Many people devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. They were filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
The believers owned everything together and shared with one another. They sold their property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Each day they met together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad hearts, praising God. And God added to their number daily, those who were being saved.
What the story means to us today
The earliest Christian church lays the roots for modern-day believers.
Jesus’ impact in the area was so powerful, people continued to follow the apostles even after his death. In these verses, Luke gives us a glimpse into the earliest moments of the Christian church.
Together, believers formed the foundation of the early church. They devoted themselves to learning more about Christianity, daily prayer, and fellowship with other Christians. In this regard, our modern churches are formed in the image of the early Christian church that Luke describes.
Additional thoughts and considerations
Devotion to “breaking of bread”
Luke tells us that the early Christian church devoted themselves to teaching, fellowship, prayer, and the breaking of bread”. What is meant by breaking of bread is not entirely clear. It could have been an early form of communion (Christ’s body represented by bread) or merely a shared meal amongst believers (every Jewish meal was a sacred event in ancient Israel), a time they would get together and celebrate and joy each other’s companionship.
Early Christians continue to celebrate Judaism
This early group of Christians were undoubtedly a distinct, easily recognizable group. We can tell this by the increase in numbers of participants who clearly saw the group as something unique. Still, the early Christians did not stray far from Judaism – they continued to practice Jewish rites and customs. Nor did the young group seek to separate themselves from the nation of Israel. In fact, they visited the temple daily as part of their worship.
What distinguished the early Christian church from Judaism was their central beliefs about Jesus, whom they considered the Messiah, and his teachings, which in many instances were dramatically different from traditional Jewish teachings.
The science and history behind the story
Communes in ancient Israel
The verses indicate that the early Christians lived in a communal relationship. For a time, all early believers shared everything they owned with each other and worked together as one. “Holding possessions in common” was not unheard of in ancient Israel. In fact, various Jewish sects were known to live in communal settings (e.g. Essenes, Pythagoreans).
Christians meet in the temple courts
Luke tells us that the early Christians met together “in the temple courts”. From other verses, we know that this meeting place was the eastern edge of the outer court called Solomon’s Colonnade (aka Solomon’s Porch) in the Second Temple (Herod’s Temple).
Notes on Biblical translation
Together with “sincere hearts”
The verses tell us that the early Christians “broke bread in their home and ate together with glad and sincere hearts”. The word “sincere” only appears here in the New Testament. Another instance of the word has been discovered in second-century writings of Veius Valens. In Valens’ writing, the word seems to mean “simplicity” or “generosity”. Thus the phrase Luke wrote could mean “sincerely generous” hearts or possibly “with simple hearts”.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.
The NET Bible
2:42 They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 2:43 Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles. 2:44 All who believed were together and held everything in common, 2:45 and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need. 2:46 Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, 2:47 praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved.
Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.
New King James Version
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.
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.
They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.
43–45 Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.
46–47 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.
Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.
King James Version
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.