41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. — Acts 2:41-47
A Picture of the Early Church
by Lisa Barron
When I read this passage and really think about the environment and heart of the early church Scripture is describing, I find myself wanting to be a part of the body of believers in that day. That isn’t to say I don’t love the church I am a part of. It just means I am a little jealous of how the believers responded in that day. The next thought that comes to mind is that I shouldn’t be envious. Our churches today can be the very same. It starts with me….and you.
A few key words that pop out at me in these verses are devoted, prayer, awe, give, continuing, sincere and praising. I wonder if we make church more complicated than it needs to be.
Devoted is defined as “giving all or a large amount of one’s time to a cause.” In a society that has become very selfish, the world screams at us to take care of ourselves first and then others. We barely have time to get everything done in a day, so to be devoted and to be all in doesn’t even seem possible.
To pray requires time—and once again, we feel the pressure of the clock to fit it in our day. I know sometimes I forget that I am privileged to be able to have conversation and fellowship with God. You and I can’t imitate Him if we don’t talk to Him or listen to Him.
When was the last time you remember being in awe of something in your church? I hope it was yesterday. Ecclesiastes chapter 3 describes going through all kinds of different seasons, and in verse 14 it says, “I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere (be in awe) of him.” Even in the difficult seasons, we should be in awe of how God works.
Giving is sometimes easier with our money than our time. We can write a check and mark it off the to-do list. However, our time is equally important to God. In Acts, the early believers gave to anyone in need. They pooled their resources and were stronger together as a body. That is still true today. When you and I give our money and our time to our church, so many needs can be met and the eternal impact can be far reaching. The early church was generous, and we should be too.
In the New King James Version, verse 26 reads, “So continuing daily with one accord....” Commitment used to be a word that meant so much more than it seems to today. Now it seems too easy to quit certain things, and instead we find ourselves living in a world of instant gratification. Acts clearly lays out the example of the early church when it says believers continued to meet together every day. That kind of commitment comes from a passionate and devoted heart.
Acts invites us into the everyday life of these believers. Towards the end of verse 46 it says “with glad and sincere hearts.” We get a picture of these people who had become like family, sitting in each other’s homes and breaking bread together with glad and sincere hearts. Imagine what their conversations must have focused on. I would guess they were talking about the goodness of God and His truths. I hope when we sit with our church family members that we spend more time talking about His goodness and His truths than about our trials and temptations. We need encouragement about our difficulties, but glad and sincere hearts help us to celebrate even in the tough stuff.
Praising God and enjoying God in unity with others makes the heart light. I know when I am in church, I leave loving my God and loving my church family even more.
There is so much richness in these verses of Acts. How do we keep these characteristics in our churches today? The first thing I think that is needed is a recognition of their importance. The second thing we need is a sacrificial devotion to God and His church. Thank you God for this beautiful picture we have recorded so we can model our lives after it.
- Which characteristic of the early church do you find yourself wanting more of?
- Examine that characteristic in your own life and your contribution to your church in that way. Is there anything you can do differently to keep the example more authentic and true to the early church?
- Does time feel like it robs you of your day? Are there more demands than your day can hold? If so, pray for God to show you what to scrape off your plate.
- Write down truths about God and His promises for you and your church. Put them somewhere to read them over and over. Then watch as your conversations with fellow believers start to change. Celebrate His goodness with a glad and sincere heart that believes those promises.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.