Acts 2:42-47 – The Early Community of Believers

Clint Arnold points out in his Acts commentary that they community in Acts Two was characterized by four types of activities. Acts 2:42 says that the believers were devoted to these four activities.  The verb here (προσκαρτερέω) has the idea of being busy with something, or even “to persist” (BDAG).  The word appears twice in this paragraph, in verse 46 the community is daily worshiping in the temple and sharing meals together.

First, they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles (διδαχή). This instruction is for new converts who may not have heard Jesus teach.  The apostles are witnesses passing along the things which they have seen and heard.  It is entirely possible that the apostles had common set of instruction which they regularly passed along to new converts.  If this is the case, then there was a basic body of tradition within months of the death of Jesus which could be called the “teaching of the apostles.”

Second, they devoted themselves to fellowship (κοινωνία). Since this word has the connotation of sharing common, this is likely an allusion to the communal life described in the next verses (Fitzmyer, Acts, 269).  At the very least this includes alms and care for the poor.  I would suggest that many of those who needed assistance were Diaspora pilgrims who accepted the message of Jesus and remained in Jerusalem rather than to return home after Pentecost.

Third, they devoted themselves to “breaking of bread.” While this phrase can be used of sharing a meal together, it is likely that Luke is describing the community as celebrating some form of communion.  In Luke 21:19 the same words are used as Jesus takes bread and breaks it.  In Luke 24:35 it is used for the resurrected Jesus breaking bread as two disciples realized who he was.  I think that Jesus’ practice of common meals was the foundation for this practice — they all ate and drank together as one group.

Fourth, they devoted themselves to prayers. Since the Greek is plural this is plausibly a reference to daily prayers in the Temple.  It would not be unusual for Jewish men to go to the Temple several times a day to pray, so the community continues to worship at the Temple regularly.  In fact, Acts 2:46 indicates that the disciples met in both private homes and in the Temple.  This likely put them into contact with other observant Jews who would then be introduced to Jesus as Messiah.

Since a major interest in this series of studies is how to “apply” the book of Acts, it is critical to ask if  Luke is describing an ideal Christian community, or the specific community in Jerusalem.  While it is easy to see these four elements as generic components of Christian community everywhere, there are other elements in this paragraph which do not seem to be found elsewhere.  I will come back to this later, but notice for now that the community sold property, pooled resources, and distributed these funds to the poor.  Giving to the poor is a standard description of Christian community, but “living in common” only appears here in Acts 2.  There is nothing which makes me think the Antioch church was pooling resources, nor does Paul give any such instruction to his churches.

The fact that these earliest believers are devoted to these activities daily is also unique in the apostolic period.  There is no other group of believers who appear to have left their jobs to devote themselves to spiritual activity.  In 1-2 Thessalonians Paul seems to instruct the members of the church to not retire from daily life and be constantly devoted to ministry.  2 Thess 3:11-12 specifically tells people to go out and get jobs so that they are not a burden.

What is the reason Christians are quick to apply Acts 2:42 but not Acts 2:43 (miracles) or 2:44-45 (communal living)?  What is the difference between what is happening in Acts 2 and 2 Thessalonians 3?

59 thoughts on “Acts 2:42-47 – The Early Community of Believers

  1. As you point out, there seems to be a ‘break’ of some kind between the earliest primitive period of the Church and the Pauline period. The question I’ve asked myself is, “Why?” I don’t have an answer, other than perhaps the need for that particular function of body ministry wasn’t present. But, it puzzles me.

    Great post.

  2. I believe that God created the Bible to transcend time and culture, to apply today the same as it applied to the original church. That could mean a lot of things. I like the statement posed by Mr. Long, “It is critical to ask if Luke is describing an ideal Christian community, or the specific community in Jerusalem.” This is really critical to ask about everything in the Bible. Are we to greet one another with a holy kiss? Or are we to greet on another with love, and a holy kiss was equivalent to our modern handshake? I imagine that the original church was on a significant emotional high. Everything was new and nothing had yet been established beyond the teachings of Jesus. Communal living in modern America would creep people out and probably do more damage than good to God’s message. However, each of these four activities seems important to the church at their core. Teaching new converts, fellowship of any sort, communion, and prayer seem like good building blocks for the church from any perspective.

    • The Holy Kiss is a good point, although it comes from one of Paul’s letters. However, what does it matter if communal living creeps out Americans if that is the best way to “be the Church”? I happen to think it is not the best way, but creeping out Americans (while a great deal of fun) is not the best measure of correct behavior.

      • I understand what you say. My point is more about the logic of it. It seems like pulling Christians out of society to form an enclosed group is counter-productive to the spreading of the message. It seems to me that the Bible encourages self-sustaining Christian individuals over clique-like groups. Communal living just doesn’t seem to make sense in any society relative to the entire new testament teaching.

      • “Communal living just doesn’t seem to make sense in any society relative to the entire new testament teaching.”

        I agree, Joe, and it appears no where else in the NT. The problem (for me) is why it even appears here in the first few chapters of Acts? Is this the “pure form” of Christianity? Or is there something apocalyptic going on?

  3. It’s hard to really expound on what all Joe has said about these factors of the early church. I think that this goes back to the discussion we had last posting about the heart of the early church. Teaching, preaching, breaking bread, and prayer are simple actions of the church that are modeled by Christ along with the early church. Like Joe was saying, the others aspects like living in community, a kiss greeting, etc are more of a cultural thing. The modern church needs to find ways to incorporate the 4 basic principles of the early church into modern, cultural standards. Whether or not these others things are included, aren’t important. Again, it’s the heart of the church that really matters, and the four principles line up with that.

    • It is always tough to really pick out exactly what a church should do but i believe that the bible is where we have to find our model of what the church should look like. The four principles of teaching, preaching, breaking bread and prayer, are essensial for the church to be like the church found in acts and like david said, these four principles are going to look differently in today’s culture then in the time of acts. The important thing to do now is figure out how to implement these four principles.

