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Updated: Apr 14

series: Life In The Church

lesson: DESIGN

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We are beginning a new series considering Life In The Church this week. Why do we practice what we do in Church? Some of us may have grown up in church and continued the practice of our parents and grandparents. For others, perhaps we have not given much thought to why we do what we do; it's just expected. For some, this may be the first time we have discussed these things. No matter where you are, there is something for all of us to learn and discover as we seek to grow in the Lord together. 

When Jesus ascended to heaven, He instructed His disciples to wait in Jerusalem.   They were to wait for the promise of the Father, the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). It was time for them to expand and multiply the kingdom of heaven on earth. They were to be witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). What was God's plan for growth and life in the church? What happened next?

Our series is going to follow a design that Luke highlights in Acts. In (Acts 2:38-47), Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, intentionally provides a design for life in the church. We will discuss the design and each design element: Baptism, God's Word, fellowship, the Lord's Supper, Prayer, and Worship. You may be thinking, "We have heard this before." On some levels, yes, perhaps we have. However, please be patient with me as we pull in design elements. Together, I believe we will discover more about each element as we move through the design and discover Life In The Church


The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and went out in Jesrulem as they proclaimed the message of Jesus. Luke records Peter's words and the crowd's response, "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). 

Acts 2:38–47 (NIV)

"Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call." With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”


When I was in school, I took architectural design drafting. Early in my career, I worked as a mechanical design drafter. I have always enjoyed design and drafting. You start with an idea or concept in your mind, and you begin to build out your thoughts. Your ideas start to take shape on paper or, today, on computers. As each concept or element is pulled in, the design comes together. With each drawing, notes highlight items the builders need to focus on. Their attention may be drawn to material specifications, connections, and details that could be overlooked if the designer did not highlight them. The design is handed over to production, and the concept or idea that started in your mind is soon constructed. 

Luke and the biblical authors do the same thing. They intentionally build

design patterns into their words to highlight specific elements. This design is called "inclusio." Inclusio is like boundaries, brackets, or bookends. Between the brackets are elements the author wants to draw our attention to, places they want us to focus. They are trying to alert us to important themes or concepts. Let's notice how this works in our text. 

The brackets are Acts 2:41 and 47, with the repeated phrase, "added to their number daily." Between the brackets are the elements: teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. Luke has highlighted these elements and repeated them for magnification. As we discover such literary patterns in the text, the authors try to get us to slow down, reflect, and draw our attention to a larger story within the   Scripture. Our series is designed to focus on these elements as we connect them to a larger story within the Scriptures. In doing so, we will discover a pattern for life in the church the Lord intends for us to see. 


Let's start with the brackets in the design and notice those added or multiplied to their number (the bookends). As we will discover, this phrase is significant and marks several major movements within the Scripture. Luke is marking a major movement in God's story by including this phrase. 

Let's move back to the beginning, where many major biblical themes originate. When God created humans in His image, He blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number" (Gen. 1:28). God created this beautiful garden full of abundance and resources and called it "very good" (Gen 1:27-31). However, as we continue in the story, it's not long until we get to the flood of Noah and God washing the earth through the flood waters. Noah and his family step out of the Ark with a new beginning. "Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth" (Gen. 9:1). Continuing, we discover an older couple, Abram and Sarai, who were unable to increase and multiply. Through the hand of God, their offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the sky (Gen. 15:5).  

Moving back to (Acts 2) with the background story in mind, Luke focuses us on a movement of God. God faithfully fulfills His promise to Abraham that all the earth's nations would be blessed through him (Gen. 12:3). In Acts, people are turning from their sin and having their sin washed away through the waters of baptism (Acts 2:38). Luke highlights that more and more people are following the way of Jesus. The Lord multiplied. He "added to their number daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). 

Increasing and multiplying is a biblical theme that begins on page one of the Scriptures. It signifies movements in God's story. Acts is not separate from God's story, and the New Testament is not separate from God's story. Luke draws our attention to how God's story continues through life in the church as he marks a major movement in Acts.


Crossing The Context 

In the coming weeks, we will continue to build out the design as we draw in the elements. In our next lesson, we will consider baptism and trace its movement throughout the story of God. 

Read through (Acts 1-2) several times in the upcoming weeks. Meditate on God's word and reflect on the elements of baptism, God's word, fellowship, the Lord's Supper, and prayer through the story of Scripture. 

For today, be dedicated to His design. God intends for us to have life in Him, which is not separate from Life In The Church. Through the Holy Spirit, Luke shares God's design for life in the church, a design pattern we are to slow down and focus on as Luke draws our attention to God's design. 


Scripture references and quotations are from the: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


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