Acts 2:42 (NRSV)
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
This passage describes the earliest “new members class” of the Christian church. In response to Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, about three thousand men and women committed their lives to Christ and devoted themselves to living in community with one another.
There were, however, no programs in place to fold the new converts into the fabric of church life. Guided by the Holy Spirit they had just received, the new believers built up their community through four key practices described in this passage. These practices still serve the church today in meeting the material and spiritual needs of its members.
- They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. The apostles continued Jesus’ practice of teaching crowds the Word of God and what it meant. As eye witnesses of Jesus’ earthly ministry, they were also invaluable sources of information and inspiration for the new converts who wanted to learn more about the Son of God.
- They devoted themselves to fellowship. The Greek word used here is koinonia, repeated many times in the New Testament to describe the intimate and caring friendship among believers and also between believers and the Holy Spirit. Fellowship in this context emphasizes the intensive mutual support and sharing that distinguished the Christian community from other groups and testified to God’s grace and power among them.
- They devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. The translation “breaking of bread” certainly refers to sharing the Lord’s Supper but also likely includes the hospitality of sharing fellowship meals. Thus, this practice served both the spiritual need of remembering Christ’s broken body together and the physical need of making sure that everyone had enough to eat.
- They devoted themselves to the prayers. These new believers were primarily Jews, so it is likely that they continued to pray as Jews at the temple in Jerusalem. However, because Jesus had taught them new prayers and a manner of addressing God more intimately as Father (Greek: Abba), Christian prayers evolved to reflect the new covenant.
Of final significance is the believers’ deep commitment to these four practices. They devoted themselves, implying faithful adherence that was wholehearted. Christians today would do well to follow the example of these early converts. May we practice with our whole hearts the sharing of Bible study, fellowship, sacramental meals, and prayer in order to build up the body of Christ as a grace and witness to the world.
FATHER, thank you for the teachings of Jesus that have come down to me through the faithfulness and devotion of the apostles and early church believers. Thank you for these four practices that build unity in the body of Christ. Preserve and empower your church with your Holy Spirit that we may be effective witnesses of your grace and forgiveness to a needy world.
Matthew 28:20; 1 John 2:10
In what specific ways do we need our brothers and sisters in Christ?