    • I agree with you David that we should not have to take on the cultural aspects of the early church, but to continue to use the teachings that Jesus gave His body to practice. I do think that our church is lacking and is thirsty for more of the routine once a month communion, and the others… I think that the Jewish culture did these things in a great way because it was a community practice and it reached into the daily lives of these new believers. I feel like along with the four basic principles we need to make an effort to live in a closer community with fellow believers, so that we will not become bored or complacent with just the Sunday morning stuff, but that we will push each other, keep each other more accountable in the deeper things that are happening in our everyday lives and with this community becoming stronger in doing all of these things, it or we would grow even thirstier for the Word, God, that we would dink so much we would have to spit, puke out this truth on the surrounding communities!

  4. I believe that quite often churches tend to focus to misinterpret things such as the four devotions mentioned. Fellowship has turned into casual juice and cookies after a Sunday sermon. Communion has unfortunately become juice and crackers. I feel that we as Christians have the duty to remember the point of things. We need to understand that we pray to grow closer to and talk with our father. The apostles had the privilege to study directly under Jesus’ teachings and since we could not, we were given the Bible as a source. Dave is right when he says we need to find a way to incorporate these basic devotions into our everyday lives and in our churches.

    • Unfortunately communion has turned into just juice and crackers for some people and no longer realize or think about the true meaning. But don’t get me wrong there are still a lot of people that truly take it seriously. I almost feel as if some of these things have almost turned into a routine and is treated as something that we are supposed to do but not what we want to do.

      • True Bryce – communion is certainly ritualized away from the original feast, sharing with the poor, etc. But is that really a bad thing? What happens in communion seems like a spiritual act of worship, a time of self reflection and confession, etc. Is that what these people were doing in Acts 2:42?

  5. This entire topic is one that is very dear to my heart, partly because of the cultural and social contrasts to modern churches (which is very interesting), but also because I have always been taught traditional “Acts 2 dispensational theology”–though my baptist church would shudder at the phrase. Realizing that traditional influences may not be sturdy evidence for solid thought processes, I am beginning to understand the subtle complexity and overwhelming simplicity of the church.

    However, there is no doubt that this gathering of believers was different than any community before experienced by Jews. Sacrifices were through, priests were beginning to be done away with and traditions were slowly morphing into what would soon become new tradition. The answer to the question kiss greetings and communal living seem to be lingering effects from first-century society and, simply with developments in culture have started to fade. This is not to say that they are either commanded or wrong, but rather that the important aspects seem to have a more resonating tone with believers (Last supper, fellowship, etc) and the lesser “traditions” (holy kisses, communal living… and even baptism) become secondary to the overall cause of the Church (local and universal):

    God’s glory.

    • Do you think that this initial wave of thousands immediately stopped sacrificing in the Temple? I really do see the community in Acts 2 to be a Jewish Reform Movement at this point in the history.

  6. Cappon I always find your comments extremely thought provoking. In regards to your “significant emotional high” and “nothing was established”, if I am not mistaken the twelve still acted like Jews and kept the law. They just believed Jesus was the Messiah that others were waiting for, Paul and Peter later have an argument over keeping of the law. My personal opinion is the whole communal living came out of the fact that all the Jews were now moving to Jerusalem to await the gathering of Israel as P Long stated in his other blog.

  7. Its kind of funny to look at how today’s modern church looks at the four activities that Arnold talks about in his Acts commentary. I think in many ways we have lost site of what true fellowship is and what it is meant to be or look like. Sadly, it has come down to coffee and cookies in the fellowshipp hall and everyone gathers around their favofrite table around their favorite people. That is taking the idea of fellowship way out of context of what God wants it to be. COmmunion is almost a joke sometimes because all it is is a scripture reading and we eat bread or crackers and drink grape juice. Prayer is suppose to be for the whole idea of growing closer to God and deepening our relationship with him on so many level.
    I am not trying to bash any churches here in the least. I am merely saying that sometimes as a church in today’s society.. we tend to loose focus on these things

  8. The only thing that strikes me is a few chapters later on, Ananias and Sapphira are struck down for not being communal. First of all, does this not fit with the rest of Scripture wherein God no longer punishes for their sins but forgives and redeems? Secondly, if indeed God was punishing them, then wouldn’t that mean that we are REQUIRED to live in a communal type way? From a commenter: “Communal living in modern America would creep people out and probably do more damage than good to God’s message” – So culture dictates the Word of God? I’ve been told the reason we don’t follow exactly the teachings about women is because that was the culture then, this is the culture now. But that doesn’t make sense, because our culture for a very long time oppressed women in the name of Jesus (also not in the name of Jesus, but thats another story for another time), and I was also told slavery was part of that culture. Now, we have homosexuals fighting for rights, and people are saying the BIble says it is wrong. Technically, it does, but if I’m going by Christian logic, why shouldn’t I just say culture’s changing, and now the verses about homosexuality no longer apply to today? See, this is where I get confused, we want to defend the Bible, but what if Jesus was here today? Do you think he would still tell us to sell all we have? I don’t consider myself wealthy compared to most other Americans, I have a tiny room for rent, and by most American standards, I would be high lower class or lower middle class, and I still feel I can help people in some areas such as paying for a meal or something. I still recognize that I am fully capable of purchasing non-necessities, or more or less conveniences that our society has deemed as necessities (such as cars). If you really think about it, if everyone sold their car who works within distance of walking or taking a bus, how much money could we actually save? Just a rambling thought, but I digress.

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  11. I agree with your 4 points, with some further elaboration.

    .1) The teaching of the Apostles meant the 12 True Apostles, who knew Jesus personally for 3 1/2 years, were appointed and recognized – The Eleven plus Matthias. (They were not reading the letters of Paul the Pharisee.)

    .2) Fellowship, yes.

    .3) Breaking of bread was a common meal together, like a dinner party with extensive discussion, and yes that WAS communion – not a tiny piece of dry cracker and a tiny thimble of grape juice drunk hastily, cleanly, quietly, in social isolation while in the midst of a huge crowd of people in a huge meeting room.

