This is the first discipline I wanted to examine as part of my series in the Spiritual Disciplines: devotion to the Apostles’ teaching. In the last installment, we looked at the purpose of the disciplines and now that we’ve laid a foundation we can look at each one individually beginning with the corporate disciplines — those things Christians do together. These will be brief descriptions with links to more in-depth treatments or discussions. In choosing a place to focus on corporate disciplines, I landed on Acts 2:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)
These are activities Christians everywhere and at all times have done together and they emerge from the apostle’s teaching, which is found in the Scriptures. I’ve heard it said that church discipline takes place whenever we open our Bibles. The same can be said of the Spiritual Disciplines, so that’s where we begin. We are not aiming at some sort of super-spirituality but, in the words of Chris Dendy, “a Bible-saturated, sola scriptura spirituality.”
D.A. Carson reminds us that “People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.” We need guidance in our grace-driven effort and the Scriptures hold everything we need to grow in the direction of holiness:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 3:14–4:2 ESV)
The Holy Spirit, through Paul the apostle, is speaking to sinners — to you and I. “As Christians we need to be disciplined enough in the Word (trained) so that we can also be disciplined by the Word (recognizing our sins).” Anonymous
In order to be disciplined by the Word, we must discipline ourselves by God’s grace, in the power of the Holy Spirit, feeding on the apostle’s teaching in the Bible. We do that by:
- Hearing the apostles’ teaching takes place when we gather with other Christians for liturgy, teaching, preaching or discussion. The church has come together on the first day of the week for about 2000 years and this has been the primary means of hearing God’s Word. Other informal gatherings in homes, coffee houses, jails, and pubs are also places to hear the apostles’ teachings from and through others.
- Reading is the most effective way to devote yourself to the apostles’ teaching in your regular Bible reading. Bibles are available practically everywhere and in our wired world, the Word of God is getting into places it never could before. Daily reading, accompanied with prayer and meditation, will result in deep, lasting Spiritual growth and love for Jesus.
- Studying the Bible means meditating and chewing upon what we’ve read and heard. The plain meaning and thrust of the texts come through in the reading — yet, a deepened devotion to God and His Word comes through careful attention to the use of words, comparing Scripture with Scripture from the Bible as a whole, and understanding it in its historical and literary setting.
I’ll provide some links below that may be of help to you in becoming more disciplined in Bible intake and devotion to the apostles’ teaching. Next time, we’ll discover how breaking bread with other Christians can be a joyful discipline.
This is a fantastic resource for hearing God’s Word taught and preached with links to thousands of sermons, teachings, and more!
How should I read and understand the Bible? by J. Todd Billings
Look At The Book step by step, verse by verse video series