Acts 2:41-47 “So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
The church that began on the day of Pentecost was a lively, dynamic entity. In its first 15 years it filled Jerusalem and spread quickly throughout Roman Palestine. The growth continued beyond Palestine, spreading into Syria, the Mediterranean coast, and the regions east of Palestine.
They had no Bible, no pastors, and no significant structure. They were led by a small group of apostolic workers who were by human standards mostly untrained and unlearned. These apostles were essentially church planters and trouble-shooters. They were joined by small groups of deacons in most cities who saw to the distributions of charities.
They encountered a steadily growing opposition, including the persecutions led by Saul of Tarsus. Although Saul himself had been knocked off his donkey, converted, and was now out in the desert being reeducated by the Holy Spirit, the persecutions were still occurring in Jerusalem and throughout Palestine.
Despite their simple organization and steady persecution, the church born in the Book of Acts was clearly a thriving, vibrant and growing community. How did they do this?
The success model for this movement had been demonstrated by Christ Himself with His own group of disciples during His public ministry. They were devoted to Christ, His teachings and His wonderful workings with the population. His team was devoted to one another and shared their lives in common. They lived, ate, traveled, and grew in faith together every day.
The disciples instilled this life in the hearts of the new converts that were daily being added to the church after Pentecost. That church had two main features; being devoted to the right things and expressing that devotion together.
They continually and steadfastly devoted themselves to…
- The apostles’ teaching
- Fellowship (koinonia, the sharing of Christ among them)
- The breaking of bread together day by day in homes, eating together with glad and generous hearts
- To praying
All who believed were together, meaning…
- The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul
- The all had all things in common (no one claimed private ownership of any possessions)
- The sold possessions and goods as needed to meet the needs of others
- Day by day they spent much time together in the temple as well as in their homes
- They were praising God continually
- They gathered outside the temple (at Solomon’s portico)
- The apostles gave testimony to all about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus
Acts 4:32-34 “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.”
Acts 5:12-14 “Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem.”
This is the New Covenant church of Jesus Christ that He left for His followers. Wherever this church has been replicated throughout history, it has flourished. It has survived and thrived largely unchanged until this day. It has always been a kind of non-conformist movement that still largely adheres to the Acts practices.
It is still springing up in the strangest places. In churches started amid great opposition, like in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and North Korea. In the underground church movement under communist rulers in Europe and central Asia. In cultures where the majority are suspicious and discriminatory at best, and more often violent in opposition.
Throughout history, movements like the Great Awakenings, the early Quaker movement, the Kentucky Revival, the Asbury Revival, the great Welsh Revival all began with small groups of people meeting together in a deep love and communion with their God. These revivals most often would spring up where relatively small groups of people began following Jesus as did His disciples. There were other factors as well, like deep repentance from sin and from religiosity and a renewed devotion to earnest prayer. As the Holy Spirit moved in them, these small groups became great movements. And they grew and thrived as great numbers of people began and continued living as did Christ’s church in its early decades.
May we all be inspired to follow their lead in following Christ as His true disciples.