THE INFANT CHURCH

Acts 2:41-47

 

The church in Jerusalem began with a bang. Or maybe with a "whoosh!" There had been 120 followers of Jesus gathered together when the Holy Spirit came upon them and they found themselves speaking in other languages. A crowd quickly gathered to find out what was going on and Peter addressed the crowd and told them of Jesus. As a result, the church was born. And its birth was no small event. It began that day with a membership of 3000 people. In a single day it had become a megachurch.

Iíve been a member of a megachurch and I know from experience that such a church has certain problems which it must face. These problems are usually able to be addressed gradually as the church grows. But in the Jerusalem church, the growth took place in a single day.

It is interesting to note that the books of Luke and Acts form a parallel in their theme and structure.

Luke

Acts

Begins with the announcement and promise of the birth of Jesus

Begins with the announcement and promise of the birth of the church

Birth narrative followed by presentation in Jerusalem

Spiritís coming explained to those present in Jerusalem

Jesus grew "in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (2:52).

The church was growing and "having favor with allt he people" (2:47).

Jesus is tempted by Satan and begins to face persecution from the Jews.

The church faces temptations and persecutions at the hands of the Jews.

Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem.

Paul begins a series of journeys which will eventually take him to Rome.

 

A. MARKS OF THE CHURCH.

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:41-42).

The members of this church were apparently made up from all of the people-groups that had gathered at Pentecost. This was a church made up of 10 different cultural groups. Modern church growth experts would tell you this cannot be done. But God did it.

These verses present us with five marks of a church. They are five actions of which members of a church should always be a part.

1. Baptism.

The Bible knows nothing of an unbaptized Christian. Baptism serves as the rite of initiation into the church. There are a number of different types of baptism described in the Bible. Each one of them carry the idea of IDENTIFICATION.

Type

Scripture

Implication

Baptism of John the Baptist

Mattnew 3:6

People repenting and being identified with the promise of the coming kingdom

Jesus was Baptized

Matthew 3:13-16

Jesus identified Himself with Johnís message and ministry

Jesusí Disciples Baptized

John 4:2

People repented and were identified with the ministry and preaching of Jesus

Christian Baptism

Acts 2:41

Believers repent and are identified with Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection

Baptism of the Spirit

1 Cor 12:12-13

Believers are identified and united with Christ through the ministry of the Spirit

Baptism of Moses

1 Cor 10:2

Israelites coming out of Egypt were identified with Moses and with his God.

 

2. Devotion to the Apostlesí Teaching.

The Apostlesí teaching would have been taken both from the Old Testament Scriptures as well as from the teachings of Jesus.

Peter elsewhere exhorts believers to feed upon the pure milk of the Word. Babies need food if they are to grow. I remember that our daughter used to end up wearing more food than she ate. But enough managed to get into her so that she grew into a young lady.

3. Fellowship.

What comes to your mind when you think of Christian fellowship? A social affair? The word "fellowship" is translated from the Greek word koinania, which describes "the sharing of things in common." We shall see a related word in verse 44 when we read that "they had all things in common."

Fellowship is the sharing of that which we have in common with one another. Think about it. There are people within the church of all walks of life. There are white collar workers and blue collar workers and no collar workers. There are people with masters and doctorate degrees and there are people who have not even completed high school. There are people will all sorts of ethnic and racial origins. And all of these diverse people come together because they have ONE thing in common - Jesus Christ. He is the basis of our fellowship. And if He is not the basis of our fellowship, then it is not true Christian fellowship.

4. Breaking of Bread.

When we read that they were devoting themselves to "the breaking of bread," it is not entirely clear whether this is a reference to the observing of the Lordís Supper or it was merely the regular practice of Christians to eat together. I tend to believe that it was BOTH.

In verse 46 we will read that this breaking of bread took place "from house to house" as they "were taking their meals together."

The Lordís Supper had been instituted by Jesus at the Passover prior to His crucifixion. The Passover was only observed once a year. But Jesus had told His disciples to celebrate the Lordís Supper on a more regular basis. They initially seem to have observed it on a daily basis.

