The Acts of the Apostles
As we conclude Acts 2, we come to the most beautiful expression of Christianity modeled to us in Scripture. In this Session we will learn about the 4 expressions of the Spirit filled Church, and how these 4 expressions bear immense fruit in the lives of God’s people.
We will slow down in this study and soak in the spiritual principles found in Acts 2:42-47. We would do well to absorb them, study them and live them so that we might reclaim the dynamics of the Apostolic Church at Refuge.
a) In the text we see 4 expressions of a Holy Spirit filled local Church Community in verse 42. These are Devotion to Apostolic Teaching, Fellowship, Love Feasting, and Prayer. Understanding the Greek words associated with these 4 expressions will help us put them into context so that we can walk the same way.
b) Devotion to the Apostles teaching – Greek – PROSKARTEREŌ – to adhere to one, be his adherent, to be devoted or constant to one, to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing, to continue all the time in a place, to persevere and not to faint, to show one’s self courageous for, to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly – In the context of the times, the Apostles were being led by the Spirit and establishing the foundation of the Church by revelation. We see the process of God using revelatory experiences in Acts to establish orthodoxy and the expression of Christianity. During this process the Church held with devotion to their path. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Follow my example, as I follow the example Christ”. The modern day equivalent of devotion to the Apostles teaching is to follow the New Testament Scriptures in fidelity. However, it is important to follow them within the context of their times and not import them into our times. For example – Mark 17:18 “They will pick up snakes with their hands, and when they drink deadly poison, it will not harm them.” In the context of that culture this statement meant. “You will be able to handle the serpent/satan and not be harmed; you will be able to not be hurt by the poison of sin in the world.” To take this verse and import it into our times is to completely miss the Apostolic meaning of the verse. There are some in America who have done this and handle rattlesnakes! This is an extreme example, but there are many modern day examples of importing the literal meaning of the Scriptures into our times and in doing so we miss the “devotion to the apostles teaching”. At Refuge we are committed to recovering an Apostolic expression of Christianity by clinging close to the Scriptures and presenting them in their context so that they guide our Community.
c) Fellowship – Greek – KOINŌNIA – fellowship, association, community,
communion, joint participation, intercourse, the share which one has in anything, participation, intercourse, fellowship, intimacy, the right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship (in fulfilling the apostolic office), a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship – We can see from the Greek word that it is much more than hanging out. KOINŌNIA has a cost because it involves loving each other with vulnerability, freedom, acceptance, and contribution to the Community. This is an organic process that flows from the fellowship with the Holy Spirit and translates into an expression towards others. Refuge is pursuing this with passion. That is why we have open mic, no membership, no titles, and eagerly desire the presence of God in our meetings. I believe we are growing in this and will mature in it over the years as we walk together.
d) Love Feasting – Greek – KLASIS ARTOS – Breaking Bread – In the context of the culture, this is Communion with a Communal meal following. 1 Corinthians 11:17-33 and Jude 1:12 mentions Love Feasts. We know from early church history that the Church typically would take Communion (Wedding Feast of the Lamb) and then have a Love Feast where the whole Community would eat together. This is our expression at Refuge when we celebrate Communion. e) Prayer – Greek – PROSEUCHĒ – prayer addressed to God, a place set apart or suited for the offering of prayer – This is the intentional setting aside of a sacred space so that God’s people can commune with Him in intimacy. We know from church history that the early church set aside places for seeking the Lord to pray, seek, hear and find Him in intimacy. This is why Refuge calls our sacred space a prayer room and encourages our community to seek the Lord here during the day. f) As you can see, Refuge has intentionally partnered with these 4 expressions and is committed to the pursuit of them. We have not arrived, but to get the fullness of something you need to start with authenticity and pursue it with passion. It is important to know that these 4 expressions are only achieved by pursuing Holy Spirit and these expressions flow from hosting and honoring the supernatural as we will see in verse 43.
a) The Greek text reads that all were being moved to PHOBOS – the root word for fear. This is not fear in the negative sense, but that it was the realization that the God was in their midst. Verse 43 is describing a tangible supernatural realm and church culture. Hosting the presence of God is the catalyst for miracles, signs and wonders. The word for signs in verse 43 is “signs that prove the message”. b) The expression of the church should never be devoid of the supernatural. This is the reason we have Cultural Christianity, we are losing influence in our culture and seeing a generation that is faithless. c) The remedy is to actively pursue Holy Spirit, His manifestation, and display His power in our meetings.
