Acts: For the Cause of Christ #5
Prayer: Lord as we come again to this time dedicated to Your Word, let our minds be clear, let our hearts be unified. And we ask that Your Holy Spirit convict us where we need it, embolden us where we are weak, and heal us where we are hurt. I pray that you will use me as the vessel, let Your Words and Your message be spoken now. I pray this for your glory, in the name of Jesus our Savior, Amen.
Last week we saw how the Lord used Peter’s sermon at the day of Pentecost to convict a large number of Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah they were waiting for and how they had let their authorities have Him crucified by the Romans. This was the beginning of the church, but what happened after that?
1. The Entrance v41
This section of verses is really the ideal picture of the new church, what every church should in some way seek to follow. This group of believers in Jerusalem swelled from 120 to over 3000 in one day. These 3000 were the one who acted on their faith, repented of their sins and believed that Jesus was the Messiah. They were then baptized to publicly identify that they were following the Messiah. This was following the great commission given Matthew 28:19-20. We will see very often in the book of Acts that baptism followed almost immediately after salvation. The timing of baptism isn’t really vital, the important part is that there is evidence of salvation, of a true profession of faith, before baptism is administered. I was saved at the young age of four, but it wasn’t until the age of sixteen that I decided I needed to be baptized. In the church we went attended in Ankeny, we had lady realize that though she had thought she was saved, had been baptized, graduated from bible college, been a member of churches, including that one, was married and had children, that she hadn’t actually taken that step of faith, repented of her sins and accept Jesus as Savior. She was re-baptized and then added back to the church’s membership rolls after her profession of faith before her church family.
We should also note, that baptism is never associated with infants in the New Testament. Here in verse 41 we see that “those who accepted the the Word” or other translations read “gladly received his word”, this is evidence of belief. This evidence of intentional, rational belief and acceptance. When’s the last you saw an infant make a rational or intentional choice?
So how about you? Have you made that choice of repentance? If you have, have you taken the next step of obedience and been baptized? If not, why not? What is keeping you from accepting Jesus Christ as savior? What is keeping you from getting baptized?
2. The Commitment vv42-43
This group of new believers devoted themselves, committed themselves to two things, the teaching of the Apostles and to fellowship. I know that there are two more items listed there, but most commentators put those underneath fellowship. The Apostles teaching were authoritative as the teaching was from the Lord through the Apostles by the Holy Spirit’s power. The teaching of the Apostles was authoritative. This was Christian doctrine. This helps the new believers understand this new program God has instituted, and it guards against error or false doctrine. The New Testament is the writings of the Apostles’ teaching as the authors were lead by the Holy Spirit.
They also fellowshipped together. The idea for the word translated fellowship is “sharing in common”. Luke’s point of fellowship is a personal interactive relationship with the church. One writer says it’s, “A real sense of connection to, between, and for each other” (Bock, Darrell L. BECNT:Acts © 2007, p 150). Like I said most commentators I looked at list the next two items of breaking bread and prayer under the heading of fellowship. So let’s look at these now.
The breaking of bread has two possibilities, one being the Lord’s Table and the other being a fellowship meal. The problem in knowing which one it is lies in the fact that in the early church the Lord’s Table was often observed after a large meal. From the resources i looked at it was about split 50/50. Either way, everyone in the church was involved and participated. It was a matter of their community life. If we view this as referring to the Lord’s Table, then we see that the church was performing this regularly, helping the community’s fellowship. This also serves to help protect new believers from the danger of a superficial belief. The Lord’s Table is solemn time of remembrance for the church as we reflect on the Christ’s redeeming work on Calvary.
The prayer they were partaking in was probably their own appointed season of united prayer, a weekly or daily prayer meeting. In chapter 3:1 we see that the Apostles, at least, also attended the Jewish prayer services at the Temple. It is also possible that these prayers were public and similar to those that the Jews used in the Temple. Why wouldn’t they be? All 3000 of them were Jews who realized that Jesus was the Messiah. So I have no doubt that some of the prayers followed a Jewish model, but the content probably differed because of Jesus. The Jewish prayers would have new meaning in the name of Jesus. But these times of prayer were times when they would be where they show their earnestness toward Christ, where they would be united in the presence of God, through the prayer the power of God could be realized and possibly received if some were filled by the Holy Spirit during these prayer times. But these prayers are also a way to help protect new believers from the danger of independence.
