And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)
Last week, we examined the account of Pentecost, looking at its purpose in the overall story of scripture, its goal of opening the door to preach the gospel, and its impact of establishing the Holy-Spirit indwelt church of Jesus Christ. This Sunday, we will continue looking at the impact of this outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This impact is lasting – so lasting, in fact, that it continues today.
Theologians have debated whether or not the church technically began in the Old Testament with Israel, or with the birth of Christ, or with Christ calling his disciples, or at Pentecost. Whatever position makes the most sense, what is clear is that all the pieces were in place as a result of Pentecost to enable the church to be a witness to the world: Christ is ascended, ruling and reigning over his people; the Spirit has been given, indwelling and empowering his people; the people are gathering regularly, setting the tone for the priority for followers of Christ for ages to come.
Our tendency to assemble together, therefore, is thoroughly biblical and apostolic. In fact, when reading our text, one cannot help but see that gathering together is the natural product of a Spirit-filled encounter with the gospel. Christians gather together. Period.
While Christian gatherings, then, are organic, they are not, however, improvised. Rather, they are intentional, ordered, and regular.
We see this intentionality in Luke’s phrase “they devoted themselves” in v42. To be devoted to something indicates an intention of purpose – one is willing even to sacrifice other things in life for this cause. What were they devoted to? Luke says, “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.” These things sound very familiar – doctrine, that is, biblical teaching; fellowship – bearing each others’ burdens, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; breaking bread – hospitality, communion; prayers – petitioning God together. In addition to these things, they were “praising God.” It looks like they had all the elements of a worship service!
At this time, the Apostles were leading the church, which tells us that these gatherings had oversight and accountability. They performed signs and wonders to validate the message they were preaching, and more people were added to the church. Also note that they were meeting daily, both in the temple (organized, corporate gatherings), and in homes (hospitality and common fellowship). Those who believed in Christ and were baptized clearly saw themselves as part of a new family with one another!
As we come to this text on Sunday, brother and sisters, let us truly examine our hearts. Do we desire this kind of fellowship? Do we prioritize the gatherings of the church like the early church did? Are there things in our lives that need to be cut out in order for us to look more like that primitive church? May the Lord use their example to renew our minds as to the priority of Christian fellowship!