"...'Save yourselves from this untoward generation.' Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:40, KJV)
Peter exhorted the very first believers to save themselves from this "untoward generation" (Acts 2:40, KJV). What is an untoward generation? A "untoward generation" is a warped or perverse generation. When you take God out you will become warped.
Therefore, the very first born-again believers of the Church got on a spiritual growth path as they continued steadfastly in...
- The Apostles' Doctrine (teachings)
- The Breaking of Bread
When we ourselves get on this spiritual growth path and these (4) things are incorporated into our daily lives, maturity is the by-product.
THE APOSTLES' DOCTRINE
We all have to be taught. We cannot mature if we are not taught and learn the things of the Kingdom of God. We don't mature naturally without being taught and we don't mature spiritually without being taught.
The early Church did not just assemble once a week and not get to know anyone. We all need encouragement in our walk of faith. We all have challenges that have the potential of setting us back. We need God and God made us to also need one another.
This spiritual growth path is both progressive and cyclical. Meaning it is never ending. As disciples of Christ we are always growing and maturing in the Apostles' Doctrine, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers.
I have not know anyone who has matured in Christ without knowing and continuing steadfastly in the Apostles' Doctrine. Likewise, I have not known anyone who is maturing in Christ who is not continuing steadfastly in healthy fellowship.
In this teaching I want to encourage us in our relationships.
God wants us to have healthy relationships.
You will find that those who are functional and happy have healthy relationships. Those who are the most fulfilled in life have healthy relationships. They have healthy relationships with either their spouses, their kids, friends and/or family.
Many times the quality of our lives is directly connected to healthy relationships in our lives. God created us relational creatures. None of us is an island to ourselves. A part of our lives and maturity naturally is healthy relationships. Likewise, a part of our lives and maturity spiritually is healthy relationships.
God did not create us to be independent of Him (warped as an untoward generation). God also did not create us to live disconnected from Him and other healthy relationships.
BREAKING OF BREAD
The breaking of bread is powerful and in context it is mentioned twice (Acts 2:42, 46).
Now as I was growing up, I was always confused. Was the breaking of bread in this context, communion (the bread and cup) or a meal? Perhaps you have had that same question. The answer is: it is both.
Communion (Passover) was a meal.
The original first Passover in Exodus 12 was a meal. The Last Supper prior to the Jesus going to the cross was a meal (Lk. 22:1-20) And in our study we will discover that throughout Old Testament history that Passover that eventually evolved into communion in the early Church was indeed a meal (1 Cor. 11: 20-34). Ultimately Jesus is our Passover Meal.
What is more, as you study Scripture you will discover that in the Hebrew custom, a meal was like a mini-covenant. To them it was sacred and special. We've lost that in America. We've lost the family table. We've lost the significance of having a meal together as a family. Thus an "untoward generation (Acts 2:40).
A meal in the Hebrew culture represented labor, love and life. They labored in love for their food. Not only did their life depend on the meal they farmed and prepared from scratch. They valued the family table as they shared their lives together.
Most of us may not farm our own food today. Nonetheless, we do labor in love to furnish the paycheck we have earned. We take that paycheck, trading our resources with those who have farmed and prepared our food.
Ultimately, Jesus demonstrated His labor of love for us through His finished work on the cross. Jesus came to serve us and give His life for the ransom of many (Mt. 20:28) . Jesus Body was broken for us and the cup of His Blood was shed for us to partake in remembrance of Him (1 Cor. 11:24-25)
A meal takes our fellowship as the family of God to a different level. As the family of God we mean something to one another. Breaking bread together is a different level of doing church that most Christians have never experienced.
Most of us have visited or attended a church with a Traditional Church Service style. Generally a Traditional Church Service is where many people gather and follow a prescribed order of service that is centered around teaching the Gospel. People generally sit in rows facing the podium or pulpit to be able to see the person conducting/overseeing the service. Being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, a worship team will lead the congregation in a time of corporate praise and worship. Then a Message is given by the pastor.
This style of worship service is important. We need to be taught and discipled on a continuous basis.
However, the early Church continued "...daily with one accord in the temple AND breaking bread from house to house, they ate food with gladness and simplicity of heart." (Acts 2:46)
Woodland Park, Colorado is the home to the main Charis Bible College campus. There most students attend classes full-time 5 days week. Each day is filled with corporate worship, good teaching (Apostles' Doctrine), and like-minded fellowship. In addition, most of these students also have a home church they are committed to. Therefore, in essence, these students attend church (the temple) almost daily.
