It’s the Thought that counts “Ecclesia life Vs life!” 26|4|2020″
The Following thought for the day was written by Brother Richard Morgan and provides insight and encouragement for those seeking to serve the God of Israel.
I don’t like the phrase “ecclesial life” even though I find myself using it from time to time. Using it betrays the fact we can fall into the trap of compartmentalizing our lives. We have an ecclesial life and we have a home life and a work life. But it shouldn’t be like that – we should have one life under the sovereignty of aligning ourselves with the purpose of God. For the first century ecclesia just prior to the death and resurrection of Chris that’s the sort of life they had. Luke records that our early brethren spent their time “day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes” (Acts 2:46). Whether that means every single day isn’t clear and of course it’s impractical for us to spend every day in official ecclesial activities. We must work and provide for our families. But whether it’s work, recreation or any of the other things we busy ourselves with, we can bring God into everything we do.
So, let’s look at Luke’s description of ecclesial activity and see if we can capture its spirit in all aspects of our lives. Mention of the temple in verse 46 is interesting because the analogy being built up in Acts is a spiritual temple. Their attending the temple was merely a physical outworking of a spiritual reality that dominated their new lives in Christ. And Luke brings to mind the spiritual meaning of the temple and its service in what the brethren occupied themselves in. The first thing that happens in Acts 2 is Peter preaching the gospel and what the death and resurrection of Christ accomplished. We’re told “those who received his word were baptized” (v.41). Those two things together – the work of Christ and our relationship to it in baptism – are taught in the court of the temple where the altar of burnt offering and laver were located. Those who were baptized then entered the temple building which contained three items of furniture – the lampstand, table of showbread and altar of incense. Anyone who is baptized enters the temple and becomes part of God’s house. So, what is it that we do in God’s house? The answer is given in verse 42 – “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Those things correspond to the furniture in the temple with the apostles’ doctrine represented by the lampstand, fellowship and breaking of bread represented by the table of showbread, and prayers represented by the altar of incense.
Notice they “devoted themselves” to these things. The Greek word used by Luke has the idea of clinging onto something loyally. This was their life – not just something they did on Sunday morning or during midweek Bible class. They were devoted to these things and Luke uses the same word in chapter 1 and verse 14 where the apostles were “devoting themselves to prayer” and again in chapter 2 and the verse about them “attending” the temple day by day. He also uses it in chapter 6 where the apostles said, “we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (v.4).
The idea of devoting oneself to these things was something new for the Jewish community. They were used to the ritualization, and hence the compartmentalization, of their religion. There were set times in the day for prayers, and religious duty was reserved for the Sabbath and festivals. It’s easy to develop the same sort of religion. We tend to have set times in the day to do the Bible readings, we only make time to study God’s word when it’s our turn to give a Bible class or exhortation. Fellowship and breaking of bread are normally reserved for Sunday morning. And we tend to have set times for prayer – first thing in the morning, last thing at night and before meals, for example. There’s nothing wrong in itself getting into those sorts of habit. But is that really devoting ourselves to these things, so that they become more than just something we do at particular time, and then we carry on with other things during our home/work/leisure lives?
Fellowship and breaking of bread are not easy at the moment, although Zoom has enabled a form of fellowship that we are blessed to have. But in normal times, when we get together as friends in the truth, we can also treat those times as a way to strengthen one another in our faith. We can remember Christ when we get together for meals, in the things we think and chat about.
Reading the Bible doesn’t always have to be an official thing where we sit down and do the readings or crack open our concordance and do some Bible study. You can think about the word of God wherever you are. In fact, meditating on the word of God, thinking about what we read in the readings last night for example, is one of the healthiest spiritual exercises we can do.
Prayer, for me, is the most difficult thing I find to devote myself to. Perhaps I am not alone and maybe that’s why the same word used by Luke is used by Paul twice when talking about the importance of prayer. In Romans 12:12 he exhorts us to “be constant in prayer” and in Colossians 4:2 to “Continue steadfastly in prayer”. Just like Bible meditation, prayer doesn’t have to be an official ritual. When Nehemiah prayed in the presence of the king it isn’t as if he asked everyone to be quiet while he got on his knees and prayed. It was probably a quick and silent “help me God!” Are we devoted enough to utter “help me God!” prayers even when we’re not in a religious setting, or a time when we might not normally pray?
So, let’s think about how we can bring the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer into all aspects of our lives, so they stop just being religious rituals and they become a constant and normal part of the way we think, act and converse with one another day by day.
Simi Hills, CA
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View all the thoughts in this series here…