A Study In Acts: The Beginnings of the Church
The new Church has just exploded in growth. Powerful displays of God’s grace have been witnessed, lives changed, and miracles being performed. Within one day, some three thousand people came to believe and trust in Jesus Christ as their Messiah. We witnessed in Peter’s bold message to the Jews, perhaps the fulfillment of Jesus’ words to him in Matthew 16:18.
If nothing else has been shown to us in the previous passage we reviewed, it’s that God can do a mighty work. With every high though, we must come down at some point. This is where we pick up and finish Chapter 2.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.– Acts 2:42-47
Wrapping up our study of Chapter 2 is a short section, but it is rich. While coming off the spiritual high of the previous passages, we should note how they conducted themselves. Their descent from the high was not one to a deep valley, one of sadness or depression as Elijah had experienced. This in part could have been because of their choice in conduct. Notice in verse 42 that they wasted no time. They quickly “devoted themselves” to study and community. The Greek Luke uses for devoted is προσκαρτερέω (prŏskartĕrĕō), which can be defined as to be earnest towards, constantly diligent, to adhere closely. The new Believers were committed at a deep level to understand the teachings of the Apostles, handed down by their Savior, and to fellowship with each other. We get a fuller idea of what this devotion and practice looks like in the following verses.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.– Acts 2:44-45
We see here the first charitable movement of the new Church. Believers putting the needs of others before themselves. To have things in common meant they shared what they had. There was a sense of community not only in their fellowship, but their belongings as well. If a brother or sister needed something, it was available. More than the practice of communal sharing, they freely gave up what they had to provide for the needs of others. They did this without grumbling, without hesitation as to how it might effect them. It points to the position and condition of their heart, one changed by the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
As noted above though, their change in attitude and practice was not limited too material things. There is important attention given by Luke to the communal aspect of relationships within the Church as well. The new Believers did not simply wait till the next Sabbath to worship, study and learn about their Lord. They did not reserve just one time a week to gather together in fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ.
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.– Acts 2:46-47
The new Believers made it a habit right away, to be in community with one another. They understood from the very beginning the value and importance of being in fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ. But notice this community aspect was not just simple conversation. It was studying, going to the temple, it was sitting around the table together for a meal. The fellowship and community of the early Church was deeply and intimately relational. They did not hesitate to invite one another into their homes, their most personal space. Notice also the attitude in which they did these things. It was with a heart and mind postured towards God with thankfulness and gratitude! What a lesson for us! And it was because of this that they first found favor with the people around them, and God blessed them by increasing their number daily.
This short passage challenges my heart and mind, and I hope it does the same for you. If I call myself a Christian, is my heart and mind postured towards Him with thankfulness? Am I willing to invite others into my home, to let down my guard and be willing to allow my brothers and sisters in Christ know me at a deeper and more intimate level? Am I willing to put the needs of others above my own, to make sacrifices of plenty to meet the needs of those less fortunate than me? The early Church understood what it meant to follow Christ at a level that seems too often be missed today. Following Jesus is more than personal Bible Study and Devotions. It’s more than dropping some change in the offering when we feel like it. Following Jesus should bring us to a whole new level of understanding charity, community and service.
These were aspects of a new life that the early Church was fully devoted to. The practices they exhibited became engrained in their life, so much that this is what the early Church became known for. It was something many were willing and often did, die for. How willing are we to go to the lengths the first Believers did? Christ calls us too much more than Sunday attendance. He calls us to full devotion seeking Him. Studying His Word, supporting the local Church and its Shepherds. Opening our homes to others, diving into community and relationship with other Believers.
Following Jesus isn’t easy, and it’s often messy. But for me, I’d rather dive in without hesitation and reap the blessings in full, knowing I had a part in growing the Kingdom for God just like the Believers of the early Church!