Acts 2:42-45 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
On that day of Shavuot (Pentecost) in AD 30, 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to proclaim the Gospel to the people gathered on the Temple Mount and instantly the church was born as 3,000 people received Jesus and were baptized. The Apostles didn’t even know what church was! It had only then come into existence and they were finding out what the church was and what it looked like as God unveiled it to them. So, in one spectacular move of the Holy Spirit, the church was chiseled and molded by bringing together teachers who had a love for Jesus and a heart for God’s Word and discipleship and a congregation with differing gifts and skills who also loved Jesus, reveled in the Grace of God, and desired to walk in the works that God had planned for them to do. They were gathered together on the Temple Mount with nary a steeple to be seen.
The church is not the building and it’s not the ministries and it’s not the committees or the denominational ties or lack thereof. The church is you and me … it’s the people who God has brought together for His good purposes to glorify Himself and magnify Jesus in the land. The church is the Body of Christ and Jesus is the head.
Ephesians 1:22–23 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.
The church is not confined to this congregation or that congregation but is every Christian from the birth of the church to the Jesus’ future return. The Bible says that we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, no matter who we are or where we come from; through the Holy Spirit we are made together in Christ. That’s what we might refer to as the universal church or the worldwide church, everyone in the world who has received Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Church can also refer to the local body of believers though we still need to be careful that we are not identifying a building as the church, but the congregation, instead. Again, that’s you and me, all of us together and when we are each fulfilling our function within this congregation, it glorifies Jesus.
So, the church was not any building this first church met in, but it was the actual body of believers that joined together. All these things of verse 42 … teaching and being taught, fellowship, breaking bread and praying together; All of these things are indicative of a community with commonality through the Spirit, joining together in association, communion, fellowship, and participation. That’s koinonia, our Oneness in Christ and we celebrate it, collaborate on it and participate in it when we gather together.
This takes us to a very good question, “What did the early church community look like?” Well, from up close, it probably looked pretty sloppy, a disparate group of people, some who looked the same, some who looked different, some who dressed different and each of them with their own set of problems, hangups, frustrations, and opinions. In fact, much like Jesus’ disciples, this was a group of people that nobody in their right mind would probably have considered bringing together to achieve anything, much less expect them all to get along. That is, if it were not for God. You see, their common bond was the better bond and so it was better to sacrifice all the things of self for the better things of that bond through the Holy Spirit. And because they were joined in the Spirit of God, even though up close they may have looked the mess, if you took a step back, they were the image of Christ to the world.
So, what did the early church community look like? I have the feeling that anyone who saw them must have come to the conclusion that God had a whole lot of grace and mercy. That’s what we should look like to the world, not God’s judgment, not God’s wrath, but God’s grace … and we don’t do that by pretending we are perfected. Instead, we illustrate God’s ability to catch, save and clean because we are not perfected, but we are under construction, works in progress, glorifying God in the process. This doesn’t mean we try to look like or desire to look like the world. This means we are peculiar people, joined together in identification with Christ, in the world but not of the world, not conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds.