42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 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, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
What is the purpose of the church? How should she spend her time? There are a lot of answers floating around to those questions, but what does Scripture teach? Our text reveals what the early church was like in its purity just after God gave His Spirit on Pentecost. These Christians are an example to us, and we should measure our assemblies today by their standard. We find there are four things here in which the early church “continued steadfastly.”
First of all, there was a steadfast continuance in the “apostles’ doctrine,” i.e. the word of God. Many churches today have diminished their focus on faithfully teaching and preaching the word in favor of more entertaining forms of “worship”. Why? Because the people that gather have no heart for the truth! Paul warns of this day in 2 Tim 2:3 stating, “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” Brothers and sisters, the time is here! We would do well to encourage our pastors and teachers to faithfully do what Paul tells Timothy in v. 2: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
Secondly, the early church was characterized by unity. They continued steadfastly in “fellowship.” They loved the brethren! Isn’t that how Jesus said everyone would know that we were His disciples? (Jn 13:35) Their unity is evident all throughout our portion of Scripture. V. 44 says “all who believed were together, and had all things in common.” V. 46 reveals they were in “one accord” and broke bread “from house to house.” In other words, the early Christians spent much time with each other, and enjoyed rich fellowship in the Lord. As Ac 4:32 further describes them, they “were of one heart and one soul”.
Next, we see they continued steadfastly in the breaking of bread. I think a couple of things are referred to by this statement. First, it reveals the practical way in which they lived. Their lives were characterized by simplicity, contentment, and care for one another. They didn’t seek lives of extravagance, desiring the delicacies of this present world, but were satisfied with merely the breaking of bread. Even as we are instructed to be in 1 Tim 6:8, they were content with simply having food and clothing. They “ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart”. (v. 46) And their care for each other is revealed in this breaking of bread for no one did without according to Ac 4:34-35. There was not “anyone among them who lacked,” and “they distributed to each as anyone had need.”
The second conclusion we must draw from the declaration of their steadfastness in the breaking of bread is a spiritual one. We can’t consider the phrase “breaking of bread” without numerous passages coming to mind concerning the Lord Jesus being the spiritual bread that sustains every believer. As Jesus declared in Jn 6:51: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever…” Christ was the bread that was broken and sustained the early church, even as every true believer is sustained today. He was their focus and desire. They hungered and thirsted after righteousness, and they were filled! (Mt 5:6)
Last of all, they were a praying people. This truth was the evidence that the Spirit of God had indeed fallen upon them because both Rom 8:15 and Gal 4:6 remind us that the one thing God’s Spirit within us will continually do is cry out “Abba, Father!” You don’t have to teach a child to cry out to his mother or father. It’s completely natural. It would be strange if he didn’t! Likewise, every true child of God cries out to his or her heavenly Father, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” (Eph 6:18)
I want us to notice one more important point at the end of our text. This church grew, but how did it grow? They didn’t form an outreach committee to determine the best way to reach the surrounding population. They didn’t take a poll to determine what would attract the most people. They were focused on God. They simply lived in obedience to Him, “continuing daily…praising God.” And what was the result? God gave them “favor with all the people,” and “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Such is the only way the true church can grow. Men can come up with creative ways to build assemblies, but only God can build His church. We can water and plant, but God gives the increase! (1 Co 3:6)