    .4) Prayer, yes. Not sharing prayer requests for an hour and then praying for 5 minutes at a “prayer meeting”, or holding a “Pentecost meeting” with lectures for 2 hours, and a 20 second “blessing” prayed at the end…..
    Prayer, yes.

      • Yes – established by the testimony of 12 personal eyewitnesses, (the 12 Apostles.) Some teachings & ways of living, thinking, acting & reacting etc. are “more caught than taught”. These 12 men had been around Jesus, together in community, for long enough to “catch it” better than anyone else in the world, thus they had unique “Apostolic Authority.” No one else can rightfully claim that authority, if they are looking at the words and deeds of the Jesus of the Gospels first (rather than the self-promoting claims of Paul the Pharisee first.)

        The first characteristic recorded in Mark’s Gospel is as follows:
        “He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him….” [Mark 3:14] Yes, there is more involved than simply “being with him,” yet that is specifically listed first here in all our Bibles.

        Phillip, I’ve read some of your other posts about “Dispensationalism”, and I don’t want to be guilty of “straw man” arguments. I wanted to understand the mindset and thought process that would allow a “Bible Scholar” who believes passionately in “The Total Inerrancy of every word in the 66 Books of the Bible” to be “dismissive” of the Sermon on the Mount and say “It doesn’t apply to me today.”

        I believe that at the core, classical dispensationalism is based on one simple fundamental (wrong) idea- that “Paul was completely right in everything he wrote (and said and did), and everyone else was wrong, including Jesus ( at least for us for today as Gentiles).

        Paul the Pharisee didn’t believe in absolute truth, but rather taught relative truth that was profitable for him personally, as in “that may be true for you, but it isn’t true for me…”

        Paul wrote to the church he had abandoned in Corinth years earlier:
        “Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you !”
        [1 Corinthians 9:2]

        Paul was not an apostle to me – or to anyone else in the world either. His words here are just one of many pieces of evidence.


    • Yes, small church groups can be very good for spiritual growth and development. Most large churches looks for ways to integrate people into smaller groups for prayer, Bible study and fellowship, even mutual exhortation and support.

  13. This is an older post. But I wanted to comment on it as well. An important element we miss in this discussion is the apocalyptic expectation that the early church inherited from their brothers and sisters who followed Judaism. As I am learning in my Intertestamental Literature class, much of the popular writings at that time contained a undeniable amount of “end of the world” type language and expectation. Many were looking for the Messiah to show up to make the world right and few others (more militant resisters of the Roman Empire) actually claimed to be messiahs themselves. This apocalyptic psych undoubtedly carried over into early Christian perspectives. This is probably why the early church shared “all things in common” and “sold all their possessions and gave to the poor” (emphasis on ALL). They figured that Jesus would return very soon to set up His Kingdom on earth, so it didn’t matter as much if they gave away all their possessions and lived a more “communist” lifestyle. From their perspective, it was a wise use of their resources, because Jesus would come back soon anyway, and reward them for not being frivolous with their money or possessions. Obviously, Jesus did not come back as soon as they expected. It is possible that this is why, later, an offering is taken up to provide for the financial needs of the church in Jerusalem (showing that pure communist economics is not sustainable over long periods of time, Rom. 15:26). Even if this weren’t true, I don’t think that this part of the early church community is economically sane or necessary in America. I am not denying that it seems like an amazing way to grow in dependence and community amongst believers. However, it also seems difficult to facilitate in this culture.

  14. My understanding of answering the last question (Acts 2 vs 2 Thessalonians 3):

    Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 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, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
    Acts 2:44‭-‬47 NKJV

    But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
    II Thessalonians 3:6‭-‬15 NKJV

    My understanding of this:

    In the early church, the rich sold their possessions and shared their wealth with the needy (Acts 2:42). Some needy people took advantage of this, they became dependant on the generosity of those that work, and didn’t feel the need to work as they were being taken care of. Paul wasn’t happy with this. He told the believers to admonish [reprimand & encourage] those not working to work.

    These people that don’t work end up being busybodies [meddling in other people’s businesses – amplified]. It can be assumed that sin, such as gossiping/slandering arises from this. Also Peter lists being a busybody as a sin next to murder (But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.
    I Peter 4:15 NKJV). Paul says the following should happen to these busybodies: They should eat their own bread; a step further the believers should not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed [amplified adds “and repent”].

    Evidence that the Thessalonians were living in community: A busybody that finds work should eat his own bread. Paul had to specify this because everyone else was probably sharing bread (like in Acts 2:46). If someone doesn’t obey this Epistle, the other believers shouldn’t keep company with him so that he may be ashamed. This person would only be ashamed if everyone else was regularly keeping company with one another (I.e. in community). In 2 Thessalonians 3:6,7 Paul talks about “tradition which he received from us”, “follow us”. Paul knew the apostles personally, and they lived in community with one another, so it makes sense for Paul to teach the Thessalonians about living in community (like in Acts 2), if they weren’t already doing so.

    NKJV says “if anyone will not work”. Amplified says “if anyone is not willing to work”. So does this mean that if they are unable to find work, they should continue to be supported by the community? On the other hand it says “we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work”. So is it just as simple as commanding someone in the Name of Jesus to work, and they’ll find work? Maybe unemployment wasn’t such a big issue then?

    What I learn from this:

    We need to be in community with fellow believers regularly, yet still work hard.

    We need to be in community with poor (needy) believers, and support them (yes with food and money), and then help them find work.

  15. This is a very good question. There are inconsistencies in our worldview of what Christian community should look like. Why is it we have imposed the four devotions you pointed out as a pillar essential of Christian community and not the others listed in Acts 2:43-45? If we are to emphasis one should we not the others as well?

