Over the last few weeks, I’ve been examining passages in Acts that indicate a meeting of believers by the use of certain phrases that I’ve called “gathering language.” Here is a list of the posts:
As a conclusion to this series (perhaps the longest series that I’ve written), I’d like to point out a few things from these passages.
First, in many, many instances, the “gathering language” was given in the passive voice. What does this mean? It means that for Luke, the people did not primarily seem themselves and gathering themselves together. Instead, they saw themselves as being gathered together by God. When they looked around the room at the brothers and sisters sitting around them, they saw these people as being brought together by God, not by any action or choice of the people themselves.
Second, Luke indicates that whatever happened when the church got together was a combination of the work of the people and a work of God. They recognized their dependence on God, but also that God chose to work through them. They did not see themselves as having the power to enact what was happening around them. But, at the same time, they knew that their obedient submission to the will of God meant that he would use them in his activities.
Third, the activities of the church were not set. When the people gathered together, they would do different things depending on what was needed at the time. We see various activities: meals, prayer, prophesy, speaking, etc. Perhaps some of these activities happened more regularly than others. But, the focus would shift from time to time depending what was happening in the life of the church.
Fourth, the church did not focus on evangelism during their meetings. Instead, the focus was on people who had already been evangelized. The assumption was that the people who gathered together had already be indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
Fifth, even though the church did not focus on evangelism when they gathered together, their times of gathering were paralleled by a recognition that they were sent to those who were not believers. For the believers in Acts, being gathered and being sent went hand-in-hand.
Finally, while several passages indicate a closeness and intimacy between believers that could only be attributed to regularly association in small groups, these small groups were not separatists. Instead, the believers recognized their mutual relationship and interdependence with all believers in their area. In fact, when believers from other areas “came to town” they were immediately recognized as brothers and sisters with all “rights and responsibilities thereof.”
Now, I believe that Luke gave us these “descriptions” of the church for a good reason. I think we should compare the modern church with Luke’s descriptions. Where the modern church falls short, we should seek change and transformation.