Unity Among the People Part 1

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

September 2, 2013

The Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe

Lesson II.B.1: Unity Among the People

Acts 2.42-47 (KJV)

42 And they continued steadfastly 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.

42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship,
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine (In the things taught by the apostles.),” which is the same as the doctrine of Christ, and He is the author, teacher, and subject of His doctrine; the essential themes of which is peace with God, pardon of sins, righteousness, and salvation by faith in Him: this is system of belief the apostles received from Christ, and constantly taught in their ministry; for that reason, it is called “the apostles' doctrine.” The word “doctrine” now has a technical connotation, and means a collection and arrangement of abstract views supposed to be contained in the Bible. In the Scriptures the word means simply "teaching"; and the expression here denotes that they continued to be present when the apostles gave instructions. One evidence of conversion is a desire to be instructed in the doctrines and duties of the Christian religion, and a willingness to attend the preaching of the gospel. These young converts had embraced this doctrine gladly, and were not only believers of it, but resolute believers; they were constantly hearing it, continually involved in the ministry of the apostles, committed to memorizing the doctrines taught by the apostles, and stood firm in the faith of the Gospel, in spite of all the rebuke cast upon them by their countrymen, and the hardships they endured for it.

“Fellowship” does not mean the apostles' fellowship, but the “fellowship” of the Church (which would include the apostles)—that common life of close brotherhood in which they did everything together, and shared with the others all they possessed, so that there seemed to be one heart and one mind shared by all of them. Although fellowship in our day does not have the same depth of sharing, we still have many things in common with those first Christians, as well as having many things in common with our brothers and sisters in Christ. All Christians have the same hope of heaven; the same joys; the same hatred of sin; the same enemies to contend with. Consequently, they have the same subjects of conversation, of feeling, and of prayer; and they have spiritual union in these things. And thus the early Christians had their property in common. “Fellowship” here may apply to any or to all of these things: to their conversation, their prayers, their dangers, or their property; and it also means that they were united with the apostles, and participated with them in whatever happened to them. Christians feel that they are a band of brethren, and that, however much they were separated before they became Christians, now they have many important interests in common; they are united in feelings, in interests, in dangers, in conflicts, in opinions, and in the hopes of a blessed immortality. These first Christians became known for their constant contributions towards the support of the apostles and of the poor members of the church.

“Continued steadfastly in” means they were frequently hearing the apostles teaching, frequently fellowshipping, frequently attending the Lords Table, and praying frequently. This is the inspired record of the result of their conversion. Nowhere is it recorded that any of these apostatized, and therefore we should not presume they ever did. Though they had been suddenly converted; though they were suddenly admitted to the church; though they were exposed to persecution and contempt, and many trials, yet the record is that they adhered to the doctrines and duties of the Christian religion. The word rendered "continued steadfastly” confirms to their perseverance and faithfulness.

and in breaking of bread,
“Breaking of bread” refers to "the Holy Eucharist " or “the ordinance of Communion.” “Breaking of bread” was the usual name the ancients used for the Lord's supper; which seems to be intended here, and not a common meal,

since it is mentioned here as a part of religious exercises: and though the Jews used to begin their meals with breaking of bread, the whole meal is never called by that name. These saints should be commended for eating their meals together, because it shows their socialness, harmony, and brotherly love; but that is not hinted at here. However in Acts 2:46 where it is mentioned as something different from a common meal, it seems to indicate they were celebrating the Lord's Table whenever the ordinance was administered, which was often. For “Breaking of bread” see Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; Luke 24:30; 1 Corinthians 11:24; 1 Corinthians 10:16; Acts 20:7.

and in prayers.
“And in prayers” not only refers to their prayer closets, and the time of family prayer, but prayer in the church; in the public prayers of the church; they took part in all opportunities for prayer and gladly embraced them. This was one effect of the influence of the Spirit, and an evidence of their change. A genuine revival will always be followed by a love of prayer. Note how the ancient Christians were engaged in the Church:
1. They were built up on the foundation of the prophets and apostles; Jesus Christ himself being the corner stone.
2. They continued steadfastly in that doctrine which they had received from God.
3. They were separated from the world, and lived in a holy Christian fellowship, strengthening and building up each other in their most holy faith.
4. They were frequently breaking bread in remembrance that Jesus Christ died for them.
5. They were faithful in prayers, knowing that they could be faithful only as long as they were upheld by their God, and knowing also that they could not expect his grace to support them, unless they humbly and earnestly prayed for its continuance.

43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

And fear came upon every soul:
This seems to refer to the dread, veneration, and wonder which fell upon the greater part of the people, and prevented them from interfering with the disciples. It was inspired by God, and was like the first settlement of Israel in the land of Canaan, when God placed the fear and the dread of the Israelites upon all the people of that land: “There shall no man be able to stand before you: for the LORD your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon, as he hath said unto you” (Deuteronomy 11:25). The multitude had just before this mocked the disciples saying, “…These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:13); but the mood of the crowd had changed because their consciences were stung with remorse, and they were fearful of the judgments of God; and the wonders and signs continually wrought by the apostles were at once proofs of the celestial origin of their doctrine and mission, and of their own immorality, treachery, and wickedness. And now the fear prompted by the events on the day of Pentecost, by the signs and wonders during the weeks preceding and for some time following, and by the wonderful unity and holiness of the newborn Church, had such a profound effect upon every soul at Jerusalem that all hostility was paralyzed, and the disciples had the time and the freedom to multiply, consolidate, and establish themselves before the storm of persecution fell upon them.

and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
The multitudes in Jerusalem heard the apostles speak with divers tongues (languages they never spoke before), and Peter preach in the shocking manner he did, and saw many thousands embrace the Gospel of Christ at once, and profess faith in Him, and submit to baptism in water; and this happened only a few weeks after His crucifixion, and while He was under the greatest reproach and scandal. There was also the many wonders and signs done by the apostles “in Jerusalem,” as it is written in the Vulgate Latin, and Syriac versions; such as casting out devils, healing the sick, causing the lame to walk, etc. which were those things promised by Christ, and therefore should be done by them—“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues” (Mark 16.17)—and which were necessary for the confirmation of the Gospel, and of the apostles' mission to preach it. The Vulgate Latin version adds another clause, much like the first part of the text, "and great fear was upon all": and the Alexandrian copy, and some others, read, "In Jerusalem, there was great fear upon all."

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