    What has become automatic in our Christian teaching is that there must be a teaching, breaking of bread, prayers and good fellowship in order to be doing Christianity right. However, I think when we read verse 42 we find it is the most practical and understandable. Signs and gifts were always made to point back to Christ as evidence of His existence as well as done to penetrate unbelief. Dispensationalism does not give a valid reason for the lack of signs and miracles in today’s Christian world outside of the signs and miracles have “ceased” (1 Cor. 13:10). However, in dispensational belief the church started from as early as Acts 2 to I believe as far as Acts 24 (in some cases 28 I believe). However, all the miracles were done in any of the beliefs where the dispensation of grace began.

    I do not say that to spite dispensationalism, but I do think there is a reasoning away that happens when we speak of signs and miracles. It seemed to be a regular thing happening in their communities, why should we expect any less?

    The communal living aspect is interesting. From what I can get from the passage they sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need (Acts 2:45). In those times their possessions were their jobs, but when I think of being a fisherman or tent maker it still is an income you receive, you just don’t have what you purchased with the income prior to giving it all away to those in need.

    I think, the difference is Paul was adamant that these believers in Thessalonica stick to what they were taught by the apostles, because there were imposters in their fellowship who claimed they knew Paul’s teaching but were idle (2 Thess. 3:6-7). This idleness would make it harder to distinguish who was genuine in their faith and not. Those who are willing to humble themselves and work show fruit of Paul’s example, those who were not would obviously be proud and in rebellion. Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians is different in that Acts 2 demonstrates a fully functioning Spirit filled Christian community. Paul’s purpose was to instruct, encourage and give warning to the Thessalonians so they may be restored into the big picture of what Christian community is.

    There are a couple theories I have concerning the question if Acts 2 believers worked. I think they did in some form. If they sell all that they have, and all have no jobs then their money is going to run out eventually….and quick. To keep up the example of communal living their must be income coming in. Paul furthers this instruction to the Thessalonians. However, Paul’s urgent statement in the name of the Lord, “to settle down and work to earn their own living” seems like an attack on the poor (2 Thess. 3:12). Yet, it was so they would not be a burden to those around them just as Paul had done so with them. If you can work then, work. Don’t be a burden to others. Give to the poor what you can and imitate Paul’s example by earning a living that you may give back as well.

    In my humble opinion, I believe we do need to incorporate and meditate on what Acts 2:42-47 is saying. We should not neglect two-thirds of what it means to be living and operating in a Christian community. The Bible at times seems contradictory to other Scriptures but it is truly consistent and in unity with itself. It just requires more prayer and meditation.

  16. God is able to do all thing if we believe in He’s power; and I pray that God’ll give you more wisdom to do more for those who want to know more.

  17. Acts 2:42 and 46 have found its way onto wall hangings and the like. I have yet to see Acts 2:45 prominently displayed on a fireplace mantel in someone’s living room.
    This eagerness is at least partly due to a tendency to view the early church through our own modern perspective. As we discussed in class, it is important to take the time to learn and understand the setting of the early church in its historical context.
    Of course, it’s also just easier to get excited about breaking bread together than it is to sell all their belongings.

    Context is also crucial to understanding 2 Thessalonians 3 and the instructions that are seemingly contrary to this pattern in Acts. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 Paul warns the believers against laziness. This seems to be referring to both spiritually and physically. Verse 7 specifically addresses physical laziness. Paul tells them to follow his example – he did not depend on others to provide for him while not contributing to the community himself. In addition to telling them not to be idle, Paul tells the readers to keep doing good and now grow weary doing so.

    In Acts, the believers are continuing to carry out the lifestyle initiated during Jesus’s ministry. In this particular case many of them had left their jobs and old lifestyles to follow Jesus. This shared community seems to be a natural continuation of such. 2 Thessalonians is addressed to a different group of people, in a different time and context.
    The principle remains the same, those in the community should not be idle but contribute to it.

  18. As mentioned in the blog post above this passage merits the question if the Acts 2 church is meant to be applied specifically to all churches or if Luke is just providing an example of how one church functioned and prospered in the early days following Jesus death (Long). I personally tend to believe that the latter is true. Looking at 2 Thessalonians 3 we can see Paul describing how another church functions and prospers holding to different key elements. In Acts 2 we are presented with the idea of communal living, selling all goods to provide for the poor, and the quitting of jobs to transition into full time ministry. This is how the early church functioned in Jerusalem. In 2 Thessalonians 3, we see Paul urging the community of believers to get jobs and earn their own living so that they do not become a burden to other believers, and so that they can help those who are in need. “Earning their own living” also tends to imply that believers were not living together in a communal space but had their own separate homes (2 Thess. 3:12).
    Both situations are not wrong, both can speak in different ways into the culture around them. Looking at these passages in the twenty first century it is easy to see that most modern Christians follow the example that Paul shares in 2 Thessalonians. There are churches however such as the Bruderhof communities that structure their living style off of Acts 2. Both can serve a purpose in impacting the culture around us today, just as they did in New Testament times.

  19. What is the reason Christians are quick to apply Acts 2:42 but not Acts 2:43 (miracles) or 2:44-45 (communal living)? What is the difference between what is happening in Acts 2 and 2 Thessalonians 3?

    I think a big reason Christians are quick to apply Acts 2:42 and not Acts 2:43 is because we do not put as much of an emphasis on miracles today. A lot of miracles back in Bible times were done either publically where people or individuals witnessed them especially seeing Jesus doing them, or out of this world miracles that we do not hear much today. But what a lot of believers forget is even though we don’t see Jesus face to face today he still just as active at performing miracles. We tend to think of miracles as these huge things but miracles can be for the littlest things such as things financially, relationship-wise, anything honestly. I think we forget how big our God really is and the power that he holds. He is still the same now as he was then; we just can’t see him physically, but that shouldn’t take any of his credibility away. For Acts 2:44-25 I think it is the aspect of living so close to individuals, in this society today we can’t even get along over the internet let alone 10 feet from each other. America is also a very individualistic culture, and because of that, we are not very good at sharing and that is something that the early church believers learned was to share everything with one another. America is very much an earn your things kind of culture. If you want something you go out and work to earn money for that specific thing.

