Acts 2:42-47, "Double Devotion"

Community on Mission  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  57:17
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A community on mission is devoted to a common life and has a public grace. There is an internal aspect along with an external aspect of their life together. The external aspect was an open door for others to enter into the common life. In what ways are we devoted to a common life? Where do we have a public grace that invites others to enter in? As we look at these two aspects in the church in Acts 2, we will ask four guiding questions for us. Are we a community on mission?

Devoted to a Common Life

2:42-45 - They were being devoted continually to...
2:42 - They had an internal focus. Their common devotion to Jesus gave them a common devotion to learning, partnership, breaking bread and praying together. These four practices summarize what happens in the rest of the passage.

Learning from the Apostles

Are we all devoted to learning from the same teachers? Right now, people are choosing churches based more on political party affiliation than theological distinctives. This says we are learning from the wrong teachers. A community on mission is united in Christ Jesus, and the teaching of His apostles.
2:42 - devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching - linked with,
2:43 - Every soul experiencing daily fear because signs of God working wonders were constant through the apostles. Wouldn’t you love to be part of a community like this? Constantly in awe of what God is doing around you?
These were miracles that confirmed that they were God’s chosen messengers, like the prophets of old. This wasn’t fear of the apostles. This was the same fear mixed with celebration that had been experienced when God came down on Mount Sinai to give the Torah to the people of Israel through Moses. We are restarting the Exodus, God redeeming a people to dwell in their midst. Luke’s point here is that the message the apostles was preaching was on equal authority with the Torah as God’s word.
What were the apostles teaching? From writings such as “The Didache” (“The Teaching”), we know that they were teaching how to put Jesus’ teaching into practice in their daily lives. How do I love God and love my neighbor? What does humility look like in my relationships? What are cases in which I should forgive and give grace to my brothers and sisters? They were teaching the disciples to obey everything Jesus had commanded.
They begin with love God, love others, do to others as you would have them do to you. But they also teach things such as...
2 If it is a traveler who arrives, help him all you can. But he must not stay with you more than two days, or, if necessary, three.
3 If he wants to settle with you and is an artisan, he must work for his living. 4 If, however, he has no trade, use your judgment in taking steps for him to live with you as a Christian without being idle.
5 If he refuses to do this, he is trading on Christ. You must be on your guard against such people.
1:7 Do not hesitate to give and do not give with a bad grace; for you will discover who He is that pays you back a reward with a good grace.
1:8 Do not turn your back on the needy, but share everything with your brother and call nothing your own. For if you have what is eternal in common, how much more should you have what is transient!

Partnering in Life

Am I acting as a disciple of Jesus in the way I share my possessions? Fair warning, we’re going to talk about money.
In 2:42 Luke says they were devoted to “the fellowship”, the Greek word koinonia. This is partnership or sharing kind of fellowship. Not just hanging out with coffee. It is a shared life.
2:44-45 - They “were together”. A modern translation (okay, maybe already a little dated) would be, they were all up in each other’s business. They really believed that they should be together in everything. This included their possessions and money.
The Bibles they read, the Torah, commanded a tenth, or a tithe, of all of a person’s wealth be dedicated to God.
Leviticus 27:30 ESV
“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.
So many people even today believe you should give ten percent of your income to God in some way, to your church or another ministry. But there were many other offerings required in the Torah as well. There was the first-fruits of your crop, a half-shekel offering per person, sacrifices for sin, for Passover, and the outer edge of your field that was left in the harvest for the poor to take for themselves. Some people have done the math and found that up to thirty percent of a person’s wealth was commanded to be made available to God in some way. Maybe we would consider this our taxes, which provide for a common national life together.
What we see in the New Covenant of Jesus is something very different. Jesus tells the scribes, the Torah legal scholars, and the Pharisees
Matthew 23:23 ESV
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
Jesus shifts the focus from what’s in your wallet to what’s in your heart. If you give all you have to the poor but don’t have love, you gain nothing. So, as Christians, we believe that God doesn’t want 10% of what I have, or even 30%. Everything I am and everything have belongs to God. I don’t give Him 10% and keep the rest. I make 100% available to Him and trust that He will care for me.
This is the generosity of the gospel. What if Jesus had given us 10% of God’s grace, or 10% atonement for sin, or 10% adoption into God’s family? Jesus has redeemed believers from sin and death. Even my body, my very self, is not my own. I have been bought with a price. So Jesus tells us to be generous, give to whoever asks you and expect nothing in return, even to be gracious to our enemies.
The early disciples of Jesus did not consider any of their possessions to be their own. A Jesus-centered community on mission is devoted to Jesus with everything they have. Everything I have is on the table if He needs it to build up the body of Christ.
I am thankful to be part of a generous church. When needs are presented, you always come through above and beyond. For the few of us that might need to grow in this area, you have plenty of teachers to learn from. What you will find is that Christians who are devoted to giving generously are first and foremost devoted to Jesus Christ.

