- Earlier in Acts 2 we saw the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. The multitudes have witnessed the apostles’ ability to speak in different languages and the multitudes want to know what this means. Peter, with the other eleven apostles, preach from Joel 2 explaining that these events were the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. Further, the apostles condemn the multitudes for killing the Messiah whom God had testified to be His Son.
- The people are pierced to the heart concerning what they have heard from Peter and the apostles and ask what they should do to be saved from the judgment that is to come upon them for their actions. Peter responded, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39). Peter further said, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:40). The responsibility has been placed upon the multitudes to make a decision whom they will follow and serve. Will they obey the words of the apostles so they can avoid the coming judgment which Peter preached, or will they reject the words of Peter?
- This will be our opportunity to look at what characteristics made up those first century Christians. Whatever made these people disciples of Jesus in the first century continues to be the way we can be disciples today. Or, put another way, those who received the word of the Lord, what did they do? The answer is the pattern we were left to model in our own lives.
I. To Become A Disciple, the People Were Baptized
A. Gladly received the word
- The first characteristic of this multitude is that they were joyful to hear the word of the Lord. Not only this, the text does not tell us that the people did not just hear or listen to the word of God. Rather, the people received the word to themselves. The word of the Lord sunk in and was allowed to affect their hearts. These people did not hear the words and afterward go up to Peter and tell him that was a nice sermon. They allowed the words to be life changing. They did not sit with wandering minds and closed hearts.
- Let us not simply glance over these first important words concerning the hearts of the people. If we are going to be true disciples of Christ we must always have open hearts to hear the words of the Lord. We must keep our hearts hungry to hear the word of the Lord and keep our minds in tune to message of God.
- Not only did the words sink into their hearts, the words motivated the multitude to act upon what they heard. Again, they did not walk away feeling energized and uplifted. Rather, they put the words into deeds by becoming baptized for the forgiveness of sins.
- Peter preached that forgiveness of sins would only come through repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). There was no other way to find salvation from God’s judgment and receive God’s blessings than through the waters of baptism. We can see an easy equation that Luke draws as he pens this letter to Theophilus. Those who received the word were baptized. What did it mean if someone was not baptized? The answer is clear: the person rejected the message and rejected the word of God. For someone to think they are saved without being baptized is to reject the word of God. Those who accepted the word of God were baptized for the forgiveness of sins.
- About 3000 souls were baptized and added to number of the saved. This is how we become joined to the rest of the saved in Christ. If we want to be added to the number of the apostles, then we must be baptized and the Lord will add us. If we want to be added to the rest of the saved, then we must be baptized. Let us see this morning quite plainly that if someone has not been baptized, the Lord has not added them to His group of saved people. This is all the scriptures mean when we speak of the Lord’s church: God’s group of saved people.
II. To Continue As Disciples, the People Devoted Themselves…
A. To the apostles’ doctrine
- The disciples devoted themselves to the learning and keeping of the apostles’ doctrine. We quickly learn that the teaching of the apostles was authoritative and would not be in contradiction to what Jesus’ taught. Jesus promised His apostles would be guided into all truth. As God’s truths were being revealed by the Holy Spirit to the apostles, the apostles taught that message to other disciples.
- Paul explained this process in Ephesians 3:3-5, “how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I wrote before in a few words, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets.” The disciples saw the importance in continuing in the teachings of the apostles to grow in their faith and keep from sins.
- A true disciple is one who is devoted to studying the word of God. True disciples always want to learn more about God and are devoted to the teaching of the apostles found in the scriptures. This devotion is not only seen by listening to sermons, but is exhibited in joining with the saints in our Bible studies. This is devotion is seen at home when time is taken to spend time dwelling upon the word of God. True disciples do not want to miss any opportunity to study the word of God.
- We also need to devote ourselves to the teaching of the apostles found in the scriptures. We need to have the same fervor and zeal for the word of God that others can know by the way we speak that we have been devoted steadfastly to the word of God. It is shame how often Christians allow themselves to remain ignorant concerning the word of God. True disciples want to be filled with the knowledge of God. First century Christians were devoted to this task and we must also model that zeal in our lives.
B. To fellowship
- Unfortunately, fellowship in a religious sense has been merely defined as having a meal together. Too often fellowship is advertised as coming together to eat. But that is not the concept we see in the scriptures concerning the nature of fellowship. Notice in this section of text what these first century Christians were doing that Luke considered fellowship.
- Verse 44 says, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” There is no exaggeration in this statement. First, the believers were joined and knit together. Fellowship is about joining together for a common goal and common purpose thus creating a common bond. These Christians did not simply declare themselves to be in fellowship simply because they had been baptized or merely attended worship services. Verse 45 describes the extent of their fellowship, “So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need.” This tells us how joined together to the common goal of serving Christ these people really were. These disciples had all things in common and this is true Christianity. If all that we have is truly the Lord’s as we say it is, then I must be willing to give what God has given me to other brethren who may need it.
