preaching study: acts 2:42-47

In “preaching study” posts, I’m really interested in fostering a “community” approach to study and prep for the message, so please interact as much as you like. All Scripture quotes are from the TNIV unless otherwise noted. Thanks!

Continuing with the series on the Gifts of Christ as we live out the Christian Story, we’ve looked at the gifts of the Word and the Spirit. This week is the gift of the Community. For that, we begin by looking to Luke’s writings in Acts 2:42-47, a classic text on the early Christian community.

Literary Context

  • Preceding this passage is Peter’s Pentecost sermon, which is an answer to the question voiced in 2:12, “What does this mean?” referring to all the noise and the disciples proclaming God to the people in their own native languages, which seemed (we suppose by the crowd’s reaction) clearly to be an unusual, if not supernatural event. Not to mention the fire on their heads!
  • In 2:41, we read that the church began with a small-ish group of disciples, a defining sermon from Peter and a response from the crowd of “about three thousand” people “added to their number that day.” Not a bad day for a church plant… So, they seemed to have been organized into home groups.
  • 2:42 has taken to describe the devotional practices of those home groups: apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread (Eucharist or common meal?), prayer.
  • One theme is unified devotion to God in community (instead of individually, which is not mentioned or alluded to), which runs throughout, not just in v42.
  • They met both in the temple courts and in homes (v46).
  • “Signs and wonders” were still a prominent feature of apostolic proclamation (v43).
  • There is an emphasis on inclusivity and universality in the language throughout the passage: “Everyone was filled with awe,” “All the believers,” “everything in common,” “anyone who had need,” “enjoying the favor of all the people.”
  • And the flow of the passage seems to imply causation between their life together as a community (remember it’s 3000 people in home groups we’re talking about) and the daily stream of persons added to their number.

Cultural Cues

  • Table fellowship, a 1st century ethic that is of importance to Luke (as is firmly established in his Gospel), is in play here in vv42, 46. Understanding that ethic more in-depth will probably bring more out of the passage.
  • What is the significance of the temple courts? Digging a little more deeply here will help paint the picture more vividly.

Thoughts so far?

Published by Guy M Williams

Christian | Husband, Father | Pastor | 8th-Gen Texan | Texas A&M ‘96 | Asbury Seminary ‘01 | Enjoy family, reading, running, golf, college football

4 thoughts on “preaching study: acts 2:42-47

  1. I don’t think I’d run down the Table fellowship rabbit-hole on this one. When looking at the kerygma, breaking bread almost always implies the eucharist (see the road to emmaus as an example here and Paul on the ship at the end of Acts).

    The homes and Temple are interesting…formal, ritual worship as prescribed by God in the OT and the fellowship and eucharist of the new covenant held together. These are faithful Jews who know something greater than the Temple has arrived, and yet they still interact with the Jews in ways that are culturally relevant for them and show their own piety by worshiping at the Temple. I think there is a lot here.

  2. hey Steve, thanks for the comments.

    Love the homes and Temple stuff–really, really rich.

    On table fellowship: Yes, I phrased that like a foregone conclusion rather than as a question to investigate, which is what I intended.

    I tend to agree with you and take “breaking bread” here and generally elsewhere to refer to Eucharist.

    At the same time, I wonder if, especially in Luke’s writings, the table fellowship ethic and the practice of Eucharist are in creative conversation with one another. The way that Luke shows Jesus’ interaction with persons at table engages the table fellowship ethic in ways that seem to invite the church to continue his approach, perhaps including in the appropriation of Passover to the New Covenant–in our practice of Eucharist. Paul seems to be in concert with this in his instructions in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul’s understanding of baptism and the radical relativizing of status markers also seems to agree with the way that Jesus engages table fellowship in Luke.

    This is what I mull upon in this matter, but I would benefit much from conversation about it.

  3. You make some very good points. I wonder, though, if we fully appropriated this concept of table fellowship and the “radical relativizing of status markers” would mean that in the eucharist we would naturally see, experience, live, and promote the equality among ourselves, and would we necessarily need to close the table to non-christians/pre-christians because they had not experienced that leveling of the playing field in baptism yet.

    Wow, that looks like a ramble.

  4. Yep, I think of it as more “theological vision” and less “faithful practice of the church.” Very “already/not yet”, though that’s probably fairly generous.

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