Acts 2:42-47

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Icon Jul 24, 2015

This pericope provides a general description of the ideal characteristics and behaviour of the earliest Christian community. It also serves as an introduction to the next few chapters that go into more detail on the early church in Jerusalem (probably through to 6:7). There are no specific details given in this introduction for example about which believers were involved or how many believers were being added. This is in contrast to the pericopes immediately before and after that do contain more details along these lines. We know from later in Acts that what is being described in general terms here occurs in specific cases (4:36-37) and that not all members of the community shared the same motivations and ideals (Ch 5).

This Christian community being described is unique in that it is closest in space and time to Jesus’ teaching and ministry. The promised gift of the Holy Spirit had just arrived, and the community was directly benefiting from the teaching and signs done by the Apostles – those directly commissioned by Jesus (1:8). The community was only just forming, hence possibly also the need to be meeting together as frequently as they were. This community is also distinguished by its unique relationship to Judaism, as the author Luke is careful to show the connection as the believers continue to meet in the temple courts and follow practices such as prayers and fellowship familiar to Jews.

Contemporary Christians should not expect to experience the same wonders and signs, as these were done by the Apostles. We should not expect the same favour of the people, as this was likely influenced by the relationship of Christianity to Judaism. We should not expect the same numerical growth, as this was God’s work (v47).

However, given this is an ideal Christian community, we should seek to emulate the behaviour and characteristics which we see reinforced throughout the New Testament e.g. devotion to apostles teaching, fellowship/unity of believers, prayer and worship. And given that the gift of the Holy Spirit is normative for all Christians (2:38-39), we should expect Christian communities to display distinctive signs of the presence and power of God, and we should not expect to be able to limit or control the expression of that Spirit, as long as it’s consistent with expressions we see in the rest of the New Testament.

References

Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd edition. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005.
Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009.
Polhill, John B. Acts. Vol. 26. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.
Thompson, Alan. One Lord, One People : The Unity of the Church in Acts in Its Literary Setting. London, GBR: T & T Clark International, 2008.