Acts 2:41-47: Community

Acts 2:41-47- The Community of God
41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who 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.

The Scripture immediately before the passage you just read above tells the story of Pentecost. After Jesus’ resurrection and Ascension (Jesus returning to heaven to be enthroned as king of the cosmos), the disciples were gathered together in prayer. During the festival of Pentecost (celebration of the giving of the law in Exodus-Deuteronomy), a great wind blew through the room, and flames of fire rested on each follower of Jesus. Then, they ran outside, preaching the gospel in different languages. After the initial chaos, Peter gets up and shares the story of Jesus, beginning in the Old Testament. The end result is verse 41 above—3000 people become believers in Jesus.

This is a huge evangelistic effort, but what I want to highlight here is how the people responded. In our individualistic society, we think we should respond by stopping sin. Then, we start reading our Bibles, listening to sermons, and avoiding temptation—maybe throw out things that remind us of our old life. Those are all great things, but it’s not exactly how the early church responded.

Radical Community
First they repented and got baptized. Then, they responded with radical community. 
First, just like any believer at any time, they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching,like us reading the Bible, except they were learning directly from the apostles! We should certainly read Scripture and listen to gifted teachers, but we are losing a lot of the early church community idea by only listening to teachers we don’t have community with. In fact, this is destroying a lot of churches. Many pastors and teachers are being judged by their adherence to celebrity ideas. Often, these celebrities aren’t any more expert in their opinions but only in their presentation or marketing. We need to learn in community, not simply from a podcast or YouTube video.

Second, they fellowshipped together and ate together. Christianity is a community event. To paraphrase John Wesley, there is no holiness except holiness in community. You can’t say you’ve let the love of God change you into someone who loves their neighbor if you are never around your neighbor in any consistent or meaningful way. 

The best way to build intimate community is to eat together. This is a phenomenon that has transcended cultures and time periods. Sharing a meal together creates bonds, and the first Christian community committed to this every day. It probably served as community experience, worship experience, and a way to take care of people who lacked food.

Third, they were committed to prayer. Jesus and the Old Testament Scriptures taught the disciples the importance of prayer. Then, the movement began at Pentecost because the disciples were praying. Therefore, it’s only natural that prayer, particularly corporate prayer, would be a major part of the new movement. As you read through the book of Acts, you’ll see amazing things happen because of prayer. In the modern, individualistic world, we need to maintain this commitment to group prayer.

Fourth, everyone was in awe and wonder at the miracles being performed. I’ve seen a few miracles in my life, but I don’t see a lot of miracles happening around me on the regular. Maybe that means I need to ask and believe for more. 

Fifth, they took care of each other’s financial needs. They aggressively sold their possessions and shared with everyone in need. I’m not saying this is how we’re supposed to act, but I think it’s important to recognize how they took care of one another and attempt to do likewise.

God Continued to Add to Their Number
The Holy Spirit was drawing more and more people into their community, but he was using this radical example of community to draw people in. We even know from non-Christian documents critical of Christians that their care for people was making people join them.

I wanted to highlight this amazing passage because I think what happened in the first “revival” is very different than what we expect from revivals now. The movement of the Holy Spirit led to a commitment to the gospel and to radical community. When we think about what we’re called to do and be, I want to make sure that caring for my neighbor and being in community with my neighbor is at the top of the list. I want to learn about Jesus and Scripture, but I want to make an emphasis in my life of doing this in community as well. Finally, I want to priortize corporate prayer. This requires is swimming upstream in an individualistic culture. Ask the Holy Spirit for the strength and guidance.

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