J.W. McGarvey was a great gospel preacher in the American Restoration Movement, which we continue today. (Those of us in the Restoration Movement are interested in restoring primitive, New Testament Christianity. Thus, we seek to restore the primitive, apostolic church, about which we read in the New Testament.) In 1893, McGarvey preached a sermon entitled, “The Jerusalem Church” (McGarvey’s Sermons, 247-267). It is a sermon about the unity of the first church of Christ, in Jerusalem. We read about the establishment of this congregation in Acts 2. Consider what Brother McGarvey says about the Jerusalem church members in this moving passage:
“They were the pick and flower of that whole generation of Jews, the ripest fruits of the good tree planted by Moses and nourished by the prophets of Israel. Having such material to begin with, we should expect to see the inspired apostles mould them into a model church; and we are not surprised at the statement with which their history as a church begins, that they ‘continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and prayers;’ (Acts 2:42) and here, in these four items, we find them a model for all subsequent imitation. To continue steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching, is still the highest attainment of a church of God, as respects its advance in knowledge of the things which pertain to life and godliness; and to continue steadfastly in the fellowship of the apostles, is to have continuous fellowship with God and Christ and all the saints in light. To be steadfast in the breaking of bread and in the prayers … is almost a certain assurance of a life in other respects well pleasing in the sight of God. Such a church is certain to experience a rapid growth in numbers. . . . Some of us are obviously looking in the wrong direction for a restoration of the unity which once existed. We must look backward to the church that was, and not forward to some imaginary church of the future, for the model of union, and the union must begin with the individual congregation” (249, 251, parenthetical item added).
Observe from this statement several important, biblical truths:
- The Jerusalem church’s unity was based on the apostles’ doctrine. Our unity must be based not upon man’s doctrine, but upon the apostles’ doctrine (cf. Galatians 1:6-10; 2 Thessalonians 3:16).
- The Jerusalem church’s unity was active and not lethargic. The fact that doctrine was settled did not mean that the church stopped doing its work, and our understanding of doctrine should inspire greater effort and not less (1 Corinthians 15:58).
- The Jerusalem church’s unity led to rapid growth. New Christians are not made by accident, but by devoted obedience to Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
May the Macland Road ever be a congregation like the Jerusalem church as described in the book of Acts.