Roger Williams, one of the staff members at the college, has his own church called In His Family Ministries. My wife were blessed to have visited his church when we were in the area in the fall of of 2017. Instead of a traditional style of service, his church has more of a Home Church Gathering style.
A Home Church Gathering is where a small group of believers (usually between 2 – 20) meet as a family and share a meal together as they encourage one another and share what the the Lord is doing in their lives. In a Home Church Gathering they share and study the Word together and pray together very similar to a Bible Study. People generally sit in a circle so as to be able to see and interact with the each other as we share the moment together.
Home Church Gatherings are generally more intimate than a Traditional Church Service. As they get to know and build relationships with one another, they get to live their lives together as a family. Their heart and purpose is to build up, encourage and edify one another as the Body of Christ: being knit together and edifying itself in love (Eph. 4:16).
The night we went, my wife and I left very refreshed and edified by the saints (Philemon 1:7) The church washed our feet and ministered to us in a very personal way. It was a powerful, intimate and a very much needed time of ministry.
I believe everyone needs to experience both styles of fellowship and breaking of bread on a regular basis. The early Church continued "...daily with one accord in the temple AND breaking bread from house to house, they ate food with gladness and simplicity of heart." (Acts 2:46)
In our church, although we are currently meeting in a home. Our Sunday morning service is much like a Traditional Church Service. Therefore, in addition we intentionally encourage our people to attend our weekly Bible Studies that function much like Home Church Gathering. We believe everyone needs both, just like the early Church, in order to grow and mature in perfect balance.
As a Church we are partaking at the Lord's Table, eating together, sharing in one another's lives (fellowship). In all of our gatherings we want to facilitate a pure relational intimacy as the family of God. We want you to experience a new level of church that most people have never experienced.
"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." (Acts 2:44-45)
God has ordained His Church to genuinely care for one another.
"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect [mature] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ...but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." (Eph. 4:11=16, brackets mine)
This is not socialism!
Socialism takes your stuff! Socialism dictates that they choose what is moral or immoral! Socialism punishes you if you don't give up your stuff.
However, the early Church genuinely cared for each other. This was love. This was compassion. It was relational. Their love and care for one another was pure: "If you have a need, I have some supply. I want to give out of my heart. I want to help you out of my own free will."
That is where God wants to take us.
I realize this is a foreign concept today. Why? We do not understand covenant. We don't understand: "Someone really cares about me." We do not understand mourning with those who mourn and weeping with those who weep (Rom. 12:15).
Until we understand this. We will not grow and mature.
"And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, 'Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?'" (Lk. 5:30)
"And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, 'This Man receives sinners and eats with them.'” (Lk. 15:2)
In both of these passages the religious leaders complained that Jesus ate and drank with sinners. It really upset them. Why? What was so wrong? What was so bad about eating a meal with sinners? Why did it upset them so bad? Their attitude even amazed Jesus.
But Jesus did not come to the healthy. "Jesus answered and said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.'" (Lk. 5:31)
In context, according to their custom, like the prodigal's older brother (Lk. 15:25-32) the religious leaders were upset with Jesus for extending a mini-covenant with their younger brother.
In essence, Jesus was telling these prodigal sinners: "I really do care about you. I don't condone the life you are living. But I love you. I care about you. I want to see you blessed. I want to help you."
Nonetheless, that meal-covenant mindset upset the religious community in the same fashion it upset the prodigal's older brother. But for these publicans and sinners to sit down with Jesus must have been very special.
In our teaching series Seeing Jesus in the Revelation we discussed how Jesus has a Message of Grace for every church, even the church in its worse condition. To the church of Laodicea Jesus said:
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." (Rev. 3:20-21)
Beloved friends, we should eat together more. I can't mandate it. I can't make you. We need to develop deeper relationships in the church and really care for one another.
If we are going to mature, we must understand covenant.
A covenant is an unbreakable agreement with unending loyalties: faithfulness. In a covenant relationship, all assets, liabilities and responsibilities are held mutual. A covenant is two becoming one in a sacred oath.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments you will also discover that when a covenant is made, blood is shed. The covenant relationship is sacred and it is intimate.
God relates to us on the basis of covenant not emotions.
When we understand God's covenant relationship with us. We can then relate to one another on the basis of covenant, not our feelings or our circumstances.
