“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts 2.42-47 (ESV)
Acts 2.42-47 and other passages like it are important because they provides clear descriptions of the life of the 1st century church. When dealing with this passage we must bear in mind that it is a description of the 1st century church and not a prescription for the modern church. That is to say, Luke is not giving us directions for exactly what we are to do as the church. However, the descriptive nature of this passage does not lead us to the conclusion that there is nothing the modern church can learn or apply in the modern setting. The principles behind the specifics are of great value even today.
The vision of Christ Church Conway is “To work for the expansion of the Kingdom of God by starting a new church in Conway, AR which will a) be a worshipping-community, a ministering-community, and a transforming-community, and b) work to plant and water the seeds of the gospel in the lives of individuals in Conway and all the places where we serve.” Acts 2.42-47 is one of the passages that helped shape this vision. The Acts 2 passage illustrates the broad statements of being a worshipping, ministering, and transforming community.
Community is very much alive in this passage. One indicator of community is the number of plural words… they, all, their, people, homes, etc. Clearly, this passage deals with the church as a whole, rather than as mere individuals. Yet, the individual is not excluded. The individual and his function within the church are repeatedly presented in light of the group. For instance, individuals were selling their own possessions in order to give to other individuals. Individuals were attending the temple for worship together with other individuals.
The Acts 2 community functions as a worshipping community. Their devotion “to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (v42 ESV), is likely a reflection on the worship of the early church. Further, we see in verse 46 that the people were going to the temple, the place of worship, daily.
The Acts 2 community functions as a ministering community. We have already pointed out the voluntary communalism (something very different from communism or socialism) displayed by those who are well-off selling their possessions and giving to those in need. In fact, this was happening to such a degree that Luke is able to say in Acts 4.34a, “There was not a needy person among them” (ESV). The fellowship that was shared among the believers, having each other in their homes, worshipping together, and learning together is also an aspect of a ministering community.
The Acts 2 community functions as a transforming community. As these believers gazed on the glory of God, they were literally awestruck themselves. People were being brought out of, or at least supported through, physical poverty. The group was growing as “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (V47 ESV). In addition, they were functioning as agents of transformation in the community around them as they were used by God to preach the gospel so that people would be saved
My prayer for Christ Church Conway is that as we grow in faith as individuals we too may function as a community deeply committed to worshipping the true and living God, ministering to the real needs, both spiritual and physical, of those around us, and striving for gospel transformation. That is to say my prayer is that we will achieve or vision of being a worshipping, ministering, and transforming community. The three parts of our vision statement are certainly the principles behind the particulars of the Acts 2 passage. However, a more basic principle is at work behind these. God, for Christ’s sake and through Christ, had changed these people so that they could function as a worshipping, ministering, and transforming community. May we too be changed.