42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. 43 Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude…
For me, it’s easy to envision this group of early Christians as exceptional. After all, they had some distinct advantages.
Jesus had just been among them only a few weeks and months before. They remembered the sound of His voice, the pace of His footsteps on the road. His death and resurrection was a current event for them. They could remember exactly where they were the moment they heard He was alive.
I think we sometimes assume it was easier for them to live and give so freely than it is for us. After all, things were so simple then. They surely understood God better because many of them had seen Jesus in the flesh. They had the disciples to teach them, so they must have known more details about how to follow.
Really? If we stop to think about it, these assumptions don’t hold up.
Their political and social situation was complex and dangerous. Day-to-day health could never be taken for granted. They had very little, if any, Scripture at their daily disposal. Most of their teachers had just begun to understand who Jesus really was, and they were still processing the last three years in the light of their new understanding.
Here’s what really makes these Christians exceptional (and it has nothing to do with the time period in which they lived):
- They were characterized by sincerity of heart.
- They lived by faith.
- Spirit-filled living enabled them to release dependence on possessions, and the need to impress and control.
These Christ-followers were noticed, not because of what they “did” as much as who they were together.
We tend to see a formula for “success” in these verses—learn, fellowship, pray, and share with others. Rather, these actions are symptoms of what God had done in the hearts of men, women, and children. We’re so conditioned to focus on behavior as the main thing, rather than as a by-product of heart reality.
The Holy Spirit’s indwelling freed them. They were able to trust God’s provision physically, emotionally, and mentally. Rather than clinging desperately to their possessions, both mighty and meager, they could release that which separated—social status, wealth, fear, judgment, and love each other completely.
The Holy Spirit demonstrated Himself in their pure enjoyment of each other. In their bond as Christ-followers, there were no societal divisions or types of people other than “lost” and “found.”
And the by-product? The favor of all the people. Like moths to a flame, all who looked also longed to be a part and found themselves in motion toward love and the gospel. No, it wasn’t what they did that impressed people so much, though they did good things. It was love, motivated by Truth—a rare commodity indeed.
What we view as exceptional in these early brothers and sisters can be ordinary living for us as believers. We’re given everything they were—in Christ we are freed. By the Holy Spirit’s indwelling we can rest on peace that outdoes stresses, move in joy that’s deeper than disappointment, and love one another without holding back.
“And the Lord added daily to their number.”
- How would you describe the connection between generosity and love?
- What are the advantages to the heart of the believer in meeting together, sharing, fellowship, and sitting under sound teaching?
- Can you describe a time when you’ve been drawn in by the love of Christ-followers?