God has bound Himself to us by covenant in Jesus through the shedding of Blood. He has united His Spirit with our spirit. In Christ we are one spirit by covenant. We are flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone (Eph. 5:30).
We are in a covenant relationship with God.
You cannot get out of a covenant easily. We have lost that in our culture. Even the church is struggling with their covenant relationship with God and their covenant relationship with one another in Christ.
When we by faith understand our covenant relationship with God, maturity is the by-product.
Throughout the Scriptures we see the significance of a meal shared together as a mini-covenant.
When the Old Covenant was given through the Law, at Mount Sinai God had a meal with Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders:
"Now He said to Moses, 'Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar'...But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank." (Ex. 24:1, 11)
When the angels came to visit Abraham before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham "took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate." (Gen. 18:8)
Per their custom, as Isaac was prepared to give a blessing on his eldest son, he told Esau: "And make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.” (Gen. 27:4)
Before Jesus went to the cross, He celebrated a very intimate time with His disciples during the Passover Meal, also known as the Lord's Supper (Lk. 22:1-20) His entire relationship with His Own disciples was based on intimate friendships.
After His resurrection Jesus reconnects with Peter and the disciples at in a similar fashion Jesus connected with them at the beginning of their journey together (Lk. 5:1-11). Upon betraying His Beloved Master, Peter in a similar fashion, found himself once again fishing all night and catching nothing.
"But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, 'Children, have you any food?' They answered Him, 'No.'" (Jn. 21:4-5)
After another miraculous fish story. "...as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread...Jesus said to them, 'Come and eat breakfast'..." (Jn. 21:9-12)
Again after the Resurrection, on the Road to Emmaus, two disciples walked with Jesus (unawares to them it was Jesus). It is written:
"Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, 'Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?'” (Lk. 24:30-32)
In Psalms David writes: "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over." (Ps. 23:5)
In His revelation of Jesus, God tells John: "...'Write: "Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!"' And He said to me, 'These are the true sayings of God.'" (Rev. 19:9)
Throughout Scripture a meal is very significant.
We will not mature until we understand the basis of covenant.
Until we understand God has made a new covenant with us. A covenant that He cannot and will not break, we will not mature.
“I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: ‘Your seed I will establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations.’ Selah." (Ps. 89:3-4)
"My mercy I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall stand firm with him." (Ps. 89:28)
"My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David:" (Ps. 89:34-35)
"I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word above all Your name." (Ps. 138:2)
Beloved friends, God will not break the covenant He has swore by His holiness to us. God binds Himself to His Word. He cannot break His Word.
We enter into a deeper relationship with God and others when we realize: When God speaks it is a covenant
Then when we mix faith with the Word of God (His covenant). We can rest assured whatever He Promised, He will perform. God will keep His Word. When God speaks He binds Himself to it.
We do not know anyone like this. Therefore, it is hard sometimes for us to believe God at His Word.
God cannot break His Word.
Duane Sheriff is the pastor of Victory Life Church in Durant, OK. When Pastor Duane was a young Methodist pastor. he upset his entire congregation one Sunday morning when he said: "I don't care what you think or what you've heard. There are some things God cannot do." Some people really believe God can do anything.
Well after the service the entire congregation wanted to teach Pastor Duane in a most excellent way, exclaiming: "God is sovereign and powerful! How dare you stand up there and say, 'God can't do some things!'"
Beloved friends, it should not shock us: there are some things God can;t do.
Well Pastor Duane felt bad. The next week, he got up and apologized saying: "I misspoke. There are some things God won't do." The people could process that a little better.
But then God rebuked him saying: "There are things I can't do."
So the following week, Pastor Duane publicly repented for repenting and proclaimed; "God can't do some things! God can't change! 'He is the same yesterday, today and forever.' (Heb. 13:8) God can't lie! God can't sin! God can't be tempted, nor does He tempt any man!"
Beloved friends, once we understand: this sovereign God binds Himself to His Word by covenant we will not mature.
God, Who is ultimately over everything has delegated some things to us. Therefore, when God says, "This is what you are supposed to do." He binds Himself to His Word and He can't do it. You can't do what only God can do and God can't do what He told you to do.
In His sovereignty God binds Himself to His Word and He can't break it.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." (Jn. 1:1-3)
God created everything by His Word.
"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high," (Heb. 1:1-3)
God created everything by His Word and He upholds everything by His Word.