- Now it is easy for us to dismiss these passages out of hand as not having bearing on our lives today and that God was not commanded for Christians to become a commune or some sort of socialistic community. While God has not telling us that we ought to sell everything so that everyone here will have an equal amount, we must realize that we cannot dismiss this passage out of hand. Luke is recording for us what Christians do for one another. If we truly saw others in our group have a need, we would have to be willing to sell whatever we had or do whatever it took to help.
- I believe our fighting against this concept which is plainly taught in this passage shows how materialistic we have become. We quickly expose our love for this world and things in the world when we talk about selling houses and cars to help other Christians in need. But this is true fellowship, a true joint association together in the Lord. We can say we have fellowship together because we worship together or have people over to our homes. But true fellowship, as we see it in this passage, is to have all things in common with one another. We see this same love of the brethren found in 2 Corinthians 8-9 where poor brethren who had nothing to give were still giving what scraps they did have for other brethren who were in great need. How can we come to this type of fellowship?
C. To worship (breaking of bread and prayers)
- It is clear that this kind of fellowship was developed from the amount of time that was spent together. Verse 46 tells us, “Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house.” We see that the disciples devoted themselves to meeting together. The first century Christians met together every day to worship God, whether in the temple courts or in various people’s homes. Wherever and whenever these Christians could meet together, they would.
- Do we have the same desire to want to meet with other Christians wherever and whenever we can? What would we think about meeting every day with other Christians? Would we consider such an action too much for us? Would we declare our need for rest? We certainly seem to balk when gospel meetings come around. Instead of joy and anticipation, too often we exhibit disappointment or even anger for being expected to show up every night for a few days. Brethren, it seems that today many of us have lost the love that would draw Christians together on a daily basis. I know that we have jobs that are demanding, schools that push our children, and families that take much time to maintain. But when a congregation sees fit to come together for a common purpose, especially for worship, we should be overjoyed for the opportunity, not groaning about the sacrifice we must make.
D. To evangelism
- There was something else that these disciples were devoted to that is not explicitly stated. But we know the disciples were devoted to evangelism by the end result. “Every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Day by day and every day people were turning their lives to Jesus and being baptized. It was not enough for these disciples to congregate together, study the word of God through the apostles, and giving to any who had need among them. These first century disciples had to share the good news to others, an action we will see these first century disciples make repeatedly through the book of Acts.
- Can you imagine daily baptisms? This is the power of the gospel and here we read it was taking place. Some “wise” scholars have suggested the amount of baptisms could not have been handled at that time. Where could you baptize 3000 people in the city of Jerusalem? Where could they find water to baptize people daily? I was watching a recent show on the History Channel concerning Jerusalem that answers this supposed dilemma. Excavations have uncovered that there were thousands of pools throughout the city. It seems that the religious leaders had these pools of water created to be able to ceremonially purify the people for the feast days. Since these Jews would travel through Gentile lands, the religious Jewish leaders believed these traveling Jews would need to be fully cleansed from all they may have touched our encountered along the way. Therefore, the leaders in another way to make money, would charge for the people to be immersed in these pools of water to be made ceremonial clean. The apostles and disciples could use these common pools to baptize in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
- How is our dedication to evangelism? We set out a goal this year to talk to one person a week on our impact list. Are we keeping to the goal? We need to remain self-motivated to obey the command of God to take the gospel to all the people we know and come into contact. While I am excited about the growth we have seen here and every Sunday morning has a “full” feeling in the pews, we are not done with the work. We must continue to teach and seek those who are looking for God. Let us continue to do the work of inviting and teaching. We have a great opportunity to invite your friends and neighbors with our upcoming lectureship in three weeks. You can do your part in trying to save souls by offering them the chance to hear the message of the cross.
F. To Christian character
- The final aspect we see with these Christians is the joy they had in what they were doing. They ate their food with gladness and sincerity of heart. Further they were praising God in all that they did. Everything they did was for the cause of the Lord and in the name of Jesus Christ. There is great joy in Christianity and we must portray that to those who are lost.
- We also see that these first century disciples had favor with all the people. We probably do not think about the significance of this statement because of all the other important statements found in this text. However, who were the people that these disciples had favor with? I submit to you that it was not Gentiles, but the other multitudes of Jews who were there for the Passover and subsequent Pentecost feasts. Therefore, this is a rather impressive statement that these Christians had favor with all the people in the city, even though they were of a different religion.
- I think that says something to us today also. To teach people does not require us to be ugly to them, especially those who belong to other religious beliefs. We can maintain favor with people while teaching them the truth of the scriptures and their need for obedience to the word of God. We must always maintain our integrity and Christian character when we are preaching and teaching or else we become a stumbling block to the lost.
These are the things necessary for discipleship. First, to become a disciple of Christ, one must be baptized just as all those who accepted the words of Peter did on the day of Pentecost. To not be baptized is to reject the words of the apostles. Second, we need to continue in the ways of Jesus by devoting ourselves to the word of God, devoting ourselves to one another having all in common, devoting ourselves to worshipping the Lord together, devoting ourselves to teaching the lost, and devoting ourselves to growing in the character of Christ. This is the model of the first century church and this is the pattern we must fashion ourselves after.