Summary: Four distinguishing marks of the New Testament Church
A PATTERN OF DEVOTION
Three thousand souls ‘gladly received (Peter’s) word’ and ‘were baptised’ that day (cf. Acts 2:41) - yet, the revival of Pentecost was not yet over. To substantiate that we should realise the significance of the verse at the end of our present passage: “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). In other words, God is at work through the normal everyday devotion of His church.
These people who had so recently ‘believed’ and ‘been baptised’ (Acts 2:41) were now “devoted” to their new faith (Acts 2:42). “They continued steadfastly in” (persisted in their adherence to, intently engaged in, attended constantly to) “the teaching of the apostles and in fellowship, and to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). These are four distinguishing marks of the New Testament church.
1. They were devoted to the teaching of the Apostles. This is fundamental: it is the Apostolic faith which we share. The equivalent today is the reading and studying of the Bible, which is a basic element of all truly Christian worship.
2. They were devoted to fellowship. This is expressed in the “holding of all things in common” (Acts 2:44) - manifested in the voluntary selling of possessions and distributing to those who had need (Acts 2:45). It is also seen in the sharing of meals in their houses (Acts 2:46) - (so not everyone was expected to sell their house!) Acts of charity, and hospitality, still mark out the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. They were devoted to the breaking of the bread. The use of the definite article is significant: “the” breaking of the bread has sacramental overtones, pointing here to the Communion, or Lord’s Supper; whereas “breaking bread from house to house… with simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46) seems to point to a more informal practice.
4. They were devoted to the prayers. Again, the definite article. “The” prayers, may indicate their attendance at the Temple (Acts 2:46) - perhaps at the regular Jewish prayers, or in a rented room within the Temple, set apart for specifically Christian prayers.
What is perhaps strange here, is that we are NOT told that the church was ‘devoted to evangelism’. Perhaps it was their whole lifestyle which spoke the loudest to those outside the group. Awe came upon the people around them, and signs and wonders continued at the hands of the Apostles (Acts 2:43).
It was as they were praising God, that they had favour with the people. And it was THE LORD who added to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:47).