Devoted to their Community

The internal, common life, united in the apostles’ teaching and sharing all they had, was mixed with an external public life. The community on mission with Jesus is living their common life in some publicly visible way. Verses 46 and 47 tell us what that public life of the early church looked like.

The Prayers

2:42 - Devoted to...”the prayers”. We think of prayer as the heart’s free expression to God. That is one element of prayer. Jesus taught His disciples to pray in secret to our Father in heaven and gave them a structure they could follow. We call that the Lord’s prayer.
But it’s important to remember that He and His disciples were Jews. They had prayers, most of which came from the Bible, that they recited with the rest of their community three times a day. Jesus’ disciples didn’t stop being Jews when they became Christians. They now understood the fullness of their Jewish religion was found in the person of Jesus Christ. While there were some aspects that would be left behind because they had been added by men, in other ways they were worshipping as they had before, but with a new, fresh understanding and vibrancy.
Verse 46 tells us every day they attended the temple together. The word for attended is actually the same word we find in verse 42 translated, “devoted”. This public attendance of morning and evening services were an opportunity to say their prayers as a community. The disciples devoted themselves to being part of the community around them, now with the growing understanding that the sacrifices had been fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. As that understanding grew, their public praise for God grew.
What was the result of this devotion to public praise? Increasing favor (the word is charis “grace”) with all the people, according to verse 47 and...
Acts 2:47 ESV
praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
This is one place in the Bible from which our church derives its name. This is the community of Jesus, praising God for His grace to them, and growing in grace for one another and in their surrounding community. What is the public expression of our faith in Jesus that grants us grace with outsiders, so that they know they are invited to enter our community? As Sam Huggard asked it, “In what ways are we winsomely visible?”

Breaking Bread Together

The final practice of the community on mission ties together the common, shared life and their public life. When someone was drawn to faith by the public praise of God by the Jesus community, how were they enfolded into the community?
Acts 2:46 ESV
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
“day by day” - regular life together with an open door for others to enter in.
They received food with glad and generous hearts. This breaking of bread was both a meal and a remembrance of Jesus’ finished work of atonement on the cross.
When we were in Haiti, Arthur told us about the cultural dynamics of sharing food. Many couples happily eat off the same plate. And most people cook in an outdoor kitchen or a space that vents directly outside. So if you look toward your neighbor’s house and there is no smoke, that means they have no food. So you bring some of yours to them. And the next day they might do the same for you. Glad and generous hearts gather at neighbors’ tables.
Where have we set a table for someone outside our church to learn the grace of God in Jesus Christ? A meal at your table is often the first place someone outside the church will interact with those inside the church.
A community on mission with Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, turning the world upside down is devoted to a common life of obedience to Jesus and devoted to their community life of public praise of God’s work in Jesus. Are we a community on mission like this? Maybe how we do this in the particular cultural expression will look different, but how would we answer our guiding questions.
Are we all devoted to learning from the same teachers?
Am I acting as a disciple of Jesus in the way I share my possessions?
“In what ways are we winsomely visible?”
Where have we set a table for someone outside our church to learn the grace of God in Jesus Christ?
I wonder if there is a connection between a community that is devoted to sharing a life together of obedience to Jesus and devoted to showing up their community and a community in which awe comes upon every soul and the Lord adds to our numbers daily those who are being saved?
Questions for discussion
Have you ever been part of a community of people devoted to one cause? What was that like?
What does it mean to be devoted to the apostles’ teaching? How can we grow in this area?
What would a common life of partnership and sharing look like in our culture? Where do you see this shared life in our church right now?
What would be a ministry for our church to which people would give generously, freely, and cheerfully?
We don’t have a Temple to the One True and Living God at which people in our city gather daily. What is that place, or places?
What is the public expression of our faith in Jesus that grants us grace with outsiders, and through which they know they are invited to enter our community? (In what way are we winsomely visible?)
Where is the table at which outsiders are welcome in our church and can engage with the gospel?
How will you respond to this passage this week?
Who is someone you can share this passage with this week?
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