5. Prayer.

The Greek text reads literally "in the prayers." Though it is mentioned last, this is no less a vital mark of the church. A church that does not pray is an abnormality.

 

B. ATTITUDES WITHIN THE CHURCH.

Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. (Acts 2:43).

This was the honeymoon after the marriage. I can still remember our honeymoon after we were married. Paula and I were both in Bible College and didnít have much in the way of money. But we had set aside some for our honeymoon. I entrusted it into her keeping with instructions to hold onto the cash and to make sure that our car was filled with gasoline. After the reception, we rushed out to the car amidst flying rice and drove away from the celebration. Only then did I look down at the gas gauge and see that the needle was on empty. I turned to Paula and said, "Well, give me some of the money that I gave to you and Iíll pull into a gas station and fill it up." My new bride looked at me askew and admitted to having spent all of our honeymoon funds. Fortunately, we had been given several cash gifts at the wedding and as it turned out, these were adequate to take us on a delightful honeymoon to Fort Lauderdale Beach - a mere 10 miles from home.

Honeymoons are delightful. Do you remember when you first came to Christ? Everything was fresh and exciting. When you are growing in Christ, there ought to be a sense of awe.

When God is working in a church, the people will be struck by a sense of awe. This leads to a different way of living.

 

C. CARING AND SHARING WITHIN THE CHURCH.

And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. (Acts 2:44-45).

This kind of selling isnít commonly done today unless there is a tax deduction.

But there were no tax deductions in that day. When we read that they had all things in common. The Greek word translated "common" is from the same root as the word for "fellowship" in verse 42. That tells me something about real Christian fellowship. Fellowship is more than merely a church social. It involves a commitment to one another.

God had promised that there would come a day when the law would be written in the hearts of His people. The law said to take care of widows and orphans. At the Feast of Pentecost, the firstfruits which had been waved before the Lord were commonly taken and given to the widows and to the poor.

What happened in the church was a new Pentecost. This was not communism. It is stewardship. Possessions were recognized as belonging to the Lord and were therefore used to meet the needs of the people within the church.

1. The sale of goods was voluntary.

There is no indication of this taking place by compulsion. This will be confirmed in Acts 5:4 when Peter tells Ananias that the property he sold is his to do with as he likes.

2. The sale of goods took place spontaneously and not in some orchestrated way.

3. The giving seems to have been done directly, from the donor to one in need.

This is no intermediary mentioned here, no "middle man."

4. This was giving to meet the needs of people within the church.

The church was taking care of its own.

5. We are not told that people sold ALL of their possessions.

Indeed, this seems not to have been the case.

Neither are we told that ALL Christians were involved in the selling of their possessions for this purpose.

The point is not that you must give up all your possessions to the church.

But it IS that you should see all of your possessions as belonging to God and that you are merely the steward over that which has been temporarily entrusted into your keeping.

 

D. GROWING WITHIN THE CHURCH.

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47).

There were two locations which the early church used for their meeting place.

The first was in the Temple. They were all Jewish, so it was only natural that they would continue to meet in the temple. Indeed, this was the only public gathering place that would accomodate the entire growing group of Christians.

The other place that they met was from house to house. The entire group would break up into smaller groups and meet in one anotherís homes.

There is something special about meeting in a home. It takes our Christianity out of a cold, sterile environment and brings it down to where we live.

The church became their life. This was not merely a one-day-a-week activity. This was a whole new way of living. Their entire lives were changed. They had a new purpose in life.

Notice that there was a two-fold praise. The church was praising God. And the church was having favor with all the people.

    • The first is a vertical relationship.
    • The second is a horizontal relationship.

I want to suggest that whenever the church gets the first one accomplished, the second one will also become evident.

There is no mention of an active public relations campaign. The church does not seem to have been actively involved in trying to recruit new members. It was happening spontaneously. Verse 47 says that it was the Lord who was adding to their number.

The church has gotten away from this. We have programs and plans to try to get people into the church. And then we wonder why they are so ineffective.

Outsiders look at the church and they can tell the phony from the true. And when they see the phoniness, they want no part of it.

Iím not arguing for or against the modern trend in "seeker services." But I AM saying that such will be eventually found to be ineffective if there is no reality within the church.