God’s grace as a community. We are believing for God’s blessing for our entire local church family, not just for ourselves, when we participate in this sacred time. ·
Declaring Jesus’ Death, Resurrection, and Future Return
Jesus taught the disciples, “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Paul added that “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). As we take part in Holy Communion, we actively remember that Jesus paid the highest possible price for our redemption. We publicly declare together our living faith in Jesus; He died for us. We also express our expectation that Jesus is alive and coming again!
There is something powerful that happens when God’s people release their faith together in a public gathering. It is a testimony to the world that Jesus is alive. ·
Opportunity for Personal Cleansing
The Scripture says, “So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:27-28 NLT). Because this event is sacred, God expects us to examine our lives and confess any personal sin or unforgiveness we may have towards others before eating and drinking. It is better not to partake of Holy Communion than to do so without getting our hearts right with God. In this way, communion is an opportunity for the entire church to be cleansed of the errors and sins that we all commit as we live in this world.
· Connecting with Our Spiritual Family
Through Holy Communion, we become aware of our real supernatural connection with others in the local church. “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16, 17). We are not designed to live out our faith in isolation from others. Communion is important because it reminds us of this fact, humbles our pride and independence, and supernaturally strengthens us by connecting us to our spiritual family. ·
Healing of the Weak, Sick, and Terminally Ill
Paul went on to indicate that when believers continue in personal sin while receiving Holy Communion, the sacred event actually becomes a time for the Father’s judgment and discipline.
The Corinthian church was behaving so carnally that they often fought with each other, sued each other, divorced and remarried each other, practiced sexual sin, and then behaved as if there was nothing wrong with their choices. They continued to come to church, operate in spiritual gifts, and take Holy Communion—without examining their behaviors and judging themselves. Paul said, “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Corinthians 11:29). He then explained, “That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died” (1 Corinthians 11:30 NLT).
While this may seem severe, the truth is that this judgment at the communion table is an act of loving discipline by our Father. He is allowing us to experience the consequences of our own sins physically through weakness, sickness, and premature death, so that we may avoid the ultimate judgment that will come upon the unbelieving world. “But when we are judged, we are chastened [or disciplined] by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:32).