  20. Acts 2:43 references the acts of miracles. God performed miracles throughout the New and Old Testaments, miracles were widely popular throughout Bible times. However, in today’s society, we don’t place as high a value on miracles or we don’t believe they happen as much. Our modern-day medicine and technology have rapidly increased since Bible times so many things that can be seen as miracles are accredited to the work of modern-day medicine and technology instead of the Lord. John Polhill notes in the ESVSB that, “the church experienced reverent fear in response to miracles, which served as signs of the Spirit’s power and presence among them” (Acts 2:43). Nowadays people like to have an answer or reason to anything and the simple terms ‘miracle’ does not count as a real answer to them. They discredit God’s work but accrediting it to modern-day advancements, so simply believing in the act of miracles has become a struggle in itself. While it is much easier to devote ourselves to the teachings in God’s word because the four activities mentioned in Acts 2:42 are essential for living a healthy spiritual life. We must know God’s scripture in our hearts, we need a community of believers around us to get through the times of temptation, we need to pour into those who are struggling and we need to be in constant communication with God. All of these are necessities for a healthy spiritual life.
    Every book of the Bible is written to a specific audience in a specific stage of life. Acts is written by Luke to share acts of the Holy Spirit and empower believers to bear witness of the good news of Jesus and establish the Church. While Paul was the author of 2 Thessalonians and in this book was written to strengthen the Thessalonians in the face of unremitting persecution, to reassure those frightened by the thought that the day of the Lord had come, and to handle the issue of some of the church members not earning their living. Two completely different audiences, in different stages of life.

  21. As for the question as to why churches tend to focus on emulating Acts 2:42, but not 2:43-46 there are multiple factors to consider. First, it is easy to show up for teaching and food, but no matter how hard I try I cannot seem to muster even a little miracle. In fact, I have never met a miracle worker, nor have I even heard of one that wasn’t more or less on obvious con-man. For that matter if somebody did demonstrate that they could perform miracles to me I would almost certainly assume that person was one of the false prophets that Jesus described in Matthew 24:24 who work great signs and wonders. Either that or I would assume they were a talented magician and fraudster. Regardless, of what some may say miracles seem to be too short of supply to be a regular part of church gatherings, at least I have never seen one in 30 years of church attendance. Second, communal living may have been practical for the believers in Acts 2 as many as you have said probably originated from outside of Jerusalem and probably needed a place to stay, but it is not necessary to us now. I have a place to live, and a church to go to, and the same can be said of the others in my church. None of us are displaced travelers, nor have we given up our professions. As for 2 Thessalonians, the church at Thessalonica had somehow become convinced that the end of days was at hand (Pulman 2314). Paul writes to them to confirm to him that the end is not here and thus they should continue to work as to not to be a burden (Pulman 2314). This is not unlike how some reacted to the idea of the world ending in 2012. The Acts church setting things aside probably was due to similar circumstances.

  22. The group in Acts 2 practiced four activities, as noted by Clint Arnold, that characterized the early community of believers. Firstly, the community was devoted to following the teachings of the apostles. This emphasis was primarily for new believers who may not have heard Jesus’s teachings first hand, allowing the apostles to teach and speak on events they witnessed and heard. It is possible, though not proven, that the apostles had a set standard of instruction and teaching of Jesus Christ. If this is the case, then we can assert that early traditions arose only months after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    Secondly, the community devoted themselves to fellowship, which manifested in the common sharing displayed in Acts 2:45. As Long notes, this was probably directed primarily towards Diaspora pilgrims, who once they accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ, decided to stay in Jerusalem instead of returning home from Pentecost. Thirdly, the community was dedicated to the “breaking of bread”, which probably was a description of an act of communion. This was probably based on the foundation of Jesus’s practice of communal eating and drinking together as a group, as the same word is used in Luke 21:19 and 24:35.
    Lastly, the fourth practice is that of devoting themselves to prayer, which is a possible reference to the daily prayers that took place in the temple. This would not be an uncommon practice for the ancient culture, often people went to the temple multiple times a day to pray. Once examining Acts 2:46, it seems to indicate prayer took place at the temple and private homes. This would allow for not only the fellowship of believers but also the opportunity to introduce Jews to the message of Jesus Christ.
    The book of Acts is surrounded by questions of how the modern church and believer should incorporate the actions of the early church into our practices, or if it is even important too at all. If the reader only investigates the passage of Acts 2, then it might seem as if the common practices of the early believers in Jerusalem were ideal for all current and future practices of believers. Yet, when understood in light of other New Testament passages, it becomes apparent that these practices were only common to the believers of Jerusalem and not enforced for all communities. For example, in 1-2 Thessalonians, Paul urges believers and members of the church not to leave their jobs and become uninvolved in daily life. Furthermore, in 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, Paul teaches people to go out and find jobs to work so one would not become a burden to others. Clearly, these communal practices were restricted to the apostolic period of the early church and not required or taught to be applicable to current or future church practices. While these practices are positive and beneficial to the helping of the poor and extending the kingdom of God, this lifestyle is not enforced as the standard for each community of believers.

  23. All of these activities that are characterized in Acts 2 are ones that we often find in our own churches. Sermon’s in modern churches are often centered around the themes given in the New Testament as they are usually understood with more practicality in application. However, these believers may have already understood the importance of the Torah and Jewish history as told in the Old Testament. The teaching of the apostle’s, as I would assume, would be understood as the fulfillment of prophecies they had grown to know. Just as the early church focused on fellowship, I would agree that the modern church does this as well, but usually only on Sundays and in bible studies. There is always a need to fellowship with the widows, the widowers and the poor. Although in this Acts church, fellowship may have looked like sharing spaces, whereas today Christians do not all typically live together. The third activity, breaking of bread, I always assumed was communion which most churches take part in at least yearly if not monthly. However, there seems to be a culture of sharing meals which we see in the ministry of Jesus. This is often in the forms of potlucks at our churches but is there something significant in sharing a meal together versus just sharing time? The fourth should be commonly found in our own lives as well. The early church devoted themselves to prayer. They would even go to the temple and pray and gather in houses. Though it may not be necessary to apply, it seems the church already has in some ways.

