2010 New Year Conference
The Fellowship full of the Holy Spirit
“They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
In today’s passage we see the spiritual beauty of the early church born by the Holy Spirit. We all wish we had the same church today and our fellowship would be full of joy and happiness. So we read the passage again and again, hoping that we also establish a beautiful Christian’s community. Especially we want to do so through our house church ministry. It’s because the early church was based on house churches. In this sense, today’s passage is considerably important for us to study again. It’s because it reveals clearly how we establish and maintain our house church ministry for a beautiful fellowship in Christ Jesus.
Before we look at the passage, let me ask you a question. What is the name of our ministry? It’s UBF-University Bible Fellowship. This name indicates the identity of our ministry. University refers to the specific mission we receive and carry out, which is to help college students. And the next is Bible because we help college students with the Bible. And the last one is Fellowship, which is the main focus of today’s message. It is obvious that our ministry is based on many kinds of fellowship such as eating fellowship, testimony sharing fellowship, moving fellowship, construction project fellowship, cooking fellowship, coffee fellowship, cleaning fellowship, going to the airport fellowship and you name it. However, while we have focused on the first two things more heavily -- University and Bible, it seems we have not cared that much about the last one Fellowship even though there is what seems like fellowship going around among us. So through this time, we are going to learn about what fellowship the early church had, and then think about what we have to do to make our fellowship healthy in regard to house churches through the good example of the early church. Let us pray that we may receive grace and mercy through the Holy Spirit while we mediate on the passage.
Jesus rose from the dead in three days according to the Scriptures and he put the hope of resurrection in his disciples and taught them about the
Look at verse 42. “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” This verse is very important because it summarizes the characteristics of the early church. What are those characteristics? Let’s think about them one by one.
First, the early church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.
The newly born-again Christians in the early church were like a little baby that needs mother’s milk. Just like a little baby like Martin Jr. sucks mother’s milk, they absorbed the teaching of the apostles. This means they participated in the Bible study with eagerness. They were very hungry in spirit. So when they had the Bible study early in the morning or late in the evening, they put everything aside and went to the Bible study. They poured the living water into their thirsty souls like a deer that thirsts and looks for the streams of water. Likewise the early church was full of God’s words. This shows that the early church was a community that stood on the word of God and the word of God was in the center of the church. This is very important for our house church ministry. It’s because God’s church should always stand firmly on the word of God. Without God’s words everything in the house church or the church itself falls apart sooner or later. Even though it seems good to have humanistic community without God’s words for a while, it does not last long. It is only the word of God that sustains the house church and the community of house churches. The church standing on the word of God lasts forever. My house church stands on the word of God taken from John 12:24 “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” I believe every house church here has its own word of God. I pray that house churches in NJ ministry may stand firm on the word of God.
Nowadays there are some coworkers who study the Bible without strong spiritual desire or zeal. Actually it’s about me and my house church. Anyway, they study the Bible just habitually, passively, and superficially. This is what we should not do. For the Bible study we should prepare the Bible material ahead of time and participate in the study with a sense of problem-solving. Then, we can receive much grace from the Bible study. The growth of faith comes from the knowledge of the word of God. When we feel thirsty in our life of faith, we are thirty for the knowledge of God and his words. Ironically, when we have that thirst in our hearts, we can be more likely to experience the power of God’s word. Therefore, we must have thirst just as the deer paneth for the water. When we are poor in spirit and learn the word of God with desire, we can grow in faith.
Second, the early church devoted themselves to the fellowship.