In verse 43 we see how this was seen from the outside. Some translations say, “fear came upon every soul”. The word I have is “everyone” it is the same idea, but the Greek word used here is the same word used in verse 41. My version reads people in verse 41, others read soul there as well. The idea is people. The very spiritual essence of the people were in awe. Now my version uses the word awe, others use fear. Different translations of the same word, phobos. If that sounds familiar it is where we get our term phobia from. But what was happening in Jerusalem? The unbelieving Jewish community were filled with fear or awe, probably a sense of reverence of this new community for how real their life was. They also saw a powerful life as the Apostles were doing signs and miracles among them testifying to God’s presence within this new community. Peter had shown in his sermon that God had worked through Jesus, and that work was extended past Jesus’ crucifixion. “Now the work continues through the Apostles, indicating that God supports the new community as well” (Bock, p152). So how are you doing? Are you fellowshipping with our church family? Are you keeping to the teaching given through the Scripture? These are vital to a healthy church.
3. The Community vv44-47
The early church here in Jerusalem had a fervent love for each other. They showed this by demonstrating a spirit of sacrifice. Verses 44-45 really highlight the fellowship and mutual care the believers shared. This commenness is seen favorably as showing the depth of their fellowship and mutual care for each other. They held everything in common, they had unity. We have seen that they have shared a common faith, they believed in the same Lord and Savior. They had a communal fellowship in that they were together, they meet regularly for services. And now we see that they shared their goods when a fellow member had need. This holding of things in common was not mandatory, but was voluntary and done in love. One author says, “That a community [or church] is really functioning with appropriate love and compassion is evident when material needs are also a concern and are being generously provided” (Bock, p152).
As I mentioned earlier, this was done voluntarily through love and concern for fellow believers, this was not a form of communism where all goods are divided “fairly”. The idea from the verb here is verse 45 is one of ongoing distribution, when there was need that came up, help was given. They didn’t sell everything off at once, they sold what they could when they could to help. It is possible that Jesus teachings may have provided some background for this generosity and not wanting to hoard earthly items. Think about the parable of the rich man in Luke 12:13-21 who had so much he was going to build large barns for his crops, so he could take it easy and live the “good” life, until God told him that his life was coming to end. What good is storing up treasures on earth? Remember you don’t see u-huals behind a hearse.
Verses 46 and 47 highlight more of the worship and the work they are doing. In the early church, at least here in Jerusalem at this time they were worshipping together everyday. We see that they are having public worship by meeting in the temple. This reflects the Jewish practices that they came from, and the temple is the natural center for Jews for worship. But we also see that they fellowshipped and worshipped together in their everyday environments, they broke bread and ate with each other in their homes. Again there is thought that the term broke bread here refers to the Lord’s Table, but it is possible that here it can be taken in the more broad sense as the language here, “ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts”, is referring to regular meals.
Their joy spilled over into praise to God and they found favor in the outside world as well. The idea is that the outsiders were appreciative of the new community within the city. They see this vibrant and living community that extends itself in two directions, toward God and toward the neighbor. This looks like the living out of the great commandment: “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:37-40). This gave them a good reputation with the outside world, this was part of their witness. And we see that the Lord was blessing them as He added believers to their numbers daily, so that this community was growing regularly.
In September 2005, Our Daily Bread published the following article:
“Pastor and author Greg Laurie says that churches are “well” when they practice these activities: W-orship E-vangelize L-earn L-ove
Like the early church, we should be active in these ways today.
Worship. We must meet together for fellowship, communion, prayer, and praise (Acts 2:42,47). God is to be the focus of all we do in His church.
Evangelize. As we share the Word, the Lord will add new believers to the church (v.47). We can all take part in spreading God’s Word by developing a friendship, by giving someone an article about the gospel, or by sharing some Scripture verses with a stranger.
Learn. We must continue learning sound doctrine taught by qualified leaders (v.42). The Bible is filled with instruction for living, and we should take every opportunity to learn from it, apply it to our lives, and teach others.
Love. We are to share with whoever has need, and enjoy the fellowship of other believers regularly (vv.45-46).
A church whose members worship, evangelize, learn, and love will be a “well” church, effective in the community, and appreciated by “all the people” (v.47).” (https://odb.org/2005/09/18/a-well-church/)
So is our church “well”? What can we be doing better at? Let’s pray.
Prayer: Lord as we close our service today, I pray that we as a church will take a long look at ourselves through the lens of Your Word here in Acts chapter 2. Help us to see the areas we need to work on. Help us then to correct those areas in the Holy Spirit’s power, which is Your power.