In Acts 2:42-47 we are told what the early church devoted themselves to. Devotion is a strong word, meaning love, loyalty and enthusiasm, and points to constancy, purpose, or resolve. When we are devoted to something, we give our time and allegiance gladly to that thing, and the church devoted itself to 4 main things:
- the apostles’ teaching
- the breaking of bread
The apostles’ teaching
Having 3000 new converts to teach may be every church’s dream, but it’s not an easy task! The apostles had to ground these disciples in the truths of God, just as Jesus did to those two on the road to Emmaus (‘beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’ Luke 24:27) We need to be people who honour God’s word, giving it due time and attention (see 1 Tim 4:13, 2 Tim 4:1-2). Steven J. Cole says, ‘a healthy church must be devoted to sound doctrine, because God has chosen to reveal Himself in the written Word.’ There is no room for us to neglect God’s word, either privately or publicly, if we want to grow spiritually. We need to prepare people to be able to defend their faith and to understand that faith, for we live in a world hostile to God, faith and the Bible.
Fellowship (‘koinonia’) is something we are now able to share with God because of the reconciling work of Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor 1:9, 2 Cor 13:4, 1 John 1:3) and therefore is something we can also now share with each other. Fellowship means sharing: our time, our talents, our homes, our lifestyles, our possessions. These verses in Acts 2:42-47 challenge us to look beyond our Western individualistic culture to a community which cares. The early church shared meals, shared possessions and shared property. They understood something of the fact that in Christ we belong not only to God but to each other.
The breaking of bread
On the one hand, fellowship is achieved whenever we ‘break bread’ (i.e. eat) together. Meals together are a great way of getting to know people; over the table, all manner of things can be discussed and shared. Jesus ate many meals together with His disciples (to the extent that the Pharisees called Him a glutton! – Luke 7:34). At the same time, the use of the definite article (literally, ‘the breaking of the bread’) probably refers to the Lord’s Supper, inaugurated by Jesus just prior to His death (Luke 22:14-19). Every time we take the emblems of bread and wine in Holy Communion, we remember the death and resurrection of our Lord, and this central act keeps us focussed on the essentials of our faith.
Again, the use of the definite article here indicates not private prayer, but corporate prayer. The early believers joined together to pray, understanding the value of meeting together in a way that can easily be forgotten in our individualistic society (see Heb 10:25). Whenever and wherever the church meets, whether in a large meeting (“in the temple”) or from house to house, prayer needs to be woven into the fabric of church life, for it is as we pray that we show our dependence on God.
We need to consider our church life and look at each of these four aspects and our devotion to them, for these are the ‘building blocks’ of the church, the ‘interior life’ from which all our outreach overflows.