The Four Pillars of a Healthy Church
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42
Pillars are important parts of structures. They provide support for a building. The church is a spiritual temple of human believers. Paul affirms this fact. Maybe you do not know it? The Corinthians seem to not have known this. He questioned them.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16
“In whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,” Ephesians 2:21.
Just like a physical temple, a spiritual temple needs pillars for supporting it. Perhaps, if you are in a failing or stagnating church, something is wrong with your pillars. The Lord established four pillars which will support the church to keep it healthy and growing. All these pillars are important. If one pillar disintegrates, the other three will soon be affected. What are the four pillars of church support? The first Christians, under the influence of the Apostles, followed the four pillars.
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers,” Acts 2:42.
Before we name the four pillars, let us look at the initial four worlds of Acts 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly.” Do you notice what the early Christians did? They practiced the four pillars continually and steadfastly. In other words, they were daily doing the four pillars earnestly and diligently. This became part of their personal and congregational life.
The Four Pillars
- Pillar One: Biblical Study, under the teaching of the Apostles.
“Then He (Jesus) said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures,” Luke 24:44-45.
Out of the whole nation of Israel, the people who had the Old Testament, only the Apostles were given the gift of understanding the Scriptures. It was their appointed task by Jesus to teach the Truths of The Law, Psalms, and Prophets. The early church listened and continued in their doctrine. They were charged by the Lord, to disciple the nations with the endowed wisdom of understanding given to them by Him. This has been passed down to us through the writers of the New Testament. This first pillar is a must for us to continue steadfastly in.
- Pillar Two: Fellowshipping together in the worship and study of the word daily.
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,” Acts 2:46.
- Pillar Three: The Breaking of Bread. The early church did share meals together with their fellowshipping. However, the Lord’s Supper became a daily paramount sacrament. Remembering, Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection were a source of strength for them.
- Pillar Four: Prayer, the early church was a praying church. Without prayer, God is not invited to work in the church.
These are the essential pillars of Christianity, as taught by the Apostles. However, their teaching is rooted and built on one person only. Without this person these pillars support, there is nothing but a worldly false religious house. Who is this person? Well, to all you Christians and denominations which have forgotten the answer, it is the Resurrected, Ascended, Son Of God, Jesus Christ, our LORD and Savior!
“Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:20-22
Let us understand these verses clearly.
- The foundation of the temple of God, His church, is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. This clearly means their teachings and doctrines which the early believers studied and implemented.
- The person all the doctrines of the apostles and prophets teach about is Jesus Christ. All scriptures, written in the Old and New Testament, is about Him and our response to Him. The temple (church) is to grow in Him, not outside of Him. This is never to be forgotten. The early Christians broke bread daily to keep Christ in the forefront of their lives.
- The growth of the temple or church required a deep fellowship. God’s people must be fitted together, each in their proper position in the body under the Lord. A growing church is a properly fitted and harmonious group of people in fellowship with one another through Christ. The first Christians did this. “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,” Acts 2:46.
- The first Christians allowed God to do the building in them and through them. “In whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” The praying church is a God built church. Listen to what Luke said concerning the early church through the Lord practicing the four pillars of Christian life. These Christians were, “Praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:47
How magnificent are these thirteen words? “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” When the children of God, live in Christ through continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer, God will add souls to be saved to the church. Remember these words, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day,” John 6:44. People will come to Christ only if the Father draws them. The Father will draw people to Christ fervently, when His children live the four pillars.
Let us look at the pillar of fellowship. Jesus told Peter exactly what the centrality of church fellowship revolves around.
First: Jesus wants to know if His disciples understand this. “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’” (Matthew 16:15)
Second: Peter responds to the question. “Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,’” Matthew 16:16.
Thirdly: Jesus tells Peter how he learned Jesus is the Christ. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven,” Matthew 16:17.
Fourth: Jesus declares to the Apostles, what He is going to do with the fact of Him being the Christ, God’s Son. “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it,” Matthew 16:18.
Jesus declares He will build His church on the facts about Himself. He is the Savior of the world.
- “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12. The Son saves!
- “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him,” John 6:44. The Father Reveals His Son.
- “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment,” John16:8.The Holy Spirit convicts men of the sins the Son died for.
- “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” Acts 1:8. The Church will be the witness of the Son.
- The church will do this by living the four pillars by continuing “Steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers,” Acts 2:42.