  24. It does seem like Christians are quick to apply the manners in Acts 2:42 rather than Acts 2:43 because of the time we are in now. Miracles had a bigger impact on people when Jesus was performing them himself or through people back in the time frame of Acts. Looking at us now, miracles do not have a huge emphasis. Miracles happen all the time, but we just look past them or look at them as luck. I, personally, find it that we do not see Jesus when a miracle happens. A miracle does not need to be healing a man that cannot walk and making him walk. A miracle can be getting help financially, gaining a friendship that pushes you towards the cross, receiving good health, waking up in the morning. We need to remember how big and powerful God is and stop putting him in a box. As for looking at Acts 2 and 2 Thessalonians 3, the biggest difference to me was the mindset. In Acts 2, the new believers devoted themselves to the Lord and gave up things for people that were in need. In 2 Thessalonians 3, the mindset was to not let someone eat if they were not working for it. Even if they were in need, they should be working for their own goods and rewards. I think the world is in a time similar to 2 Thessalonians 3. Society always works for what they want. If they want a good outcome, they will need to work for it. That is how I was raised, but I could see how that could be taken out of context a little bit.

  25. It is pretty common today to have the normal usage of following Jesus implying that we should apply everything He says, and the reader probably assumes that the apostles’ teachings in Acts 2:42 should reflect Jesus’ teachings. As for communion, fellowship, and prayer, those are common not just in the gospels but also in Paul’s epistles, so there is a lot of reference for the Christian today to emphasize Acts 2:42. As for miracles and communal living, we do not see a whole lot of evidence of that continuing during early church history, as Long has mentioned, and much less today. I believe that the main reason for that is because of what is written a little earlier in Acts 2. Peter quotes Joel in verse 17 associating the last days with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Every believer was then, gathering in Jerusalem, selling everything they had, and living communally in earnest expectation that Jesus would return still in their lifetime and the kingdom would be on all gears. What they did not expect was that Israel, especially leadership (Acts 4:3, 18), would reject their gospel and the inauguration of the kingdom would be put on hold. Contrasting the reality of Acts 2, the apostle Paul tells the Thessalonians that they should earn their living even as he did when he was doing ministry among them (2 Thes. 3:6-15). This goes to show that the expectations of the early Jewish believers did not come to fruition and, later, members of the church were instructed to live life normally right after they were reassured that the day of the Lord has not come yet (2 Thes. 2).

  26. I believe the reason Christians in todays world struggle so much with living out these parts of scripture is due to many different reasons. The most common reason I think people struggle with is what you mentioned in the post, which is their work life. People are too busy with their work schedule that when they go home from work they are too drained and cant get into living out the scriptures teachings. Another reason I believe is stopping this from happening is because its easier for someone to say they are a follower when they just read the bible. But when it comes to the things mentioned in 2:43-45 it causes people to actually live out these beliefs. And most people are not willing to sacrifice that much of their lives. And the biggest differences between the two pieces of scripture would be that in Acts 2 they are teaching how to follow Gods word and in 2 Thessalonians 3 they are teaching what to do when you see others not living out these rules.


  27. they weren’t struck down for the lack of communal living…they were struck down because they attempted to LIE to the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 is not commanding communal living, but rather radical love for our brothers & sisters in Christ rather than in possessions. The fact that they ACTED on the command to help those who needed it by selling “their” possessions which they understood was God’s mercy and blessing in the first place. This is not a socialist or communal text, this is a text of what mattered the most to early Christians…which was not to be just hearers of the Word but doers as well! Too many people read into this text this way, but rather it is so much more and deeper than that. These people were willing to sell ALL they had in order that others who were in despair could be helped. They shared in order to fulfill the royal law – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength AND the second commandment that is a part of that which is to love your neighbor as yourself. They lived that out in its fullness. They weren’t perfect, and later there would be issues within the early church, but they strove to live out those two commands in a very real way.

  28. There are various sub-groups under the Anabaptist Christians who are still living in community and having their possessions in common today.

  29. What is the reason Christians are quick to apply Acts 2:42, but not Acts 2:43 (miracles) or 2:44-45 (communal living) (Long)?
    Due in part to the historical context of the passage at the time, these activities were specific for the people of the Jewish community. But although the historical context of the passage differs from modern times, the basic principles of these activities may still be applied today. For instance, in Acts 2:42 “they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” Despite Apostles not existing anymore, this activity could be compared to devoting ourselves to the teachings of pastors and other theologians. In Acts 2:43, it continues on to mention that “everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.” Because the need for Apostles does not exist anymore along with the practice of miracles, signs, and wonders as proof of the Messiahs existence, modern Christians seem to have lost all sense of awe for the glory of God and His continuous works in the hearts of sinful men. Lastly, in Acts 2:44 it states that “all those who had believed were together and had all things in common.” Sadly, as for fellowshipping and daily living of Christians, Christianity has become individualistic in that many Christians prefer to keep to themselves and to not care for the needs of others.

  30. It’s a unique concept that even with the time and cultural differences we can still see similar practices and traditions within biblical times as we do now. From teaching, fellowship, communion, and prayer, all of these biblical practices are just as relevant for the early community of believers in Acts as they are to current believers in the modern world. Long mentions how this is the only community that takes time away from their daily life and starts to make sacrifices with their time to devote it to ministry. One thing that stuck out to me in this passage is that Christians today have such an easy time with the ideas of teaching and fellowship. Still, when it comes to living in a community and supporting one another through either finances or time there is less eagerness for believers to do so. I believe that the culture we currently live in makes it seem weird or uncomfortable to go out of one’s way and give money to the needy or serve our neighbors by inviting them into our homes for a nice meal. The believers in today’s world are living a busy lifestyle so going out to coffee for a quick 30-minute conversation is what takes in place of good community and fellowship with meaningful God-honoring conversations. These Christian characteristics are looked at as inconvenient and what Paul is trying to get is that the early church was devoted to the apostles’ teachings and the miracles that were happening through spiritual breakthroughs within the early church.