Acts 2:44-45 a) We see the most beautiful example of a community of believers manifesting the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
b) Keep in mind that the Church of Jerusalem was approximately 3000 people at this time. This is not church benevolence giving. This is being connected to each other in authentic and intimate relationships.
c) The Greek text gives us a clue to what this looked like – Greek – HAPAS KOINOS – quite, all, the whole, all together, all – common i.e. ordinary, belonging to generality – What is being said here is that material possessions were looked at as resource to be used to bless others. This is a real struggle in our culture. The Church in Jerusalem was distinctly Jewish, and that culture was familiar with the care of the Levites, the orphan, widow, and the needy. One only needs to a look at the Law and see that generosity, and justice was hard wired into their culture. The OT prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Micah, and Jeremiah often indicted the Israelites for their neglect of these things.
d) At a heart level, we can only move in generosity as we are empowered and filled with the Spirit. As we are filled with the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit comes into view, and the expression of it is love and care for each other.
e) Many theologians hold that this type of expression was lost after Ananias and Sapphira corrupted it. See Acts 5:1-10. However, we see the example of the Macedonian Churches in Acts moving in generosity in providing for the Jerusalem Church as well as Paul’s needs. Generosity has always guided the Church throughout history. The interpretation of this text through the context of our culture causes us to imagine institutional giving. The real context of this text is that a Community is caring for those who belong to it by the leading of the Holy Spirit, as giving is a grace. See Philippians 4:19, Galatians 6:19, and 2 Corinthians 8:1-9
f) Generosity is freedom in giving. It is giving that is released from the Law and models God’s generosity which flows from grace. This Community freely sold, and freely gave to those who had need.
g) Greek – Possessions – HYPARXIS – possessions, goods, wealth, property
h) Sharing/Gave – Greek – DIAMERIZŌ – to cleave asunder, cut in pieces
i) Need – CHREIA – KHRĀ’-Ä – necessity, need, duty, business
j) Communism nor Capitalism is in view here. God is not a politic or a philosophy. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 and 1 Thessalonians 3:11-12 teach us that we should work with a good work ethic to have something to be generous with and earn the respect of those around us.
a) The Church at this time was not yet divorced from Judaism. The Church in Jerusalem was meeting daily at the Temple in Solomon’s Colonnade. It was located on the east side of the Temple in the Outer Court. Josephus mentions this area in his writings.
b) The Church met every day because Jesus taught there, and because Jewish life in Jerusalem revolved around the Temple and the Temple worship expression. The Jewish times of prayer in Jesus day were 9AM (Shacharit), 3PM (Minchah- the hour of confession). The 3rd hour of prayer (Ma’ariv) at sundown was added after the destruction of the Temple in AD70. See Acts 3:11 and Acts 5:12.
c) They broke bread in their homes – Organic and authentic community is again in view here. In Jerusalem these people would eat 2 meals a day. A mid meal and a meal in the evening.
d) Glad and sincere hearts – The word for glad here means overflowing joy and celebration. The Greek word for sincerity means singleness or simplicity.
e) Thankfulness and gratefulness flow as a response to the goodness of God and our communion/intimacy with the Holy Spirit.
a) Praising God – Experiencing the goodness of God in our daily lives produces praise for Him. The Greek word is AINEŌ and means to praise, extol, to sing praises in honor to God. Paul said this was our spiritual sacrifice in Romans 12:12.
b) The Church had favor – Greek – CHARIS – grace, that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech, good will, loving-kindness, favor – At this point the persecutions were not present in the Christian community in Jerusalem. The persecutions came later as people’s hearts began to harden to the Gospel. Jerusalem is a unique situation because God was transitioning from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. These Covenants would eventually clash like Hagar persecuted Sarah. See Galatians 4:21-31. Eventually the New Covenant was proved to be the Covenant of God as the Old Covenant was destroyed in AD70.
c) People were daily SOZO – Last week we learned the Greek word for salvation and from the definition of that word we concluded that Jesus heals the whole person. As the Holy Spirit is present in a Community, we should expect Church growth and an abundance of souls being connected to the Lord in a very real and tangible way.