The fellowship the early church had was not just a fellowship that we usually come up with such as soccer or ping pong fellowship. That fellowship was very special. What fellowship did they have? What fellowship did more than 3000 people enjoy themselves? When we look at the whole of the chapter 2, the fellowship was the work of the Holy Spirit that changed around 120 people at the day of Pentecost. This fellowship was the only one they had. In that sense, the fellowship they had was the descent of the Holy Spirit for all the believers on the day of Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit came upon them, they tasted the delight of the unity with the Holy Spirit and with other believers through the Holy Spirit. That the early church devoted themselves to the fellowship means that they devoted themselves to the fellowship with the Holy Spirit and the early church was the community based on the fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
For a church it is important to consider what characteristics it has. The early church was not a community for some nice people to improve the quality of life in the society as a non-profit organization. The early church was formed as a community through the work of the Holy Spirit. This fact is very important. We are all together here somehow and for some reason. Why are we here after we established our house church in
Third, the early church devoted themselves to the breaking of bread.
The breaking of bread is not just to eat food together, but also to celebrate Communion. Communion is to commemorate the death of Jesus. While they were breaking bread, they meditated on the meaning of Jesus’ suffering and his death on the cross. This was to experience forgiveness of sins by having Jesus’ body and flesh when they broke the bread. Whenever they gathered together, they celebrated Communion. In verse 46, we see that they broke bread in the temple and in their homes. Wherever they were, they remembered Jesus’ death on the cross and were full of grace and joy from forgiveness of sins. After Communion there must be eating fellowship that everybody could join. Eating fellowship after communion is not just for food. It means any one in the eating fellowship is a member of God’s family as a believer. He is a family member as a brother in God’s people that hold on to God’s promise. That is, through Communion and eating fellowship all believers in the early church were united in one heart and mind as a family member in God’s people. If one is saved in the name of Jesus and joins the Communion and eating fellowship, he becomes a family member of the community of God’s people. Eating together and living together made believers in the early church realize that they were God’s people. Jesus also considered eating fellowship as an important part of his messianic ministry while on earth. For instance, in Luke 19 Jesus had eating fellowship with Zacchaeus. In Chapter 5, he also had eating fellowship with tax collectors and other sinners. And in and 15:1 and 2, we see that Jesus had eating fellowship with those who were saved by Jesus. Based on the fact that Jesus had so many eating fellowships with many forgiven sinners, the early church followed the same step of Jesus and gave a message that all the believers in the church became God’s people through eating fellowship.
The reason why we think the early church was very beautiful is that they had such a wonderful eating fellowship and shared their possessions with each other. Because of beautiful fellowship among believers, they were happy and joyful whenever they gathered together. In modern churches, they are getting bigger and bigger, so when the worship service is finished, they just go home and do not have a sense of God’s family. But our ministry from the beginning started breaking bread while we shared testimonies. After worship service, every house church opened their house and invited sheep and coworkers for eating fellowship. Through this continual eating fellowship we became close to each other and realized that we were family in Jesus Christ. So we sometimes think that blood is thicker than water, but the blood of Jesus is the thickest one among all the blood. I was invited so many times by my shepherd’s house church. They opened their house church to me and had eating fellowship with me as one of their house church members. One day my shepherd called me in the evening to have dog-meat eating fellowship for stamina and the other day my shepherd went out with me for T-bone steak for stamina again, which was more than 40 dollars. It seems like I was saved and became Jesus’ disciple by eating fellowship with my shepherd. But what’s more, I could feel a sense of God’s family. That was very important to me. Still, we need to keep eating fellowship among us. In Bonn UBF, M. Peter Chang has maintained eating fellowship for last over 10 years with native shepherds and senior shepherds. He considers this eating fellowship very important, so he keeps it every day. Through this, they have a strong sense of family among themselves and make a beautiful community. In 2005 based on the same verse 42, I suggested the eating fellowship house church by house church. So every house church invited and served men missionaries with delicious food for a while. We prayed together for the ministry and for each other. That made me feel I was really a member of God’s family in NJ ministry. And we even played together Korean traditional card game called Go or Stop on the first day of the year as if we were really family members. I thought M. Moses Kim and M. Peter Kim were saints or monks who do know how to play Go or Stop. But they were really good at it like a professional gambler. Anyway, the point being is to have eating fellowship among house churches is very import in making all believers united in one heart and mind as God’s family.