  31. Luke sets the scene for how the early church is to operate, in Acts 2. He explains that all of the newly baptized Believers (Acts 2:41), were swayed into a common lifestyle. The Believers in Acts 2 were to eat, pray, work, and take communion with one another (Acts 2:42-46). Acts 2:45 sheds light on the fact that the Believers were “selling their possessions” so that they could provide to their brothers and sisters in need (ESVSB). The Thessalonian Believers were still following the apostles’ teachings, which included Jesus’ lessons on Earth as well as the words he delivered to them [the apostles] during his “resurrection appearances” (Polhill, 2008, p. 2266). However, the Church in Thessalonica is given a warning from Paul against idleness (2 Thess. 3:6). Paul preaches, “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you” (2 Thess. 3:7). When Paul arrives at Corinth during his second missionary journey, he realizes that many of the Believers dwelling among the Thessalonians have become “busybodies” (Nicholl, 2008, p. 2542). Nicholl explains that the people in the community who were not contributing to the commonwealth of Believers were idlers who used their free time to meddle and/or gossip with others (2008, p. 2542). This affair is the exact type of sin which easily breaks a strong community.
    The difference, then, between Acts 2 and 2 Thessalonians 3, is that the Believers in Acts formed what a Christian community should look like. They depended on that community to keep them safe, healthy (spiritually, physically), entertained and so on… Yet the Thessalonian Believers did not depend on one another because they had people within their community who were exploiting the good deeds of their neighbors.

  32. After reading through Acts 2 and reading through this blog post, we learn about the four types of activities that the early believers were committed to. I am very interested to compare this to my current experience with my own church community and find the differences. Dr. Long goes into detail about the four practices and follows Acts 2:42-47. We see that they were devoted to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to ‘breaking of the bread’ and to prayer. (Dr. Long) I would say all of these practices are very common in today’s church. Furthermore, our churches have sermons every single Sunday with small groups and Sunday schools mixed in to teach the word of God and also to have fellowship while doing that. Next, the ‘breaking of the bread’ is our communion, which in my home church is every week. Lastly, prayer is a main part of not only our church communities, but in our personal, daily lives. With that being said, all of these practices are very much relevant to today and will forever be relevant. The only difference that I see is when Dr. Long states that these early believers totally made these activities their lives and left their jobs for it. We don’t see that here in modern society and that to me is very interesting.

  33. I have heard a message being preached on this verse in Acts 2:42. The entirety of the sermon was to imitate the community the believers had in the very early stages of the Christian church. Although community should be an important aspect of modern-day church as it was in Acts, there are some major differences and cultural differences that Long mentions in this article. First being that when the believers devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, it could be probable that they had a basic set of doctrines or traditions. Today, the modern church has their own set of traditions, but the difference was that the believers were being taught by the apostles who were taught by Jesus himself. Another difference was how the believers in Acts had fellowship because this involved giving to the poor and caring for those who were outsiders of Jerusalem. When I think of fellowship I Bible studies or meeting in someone’s home for a prayer meeting or a worship night. The third thing the believers did differently in Acts was the breaking of bread, which I had been taught was like potluck where everyone pooled in what they had. Instead, Long suggests that this was a form of communion, which Jesus instructed his apostles to do in remembrance of him (Luke 22:19). And lastly, Acts 2 says the believers were devoted to prayer. But it also mentions how they would go to the Jewish temple, which is likely where these devoted prayers occurred. Today, the modern church does not hold their devoted prayer meetings in Jewish temples. But the early believers were Jewish by blood and culture, so they went there to fulfill their Jewish duties and possibility to convert other Jews to following Jesus.

  34. The community described in Acts 2 is definitely a specific community at the specific time that this Scripture was written, but they do have certain admirable traits for the Christian community around the world today. As Dr. Long wrote in this blog post, this community devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. As mentioned in the blog, these are descriptors that directly apply to this specific community in the Word. I do think that some, if not all, of these traits can be applied to Christians today. The devotion to teaching, which can be broadened to biblical teaching and not just from an apostle (since we aren’t necessarily living with Peter and Paul in today’s day and age), should be applied to believers today. Same with the “breaking of bread” and prayer. The heart of “breaking of bread”, or sharing a meal/communion with others, is very admirable and is a beautiful representation of Christ, even in these modern times.
    I think in our day today, it’s difficult for us to share all things (physically, politically, etc.). And with miracles, I think we often hesitate to know what to call a miracle or not. I feel like we are often too cynical when it comes to miracles today.
    In Acts 2, we see some of the earliest Christians with very specific teachings from the apostles that actually witnessed Jesus on earth. In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul is writing to another specific group of believers. Inside of this passage, Paul says, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (vs. 10) I don’t think this passage necessarily negates and opposes the Acts 2 passage, but it does show a different kind of trait of believers—Paul encourages them to not be idle and to work for what they have. This doesn’t mean that the believers aren’t devoted to the apostles’ teachings either, but that they should also be devoted to doing good work.

  35. It is an interesting point to consider why the church today is “quick to apply” the directions of Acts 2:42, but why other elements discussed in this passage—specifically miracles mentioned in verse 43 or communal living mentioned in verses 44-45—are not considered to be “applicable” or more simply “for” believers today (Long).

    In simplest terms, I would say it is because the elements of verse 42 are reiterated throughout Paul’s epistles. In particular if we are examining the book of Acts from a dispensational perspective, the question becomes “are the principles mentioned in Acts 2 reiterated later on in Paul’s epistles,” which we recognize as being written “for” us.

    The elements of Acts 2:42—devoting oneself to the teaching of the apostles (Romans 15:4), fellowship (Hebrew 10:25, Galatians 6:2), “breaking of bread” or communion (1 Corinthians 11:25-28), and prayer (2 Corinthians 1:10-11)—are all reiterated throughout Paul’s epistles as beneficial for not only the Jews at Pentecost but for all believers. This indicates that these elements are not vertical truths (meant for a specific group at a specific time) but rather could be considered horizontal truths (truths which are applicable and beneficial in our present age).

