This afternoon, I'm preaching from Acts 2:42-47 as part of our DNA teaching series. The point I want to make from this text is that the people that make up our church are a family - the life we see in Acts 2 looks like a family because that's how Jesus set up the church. In his book, When Church Was A Family, Joseph Hellerman traces the development of this family metaphor through the first three centuries of church life following the death of resurrection of Christ:
- The group comes first. In the social world of the early Christians, the survival and health of the group took priority over the needs and desires of the individual.
- It's all about family. The extended family system was the group to which people in the culture of the early church expressed primary relational allegiance.
- I am my brother's keeper. The closest same-generation family bond in the New Testament world was the bond between siblings.
- Jesus and family. Jesus viewed his followers as a surrogate family, challenged them to reconsider their loyalty to their families of origin, and modeled surrogate family values in His own life by publicly distancing himself from his own natural family.
- Paul and the family of God. The apostle Paul expected the communities of Christians he established throughout the eastern Roman Empire to function as surrogate families, and he utilized the family metaphor to encourage his converts to act like siblings in their relationships with one another.
- The ancient church as family. The ancient church retained the family model and exhibited sibling social solidarity throughout the pre-Constantine era of early church history.