And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
What’s so special about the church? People have asked that question—sincerely or sarcastically—for nearly two thousand years. When the church thrives, the wonder of that fellowship is like an oasis in a desert land. When the church flounders, the beauty of the fellowship becomes a mirage, promising much but delivering nothing. In the opening chapters of Acts we witness the work of the Spirit through the fellowship of the Lord’s people. This community wasn’t perfect, but in their fellowship we see the pattern and power of the Lord’s plan for His church. What’s so special about the fellowship?
The Center of the Fellowship. Every fellowship has a center, some cause or connection that unites its members. But the church is unique, because the fellowship is not rooted in college or career, nation or neighborhood, politics or possessions, recreation or race. The center of the fellowship is the Lord Jesus Christ. We are united by our shared faith in the One who lived, died, and rose again for us. We have tasted the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8), and being connected to Him radically re-centers our identity and community. We can’t overstate the importance of this point, because when anything peripheral replaces the center, we are in the orbit of idolatry. Our solar system doesn’t hold together without the sun at the center, and our fellowship breaks apart when we make anything other than Jesus the center. What is the functional center of our fellowship?
The Members of the Fellowship. In the world, people come together based on who they are and what they do. In the church, we come together based on who Jesus is and what He has done. In the fellowship, who we are and what we do is not ruined. It’s redeemed and relativized because now we are united with something (Someone!) so much bigger than ourselves. We are different stones coming together to build a spiritual house in which the Lord can dwell by His Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5). We are different members coming together to form the one body of Christ (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12). We are people from every tribe, language, and nation coming together to be the bride of Christ (Revelation 5:9-10, 19:6-9). Our churches don’t always reflect this spectacular unity in diversity, but rightly understood, we are the fellowship of natural enemies transformed into friends and family by the supernatural grace of God. When our world is coming apart at the seams, can people see in us a whole new way to be human?
The Quality of the Fellowship. The center of the fellowship is evident in Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. The members of the fellowship are united by the Spirit’s work at Pentecost and beyond. The result is a quality of fellowship that has captured the church’s imagination ever since. It’s a fellowship around the Word, as the people devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching. It’s a fellowship around the table, as they break bread and receive their food with glad and generous hearts. It’s a fellowship of worship, as they are filled with awe at what the Lord is doing. It’s a fellowship of generosity, as people voluntarily steward God’s resources to help others in need. It’s a fellowship of holiness, as they are conformed to the image of Christ to be a light in a dark world. It’s a fellowship of faith, hope, and ultimately, love. It’s a fellowship that doesn’t make sense apart from the reality of the risen Christ. Do we long for the world to be drawn to the church because of the quality of our fellowship?
What’s so special about the church? It’s the fellowship that we have with one another and with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It’s the fellowship for which we were made and for which we were redeemed by the blood of Christ. It’s the only fellowship that will not be broken by disaster, disease, and death. It’s a foretaste of what we will enjoy for eternity in the new heavens and the new earth. Who else can say these things?! Truly, it is THE fellowship. What would it look like for us to devote ourselves to the fellowship in such a time as this?