I beamed from ear to ear as I greeted fellow church members in the foyer and then passed into the main worship hall. After nearly three months of canceled church services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it felt rejuvenating to worship with fellow believers. More than ever, I appreciated the meaningful Bible study and conversations that challenged me to go deeper in my walk with God. And singing together was heavenly! Though the sermon had been a bit long-winded, I didn’t care; I had been energized for the week to come.
The English poet John Donne was right when he penned, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
Indeed, God created us to be in community with one another. And the book of Acts perhaps offers the best biblical example of this.
Acts 2:41 records that “three thousand souls” were added to the church in one day! Can you imagine what churches today would be like if they grew at that rate?
The early Christian church was a thriving community. Acts 2 continues with a description of what life was like for these new believers. We find them spending time in Bible study, fellowship, and prayer. They worshiped in the temple together and ate meals at each other’s homes. Their hearts overflowed with generosity, and they met one another’s needs by selling their possessions and sharing the proceeds.
But what was it that led to the formation of this community and its exponential growth? How did the church come about, and why is it so important?
1. According to Acts 1 and 2, what factors led to the formation of the Christian church?
Acts 1:1–8; 2:1–4: ______________________________________________________________________________
Acts 2:22–24, 32–33, 36–41: ______________________________________________________________________________
As the apostles prayerfully obeyed the instruction of Jesus to wait in Jerusalem, they received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and began to preach to all who would listen, showing that Jesus was the Messiah of Bible prophecy. The result was an incredible number of conversions! Truth, preached from the Word of God under the power of the Holy Spirit, propelled the development of the church. Unlike the highly individualized and private spiritual experiences promoted today, the early Christian movement prioritized community in which believers grew in their knowledge of Christ through praying and studying the Word of God together. See also John 17:17, 19–21.
2. How does the Bible refer to the church, and what does this illustration tell us about the way God intended His church to function? Colossians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 12:13–27
Christ’s body is the church, consisting of many members who function with Christ as their head.
Have you ever broken a bone or injured a limb? Functioning normally can be difficult without the use of every part of your body! A man named Paul was operating a large piece of machinery on a sloped work site when the machine tipped over and pinned his left arm. Due to loss of circulation, the limb had to be amputated above the elbow. Despite this limitation, Paul learned to do everything using only one arm—with a few exceptions. One of those is tying shoelaces. With the loss of one part of his body, a simple task became impossible. Similarly, without each part of Christ’s body working together, the commission to spread the gospel can become very challenging, if not nearly impossible. God needs each member of His church filling their unique role in His work.
3. Looking at the passage you just read in 1 Corinthians 12, how does God view the parts of His body that feel they have little to offer? See especially verses 22–24.
Here, the apostle points out that the members that seem to be weaker are “necessary” (KJV) or “indispensable” (ESV). Furthermore, those parts of the body receive greater honor in the eyes of God! This means that no one is unimportant when it comes to His church family; each one adds value to the body through their presence and involvement. How can you bless others in the church through your unique contributions, no matter how small they may be?
4. What will the body of Christ ultimately reveal? Ephesians 1:22, 23; 2:19–22
What an incredible thought that God intends for us—weak and sinful human beings—to reveal the fullness of Christ! Together as a body, our diversity forms a beautiful tapestry that showcases who He is.
1. Does the Bible enjoin church attendance? Leviticus 23:3; Hebrews 10:25
The Sabbath, set aside as a holy day of rest for all mankind (Genesis 2:2, 3; Mark 2:27), is referred to here as a “convocation.” What is a convocation? According to Merriam-Webster, it is “an assembly of persons called together to a meeting.” God intends that His people would come together for worship on His holy day.
Just as members in a family have duties to help the home run smoothly, so members in God’s family should feel that church involvement is a joyous duty. Psalm 122:1.
2. What was a custom of both Jesus and the apostle Paul? Luke 4:16; Acts 17:2
3. What will God’s people continue to do each Sabbath in the new earth? Isaiah 66:22, 23
As we have seen, church (synagogue) attendance was a habit of key characters in the Bible, and it’s something we will continue in heaven and the new earth. Why not learn the habit now?
Let’s examine the benefits and blessings of church attendance and fellowship.
1. When Jesus came together with fellow worshipers, what did He do? Luke 4:16–22
When assembling at the synagogue on Sabbath, Jesus taught the people from the Scriptures in a way that pierced their hearts. Church fellowship provides us with an opportunity for biblical instruction, correction, and admonition. As we open ourselves to the working of the Holy Spirit, He can teach us and develop our faith through group Bible study and sermons. See also Romans 10:17.
2. What is promised to those who gather in Christ’s name? Matthew 18:19, 20
Worshiping together, we experience the presence of Christ in a way that we would not when worshipping alone.
3. As we assemble together, what are we able to do for one another? Hebrews 10:24, 25
The story is told of a man who was traversing through the snow in the middle of winter. With the bitter winds blowing around him, he wondered if he would make it to shelter as the cold seeped into his jacket. Before long, he sensed a warm numbness creeping into his body: If only he could just lay down and sleep! But just when it seemed that hypothermia would overcome him, the man stumbled across another weary traveler, prostrate in the snow but still alive. Determined to help him, the first man began to drag the other to his feet, forcing him to walk. Amazingly, both men did indeed make it to warmth and shelter! In helping his fellow to live, the first man’s own life was saved.
When we avoid fellowship with others, we risk spiritual death. Coming together with fellow believers provides us an opportunity to “consider one another.” In isolation, it is easy to become self-absorbed, but our interactions with others teach us to be selfless. We are able to bless and encourage one another, particularly as life becomes increasingly difficult in the time just before Jesus’ second coming. See also Ephesians 4:11–16.
4. What is an evidence that we are Christ’s disciples? John 13:35
Our unity with one another in the truth is part of our witness and enables us to fulfill our mission of being a light to the world. Matt. 5:14. How can we develop that kind of unity if we avoid coming together?
5. What were the apostles doing prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost? Acts 1:12–14; 2:1–4
Gathering together for prayer united the apostles in the upper room and prepared them to receive the Holy Spirit. As we, God’s people, once again await the outpouring of His Holy Spirit before the Second Coming, should we not be seeking the same kind of closeness in the truth?
Take a moment to reflect on your church life. Are you part of a body of believers that is founded on the truth of God’s Word, just like the early Christian church? If so, do you view your involvement at church as a privilege, investing your talents to bless others?
Or maybe you don’t belong to a church and have been searching for one. As we have uncovered the importance and blessings of truth-based church fellowship, Christ is inviting you to invest yourself in His body. If you haven’t already, will you take that step toward an eternity of blessings?