God’s Word for You
Acts 2:42-45 the breaking of the bread
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, September 6, 2019
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and to the prayers. 43 Reverence came into every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
We have already seen how these new converts were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. The message of the gospel led them to ask for forgiveness, and they were baptized. They also devoted themselves to the fellowship, which means that they treated one another, men and women, young and old, slave and free, all as one family and body of believers.
The breaking of the bread here and throughout the early church means two things at the same time. It means to share in a communal meal, but it also means that at the end of that meal, they regularly also celebrated the Lord’s Supper. There is no justification in saying that “breaking the bread” must mean one but not the other in the context of the early church. The Lord’s Supper was a common thing, celebrated in the true sense of the word “celebrated” by the church whenever they met together, just as they also prayed together and for one another.
Teaching and preaching, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. This has always been a model for the worship life of the Church. I suppose that Luke doesn’t say any more because he didn’t know there would ever be a need to say more; everyone was still doing this when he traveled with Paul, even into Europe. And the Holy Spirit knew we would do better without more specific details, or we would be prone to insist upon a form of liturgy that is not essential.
The wonder and signs aren’t described; they took place as evidence that God was with the group and placed his stamp of approval on the apostles’ message. This was his Church, the communion of saints.
44 All the believers gathered together and had everything in common. 45 They would sell their possessions and goods and they gave anyone whatever they needed.
The early Christians were not communists. Their possessions weren’t confiscated for redistribution. As Lenski says so rightly: “This was not communism but the product of something that communism does not understand” (Acts p. 119). It was with true Christian charity that these people shared everything they had with one another. It wasn’t as if a wealthy Christian woman was pressured into giving away all her finery. It would be closer to the mark to say that if a wealthy Christian woman was aware of another woman in the group who had little or nothing of her own, she might give up a dress for her, or sell something to provide for her. Families did not starve, or suffer when the rains came. They used what they had for the benefit of everyone. This is the way we still use our gifts from God.
Since it wasn’t possible for more than three thousand Christians to have gathered into one house continually, Luke must be describing the actions of Christians throughout Jerusalem or out into Judea, gathering together into congregations the way that they had formerly done as Jews gathered into synagogues. This Eden of a church did not last; Luke will tell us the story of how it was soon stained with sin, greed, and lies. The difference between the fall of man and the fall of the early church is that the early church already knew the promise and its fulfillment. It is a reminder that every Christian and every congregation suffers from temptations and pitfalls. But we have a Savior who loves us, who has paid the price for our sins, and who will bring us in the end into the congregation which will never be stained with sin, will be ideal in every way, and which will endure forevermore.
Pastor Timothy Smith