The first four characteristics of the early church (prayer, praise, fellowship and receiving Biblical teaching) were centered around assisting the individual believer and the faith community itself. However the 5th principle concerns reaching beyond the established community to those in need, physical or spiritual. This tool was noted in Acts 2:47 ‘And the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved.’ Since we know that to believe in Christ people have to be told verbally (Romans 10:14), consistent with one of Christ’s last commands on earth to ‘teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19), it is highly probable that those in the first church were telling others about their faith.
Further, the Apostle Paul urges us to teach others individuals in the faith (I Timothy 4:6,11,16; II Timothy 2:25). Even more simply we are to encourage one another to love and do good works (Hebrews 10:24) and to speak to others according to their need (Ephesians 4:29).
Beyond this we are told to do good and pray for all men, be good citizens (I Timothy 2:1-2; I Peter 2:13-15), work hard and honestly to the glory of God (II Thessalonians 3:10-12; I Timothy 2:1-2; Colossians 3:17), and within the church provide social help to those in need (I Timothy 5:1-16).
Why does Scripture tell us to reach out to serve and influence others by teaching our beliefs? We do not know for certain, but we might hypothesize several results of teaching and serving others:
- It takes our mind off ourselves and focuses on someone else’s needs. This most likely is healthy for us and gives our mind a rest from ruminating over our own troubles.
- It orients our goals under those of the almighty God and recognizes His purposes are greater than ours. Therefore, our personal troubles are set in proper perspective, providing a balance to our own mental health.
- It helps build community, both in numbers and maturity, by encouraging a civil and gracious society.
Outreach and service combine as the last of our 5 tools to maturity. When practiced in balance according to God’s Word these 5 areas will provide you the opportunity to incorporate the wise characteristics in the Bible that were known by the apostles and the first-generation Christians.
What are these characteristics that are so beneficial to wellbeing? Join me next week as we begin our discussion of the Biblical characteristics that can change your life.