For forty days following the ascension of Jesus Christ the disciples waiting in the upper room prayed, waited, and encouraged one another; as they waited for that “power” that they were to receive from God.
As they waited they were in ”one accord” as Luke writes of these wonderful events. ”One accord” does not mean that the individuals did not have a independent mind, or thought. It means that they were together for one purpose, and that one purpose was the glory of Jesus Christ. That glory of Jesus Christ was to be the Holy Spirit of God that was coming upon them all as they studied, prayed, preached, and read the word, or had it read to them.
Forty day following the ascension of Jesus it happened. The long awaited event was coming and what an event it was. The sound of a “Mighty rushing wind”. That reminds me of a wind from a tornado, a hurricane, or shear winds. “Cloven tongues of fire” fell upon them, and caused each one to speak in a language that the people there for the feast would hear and understand. These “cloven tongues” were the sign that the Spirit of God was on them in this place.
We are told that they were “all filled with the Holy Ghost…” The many languaged people began to hear words from these followers of Jesus, which they had never heard. Words of life, words of liberty, and words of grace, peace and love. Some began to accuse these of being drunk. Being early of the morning was reason enough for Peter to remind them that it was morning, thus they were not drunk with wine from the vine, so to speak.
As a result of this heavenly event at least 3000 souls were saved. What happens following this wonderful event is the source of our study.
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:41-47(KJV)
Let’s see if we can find an outline for this text:
- BAPTISM FOLLOWS THOSE WHO GLADLY BELIEVE (v. 41).
- THEY ARE ONLY COUNTED WITH THE JERUSALEM NUMBER FOLLOWING BAPTISM (v. 41).
- NOTE THE FOUR CHARACTERISTICS OF A NEW AND ACTIVE CHURCH (v. 42).
- THERE WAS AN AWE OF RESPECT, A FEAR, WHICH SWEPT OVER THE PEOPLE, AND THE ONE’S WHO WERE BELIEVING HAD ALL THINGS COMMON (vv. 43-45).
- THE ACTIVITIES OF THE EARLY CHURCH THROUGH THE WEEK (vv. 46-47).
BAPTISM FOLLOWS THOSE WHO GLADLY BELIEVE (v. 41). Receiving of the Word of God – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – is purely, surely a great joy and a gladness. When we hear the truth of the Word of God, believe it, and put it to work we have no problem following our Lord’s instruction for growing in faith.
Receiving the word and the gospel is far more than a mere belief in the existence of Jesus Christ, or His death on the cross, or His burial, or His resurrection. It is in truth the receiving of the Spirit of God into your life, who changes you, and grows in you each and every day for our God’s glory. It means the thief who believes is no longer a thief. It means that the murderer is no longer a murderer. It means the prostitute is no longer a prostitute. It means the liar is no longer a liar. Those who have been changed in their hearts now have desire to be more like Jesus Christ and give their lives completely to Him.
Where there had been only 120 Christians in the upper room; we now find that “about three thousand souls” were added to the Jerusalem church that day.
THEY ARE ONLY COUNTED WITH THE JERUSALEM NUMBER FOLLOWING BAPTISM (v. 41). Is the Point statement made here pertinent for today’s Christian? I believe it to be very pertinent. It gives Biblical guidance for local church membership. These were not or are not counted until we are told that they were baptised, then they are counted as “Members” of the local church. At that time there was only one local church, and it was the Jerusalem church.
There are some today who do not believe that local church membership is a Biblical idea, or principle. It seems clear to me, that the Bible says much about it. The letter to the Romans written by Paul the apostle was written to the church at Rome. The letter to the Galations was written to the church at Galatia. The letter to the Ephesians was written to the church at Ephesus. The letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians were written to the local congregations of those respective cities. In the Revelation Jesus Christ Himself sent a different letter to seven different churches. They are local churches.
Understand, none of this negates the fact that we are all part of the one body of Jesus Christ. Just as the human body has different parts, so too, does the body of Christ. Each local church has its own parts, and each one in the total Body of Christ has their parts.
We are baptised into the Body of Christ by the baptism of the Spirit of God. We profess our faith in a local congregation through water baptism. Water baptism testifies to the death – our not breathing going under the water, meaning immersion; burial – being put under the water; and the resurrection – coming up out of the water. This way is meaningless through sprinkling or pouring of water upon a participant.
Until a soul has been baptised Scripturally into the local body of Christ they are not qualified to particpate in the Lord’s Supper, are not counted as part of the local body, and have no membership privileges.
NOTE THE FOUR CHARACTERISTICS OF A NEW AND ACTIVE CHURCH (v. 42). There are four characteristics of this early church. The first one is that they “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine”. What is the “apostles’ doctrine”? The things about Jesus Christ which He taught; the miracles of Jesus, His virgin conception, and virgin birth. The death, burial and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. And surely the apostles’ doctrine would include the last day prophecies, and the return of Jesus Christ at His second coming. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Those are the main things.
The second, fellowship. Fellowship is much more than sitting around a table sharing a meal together. It may include the meal, but fellowship is a bonding, a coming together, for the one goal and good of one cause. It is caring for one another, sharing with one another in the Word of God and material things. It is a casual sharing of a testimony of God’s grace and goodness in a daily event, or a tragic circumstance or what could have been a tragic circumstance.
The third is, “in breaking bread”. Now this could definitely be the breaking of the bread representing the body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. This could also be the sharing of a meal. We see that this had gotten tangled up with the Corinthian church, and the apostle Paul had to rebuke them (1 Corinthians 11:20-34). They were not only defying the richness of the Lord’s Supper, but they were rude, unruly, showing partiality, and just plain ole, hypocritical in their behavior.
