Three and a half years ago, I wrote a post called “Living doctrine at the campsite.” When I wrote that post, we had just spend a weekend camping together with the church. As you can imagine, we spent alot of time together, did alot of different things together, and even talked about alot of Scripture together. At one point, we talked about Acts 2:42 together, and I realized that we had been living that passage during our camping weekend. The weekend with our brothers and sisters reminded me of the important connection between doctrine and community.
This weekend, we went camping with the church. Friday evening, several families camped near Falls Lake. A couple of families joined us around the campfire Friday night. The next day, one family had to leave, but two more families camped with us. Several people joined us during the day on Saturday to spend time together at the campsite.
Sunday morning, many people who did not camp came to the campsite to meet together. We sat around the campfire (well, the remains of the campfire), and talked and sang and prayed. We talked about several different topics, but at one point, the discussion turned to Acts 2:42:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)
According to this passage, the early church in Jerusalem devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching (or doctrine). We talked about how the church often interprets this phrase as “they spent time listening to the apostles teach”. But, as many people pointed out, this simply sentence goes far beyond listening to someone teach.
Yes, the early church continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, but they did not do this with their ears only; they continued in their lives. They lived what the apostles were teaching them.
As I was listening to my friends sitting around the campfire helping one another understand what it means to live out the doctrine of the apostles, I couldn’t help but remember the previous 48 hours that I had spend with many of my brothers and sisters in Christ. You see, I heard what they were saying Sunday morning, but Friday night and all day Saturday, I SAW them continuing steadfastly in the teachings of the apostles.
It’s one thing to hear someone encourage others to confess their sins, but it’s another thing altogether to have a brother confess his sins to you. It’s one thing to hear an exhortation to love one another, but it’s another thing altogether to see brothers and sisters who want to spend time with one another, who share their food with one another, who help one another around the campsite, who SHOW their love for one another.
As I sat around that campfire Sunday morning, I couldn’t help but praise God for the blessing of community – not community in name only, but true community – a family who loves one and cares for one another. We’re not perfect, and we’re continually seeking to grow closer to God and to one another, but we are a community.
It’s easy to see now why Luke connected “the apostles’ teaching” and “fellowship”. I don’t think you can have one without the other.