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