40] And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41] Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42] And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43] Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44] Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45] and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
46] So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47] praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
Verses 14 through 39 give us only a small portion of of what Peter said to the crowd who gathered as a result of the commotion surrounding the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. The thrust of what he said is found in v. 40, which says that with many words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation. His words didn’t fall on deaf ears as we read that three thousand souls were converted to the Lord.
The thing that I find interesting is the fact that they “continued” is mentioned twice, in vs. 42 and 46. This is the great distinguishing mark of true believers in the Lord Jesus, for there are many who draw back unto perdition, Hebrews 10:39. It’s the characteristic of His people mentioned by our Lord, John 8:31, Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” He’s not saying that they remain His disciples, or that they become His disciples, but that they are His disciples. This reminds us of an earlier incident in His life, recorded in John 2:23-25, Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what is in man.
We have such a shallow view of salvation. As long as one makes some sort of “profession of faith,” or even might have, well, that seems to be enough. I saw an example of this just the other day. The media has been filled with the terrible events which happened in Las Vegas. Of the man identified as the shooter, one pastor wrote, “Now it is possible that he was saved, that he had believed on Jesus at one point in his life.” Then this pastor wrote, as this man was preparing to shoot, “in those moments, he was not right with God, regardless of his salvation.”
Now, I grant that, generally speaking, we can’t know for certain the spiritual condition of any particular person. However, Scripture says, you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him, 1 John 3:15. So, while it is “possible” that this man was “saved,” it doesn’t seem very likely. He doesn’t seem to have been “continuing”.
We read of these early believers in Acts 2, that they continued, emphasis added. Verse 42 gives us four examples.
1. apostles’ doctrine. Since the apostles were still alive, this was possible. The word translated “apostle” basically means “one who is sent.” In that respect, any true Christian might say he or she is “an apostle.” However, there are no “Apostles” in the sense that the twelve were Apostles. There are no people giving new revelations of Scripture or “messages from God.” Today, we have the Scriptures. Our question must be, What does the Scripture say? Romans 4:3, not what does this or that preacher or teacher say? What does “the church” say?
What does God say, as given in His Word?
2. and fellowship. This seems to be tied in with the first item: “apostles’ doctrine and fellowship.” There’s an old saying, which I’ve turned around somewhat: “the feathers with whom you flock show what kind of a bird you are.” What kind of people do we like to be around, to associate with? That’s a reflection of who we are. These is Acts 2 wanted to be with God’s people.
3. in the breaking of bread. Perhaps what we call communion or the Lord’s Supper and ordinary meals were together. Our Lord instituted His Supper at the meal of the Passover, Matthew 26:26.
4. and in prayers. The hallmark of the NT church.
Verses 44, 45 tell of another aspect of the early church: they were together, and all things in common, and sold their possessions and good, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. Karl Marx used these ideas as a basis for his views on government. Many others have tried “communal” living of various sorts. However, especially as it regards communism and other socialist ideas, there are some things to keep in mind about this “community of goods.”
1. It was voluntary. There is no evidence that this was a “forced” sharing, as in communism. The government wasn’t involved at all. Nor does it have anything to do with the current idea of “making the rich pay their fair share.” It was voluntary,
2. It seems to have been temporary. We don’t read of this past chapter 6, though the NT is filled with efforts of Paul and others to relieve the necessities of the saints.
3. It didn’t work, as we see in chapter 6:1, which tells us of the beginning of “deacons.” We’ll have more about this when we get to that chapter.
It could be this came about because those early disciples believed that the Lord would return very soon. They had no inkling of “the church,” at least as we know it, or of the time interval between the Ascension and the Return. We still don’t know of that interval, though that doesn’t stop speculation. Just a few weeks ago, there were two different such speculations of facebook, both saying that such-and-such was the date on which our Lord would return, and both were wrong. You’d think, after nearly 2000 years of such misses, that folks would give up trying to figure it out. He may come before I get done with this post. He may not come until our grandchildren’s grandchildren are alive. In the meantime, there are things for us to do.
Verses 46 and 47 gives us a final summary. The split between Jew and Christian had not yet happened. As we said earlier, the early church was Jewish. It wasn’t really until Paul that the Gospel really began to be preached to Gentiles – usually with Jewish opposition. It was still a time of Apostolic miracle and ministry, a time of generosity and grace. A time of joy and happiness. A time of great salvation, as the last verse tells us. It was a daily occurrence, no special meetings or anything, just apparently the result of the way these early Christians lived.