The fourth is prayer. Prayer is a very important part of the church. We go to God in prayer to share our hearts with Him; and we go to His Word so He can share His heart with us. I know it is much deeper than that. One thing being that in prayer, Biblical prayer, we go as an intercessor before the throne of God for others. We go before the throne to pray His will, not our own will. Going to the throne of grace we find grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Even though our heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask; our asking is a show of subjection, humility, and love to the One who supplies all our need. When we step out ahead of, or before God leads, or supplies we can get ourselves into very serious trouble. Most people have credit cards, for example, and will buy things without a thought as to its price; and often it is something they do not need. After many times and years go by, and they have paid only the minimum payment each month, while continuing to mount up the balance they find themselves in trouble. Why can we not pray, believe God to supply, instead of trusting in the plastic god?
THERE WAS AN AWE OF RESPECT, A FEAR, WHICH SWEPT OVER THE PEOPLE, AND THE ONE’S WHO WERE BELIEVING HAD ALL THINGS COMMON (vv. 43-45). As we look at these verses we see that wonderful, and awe-inspiring things took place in city of Jerusalem. The power of Jesus Christ Himself had come upon all who were in the upper room, ie., the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit who is Christ in those who possess, and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and are possessed by Him.
“Fear” is a God given emotion. Without fear we would be jumping to our deaths. We would be touching hot burning stoves. We would drive insanely speedily on hilly, curvy, terrain. You should get the picture with those matters. “Fear” can be a good thing. In the case of this verse it is a good thing. “And fear came upon every soul…” (v. 43). When we are before the presence of holy God we will shiver, tremble, and quake because we recognize His presence, person, power, and genuine prestige. This ‘fear’ is more than simple respect. It is an awe. He is more awesome than anything we can ever see. He is more awesome than any celebrity you will ever meet. He is more powerful than the President of the United States of America or any other country. Even the redeemed will bow before Him, and gladly call Him “LORD”.
We must note that this passage points out that it was through the apostles the Lord granted the “signs and wonders“. Why do people assume that there are apostles in the church today? There is no evidence of it. They have not been eyewitnesses of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. These signs and wonders were given to the apostles as testimony from God of their calling, their witness, and their preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ.
Some would liken the love and generosity of the early church and their sharing of their goods, land and homes as being the first socialistic order. That is not so. Socialism confiscates from those who have to give to those who have not. The order for the early church was that each one gave as they were able, and were blessed by God. Some of the early church sold their houses and land in order to be better servants to God and His Son Jesus, but no one forced the sale. It was an act of love not of a dictatorship. Christians who love the Lord and have burdens for the cause of Christ are still doing this; maybe not on the same scale and maybe to a greater scale. Every week when believers gather together we receive the tithes and offerings, and those come, sometimes with great sacrifice from the giver or givers. In most congregationally led churches no one is forced or shamed into giving tithes and offerings; it comes from their hearts most of the time. These funds were distributed as there was need among the people.
THE ACTIVITIES OF THE EARLY CHURCH THROUGH THE WEEK (vv. 46-47). The question has been asked, “How often should Christians meet as the Body of Christ?” There are many answers to that question and some would like to answer it with “Only twice a year. Easter and Christmas”. Oh, how far we have fallen. How often did the early church, the Church of Jerusalem meet? Look at verse 46, and the first part of 47:
“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people.”
Note “…They, continuing daily…” and many professing Christians today have a hard time getting together one worship service per week. We should feel ashamed for our lack of faith, trust, and commitment to God, His Word, His Son and His Church. Why is that many Christians want to find an excuse to miss worship services on Sunday? Why do they want to go to the lake for swimming, water skiing, fishing or boating rather than spend time in the place of worship with brothers and sisters in Christ? They are missing the heart of worship. They are missing the very One who gives them that desire, and that drive. The early Christians loved being together. Christians today love being together, and seek every opportunity to do so.
The “Breaking bread” referred here has to do with the sharing of daily meals, and provisions. It was a time of fellowship, worship, praise, and Christian growth. In their gatherings they not only shared their food, and fellowship; they also shared “gladness and singleness of heart“, and Oh the joy which they had together worshipping, praising God and magnifying the name of Jesus. Their worship in the gatherings were without hypocrisy, they were genuine, and did not attempt to overshadow anyone else. They were a simple people with a simple goal; and that goal was to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the concluding part of verse 47 we read:
“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
There are many attempts today to “grow the church”, “reach people for Christ”, etc. thus we have shows of entertainment, motorcycle jumping and racing, power teams, rock stars, and we get a crowd. The gospel is preached, and hundreds, maybe in some cases thousands, raise their hands of decision for Christ. For some it is genuine and they are born again to faith in Jesus Christ. For the others they go away thinking, “Man, I prayed some words tonight. I am alright with God. Let’s party.” and they are still on the road to destruction due to deception.
Notice who added the people to the church. It was the Lord who added to the church daily. It was not the apostles. It was not the women of the church. It was not the children of the church. It was not the men of the church. They had no programs. They had no visitation program. They were, however, faithful in worship, praise, and living a consistent Christian lifestyle which was a testimony of their faith.
It is my belief that when the people of God will get into His Word, read it, study it – pulling out the meaning, the message and power of the text, and apply it to our lives then, we will be more powerful affective witnesses and see multitudes come to faith in Jesus our Lord and Savior. It is not our doing, our calling to save sinners; that is the work of our Lord. It is our doing and calling to be faithful witnesses.
Continue Christians in the work of Jesus Christ.
-Tim A. Blankenship
These are my study notes for a sermon I preached at Carr Lane Baptist Church on September 28, 2008