I always looked forward to going to summer camp. My enthusiasm would build weekly until the day of our arrival. We arrived on Monday with great anticipation for the week. We could hardly imagine a whole week of swimming, playing baseball and Capture the Flag. Immediately we began wondering what would be the same as previous years and what would be different?
As we go about our normal church routines it is hard for us to appreciate the levels of anticipation and anxiety in the hearts and minds of the early believers in Jerusalem. Jesus was so different than the other teachers and what he said often left followers scratching their heads. Now the Holy Spirit began ministering in a new way and Old Testament promises were being fulfilled daily. Obviously, things were different, and they would never be the same again.
The activities of the first century believers are described in Acts but we receive a picture of the Jerusalem church in chapters 1-8. Some of their activities are descriptive and some are prescriptive. Understanding the difference between descriptive and prescriptive is very important. Some events and activities are just described and are not meant to be followed or copied. Other activities are presented with the purpose of them being repeated. These are prescriptive. How do we know the difference between what is descriptive and what is prescriptive? What is there for interest and what is there for a standard and expected practice by other followers of Jesus? This subject will be answered in subsequent blogs.
For today let’s examine the practice of the early church right after Pentecost. Some of these practices are descriptive and some are prescriptive. We cannot tell the difference between the two until we study the rest of the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament.
There are two significant ideas presented in Acts 2:42-47. In 2:42-43 they are devoted to certain activities and in 2:44-47 they act a certain way. Notice that in 2:42 they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers.
At this point the apostles did not have an established, written statement of their beliefs. God was still revealing many details and the New Testament would eventually be written. As we study the early sermons presented in Acts we can develop a view that they centered their teaching on Jesus being the Messiah and this was a fulfillment of Old Testament promises. Through faith in Jesus Christ people could have their sins forgiven. They evidenced this faith and repentance through baptism and joining with other followers.
The early followers were also devoted to fellowship. They understood clearly that following Jesus also meant joining with other followers and helping one another. They wanted to encourage in difficulties and spur each other on in love.
They regularly celebrated the communion service. It seems the believers met routinely for a meal to express their love for one another and then at the end of the meal they took time to remember what Jesus had accomplished on the cross for them through the elements of bread and wine. Early on both the fellowship meal and the memorial were described as one event, “breaking bread.”
The fourth devotion was to prayer. Some met at the Temple to pray daily and others met in their homes. Acts 2:46 mentions that they daily went to the Temple and met in homes. In Acts 3:1, Peter and John went to the Temple for daily prayer but Acts 4 and 12 show that prayer was a regular event in homes as well. These people prayed fervently and regularly.
Acts 2:44-47 also describes some of their activities. The apostles practiced miracles, people joined their resources to help the poor and they met regularly for prayer and praise. Through this the Lord added daily to their numbers.
What an exciting time this must have been. There had to be a level of anticipation and fear as they met, prayed and helped one another.
How can we reproduce this enthusiasm in our churches today? How can we build such intense dependence upon God, His word and one another? Join with me in not allowing budgets, committees and schedules to rob us of the wonder of God working in and through us to accomplish his purpose in our world.