SYNOPSIS – Following the events of the Day of Pentecost, the congregation established itself as a fellowship of believers centered in Jerusalem – Acts 2:42-47.
The final paragraph of Acts chapter 2 summarizes the results of the outpouring of the Spirit. While the description sounds routine, even mundane, it records the basic practices of the Christian congregation that resulted from the Spirit’s presence – Teaching, shared meals, fellowship, prayers, unity, and material support for individuals in need. The one unique feature is the holding of possessions “in common” under the administration of the Apostles.
Though not stated explicitly, implicit is the assumption that the organization of this first assembly came by the direction of the Holy Spirit.
(Acts 2:42-47) – “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all that believed were together and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need. And day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved.”
“The Apostles’ teaching.” The Apostles were all witnesses of the ministry and teachings of Jesus – “Beginning from the baptism of John until the day that he was received up from us, of these must one become a witness with us of his resurrection.” Moreover, prior to his ascension, Jesus opened their minds so they “might understand the scriptures.” In his “sermon” on the Day of Pentecost, Peter demonstrated this new insight into the scriptures. All this made the Apostles the medium and the guarantors of the veracity of the teachings of Jesus – (Acts 1:22).
“These are my words which I spoke to you while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms concerning me. Then opened he their mind – that they might understand the scriptures.” – (Luke 24:44-45).
“The breaking of bread.” This may refer to the celebration of the “Lord’s Supper.” More likely, based on Luke’s usage elsewhere, it refers to the common meals kept by the saints – A necessary part of remaining in the Apostle’s “teaching and fellowship.” However, it is a fair assumption that on some occasions they did keep the Lord’s Supper – (Acts 20:7-12, 27:35-36).
“Many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.” More than a historical footnote, the manifestation of “signs and wonders” confirmed what the prophet Joel had predicted as proclaimed by Peter – “I show wonders in the heaven above, And signs on the earth beneath.” Likewise, he described Jesus himself as a man “approved by God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs” – (Acts 2:17-22).
“And all the believers.” Or more correctly, “all the ones who believe.” The term is an early label for the new movement – “The believers.” It appears several times in the book of Acts. The term “Christian” will not be coined until some years later in the city of Antioch – (Acts 4:32, 5:14, 15:5; 11:26).
“They were having all things common.” Here and in the story of Ananias and Sapphira are the only descriptions in the New Testament of this practice. There is no evidence this became a common practice as the church expanded, or that it ever institutionalized it as a church ordinance – (Acts 5:1-11).
Most likely, the holding goods in common was an ad hoc response to the financial needs of the young church. Most of the Apostles were from Galilee and many if not most of the converts added on the Day of Pentecost had traveled to Jerusalem from elsewhere. Almost certainly, many did not have jobs, businesses or even homes in the city.
The incident does not represent an early form of “socialism,” or for that matter, any political or economic theory. For one thing, the donation of goods to the common fund was voluntary.
“They were continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple.” In Acts, most of the recorded activities of the first congregation occurred in or near the Temple. “Steadfastly with one accord” links the conclusion of this story with the previous gathering of the Apostles to elect a twelfth member to replace Judas – (“These all with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer” – Acts 1:14). The description is also a link to the final words of the gospel of Luke:
“And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, blessing God.” – (Luke 24:521-53).
“The Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved.” The last clause brings the story to a conclusion. “Those who were being saved” echoes the promise from the book of Joel, and the summons following Peter’s “sermon” – “Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” That is why the addition of new converts is attributed to “the Lord” rather than to the Spirit.
“In the temple.” This was the natural place for the new group to meet. At this point, the congregation was not a new religion but a new movement within Judaism, and the temple remained the center of the Jewish faith and nation. However, later events would compel the fledgling movement to move beyond Jerusalem, the temple, and the confines of their ancestral faith as the Spirit drove the church to take the good news about the kingdom of God to Judea, Samaria, and the “uttermost parts of the earth.”