This week we’re talking about the growth of the Church because growing and building is an important part of any group. Pastor Kathy asks some delving questions this week about your own faith journey and call.
SCRIPTURE- Acts 2:41-47
41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common;
45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
BACKGROUND FOR THE TEXT
- At this point in Acts, the apostles have received power from the Holy Spirit, and they use that power to proclaim the story of Jesus to the Jews who were gathered in Jerusalem.
- Peter has taken it upon himself to deliver a sermon to the folks who had gathered at the “sound of a rushing wind.”
- It is quite the sermon. He uses extensive quotes from the Hebrew scriptures to make the case that what happened to Jesus was all part of God’s plan from the beginning of time. He does blame the Israelites for “you crucified and killed” him.
- Peter’s big moment is when he says “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Christ (Messiah), this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:36.
- So the crowd asks, what should we do? Peter says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
EXGESIS (CLOSE READING) OF THE TEXT
As a result of Peter’s sermon, about 3000 people were added to the church rolls. We have forgotten that this type of “revival” service was fairly common in US history during the late 1700’s and through the 1800’s. I don’t know if 3000 folks were converted at any of these revivals but our immediate ancestors may not have been surprised by this text, as we are.
- The “conversion” that took place was not only about belief but also about lifestyle. Verse 42 says that the converts devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and fellowship, and also to eating together (a really big deal in 1st century Israel) and to praying. But notice that nothing is said about leaving Judaism behind. That was not Peter’s point. As a matter of fact, his preaching was about the opposite: he saw his work as an extension of his Judaism.
- Awe or fear was the common response to seeing many “wonders and signs.” These acts are not specified, but later in Acts we will read about the apostles performing healings, exorcisms and even resurrections from the dead.
- Verse 44 is famous for its interpretation, and non-interpretation. Is it accurate that the early apostles lived communally? The point, I think, is that the people completely changed their ways of life.
- They gathered in the Temple (comparing notes?) and they broke bread “from house to house.” Again this is an indication of the closeness of the new converts.
- Day by day, God added to their number. Within 300 years of the time of Jesus, Christianity went from a tiny sect of people to the dominant religion in the Roman Empire. There are many theories as to how this happened. Rodney Stark wrote a wonderful book called The Rise of Christianity, which I recommend. The Book of Acts attributes this growth to nothing else but the power of the Holy Spirit.
- The people are “saved.” From just this paragraph, salvation appears to mean to receive power for a new life. They are “saved from this corrupt generation.”
QUESTIONS THE TEXT ASKS OF US
- What draws people to Christianity today? What do they let go of, and what do they receive as they become Christians?
- What brought you to the Christian faith?
- What would your life be like if you were not a Christian?
- How do we, as McMinnville Cooperative Ministries, tell the story of Christ in such a way that people want to hear more, and learn more, about Christianity?