by Seattle ALC
FELLOWSHIP IN THE EARLY CHURCH
Acts 1 and 2
” The Scripture gives a very favorable report of the fellowship in the early church. Jesus had numerous meetings with His followers in the forty-day period between resurrection and ascension. Luke explains in the book of Acts that these various meetings provided infallible proof of the resurrection and gave additional opportunity for the Lord to speak with His disciples of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. Then in preparation for His ascension, Jesus told the disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. They had been baptized with water by John the Baptist, but Jesus promised that they would also be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
The disciples were obedient to the Lord’s command. They continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren. And when the day of promise came, we are told they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The power of the Holy Ghost gave the disciples freedom and courage to speak the Word to the multitude of people assembled that day. Many hearts were pricked by the spoken Word and they began to inquire, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Apostle Peter, the primary spokesman, said to them: Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, save yourselves from this untoward (crooked) generation. St. Luke summed up the effect of the Spirit’s power by saying: Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
The Word of God teaches that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). God’s Word also teaches that when we believe, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory (Eph. 1:13-14). Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together (Rom. 8:9,11,16,17). ”
By Pastor Emeritus Alvin C. Holmgren
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42).
The early church understood the importance of the communion of saints. It was Jesus himself who gathered this first assembly of His friends, and He was the very center of their fellowship. After the ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the disciples continued to nurture this fellowship. They needed this communion with each other.
You, too, need this if you are a Christian. No one is so strong that he does not need the fellowship of believers. The communion of saints is God’s family on earth. There we are permitted to share common experiences and common tasks. There we are one. Why are you so careless in seeking this communion? Do you not note that you are missing great blessings through this? None is so insignificant that he does not have a place in this communion. When your place is empty, something is lacking. The high point in this communion is the Lord’s supper. Seek it with diligence. If you are living honestly with your God, Jesus awaits you there to give you His power.”
- H.E. Wisloff “Quiet Moments on the Way Home”
- From the May 2006 Seattle ALC bulletin
I am sure all of us will have a renewed appreciation for our fellowship, when we return to gathering in our Churches, homes and places where we have been accustomed to meeting with family and friends. I appreciated this article reflecting back to the fellowship of the early disciples. Isn’t the Holy Spirit a marvelous gift God has provided for us! Luther wrote of the Spirit in our Catechism: “He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith: in which Christian Church He daily and richly forgives me and all believers all our sins;”
It is a blessing to have the methods we use in today’s world, to be able to communicate both visually and audibly. Our homes and meeting places, are special and comfortable places. They are familiar and memorable places that we will hold even more special after this Covid 19 pandemic is finally over. But, may we pray for a renewed measure, of the Holy Spirit. The first disciples went from behind locked doors, to sharing the Gospel throughout the world, from uncertainty of what the future would bring, to rejoicing and praising God as they were sent to prison and even martyred.
It was this communion of Saints that Pastor H.E. Wisloff wrote about. We share a communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ, as sinners and saints, making it real. We need not be ashamed to confess ourselves as sinners. That is why Jesus came, suffered and died. He also came to bring the power of the Resurrection, so that we can fellowship as saints, so that we can live as the Apostle Paul relates: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Because He lives, so do we. We share not only in the fellowship of gathering together, but in partaking of the Lord’s Supper precisely because we are sinners, enlightened by the Holy Spirit to know this. We share a fellowship not bound by the walls of a structure. We can be “alone”, but not lonely because we are never truly alone. Jesus Has given the promise that He will never leave or forsake us.
We are united in Christ with the saints through all the ages. I appreciate the history of our Seattle Church. May we continue to share the Gospel where God has placed us. I will leave you with these beautiful words, Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians and to us: “
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2: 1-22)