Explore the Bible: Acts 2:41-42
There are many functions that are carried out by a church that is following Jesus Christ. You can find many lists of what these functions are, as classified by whomever is making the list. If you read enough church studies literature, you see that these lists tend to emphasize the same few functions, although they may use different terminology for them.
When we look at Acts 2:41-47, we see a number of these functions practiced by the very first “church” (even before they called themselves a church). Fellowship, worship (including Communion), prayer, ministry, and evangelism were all practiced by the first believers. Some of these practices continued in their Jewish tradition, since the followers of Jesus would have still considered themselves Jews at this point. Others were new practices instituted by the Lord Himself, or encouraged by the situation of these new believers.
I find it interesting that the first function, however, is devotion to the apostles’ teaching. In the first days of the church, there would be little understanding of just what had happened to convince the disciples that Jesus was the promised Messiah. The early followers of Jesus were Jews, and knew to at least some degree what the Scriptures taught. Their Bible was what we call the Old Testament, for the New Testament was years away from being written. I believe that the apostles did with the Jewish Scriptures just what Jesus had done on the road to Emmaus, opening the Scriptures and showing how they spoke of Him.
The apostles could add another element to their teaching. They had travelled with Jesus, sat at His feet, seen His great miracles, and ultimately witnessed His death, resurrection, and ascension. They could give eyewitness testimony to the life, ministry, and Passion of Jesus. Even at this early date, their stories and teaching probably started to take on the form that would later be written in the Gospels as they taught the life of Christ over and over as new converts joined the church.
We do not have the apostles around to teach us about Jesus in person anymore. Yet we still have their teaching available through the inspired writings they gave us through the Holy Spirit. This is vitally important, because without this teaching we would know little to nothing about Jesus. One hymn tells us that “the Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord,” but without the Gospel accounts left by the apostles and their associates we would not know the truth about Him, nor would we know what He had done to save us.
A healthy church will balance all of the functions laid out for us in Scripture, but without a devotion to the truth taught in God’s Word we will simply be a group that is busy doing things without understanding why we do them. All that we do must be founded on truth-ultimately the essential truth of the Triune Godhead, but a truth that is mediated to us through the inspired Word given to us by God. May everything we do as Christians and as churches be built on this God-given foundation so we may honor our Lord and see His truth in action through us.