Reading Acts Together #5: Acts 2:42-47

I love this little passage. Although I don’t think this event is necessarily prescriptive for the church today, I do believe this is a good ideal we should be working towards. In a sense this is putting the greatest commandment – to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and Jesus’ new command ‘to love one another as I have loved you’ [two out of our three loves at DEC!] in to practice. We’re devoted to God and each other.

Is this the blue print for church life? Although more could be said, here are the four things the text says the early believers ‘devoted themselves to’:

1: Devoted to the ‘apostles’ teaching’. This is important because the apostles are the ones who sat under Jesus for three years and more, and so their teaching is the continuation and development of Jesus’ teaching. We got a flavour of what this includes in Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:22-41– but three themes seem to dominate:

  • The OT Scriptures predicted this – this did not come out of a vacuum. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 – he is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. They point to him and so the apostles use the OT to point their fellow Jews to Jesus!
  • The resurrection is central – it is interesting that in Acts, it is the resurrection that is mentioned in every single sermon except Stephen’s in Acts 7 – and his was cut short! Regardless, the resurrection was emphasised – sometimes more than Jesus’ death. That’s because the resurrection changed everything and even helps us interpret Jesus’ death as a ‘good’ thing. It was also the tangible like-changing event the disciples were witnesses to.
  • Jesus is Lord – the late great Larry Hurtado did extensive work in this field and showed that when the early Christians proclaimed Jesus as Lord, they meant it as a worship act that proclaimed Jesus as God – there is no other example like this in the period and it started early.[1] Hurtado writes: ‘Still more prominent and striking than the references to Jesus’ messianic status, however, are the attributions to him of the title “Lord” (Kyrios) in the Acts descriptions of the Jerusalem believers. In fact, there is a clear emphasis on Jesus as “Lord” that associates him in astonishing ways with God’.[2] It is astonishing because these early Christians were Jews who believed in the Almighty God of Heaven and Earth but their earliest teachings are devoted to claiming Jesus is the ‘author of life’ (Acts 3:15)

It does make you think – are we devoted to these three areas of the apostles teaching in our sermons and Bible studies?

2: Devoted to fellowship – and this doesn’t just mean hanging out. It manifested in having ‘everything in common’ (v44) and selling possessions to give to the needy (v45). They also seemed to meet with each other every day (v46), presumably to pray and hear the apostles teach. I don’t think we should turn these descriptions of the early church in to commandments – but nor do I want to ignore their challenge – do we long for everyday fellowship? Is there more that unites us than divides us? Do we share what we have and give to those who are needy inside the church?

The word for ‘fellowship’ here is often used to describe our fellowship with God, so it is no casual thing we’re describing – but deep, personal relationships. Just as we seek fellowship with the Holy Spirit (same word as 2 Cor 13:14), we should seek proper spiritual fellowship with our brothers and sisters.

3: Devoted to ‘breaking of bread’. Although this could just be a way of saying they ate together in a meal, considering ‘fellowship’ already implies this, and considering the similar reference in Acts  20:7, – I think this is talking about communion. Certainly here, it was done in their homes which included eating together at mealtimes (v46). By the time we reach Acts 20:7 communion seems to have been more formalised – they broke bread on the first day of the week. But here it is still in its earliest developments. Regardless, the apostles hadn’t forgotten Jesus’ command in Luke 22:19 ‘do this in remembrance of me’. This was their way of remembering Jesus and they devoted themselves to it. Do we?

Again Hurtado is worth listening to here: ‘This is not merely a memorial feast for a dead hero. Jesus is perceived as the living and powerful Kyrios [Lord] who owns the meal and presides at it, and with whom the believers have fellowship as with a god. There is no analogy for such a cultic [worship] role for any figure other than God in Jewish religious circles of the Roman era’.[3]

4: Devoted ‘to prayer’. We’ve already seen this haven’t we in Acts 1:14: ‘they all joined together constantly in prayer’. It’s another challenge to our current church practices – are we devoted to prayer? Are we devoted to praying together? As we seek to serve God and go to the ends of the earth, our best work will surely be done on our knees.

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved‘ (v47

[1] Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, Kindle location 2485-2511.

[2] Ibid., Kindle location 3066

[3] Ibid., Kindle location 2549.

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