Two words are used in the New Testament, which grows our understanding of the church; Ecclesia and Koinonia.
Ecclesia - Gathering and Assembling.
Koinonia - Fellowshipping and Sharing.
While we are unable to gather and assemble together in a place or building, we are still sharing together in fellowship. The life and soul of the Church are alive and well.
In Acts 2, there are several characteristics that Luke wanted to share with Theophilus to help grow his understanding of the Church - the fellowship of believers.
Can I encourage you to continue considering how these characteristics are still alive and well in our fellowship during a period of extended lockdown?
...enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts2:47
Enjoying the favour of all people. NIV.
We need to note that the fellowship of believers in Jesus Christ that Luke describes for Theophilus not only displayed some unique characteristics but they also carried around with them a contagious nature!
Whatever is meant by the phrase "enjoying the favour of all the people"; favour [NIV, ESV], goodwill [NET, NLT] and respect [JBP], we can't ignore the fact that Luke records this. The next phrase is a helpful clue and reminder that it is God who is at work. The hand of God saves, and the hand of God calls for a favourable disposition from all the people.
The Bible also reminds us that believers throughout history, find themselves rejected or respected, just like their Saviour. We can't guarantee the favour of all the people all of the time or even some of the time but when we are favoured just as when we are not favoured, we must remember that the hand of God is on us.
Read and ponder these verses on two related themes; the favour or not of all the people and the work of God.
Acts 4:21-31. 21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one [Psalm 2]
27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Nehemiah 2:1-8. In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favour in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.
1 Peter 4:12-19. Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[a]
19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
John 15:18-25. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[b] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason. [Psalm35:19: 69:4]
During this extended period of lockdown join me in praying, that the same contagious nature that existed in the fellowship of believers becomes a natural part of your daily life and our church.
A contagious nature marked by: believing in Jesus the Messiah that he has risen from the dead; witnessing to the truth, that the resurrected and ascended Christ now lives in us by his Holy Spirit; devoting ourselves to listening to and living by the living word of God; praying together and depending on God, loving and caring for each other; committing in Christ-like sacrificial generosity to one another whatever the cost; praising God before a watching world, and witnessing the favour and goodwill of others or witnessing the lack of respect and rejection of others!.
Watch, listen to. A mighty fortress. M Luther. Adapted by Matt Boswell.