How do you grow as a Christian? So often today we find people wanting to advance in their education or career, they want to improve their diets and their physique, but how often do we find individuals who want to improve their walk with the Lord? The Bible teaches us that if we are calling ourselves “Christians” then we are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. That word “disciple” comes to us from the Latin word for “student”. A good student studies, grows, advances, and follows the instruction of their teacher.
But here we return to the initial question: How does a Christian grow? When we look at the book of Acts, we can marvel at the grace of God in irrevocably pouring out His Holy Spirit, who has never left the church. That event must have been truly exciting, but what happened next?
The Apostles were not content to simply let the new Christians return to ordinary life. Remember the command that Christ gave unto these Apostles was didactic in nature; they were called to train up disciples (cf. Matt. 28:19-20). If we turn to Acts 2:42 we learn what the Apostolic model for discipleship looks like. Luke wrote, “And they [that is the new Christians] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42 ESV).
We can discern four aspects involved in Christian growth: 1) adherence to apostolic doctrine; 2) commitment to fellow believers; 3) regular participation in the Lord’s Supper; 4) commitment to prayer. Though each of these four elements could receive an independent study of their own the sum of the matter is this: God has called His people to unite together to grow by means of the Word, Sacraments, and Prayer. Let’s consider these elements briefly.
First, the Apostolic teaching, or the Word, is nothing other than the words of God given by His Holy Spirit to the church through the Apostles. We find that the teaching of the Apostles was the teaching of Christ. This Word of God gifted unto them by the Holy Spirit was later codified in the writings of the New Testament (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21; 3:16).
In this, we are reminded that the Christian faith has content. Christianity is not a wax nose that needs to be reshaped by the abiding culture every generation in order to remain relevant. The Word of God is perpetually relevant by means of its author, God Himself. Therefore, as believers, we are able to mature in Christianity only as much as we are committed to God’s Word as it is read publicly and privately, proclaimed faithfully from godly pulpits, and even sung by those congregations who sing Psalms. A Wordless church is a Christless church, and a Christless church is a dead church.
The second way Christians grow is by means of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is in view in Acts 2:42 for the original Greek text provided attaches a definite article to the word “bread”. It’s not simply that believers grow as they enjoy potlucks together, but rather spiritual growth happens as believers participate in the Lord’s Supper by faith and consume “the bread”.
We have seen a great devaluation of the Lord’s Supper in the last few centuries and most clearly in much of Protestantism. But it was the ancient practice of the early church, and even the desire of many of the Protestant Reformers, that the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated every Sunday. Why so often? The Supper is God’s means of strengthening His church with the body and blood of His most precious Son.
The last means of grace God has given to us is prayer. The prayer in view in Acts 2:42 is not merely private prayer, or devotional time, as it is so often called. It is chiefly public prayer. It is chiefly public worship. God uses both public and private prayer to build up His people. Perhaps you know about this from experience. When we hear believers pray, when we know we are prayed for, we cannot help but be encouraged. This is not merely sociological but spiritual; God uses prayer as a means of intimacy with us and Him. We lay our hearts bare before Him and are transformed by His Spirit.