April 18 – Acts 2:42-47
Forty-eight days after Jesus’ resurrection, thousands and thousands of Jews were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, what we call Pentecost. On Shavuot the giving of the Torah is celebrated, but that specific year God’s word arrived in a startling new way. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus’ followers in tongues of fire, enabling them to proclaim the good news of the gospel in every language, and after a short sermon from Peter over 3000 men, women, and children repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:1-41).
It’s this community of believers that’s described in our passage for this week, Acts 2:42-47. Aside from the small core of Jesus’ disciples, the rest of the early church was made up of recent converts, many of whom had only seen or knew about Jesus’ death but hadn’t witnessed his resurrection. At this point the gospel was new news, but it was soon going to be costly news. Initially the Christian message was treated as a new sect of Judaism, but patience with early Christians would wane quickly, with a great persecution eventually arising in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).
So, for this early community their belief was relatively new and perhaps disrupted their familial and community relationships (though, on the whole, they still maintained “favor with all the people,” 2:47). In this passage we see that their belief in the risen Lord Jesus changed their lives from top to bottom. It pulled them together into a tight knit community, it centered their lives on the teachings of Jesus relayed by the apostles, it made them overflow in generosity towards one another—you get the sense that these people simply couldn’t stop getting together to rejoice over their newfound life in Christ. This was a community of resurrection.
As we read this passage, it’s important to note that it is descriptive, not prescriptive. It describes the nature of the first Christian community to us, but it doesn’t prescribe a specific standard for our Christian communities today. As we read this, the goal isn’t to just pantomime what the early church was doing but to have the same convictions, which will likely lead to similar patterns. We don’t want to just do what they were doing, though it’s commendable—we want to ask the same questions they were asking (e.g. “how does forgiveness for sin change my life?”) and then arrive at our own authentic conclusions (e.g. “Jesus has been so generous with me that I can gladly help my neighbor pay his rent.”)
Looking at the beliefs and convictions that underlay this Christian community can also help us surface our unbelief and lack of conviction. For example, these followers were likely very generous because their tenuous hope in this world had been transformed into an unshakeable hope in the world to come, so they didn’t have to hold on to all their possessions and wealth but could instead give freely to support others. When we are stingy or slow to help, it’s likely because our hope has not been similarly transformed.
Questions for Discussion
• Would someone read Acts 2:42-47 for us?
• What stood out to you in this passage?
• How would you describe this community of believers?
• Why do you think generosity was one of the specific things they were known for?
• What beliefs or priorities might have led this community to live this way?
• Where do your day-to-day beliefs or priorities differ from the people in this passage?
• How can the gospel free you to live in a way that is similar to these early believers?