The Devotions of the Early Church - as described in Acts 2:42 -
bed in Acts 2:42
Acts 2 recounts the Day of Pentecost. Originally a Jewish feast, it now marks the celebration of the beginning of the church. On this day the Apostles received power from the Holy Spirit and began immediately to proclaim the message of Christ’s death and resurrection. About 3,000 people joined them on that first day through the preaching of Peter and the other Apostles who told them to “repent and be baptized…for the forgiveness of your sins,” (Acts 2:38). This early group was quickly organized around several activities which they “devoted themselves to” (2:42). These were: the Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers. These were the cornerstone activities for the founding fathers of the church, and the church in the twenty-first century must maintain them. Deviations from them will produce something other than the church.
Breaking of Bread -- On the night before he died Jesus Christ instituted a means of remembering him. He used ordinary symbols of bread and wine and told his disciples to remember him in these elements. The bread represented his body, and the wine was the new covenant in his blood. So essential was it to their spiritual lives and communion with God that it became one of the pillars of early church activity. Although the expression breaking bread could also be used of a common meal, likely in this context of essential practices the New Testament refers to the remembrance of the crucified, resurrected Lord. As the church grew from Jerusalem, it became a practice to celebrate this memorial on the first day of every week (Acts 20:7) and still today provides one of the essential means by which Christians remember Christ and commune with him.
The Apostles' Teaching -- At this early stage the Apostles verbally passed on to the new converts what they had learned from Jesus. It would not be for several decades before their teachings were written down, collected and used in the churches. The documents would later be recognized as the New Testament, the same Gospels and Epistles that we possess today. They contain not only the fulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament, the story of the suffering and resurrection of the Messiah, but also teachings about the mission of the church, salvation, and demands for virtuous living. To neglect the reading and study of these documents is to neglect the apostles themselves. These writings reveal the essential teachings of these original founders. Bible study therefore becomes necessary to sustain the church and its apostolic message.
The Fellowship -- The church is the body of Christ, the visible manifestation of its invisible but spiritually present Lord. It is not merely a building or a hierarchy of leaders; the church is the people of God. Peter says we are living stones built into a temple (1 Peter 2:5). The Apostle Paul says, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it,” (1 Corinthians 11:27). These reaffirm what they knew in those early days: the community is essential. The church is like family in which there are fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers (1 Timothy 5:1-2). Christians cannot maintain their spiritual lives without concern for other members of the body. Close friendships with members of the church, and family life (both personal and corporate) play a significant role in being a part of the church. It is a relationship built on love (John 13:35) and mutual sharing. In essence these early disciples didn’t just go to church and go home. They interacted and developed bonds founded upon their shared salvation. Each one was a member of God’s family.
Prayer -- The early church most likely continued in the regular times of prayer established by the Temple worship (see also Acts 3:1). Hardly anyone can doubt that prayer has always played a major role in the lives of the people of God. Jesus himself spent time praying (Mark 1:35) and taught his disciples to pray in private as well (Matthew 6:5-8). Prayer stimulates personal growth like few other things, and to neglect it is to distance ourselves from God.
(c) Copyright 2007, Chatham Church of Christ