Devoted to the Apostles Teaching So That…
Loyalty is practically a genetic defect in my family. Once we commit to something whether it is a civic organization we’ve joined or a job we’ve taken, we are ‘loyal to a fault’ as we say in the South. I still keep in touch with some people that I went to kindergarten with! My husband Larry often tells me, “You need to let go of some of these people!”
Acts 2:42-47 is one of my favorite Bible verses: “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.”
What does it mean to be devoted to the Apostle’s teaching and why is that important for our spiritual lives?
I grew up in a family committed to our local congregation and all of its ministry endeavors. We were loyal or devoted to our church family, to hearing the word of God preached each Sunday, and to delving a little deeper into the Scriptures in Sunday School. I would definitely say that we were “devoted to the Apostles’ teaching.”
At some point during my high school years, however, I looked around and saw that there were many who were devoted to attending church each Sunday, but only a certain faithful few who would participate in the outreach opportunities in our community, go on a mission trip, invite a newcomer into their homes for a meal, or share the Gospel with those outside of our church family. James 1:22 states: “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says!” Is it enough to take in the Word of God weekly in our corporate worship and daily in our personal devotions for our own edification, or does devotion require a more active engagement with what we are being taught?
I liken this dichotomy to the difference between a pond and a stream. A pond only takes in water from the rain and no water flows out from it to other sources. It is a closed eco-system. A stream, however, has many different smaller tributaries that flow into it (we call those criks or creeks!) in addition to rainwater and it flows into larger bodies of water and eventually to the ocean. Streams are an open eco-system. As disciples, we are meant to be spiritually open eco-systems. John 7:38 is clear: “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” The teaching we receive should also flow out of us in proactive, missional ways!
A phrase that we often overlook in scripture is “so that.” Romans 15:13 teaches, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The teaching we receive from scripture must be worked out in our hearts and minds, applied to our daily lives, and implemented in our interactions with those we know and even complete strangers we encounter everyday. We cannot just “be hopeful people;” we must abound with hope, allowing our joy and peace to overflow from us to others. What we take in from the Word must also be shared with those who don’t have access to the Apostles’ teaching. Devotion involves being “loyal to a fault,” taking the scripture as a whole, not picking and choosing the parts that we like and ignoring the parts that are challenging and hard to obey.
So much of the Apostles’ teaching that we read in the Bible is focused on God’s heart for the whole world. His desire to have a people wholly devoted to worshiping and glorifying Him requires action on our part. Biblical teaching is not primarily aimed at correcting our behavior, keeping us from doing things we should not do, but rather is aimed at equipping and empowering us to do the things that we should be doing like praying for healing for the sick, binding up the brokenhearted, welcoming the stranger (refugee or international student) and telling others about the hope that we have in our risen Savior Jesus Christ. We must be the ones to share our faith with those who haven’t yet accepted Christ and beyond that to those who literally have never heard the name of Jesus.
So, my challenge to you is this: when you read scripture or hear a sermon, ask yourself what is the “so what?” of this message. There is always a “so that” in the Apostles’ teaching that should spur us to be the conduits of living water that God calls us to be!
Jenny Noyes is the Executive Director of New Wineskins Missionary Network. She is a passionate speaker, writer, and evangelist. When she's not working, Jenny can be found playing tennis with her husband Larry, spending time with her children, and enjoying the great outdoors. You can contact Jenny here.