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Acts 2:40-47 – The First Community of Believers

Summary

The community of those baptized by the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus gathers around prayer, meals, fellowship, and apostolic teaching. They share goods to meet one another's needs and experience the signs and wonders of the apostles.

Analysis

This short passage is key to the book's understanding of Christian community. The community is a haven of strength for those who gather as forgiven, baptized believers. They experience a "time of refreshing" (3:20) as they gather around teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayers--activities that mark the church to this day.

These activities are twice described in these few verses with insignificant variations of expressions. Between the two repetitions, at the heart of the passage and the community, are the wonders and signs done by the apostles and the sharing that prevents anyone from being in need. Since wonders and signs most often refer to healing activities, we can see that the community is one dedicated to human well-being and wholeness, made possible through the Lord. There is another peek at this community in 4:23-34, where all these activities are again underlined, along with the very presence of the Spirit itself.

Acts presents this ideal community while also showing readers that human beings continue to fail to live fully repentant lives. The story of Ananias and Sapphira, who attempt to defraud the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11), makes this clear. Furthermore, the traveling witnesses of Acts are often deprived of life in such a well-established community. But where there is success in mission, households become such communities of welcome, teaching, sharing of meals, and hospitality to others.

Acts 2:40-47

40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Life among the Believers

43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds* to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home* and ate their food with glad and generous* hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

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10 February 2011

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