Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Acts 2:42 – Church life

The preaching of the gospel had been blessed in Jerusalem and large numbers had been converted. Many of these converts were from other countries and eventually they would have returned home. It is not possible to know if any of them are included in the description of church life given in Acts 2:42, although the presence of such persons would require the practice of sharing meals in different homes which is mentioned in 2:46. In any case, eventually those from other countries would return home and the disciples would be mainly those who lived in the city. What did these disciples do? According to this verse, they went to church.

These early disciples had certain features of their lives that are common to all disciples, and that is that each of them lived in three worlds. First, a disciple of Jesus in Jerusalem lived in a personal Christian world (for example, his private devotions and his personal witness to Jesus). Second, the disciple of Jesus lived in a non-Christian world (for example, his employment or his neighbours). Third, such a disciple lived in a corporate Christian world (his involvement in the meetings and activities of his church). Sometimes, these worlds overlap: for example, his neighbours may also be members of the same congregation or his personal Bible study may coincide with the topic preached by his pastor. These three worlds are still with us today.

In each of these worlds, he has to function as a disciple of Jesus, yet he may not function in the same way in these different worlds. Steady intellectual study is required in both his personal Christian life and in his corporate Christian life, but it may not occur in his non-Christian environment. Of course, the illustration should not be reversed: plenty study in the secular location, but little or none in the Christian locations. Sadly, I suspect this reversal may be very common today.

Luke here describes the third of these possible worlds – corporate Christian living. ‘And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.’ In this verse, he specifies four of their activities as well as indicating how they performed each of these interests. He records that they devoted themselves to church life. The terms that he uses point to utter dedication, almost to a sense of stubbornness, to the corporate activities of the church in Jerusalem. Nothing could prevent them attending its gatherings.

I wonder who told Luke about these early days. It is generally recognised that he probably engaged in some research when he was in Palestine along with Paul, about thirty years after the coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Perhaps Luke met with believers who recalled with gladness, but also with a measure of sadness, the attitude that was expressed in those early days of the Christian church. These believers would have been similar to those believers who have experienced revivals in the past – they know that the church can be better than it currently is.

The obvious question to ask is, ‘Why did they devote themselves to these activities?’ It was not because they happened to be the kind of people who would get deeply involved in whatever was going on. There are people like that; they treat a game of tiddlywinks with the same passion as when they are striving for a promotion at work. Such people have an incredible drive. No doubt, some of the converts on the Day of Pentecost would have had these characteristics. Yet they all had a more powerful incentive for getting involved. They had met Jesus Christ and were beginning to discover that they had entered a new world. They had been religious before, steeped in Judaism, which was why they had been in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. But now they had experienced a new and better situation in which they could encounter Jesus Christ in his church.

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