- This combination of God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit and Jesus’s church working in unity results in growth. “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved,” Acts 2:47
If we are good students of the Word, we will notice the above workings depend on one central theme. This theme is fellowship! This is the fellowship of the unity of the Trinity, the unity of the church, the unity of Jesus with His Church. The church stays in unity through the four pillars, which are held together by fellowship under the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the center of fellowship between men and God, Jesus Christ. Paul is adamant about this fact in his letter to the Ephesians.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.” Ephesians 1:7-10
Jesus said, “I will build My Church!” The church is His, not yours or mine. I find it very interesting, the word Jesus used for church is “ekklesia.” Strong’s number G1577, indicates this means, “A calling out!” The compound word of ek, which means, from or out, and kaleo, to call, is indicative of the drawing of People by the Father to the Son. We are literally, called by God.
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy,” 1 Peter 2:9-10.
Church, have you forgotten this?
The word used by Luke, in Acts 2:42, for fellowship is “koinonia,” Strong’s number G2824, which means, partnership, participation, fellowship.
Once again, if we are good students of the Word, we will understand fellowship is more than a strawberry or ice cream social. It is the ekklesia (the church, called out ones) in koinonia (partnership, participation, fellowship) with God through Jesus Christ.
Church, have you forgotten this?
Paul worried the early called out fellowship did.
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:1-6.
The church is at a crossroad today. It is being challenged by Christ, to be His church, through the clear teachings of the apostles’ doctrine, true fellowship in Christ, breaking of bread and prayers or become a world religion based on the doctrines and heresies of secular people. This road leads to apostasy, in other words, rejection of the Word of God as specifically taught by His disciples.
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,” 1 Timothy 4:1-2.
It is quite evident humans have the capacity to fellowship around anything or anyone. The people after the flood, rejected fellowship with God for their own desires.
“Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth,’” Genesis 11:1-4.
If you know the story, you will understand this type of fellowship caused the judgement of God to happen to them. “So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city,” Genesis 11:8.
What road is your congregation or denomination following? Is your congregation, an Acts 2:42 fellowship or a 1 Timothy 4:1-2 fellowship? Perhaps, your church is still faithful to the apostles’ doctrines and to Christ, however, is your congregation stagnant or dying? If so, an examination of your congregation in light of the four pillars must be undertaken. The Corinth church was in such a problem, and Paul challenged them to, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you are disqualified.” 2 Corinthians 13:5. Is Jesus Christ the King and head of your congregation, His church? Is your fellowship revolving around Him through the four pillars? If not, and if a pillar is missing, you will have troubles. If you don’t believe me, then read through the Epistles and Revelation, and I believe the Holy Spirit will show you the truth of lacking the four pillars and the Lordship of Christ.
We see this problem in Europe, once a dominant Christian continent, now a secular pagan society. The Christian intelligentsia has criticized the Bible into a book of fables. Therefore, the pillar of the apostles’ doctrine crumbled and so did Christianity in Europe. I ask, “What about Great Britain?” It once was the greatest Christian nation of all time. The sun never set on the Cross of the British Empires flag around the world. England gave us, John and Charles Wesley, George Whitfield and C.S. Lewis, and other giants of the faith. Today, Christianity in England is a past tense church, because the four pillars were destroyed. American Christianity is also facing the problems of turning away from God by turning its back on the four pillars. Again, I ask, “What about the Russian Orthodox Church?” Did your failure in the four pillars unleash upon the world the worse system of evil, Godless murderous communism? We reap what we sow, and sometimes it is disastrous.
This is a problem which does have a remedy. The congregations and denominations of the Lord, His Church, needs to humble itself and return to Him. Upon the humbling, the church must follow His plan of the four pillars. Here is Christ’ manifesto for you.
- Firstly: Return to a high view of the Holy Bible as the inerrant Word of God. Then, obey it as written.
- Secondly: Return to the fellowship relation with the Living Christ and His church.
- Thirdly: Keep Christ paramount by partaking of Holy Communion.
- Fourthly: Start praying, as if your life depended on it.
If we return to the Lord, the healing of the nations will begin. Therefore, let us all heed the plea of God to return to Him.
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.’” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Oh, people of God, please let us stop our folly and return to the Lord! Come home to Christ, Catholics, Episcopalians, and Protestants of all beliefs, from Baptists to Charismatics. Let us re-establish the four pillars and fellowship with each other in Christ. If we do this, I believe we will find favor with the Lord, and He will build His church again. The Manifesto of the Lord is clear and simple. It is up to all to live it.
© Guy Peter Calandra Author, The Inside Word – Available on Kindle, Nook, Google Playbooks
All Verses From New King James Version – NKJV