“God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ,” cried Peter. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” … ‘So those who received Peter’s word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. … And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved’ (Acts 2:36 – 47).
This first church in Jerusalem ‘devoted themselves to’ a foursquare pattern of daily activities: ‘the teaching of the apostles and the fellowship,… the breaking of bread and the prayers’. And because of their whole-hearted engagement in all four practices: ‘awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles’. And the marvels of that day of Pentecost became a glorious everyday occurrence:
‘there were added that day about three thousand souls’ (Acts 2:42), and
‘the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved’ (Acts 2:47).
Each of the four aspects of their active community carries the Greek definite article: they did not just share fellowship and meet to pray but ‘they continued … in the fellowship [and] in the prayers.’ And through all four of these organically integrated means of grace they received a fresh impartation of Christ.
‘The fellowship’ is surely: ‘our fellowship… with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ’ (1 John 1:3) and ‘the fellowship of the Holy Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 13:14) – nothing less than God’s glorious enjoyment of God throughout eternity before ever an atom had been created! There is a beautiful word in one of the languages of South Africa: abantu. It means ‘I am because we are.’ And through our participation in ‘the fellowship’ we become ‘a new creation’ in ‘the image of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
‘The prayers’ in those days were offered in a war context. Whenever the apostles were in prison the church extended ‘the hour of prayer’ (Acts 3:1), and on one occasion the place was shaken (4:23-31)! The reason is that Christ is involved in the church’s corporate praying: he ‘always lives to make intercession for those who draw near to God through him’ (Hebrews 7:25); and, as he told us, ‘whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven’ because ‘I am in [your] midst’ (Matthew 18:15-20). Even as I write, people are turning to Christ in countries where persecution is worst: in Iraq and Algeria, in India and Iran, in China and Cuba.
‘The breaking of bread.’ M.R.E. (meals ready for eating) are supplied to troops in a war zone. In fact the chocolates M & M were invented not to melt in heat in such situations! Jesus designed the communion meal as an MRE when ‘he took bread, and …broke it and gave to the disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is my body! And he took the cup and…gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”’ (Matthew 26:27-28).
‘The teaching of the apostles’ is our war map. It was Christ who gave his church apostles (for strategy) and teachers (for tactics) when he ascended on high.