Church Life – Acts 2:41-42

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. – Acts 2:41-42

The apostle Peter had just finished preaching Christ and him crucified, resurrected, and enthroned.  God has made this Jesus, whom the Jews and Romans crucified, both Lord and Christ (v. 36).  We see in our text that those who received this word, the gospel of Jesus Christ, were baptized, being added to the number of God’s people.


Baptism: Identifying with Christ

From our text, we see the close relationship between the word of Christ and baptism.  To receive the word of Christ is to believe the word regarding the person and redemptive work of Christ.  To receive baptism is to identify yourself with the Christ of the word.  It is essentially saying, I am no longer of the world, but my life and identity are now bound to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).  This is one’s entrance into the visible body of Christ.  Additionally, baptism is a sign (the Holy Spirit the seal) of God’s salvific blessings upon his people in union with Christ (Rom. 6:1-6).  The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith provides a concise summary of the significance of baptism:

1. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with Him, in His death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into Him; of remission of sins; and of giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

2. Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance.[1]


Devotion: The Nature of Church Life

It is not uncommon in our day for many to make a profession of Christ, receive baptism, and never be heard of again.  One must wonder if they truly received the word of Christ.  One must wonder if it was the word of Christ that was actually proclaimed to them, or if it was a watered-down, superficial alternative.  After all, a superficial message can only produce a superficial disciple.

Church life, on the other hand, being rooted in the word of Christ, is a life of devotion.  To be devoted to something or someone entails discipline, observation, commitment, and interest.  In our text we see that the early Church devoted themselves to four things: 1) the teaching of the apostles; 2) the fellowship of believers; 3) the Lord’s Supper; and 4) prayer.  We will look at each in turn.

Devotion to apostolic teaching.  What is so important about the teaching of the apostles?  The apostles were the authoritative leaders and teachers of the Church, having been divinely commissioned by Christ to take his teaching into the world (Jn. 16:13-15; Mtt. 28:20; Acts 1:8).  The Church of God, which is the household of God, is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone (Eph. 2:19-20).  They were the channels of divine revelation (Heb. 2:4; 1 Jn. 1:1-4; Jude 3).  This is why the teaching of the apostles is so vital and central to the life of the Church; they spoke for God!  Their teaching is now forever with us in the New Testament canon.  And what was the Bible of the apostles and early Church?  Was it not the Old Testament, which the apostles provided teaching and instructions from?  Indeed.  So, when we read that the early Church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, we should not limit ourselves to the New Testament, though the New Testament embodies their teaching, but must open ourselves up to the whole counsel of God in both Old and New Testaments.  We must devote ourselves to the Holy Scriptures en toto.

Devotion to the fellowship of believers.  The text simply says, “the fellowship”.  Yet, what is a fellowship if not a group or gathering of people who share in a common identity?  And what is the shared identity of those gathered together in our text?  Is it not the forgiveness of sins through the crucified, risen, and enthroned Lord and Christ that Peter had just proclaimed?  Indeed, it is.  This is a fellowship of believers.  As verse 44 says, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.”  We see here, then, that the life of the Church involves a devotion to one another.  As an example, in Galatians 6:1-10 we see that we are to come to the aid of the brother or sister who is caught up in sin and to provide material support, which may be financial, to those who are invested in preaching and teaching the word.  In a similar vein, in Acts 2:45 we find that the Church was “selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”  This is putting the needs of others before our own (Phil. 2:4).

Devotion to the Lord’s Supper.  Here we have mention of the second ordinance or sacrament of the Church.  We spoke already of baptism, now we speak of the Lord’s Supper.  Both are part of the means of grace.  The administration of the word and the sacraments, the sacraments never apart from the word that defines them, are the means of grace.  “The preaching of the Word (or, the Word preached) and the administration of the sacraments (or, the sacraments administered) are the means officially instituted in the Church, by which the Holy Spirit works and confirms faith in the hearts of men.”[2] As the Church partakes of the Supper, she remembers the body of her Savior broken for her on the cross, and of the blood spilt for the forgiveness of her trespasses (1 Cor. 11:23-26; Eph. 1:7).  The Lord’s Supper is not an insignificant event in the life of the Church.  It is fundamentally an observation of the gospel – God’s picture to his beloved children of his steadfast love (covenantal love).  Our hearts and minds are to be active, as much as our eyes, as we devote ourselves to this holy meal.

Devotion to prayer.  It is actually quite interesting that the text reads, “the prayers”.  This seems to suggest a body of prayers that were known among the fellowship and incorporated in the worship of the Church.  Of course, your mind probably runs to Matthew 6:9-13, “The Lord’s Prayer”.  The Psalms were also utilized as prayers among God’s people.  Whether or not the Church was reciting a body of prayers, the fact of the matter is that they were praying.  We see in Acts 4:24-30, the Church prayed to God, recognizing him as sovereign over the rulers of this world.  Prayer assumes the sovereignty of God.  Whether prayer is done corporately or privately, it is a time of intimate communion with the God who works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:26-28).  Prayer is an important means through which the Lord blesses his Church and accomplishes his will.  This being so, how devoted ought we be to prayer?  Very devoted.


[1] 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 29.1-2.

[2] Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (MI: Eerdmans publishing Co., reprinted 1974), 605.

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