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Life In The Church: Teaching & Signs

Updated: Apr 22





series: Life In The Church

lesson: TEACHING & SIGNS


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We are in the middle of a series, Life In The Church. In this series, we are exploring a text found in (Acts 2:38-47) where I believe Luke provides a pattern for life in the church. Luke teaches us several elements of the early church's life. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). In our first lesson, we noticed an intentional design pattern Luke implemented to draw in our focus. He brackets this section with the phrase "added to their number," found in verses 41 and 47, an important phrase throughout the Scripture that is repeated at key movements. Luke is highlighting a pivotal moment in God's story. Last week, we considered the significance of baptism as we traced crossing the water from the beginning, page one. Life in the church, in the community of God's people, begins as we cross the water. 


In this lesson, we will focus on the first design element Luke mentions: they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching (2:42). What is the importance of this element?



Parallelism 


In our first lesson, we noticed Luke's use of parallel structure in his design.  


In verse 42, Luke highlights the main elements: teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. Then, he repeats these main elements to draw our focus in and help us slow down so we will meditate and reflect on the Scriptures. As we reflect on teaching, it is connected to the signs performed by the apostles. How and why? Let's dive in together. 


Teaching


Teaching has always been an essential element in the lives of God's people. Ancient Israelites recited a daily prayer called the Shema. It is still recited today and is one of the more famous prayers in Scripture. We first find this prayer in the book of Deuteronomy (6:4-5). 


Deuteronomy 6:4–7 (NASB95)

"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. "You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."


Our Christian faith is not based on a collection of ancient documents. It is based on a person, Jesus. Christian faith is in the story of God and Him working in His creation through His Son Jesus. Our faith is not a relationship with texts; our faith is a relationship with a person, Jesus. We come to know the story of God. We come to know Jesus when His story is shared. From generation to generation, our faith has been shared through telling and teaching of His story. Passing forward His story has always been essential to the people of God. How did you learn about Jesus? I imagine somewhere along the way, someone taught you the story.


Teaching has been so ingrained in the people of God that it has influenced us perhaps more than we realize. Education is an essential element in our faith and has been core to the people of God. 


Sunday School


During the Industrial Revolution, most underprivileged children spent their weeks working long hours in factories. The first Sunday Schools were established in England in 1780. Sunday was the only day of the week these children did not work 12-plus hours a day in a factory. Two men saw the need to reach out to these children. Sunday classes taught reading, writing, and biblical principles, and they formed the foundation for public education.  


Higher Education:


Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Oxford are all universities that have their beginnings in Christianity. Most of England's and America's oldest universities were established as religious institutions and began as places to train ministers.


Education, teaching, and sharing God's story of redemption through His Son Jesus have always been part of the fabric of our Christian faith.  


They Devoted Themselves


Let's move back to Acts. 


Acts 2:42 (NASB95)

"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." 


Life in the church is more than a casual acquaintance. The early church was devoted to life together. Devoted is a strong word; it's a firm commitment. The Greek word is related to being or existing; it's related to I am. For the early church, this became who they were, their identity. Our life in Christ must become something more than just something we do. We all have enough we do. Our lives are crowded, rushed, and full of activities, so we don't need to do one more thing. Faith, life in Christ, is not something we do; it's who we are. 


When we treat our church family and time together as a community just as we would an activity on our calendar, we are not participating in life together. I am part of the community of Christ. I am Christ's church, His body. I am devoted to following His ways for my life. Life together as His church is more than a casual acquaintance; it is who we are. 


Teaching and Signs


We need to know the story. Through the story of Jesus, lives and communities are transformed. We get to know the story as we commit ourselves to learning and applying His story to our lives. 


Another word for faith is trust. As we look at the relationship between signs and teaching, we notice that the signs are given so that we learn to trust His words. Signs point us to God. For example, let's go back to the story of Exodus. Through His word, God promised to rescue His people from captivity. Signs were performed; we often refer to them as the Ten Plagues to demonstrate God's authority. One of the greatest signs, the parting of the Red Sea, came as it looked like His deliverance would end in destruction. As Pharaoh's armies closed in, the children of Israel were trapped against the sea. The sign pointed to God and His faithfulness in fulfilling His word. As the sea parted and God's people walked across on dry ground, their trust in His word grew. They saw His faithful commitment to His word. 


In the New Testament, signs serve in much the same way. They point us to God and help us trust His word. Signs confirm the faithfulness of His words and demonstrate His authority over His creation. The apostles, commissioned directly by Jesus, taught God's word. The signs validated their words as being from the Lord. They pointed to God so that we could learn to trust His words. 


What About Signs For Our Day?


What about signs for our day today? I would never want to limit God or say that God cannot do something. However, it's important to understand the purpose of signs. They were a demonstration pointing to God and confirming His word. They were given so we could learn to trust Him and His words. The apostle Paul talks about gifts of the Holy Spirit in (1 Cor. 12). As he continues in (13), he talks about how these gifts were to cease. 


The author of Hebrews (Heb. 1:1-2) mentions that God in the past spoke in many different ways. Today, as Hebrews continues, He has spoken to us through His Son. God's ultimate revelation is Jesus, and as Christians, we are called to trust Jesus, not signs. When we trust Jesus, we become a sign. (1) Through the gospel, lives are transformed. Our friends, our family members, those we work with, and those in our communities see a changed life. We become a life that points to God and His faithfulness—a sign of His rescue and redemption. 


Crossing The Context


I know that we don't all enjoy hitting the books. For many years, I would rather hold a football, basketball, or fishing pole in my hands than a book. I get it! We don't all learn the same way. There is no substitute for God's word. However, we do see in the Scriptures different methods for learning the story of God as we study His word. We are to meditate on His word (Ps. 1:1-3) and memorize His word (Deut. 6:6-7). We are called to read the Scriptures together, publicly as a community (1 Tim. 4:13). We are to retell the story around the table as we partake of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7). Each of these are different methods to help us learn, participate in, and remember God's story of redemption through His Son Jesus.    


The early Christian community was devoted to the apostles' teaching. Life in the church is learning and devotion to Jesus. Through His words, we develop a relationship of trust in Him. Life in the church is devotion to His word. 




NOTES:

Scripture references and quotations are from the: New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.


  1. based on Hayes, Cherre. "The Relationship Between Teaching and Signs in the Bible." Bibleproject.Com, 31 Aug. 2021, bibleproject.com/articles/teaching-and-signs-in-the-bible/. Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.


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