Recently on the Lord’s Day, as we were assembled together to remember the Lord, I was burdened and compelled to stand up and address an issue having to do with the four main principles and practices observed by the newly formed first Century church, as well as by believers in Christ today.
These are revealed and outlined in Acts 2.
It was The Day of Pentecost and the Apostle Peter had just preached a dynamic Spirit-empowered message; one that God used to convict and save some three thousand souls (Acts 2:41)!
These believers had not only been saved and baptized that day, but we are also told the immediate ongoing result was:
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching [doctrine] and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42 (NASB)
These four principles and practices can be likened to four huge columns which support and give strength to the edifice of that massive “temple” called the church (see: 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Peter 2:4-5; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21).
Let us consider each of these briefly, and then look at the issue which I was compelled to address on that Lord’s Day.
1. The Apostles Teaching [doctrine]
This was the inspired and authoritative teaching of the apostles as given by the Spirit of Christ. It was first delivered to the church by them orally, and then preserved for the church in written form via their New Testament writings. These writings reveal and explain Christ’s teaching and will for His church.
They are all “inspired by God” [lit. “God breathed”] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB).
It is no accident that the apostles doctrine is mentioned first in this list of four principles and practices, for it is foundational to the proper understanding of the other three. Thus, it is not necessarily a matter of importance or equality, but more a matter of logical order. First things first—in this case the apostles teaching, as directly given by the Holy Spirit.
This is from the Greek word koinonia and refers to believers getting together to share what they had in common. This would have included their burdens and blessings, Christ, God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, their material possessions, their spiritual gifts, etc. Put simply, they shared with one another all that they had in connection with Christ and their salvation in Him.
3. The breaking of bread
This phrase “the breaking of bread” included both the eating of meals together (Acts 2:46), and remembering the Lord together at the Lord’s Supper, as taught by the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 11:23-34; Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:17-20).
In Acts 2:42 it seems obvious that “the Lord’s Supper” was especially in view, something which the early church observed regularly “on the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7).
This was the fourth main principle and practice of the church which served as a supporting pillar of Christ’s great Temple. A continuous fellowship of prayer reveals that the early believers sought the Lord and depended on Him completely for guidance and direction, worship, service, preservation, and the meeting of all their needs. That same dependence on the Lord in prayer is desperately needed by the church today as well.
What’s the problem?
All of this brings us to the question and the burden that was on my heart that Sunday morning not too long ago: Which of these four principles and practices is most important? (or, conversely) Which meeting is the most important?
The most common answer to that question is “the breaking of bread meeting.” Often labeled “the worship meeting,” we incorrectly conflate worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ and His preeminence, with the preeminence of the breaking of bread meeting.
Essentially we are saying that because Christ is most important, and He is the focus of the breaking of bread meeting, ergo: the breaking of bread meeting must be the most important meeting.
Now please don’t misunderstand me. I have a great love for the Lord’s Supper and the breaking of bread meeting. Over many years I have learned, grown, and benefitted much from the worship and insights shared regarding our Lord’s sacrifice on Calvary during the breaking of bread meeting.
However, we must be ever so careful not to elevate that meeting or that practice and principle (The Breaking of Bread) above the other three equally important ones, especially since Scripture does not do so.
Equal in importance
The truth is that each one of them have an equally important place to “the church of the living God,” which is, as Paul said to Timothy, “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).
Therefore, we must be ever so careful not to elevate any one of those principles/practices over another or to the exclusion of another. As is true with a physical building that is reliant on multiple columns for stability, if one is removed (or if all are not equal), the entire structure is compromised.
Think of it: Where would we be if we ignored or gave a lesser place to the apostles doctrine? We would have no authoritative instruction and guidance from the Holy Spirit as to “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God…” (1 Timothy 3:15).
Neither would we understand true worship, the importance of prayer, how to pray, the truth about our Savior and salvation, and a host of other things.
Or, what if we totally ignored fellowship? As a church, we would be a cold and heartless group of religious people without warmth, love, and community. Sadly, without fellowship there would be little about Christianity that would appeal to and/or attract anyone!
Also, to eliminate prayer and prayer meetings would rob us of our power. For as is often said, “Prayer changes things,” and “Prayer is that which moves the hand of God.” A prayerless church is a powerless church!
No wonder Paul exhorted the Thessalonians and us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Thus, Acts 2:42 provides us with four pillars in the form of principles, and practices, for the church. When given equal attention these can and will serve to make us strong, stable, loving, and effective in carrying out our Lord’s will for us in this world.
In fact, note the results of what happened when those early believers were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and to prayer:
And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.Acts 2:43-47
By the grace of God, may similar results be true of us as we follow the four-fold pattern of Acts 2:42, giving equal time to each principle and practice.
Let us give ourselves equally to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And may our Savior be glorified in it all!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any other author or an official position of the assemblyHUB team.