Christians proclaim Christ
What was the lifeworld of the early Christian congregations like? And how can it be compared to our own today? Acts 2: 42 gives us a good idea. This is where the core values of the gospel are listed in a single sentence. These will be explored in the sermons in the New Apostolic divine services in the month of August.
The contents of the first four Sunday divine services in August revolve around the “Cornerstones of the gospel,” as presented in Acts 2: 42: “And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
Steadfast in professing
A little further along in the book of Acts, we read the following about the early Christians: “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5: 42). At first it was the Apostles who preached the risen Christ everywhere—in the temples, in houses, on the streets, and in the squares. They thereby gathered a following of people who wanted to believe and follow. The same also applies to the ministers of the Church today: they preach the word of God, be it in churches, in open fields, under trees, in houses or hotel rooms, or even in hospital rooms. And beyond that, the general mandate to proclaim the gospel applies to all Christians, both male and female. Their motto is: “Christians proclaim Christ!” They not only do this in word, but also through their actions.
Steadfast in sharing
And how is it with our fellowship with one another? After all, Christians are responsible for one another and are also to help one another. From the perspective of the Bible it is clear: the gospel and fellowship belong together. The Christian church is a community whose members value the prospect of sharing with one another. But where does the commitment to brotherly solidarity begin and end? In any case, it goes beyond—and must go beyond—our personal comfort zone, otherwise it would be no more than lip service. Jesus Himself draws attention to the least: “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25: 40). Here we find the response to the question posed above: the proper expression of Christian charity is to identify with one’s brethren and share in their pain, just as the Son of God showed us. When one member of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. These are words of the Lord. And true love also prompts us to act!
Steadfast in celebrating
Other cornerstones of the gospel include the sacraments and prayer. The third Sunday illuminates the fundamental significance and salvific effect of the three sacraments: “Spirit, water, and blood bear witness of Me,” says Christ. This makes it clear that the sacraments have their source in Christ, and thus lead to salvation in God. Doubt already arose about this in the early Christian congregations. When Jesus no longer preached Himself, and it was only the Apostles preaching about Him, the gospel began to lose its appeal for some of the members of the church. People liked the idea that the person Jesus, who possessed a special kind of charisma, was nearby. The concept of salvation, however, which was inherent in Him, was not grasped by all. And what can the church of today learn from this? Christ offers eternal salvation, not merely exciting experiences. Christ must be celebrated in the sacrament.
Steadfast in praying
The sermon on the fourth Sunday of the month revolves around prayer as an essential component of church life. The first chapter of Acts relates how Peter and the other disciples of the Lord “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplications, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1: 14). This was a prayer circle comprised of the who’s who of the time. It would have been quite something to have been present for this. They prayed in an upper room, in other words, a place that was isolated from the hustle and bustle down in the streets. Divine services are, so to speak, the upper room of our time: even when believers are extremely occupied with various other matters of life, they must still find the time and the peace to isolate themselves for a moment, order their thoughts, and concentrate on the essential, namely their encounter with Jesus Christ.
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