    In contrast, the element of verse 43 (miracles) appears to be a command that does not extend throughout the rest of Paul’s epistles. Throughout the book of Acts we slowly see the presence of miracles dwindle, and this is supported by Paul who says in 1 Corinthians 13:8-19 that “they [prophesies] will cease, they [tongues] will be stilled…. but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears” (NIV).

    Paul’s warning in 2 Thessalonians 3 is not a warning against communal living in and of itself, but rather against those who would take advantage of it—who take but don’t give, who reap the benefits of living in community but don’t follow the Apostles’ teachings. I think if believers today chose to partake in communal living *as was established* in Acts 2, where “there is a voluntary generosity in sharing possessions,” it would be commendable, and could be a way to honor God if they so chose (ESVSB 2086).

  36. I have always found it really interesting to look back at how the church was run in bible times and compare it to how we run it today, and this blog post does a great job of that. You ask the question, it is critical to ask if Luke is describing an ideal Christian community, or the specific community in Jerusalem? I think the answer to this is yes and no. Yes, in the sense that we should and do practice those 4 pillars mentioned, studying Gods word, having fellowship in community, having communion, and worshiping God are all things that the Lord intended for us to throughout time. No in the sense that he does not expect us to quit our jobs and give away everything that we have. I know that some people do that even today, but I would not say that that is expected of us. As for why they behaved differently to those in Thessalonians, Paul specifically instructed those people not to quit their jobs, and also these people in Acts seem to have truly moved by what they heard from Peter, enough to completely change the way that they were living.

  37. The reason Christians are so quick to apply Acts 2:42 but not Acts 2:43 could be a plethora of reasons. Reasons such as the coffee mug use that each one of these verses play a role in. It could be because as people having a human nature, we tend to only do what we want. There could also be many more reasons, however, my main focus will be on these two reasons.
    Acts 2:42 is often seen and quoted on many everyday items and is also a passage pastors seem to speak on more. Before communion, pastors normally mention something about the “Breaking of the Bread” (Polhill, 2008, 2085). Therefore hearing it spoken and seeing it more, resonates with people to a different extent and makes people practice it more without even realizing it. The next reason is that it is a matter of being human and having a sinful nature and doing what we want more than the action God would take. Being in fellowship with people while eating and sharing a meal with the body of a church is way easier to do than giving away all of your possessions just as everyone else is just as they do in Acts 2:45. With being in fellowship and eating a meal by “Breaking the Bread” with one another, one gets more out of it than not having the reciprocity in the giving of their possessions. At church potlucks nowadays, a person brings a dish to pass and so do other people, so in the end you have a whole meal to eat instead of only one side to eat for that meal.
    As for the next question what is happening in Acts 2 and 2 Thessalonians 3? When it says in, “2 Thess. 3:11-12 to specifically go out and get jobs so that they are not a burden,” I suppose it is alluding not having a job distracts from the mission of people who are trying to listen to the apostles during that time in which one would normally be working (Long). The more people there are trying to work with the spiritual activity, the harder it will be to focus on the mission ahead. Or maybe in Acts, 2 people are told to devote themselves fully to spiritual activities because they truly thought that Christ or the Messiah was coming back very soon and did not see a reason to keep laboring the land. Once again, there could be many different reasons, but these two make the most sense in my mind.

  38. Acts 2:42 is talking about the believers devotion to the teaching of the Apostles, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers. These aspects of the Christian life are still well-practiced today in the form of communion, in our prayer life, in our devotion to the teachings of Jesus, and our fellowship with others in the Christian community. These qualities seem to transcend the context of the community of early believers in that time. However it does seem like this is particularly for the specific community at that time. Acts 2:43 and Acts 2:44-45 does not seem to apply for a variety of reasons. For one, the performance of miracles by the Apostles were meant as “signs of the Spirit’s power and presence among them” (Polhill, 2008, p. 2085). As a result, the early church responded to these signs with awe, and they were a regular occurrence during that time (Polhill, 2008, p. 2085). I think miracles are still happening, but may be occurring without our awareness, or not as frequently because we are limited in our thinking. The performance of miracles in this day and age may be hard to believe for most believers. Additionally, we are called to go out and make disciples, and to be a light in our communities. Communal living is another descriptor of that specific community, and “‘living in common’ only appears here in Acts 2” (Long, 2011, para. 6). 2 Thessalonians 3:12 says “Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (ESV). In the case of the Thessalonians, they were refusing to work, possibly because they believed that Christ was going to return relatively soon. Acts 2 widely differs from the context of this, as these new believers were comprised of Jews from all over, and the Christian faith was new at that point. Communal living would have allowed a community for those new believers.

  39. Acts 2 and 2 Thessalonians 3 both describe events related to the second coming of Jesus and the end times. Each book entails its own focus and purpose. Acts 2 describes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles at Pentecost after the ascension of Jesus, and the beginning of their ministry. This shows the power of the Holy Spirit and the arrival of the kingdom of God through the early Christian community. 2 Thessalonians 3 is a letter written by Paul to address false teachings about the second coming of Jesus that were causing confusion among the people in Thessalonica. Paul stresses (In Acts 2) that the end times have not yet come, and that the people should not be led by false teachings or claims that the Messianic age has already arrived. While both passages address the end times and the arrival of the kingdom of God, Acts 2 focuses on the power of the Holy Spirit being portrayed onto the people and the apostles. 2 Thessalonians 3 focuses on the end times and false teachings as well as putting faith in God. These passages provide a lot of insight on what was happening during the time of confusion amongst the people from the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the end times of Jesus’ return. I could not image the amount of confusion the people, even the apostles, must have felt during these events.

  40. Communal living is only mentioned once in the Bible. Here in Acts , as a lesson not to do this , because the long term result was poverty and is why the Apostle Paul spend time raising money from other churches to help Jerusalem saints.. All other churches did not practice the liquidation, 7 days church, prayers and meal time together.

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