There was a moment in history where revival came upon many believers of God and a spiritual awakening and rebirth for others. The background is familiar to us today and revolves around the person of Jesus Christ, his miraculous birth, his sinless life, his demonstration and presentation of the ‘good news’, his death on the cross followed by his resurrection from the dead. Beginning in the Book of Acts we see the resurrected Lord Jesus speaking to his disciples about the Kingdom of God and giving them instructions to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As a result of Acts 2, many Jewish believers were discovering the true Messiah and being revived in their faith for God. Others had no faith in God and became alive for the first time as they discovered Jesus Christ and converted to the Way, followers of Jesus. This morning we will be looking at Acts 2:42-47 to discover the practices of the church in the midst of this period of revival. I have heard people say that they would love to join a church just like in the New Testament time. While this is admirable, we must remember the vast differences between their context and our own modern realities. The early church did experience positive revival and the outpouring of the Spirit, but they also suffered from disunity, heresy and persecution.
Acts 2:42 - They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. As we look at their practices we can learn what to make habit in our personal journey of faith.
Act 2:42-47 – the Lord added…
I would like to start with the last part of verse 47 – “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” From this verse, we can clearly see that it is the will of God that Church – the ekklesia, the Body of Christ (local and universal) – experience a continual and steady growth. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Oftentimes we approach our faith with a “how-to-do-it” mentality. I started this passage backwards to remind us of God’s vision for an expanding family of faith. We must see the big picture before us. We must clearly understand God’s passion that none should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9b). I would say that one of the distinguishing marks of a divine and genuine revival is that of the salvation of souls. The thought arises is what we do with these new converts to Christianity.
There are two perspectives that we can think of with regards to revival and a growing church. One is the quantity of new believers coming to Christ and the other is the quality of those following Christ. It is not a one or the other but a both-and, in other words, we need new believers to make into disciples. We don’t want a church that is broad and wide but has no depth. But on the other hand, mature followers of Jesus who aren’t leading people into faith in Jesus is equally challenging.
Acts 2:42-47 - Devotion
Before we look at their spiritual disciplines we must put ourselves in their experience. There was no doubt in their minds that Jesus was alive. They had seen with their own eyes, ate meals together with Jesus, and saw him ascend into the heavens. Without a doubt they knew their mission – to seek and save the lost, to make disciples of the nations. Without a doubt they experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In this context Dr. Luke first speaks to the church about passion, devotion, continuing steadfastly in their faith. The same idea is found in Acts 1:14 – “they all joined together constantly…” There is great excitement in the moment of revival, but it is the devotion of the saints over the long haul that causes steady growth in the church; perseverance or staying power is essential.
Acts 2:42-47 – the Apostles’ Teaching
Old school carpenters always used the first board as their template. Here Luke records the first boards of the early church. They were to continue steadfastly, be devoted to the Apostles’ teaching (the Word of God). The gathered community listened to and followed the preaching and teaching of the twelve apostles based on the Scriptures. On the road to Emmaus two disciples were walking with Jesus, although they did not recognize him. We are told that “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). This is what the Apostles would be doing with the early church in the power of the Holy Spirit. Their instruction was solidly based on the Jewish Law and Prophets as to the revealing of the Messiah Jesus Christ; instructions about worship, how we treat one another and even the 10 Ten Commandments. But it was during this time that through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the New Testament was written. All of this teaching was not to bring people under the Law but was the revealing of Jesus and grace and truth of a New Covenant.
Acts 2:42-47 – Fellowship
Fellowship is a powerful word to consider. In one sense it is the gathering of the saints together with God. There is a corporate expression of Jesus that is only seen in the fellowship of the saints. John states - “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:3-4). Another aspect of fellowship is the idea of partnership, working together towards a common goal. “I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:3-6). Community, partnership and teamwork are key to a growing and revived church. This is the place where a sense of belonging is a treasure to experience.
Acts 2:42-47 – The Breaking of Bread
There are a couple of things to consider hear. The breaking of bread can refer to the Lord’s Supper. Jesus himself gave them direction to take the bread and the wine in his remembrance (Luke 22:19-20). This was a central point of the fellowship of the saints. This was a place of worship and focus on Jesus Christ. It was a continual reminder of the forgiveness of sins and the healing that is available in Christ and in his Body. The breaking of bread can also refer to the common meal as the saints gathered together. It is believed that the Apostles joined the common meal into a time of “communion” – a love feast (Jude 12). This is also seen in 1 Cor 11:20 where the saints gathered for a meal partaking of wine and bread.
Why was the Breaking of Bread so important? Other religious communities had their own times of fellowship and meals together. The Lord’s Supper was distinctive for the followers of Jesus, a time of remembering Jesus and looking forward to a glorious future. There was a fresh devotion and passion for the gathering of the saints; it was not like the religious ceremonies of the Jewish people.
Acts 2:42-47 – Prayer
In one sense prayer is an ongoing conversation with God about all aspects of life. However, I believe that there was a fire burning in the hearts of the saints and prayer was much more. There was intercession for the lost, boldness, words of encouragement, knowledge and prophecy for the saints. Without prayer their lifeline to the Spirit of Christ was gone. They had a mission before them – to share that Jesus the Messiah was alive. The salvation of souls required spiritual work – and prayer was their work. Prayer was the common language when they gathered together for instruction, fellowship, the breaking of bread. Too busy to pray would have been a betrayal of Jesus Christ by the Apostles and believers. That is why is Acts 6 we the leaders committing themselves to the word and prayer. Commitment and one’s devotion are foundationally based on conversation - one’s prayer life...
These four practices – 1. The Apostles’ Teaching, 2. Fellowship, 3. The Breaking of Bread, 4. Prayer – were the foundations upon which the church of Jesus Christ was established. Acts 2:43-47 – “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
We cannot recreate the Day of Pentecost with all the glory of the Spirit of God giving birth to the “Church”, but we can put into practice the spiritual principles that we have discussed today. We can stir up our devotion and passion and perseverance for God.
One of the basic applications of today’s message in the context of Courts of Praise is this, join a Care Group. This is our putting into action Acts 2:42-47… We study the Scriptures, we fellowship together, break bread and pray…