Forth, the early church devoted themselves to prayer.
All the believers among the early church prayed with one heart and mind. Before the three thousand were added, they prayed hard. And after three thousand were added, they still prayed hard. No matter what situation, whether their situation got better or worse, they still prayed hard. Most of churches at the beginning pray hard with one mind and heart. And also when we have personal problems in our lives, we pray hard as a matter of life or death. But as the problems are solved and peace comes back in our hearts and the number of church members increases, it is common for us to stop praying hard, just relax and just enjoy God’s blessings. However, the early church did not stop praying hard even though the church got bigger in number by three thousand. They prayed in desperation for the work of the Holy Spirit and for the work of God’s word. In that sense, we realize that devotion to prayer is an essence of the church, not an instrument to solve problems in our lives of faith or to take care of personal matters well. In other words, we pray when we have problems. But the early church devoted themselves to prayer absolutely in good times or bad times. As it is natural for a student to study hard, it is natural for a house church to pray hard. Thus, we should put our minds to prayer. When we stop praying hard, there must be a problem. It is common that the longer we believe, the lesser we pray. When things are going well, we pray less and less. This shows that we use prayers as an instrument for our personal purpose. Prayer is the essence of the Christian community and our house churches and our lives of faith. Prayer is also our devotion to God and through prayer God displays his mighty power in our lives. God uses house church or community that prays to God earnestly, desperately, and faithfully for his salvation work.
Look at verse 43. “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” When the mighty work of the Holy Spirit was among the believers, they were filled with awe. After the day of Pentecost, the apostles preached the gospel in foreign languages and three thousand people became believers. Because of these miracles, the authority of the apostles was sky-high. God used the apostles for his mighty work in the early church and showed many wonders and miracles through the apostles. As a result, the early church got stronger and more powerful in love and grace of Jesus.
Now, when the early church devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer, what happened in the early church full of the work of the Holy Spirit?
First, there was a beautiful sharing among all the believers.
Look at verses 44-45. “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Before they received the Holy Spirit they served their possessions like house, donkey, money, and fine clothes and all kinds of materials as an idol. They felt secured because they thought their possession in the world would protect and save their lives as if they would last forever. So they could not share with others and tried hard to save more and more in their savings account. However, when they received the Holy Spirit and had hope for the second coming of Jesus and for the
Second, there was an abundance of joy and love among the believers.
Look at verse 46. “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” As all the believers repented of their selfishness by the Holy Spirit, they became full of grace and love and joy. Then they enjoyed gathering themselves together and felt happy in sharing. They met together in the center joyfully for worship service and shared their testimony to grace of Jesus and broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. With glad and sincere hearts they encouraged other coworkers and built up their faith and the community while they ate together.
Third, the Lord added to their number.
Look at verse 47. “Praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” When they praised God and enjoyed the favor of all the people through the work of the Holy Spirit, they increased in number. Actually the Lord added to their number. Here we see clearly that when they made a beautiful fellowship full of the Holy Spirit, the Lord added to their number. This is the spiritual principle that also applies to our ministry and our house church ministry to bear abundant fruit in our missions. I pray that when we make a beautiful fellowship full of the Holy Spirit, the Lord may add to each house’s number in 2010.
Someone said that the one who loves the community tears it down, but the one who loves one brother builds up the community. We are worried about our community for this and that. But we should not. All we have to do is to love brothers and sisters whom God sent to our community through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. For this, each house church may have the fellowship with the Holy Spirit daily and other coworkers with glad and sincere heart and finally share with others. We live in the era of post modernism-the era of individualism, selfishness, and materialism. In this era each one of us must be full of the Holy Spirit in order to make a beautiful community like the early church. I pray that each house church in NJ ministry may be full of the Holy Spirit so we can also make a beautiful community, which is full of love, joy and grace of Jesus, in the year 2010.
|25||2010 SBC Closing Message (Philippians 3:1-11) by M. Joseph Sohn ||Joseph||2010.08.25||23218|
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