God can't lie! God cannot break His Word! Otherwise everything would collapse!
Everything came from the Word of God. Even the chair you are sitting on came from the Word of God.
You may say, "No, my chair came from Ethan Allen."
Well where did Ethan Allen get the materials to make the chair?
"A tree," you might say.
Where did the tree come from? If you go back far enough, the first tree was created by the Word of God. God created everything and it is His Word that upholds everything together.
Some scientist will argue saying, "Some trees are thousands of years old. Count the rings." Friends, God created the original trees in maturity.
So then, which came first, the chicken or the egg? God created the chicken to bear seed according to its kind (Gen. 1:11).
Today man is foolishly advocating against 'Global Warming.' Friends, we did not create our planet. We are not upholding it. The earth will not be destroyed until the second coming of Jesus!
God created our planet by His Word. God created the sun by His Word. God created the climate by His Word. Man is so arrogant because He does not know God or the Word of God.
God wants to break bread with us. Our relationship with God is based on covenant. Not our conduct. Not our emotions and not our circumstances.
God made a covenant with us.
"In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'” (1 Cor. 11:25)
Communion is a constant reminder of our New Covenant relationship we have with God through Christ. God made a covenant with us. He shed His Blood and He said He would never leave us or forsake us. We need the constant reminder: God cannot break His Covenant. You can't mature until you see this!
Growth and maturity develops when we understand covenant with God and one another.
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: 'Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.'" (Heb. 8:6-9)
The Apostles' Doctrine says: "The Old Testament had fault to it. The Old Testament was not God's best. We now have a better covenant established on better Promises."
In the Old Testament God led His people from the outside. In the New Testament God leads us from within.
"'For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.' In that He says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Heb. 8:10-13)
Mercy is His New Covenant with us.
Again, the Apostles' Doctrine teach us will write His laws on our hearts and minds His New Covenant which says: "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." (Heb. 8:12)
You will not grow and mature until you see God has made a covenant with you.
Beloved friends. God has bounded Himself to you and me. He has sworn by His holiness: "I will be merciful to you in unrighteousness."
I never grew when I thought God was mad at me. I never matured when I thought God was holding my sins against me. From my perception, everyone seemed to be teaching me He was mad at me and holding my sins against me.
However, when I learned and became established in the Apostles' Doctrine: God loves me. God is merciful to my unrighteousness. I began to grow and mature in Him.
When I was taught, God was mad at me, like Adam I would always run and hide. Like Adam I was afraid to draw near to God. But once I knew the Truth. His Truth set me free (Jn. 8:30-32).
When I learned: God never withdrew Himself from Adam. God would never withdraw Himself from me. God would never defellowship with me. God would never unfriend me. Like others who had done in the name of Christ.
Beloved friends, only the immature, who have not been established in the His New Covenant of mercy for themselves will treat one another this way. Only the immature, not knowing the mercy of God for themselves will like the prodigals older brother turn their backs on their own brother. Only the immature with defellowship and unfriend one another in Christ.
By the mercies of God we must renew our minds (Rom. 12:1-2) to the Truth: "He is merciful to my unrighteousness." When we renew our minds by the mercies of God we can truly break bread together as God has ordained His Own Body to do: Being kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, giving preference to one another, mourning with those who mourn (Rom 12:3-20).
Be not deceived. God does not condone any sin in my life. He is never unconcerned about any sin I may have in my life. At the same time He is not holding it against me. He is not pouring out His wrath on me. He will never defellowship with me and unfriend me. Like other people do when I fail and mess up.
When I understood this. It was the beginning of growth for me. And I need the constant reminder of breaking bread together with the Body of Christ. Confessing our faults that we might be healed (James 5:16).
Now instead of making a mistake and feeling bad about it and withdrawing from God, causing me to become warped, once I saw His covenant of mercy to me in my unrighteousness I began to grow.
Now that I have received His covenant of mercy. I can make a covenant with you based on mercy.
Therefore, based on the mercies of God, I am confident we can work anything out by covenant. There is a place in spiritual maturity by the mercies of God to administer church discipline for those who will not resolve conflicts (Mt. 18:15-35; 1 Cor. 5;1-13; 2 Cor. 2:1-11).
We never condone what God condemns and we never condemn what God's Word.
I know in my life I have messed up. I know the Lord is merciful to me. So if I have offended you: Let's work it out. Let's fix it.
"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." (James 3:17-18)