1. The early church in Jerusalem, 1:1-5:42

vii] The life of the early Church


Luke has gone into some detail in his record of events surrounding the gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. He now gives us a thumbnail sketch of life in the first Christian church, the church that evolves following the conversion of some 3,000 people on the day of Pentecost.


The gospel-focused interaction of the apostolic community of the way, in their mutual sharing and worship, prompted ongoing growth.


i] Context: See 1:1-11.


ii] Structure: The life of the early church:

Ministry focus of the early church, v42;

Continuance of apostolic signs, v43;

Communal lifestyle, v44-45;

Worship, v46-47.


iii] Interpretation:

Luke's description of life in the apostolic Christian fellowship in Jerusalem, reveals a church embracing mutual care (they held all things in common) and devotion (they daily attended the temple), so demonstrating their commitment to Jesus as messiah.

The community's common ownership of property demonstrates a high level of commitment, although it is unclear to what extent this pooling of resources affects the private ownership of property. Acts records the ongoing ownership of property - houses, businesses, etc,. cf., Acts 21:8. As Peter states in the incident with Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5, the property owned by them is theirs to do as they wish; there is no compulsion to sell it and donate part, or all, of the proceeds to the church. Although unstated, it is likely that Luke is describing the generous giving of surplus funds to a common purse. As for the community's continued involvement in Jewish practice and worship, their engagement with those outside the fellowship evidences an evangelical spirit that stands opposed to inward-looking navel-gazing.

Luke repeats and expands his description of the early church in 4:32-37 and 5:12-16. The description is somewhat of an apology, an attempt to present the Christian fellowship in a positive light - they are a caring community, not troublemakers, a community firmly tied to Judaism, not sectarian separatists. The narrative also evidences Luke's overall thesis: the planting of God's messianic community through the preaching of the gospel, starting in Jerusalem, and extending to the ends of the earth / Rome.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 2:42

Life in the early church, 2:42-47. i] Ministry focus of the early church, v42. The early converts placed themselves under the authoritative teaching of the Lord, as conveyed through the apostles. As time when on, the teachings of the apostles was recorded in the cannon of the New Testament, and so a congregation today, which submits to the New Testament, submits to the apostolic faith.

Community in the early church was expressed in a number of ways:

iFirst, they fellowshipped together; they were a community of friends;

iSecond, they shared in "the breaking of bread." This is most likely the Lord's Supper, but it could just be a fellowship meal shared by the congregation - a love-feast (the disciples would often share a meal with Jesus, a meal where he broke bread, blessed it, and shared it). If it is the Lord's Supper, then the "breaking" is referring to Jesus' body broken for us;

iThird, they devoted themselves to "prayer." We know that the members of the early church attended public worship at the temple, and joined in prayer during their house meetings.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative / introducing a new literary unit.

hsan ... proskarterounteV (proskarterew) pres. part. "they devoted themselves to" - they were continuing steadfastly, persevering, sticking at it, not letting up. The present participle with the imperfect verb to-be forms an imperfect periphrastic construction, probably emphasising durative aspect, ie., "constant in their attention", Johnson; "they assiduously practised what they heard". The proV prefix verb proVkarterew will often take a dative of direct object, as here, where it is followed by four dative nouns: "teaching / fellowship / breaking of bread / prayer". "They spent all their time in listening to the apostles", Barclay.

th/ didaxh/ (h) dat. "the [apostles'] teaching" - to the instruction. The "teaching" is probably not distinct from the apostles' "preaching". The content is undefined, but probably the "tradition" paradosiV, ethical and practical teaching, shaped by the gospel of God's grace in Christ; "a grounding in the central promise God had given in Jesus", Bock, contra Fitzmyer.

twn apostolwn (oV) "apostles'" - of the apostles. The genitive is adjectival, usually treated as verbal, subjective, ie., the apostles did the teaching, but possibly simply possessive, identifying the possession of a derivative characteristic.

th/ koinwnia/ (a) dat. "to the fellowship" - [and] to the fellowship. The article denotes that "there was something distinctive in the gatherings of the early believers", Longenecker. Presumably in the sense of a close association, "share the common life", REB. Other meanings are possible. Barrett lists four altogether:



ian equivalent sense to the breaking of bread;

ialmsgiving - a sense which is supported by Paul's use of the word with regard the collection for the poor.

Lohse thinks the word describes a gathering for worship, cf., Barrett. "They were like family to each other", CEV.

th/ klasei (iV ewV) dat. sing. "to the breaking" - in/to the separation of two parts. Probably a form of the Lord's supper is intended, since the word is packaged between two other significant Christian acts within the fellowship of believers. None-the-less, something akin to a fellowship meal / love feast may be intended, even some other cultic meal associated with the community's continued participation in temple worship.

tou artou (oV) "of bread" - of bread. The genitive is adjectival, usually classified as verbal, objective.

taiV proseucaiV (h) dat. "to prayer" - [and] to the prayers. Again, the presence of the article indicates particular prayers are in mind, possibly even set Jewish prayers.


ii] The continuance of apostolic signs, v43. In his sermon, Peter quotes Joel's prophecy concerning the dawning of the kingdom of God, a dawning heralded by "signs on the earth beneath." Jesus performed such signs, and the apostles were empowered to maintain continuity between Jesus' ministry and the apostolic community. The value of prophetic signs will wane as the Christian church becomes increasingly Gentile in makeup, but for Israel, such signs fulfil prophecy, and so proclaim the coming kingdom. Fellow Jews, who now witness these amazing events, are filled with awe.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

pash/ dat. adj. "everyone" - in [every] soul [awe, fear, terror was becoming]. An idiomatic use of the dative, local, expressing sphere; "in every soul" = "everyone felt a deep sense of awe", Phillips. "Fear" is a possible sense for foboV, even "amazed", CEV. Yet, if "everyone" refers to the Christian fellowship, then "awe", as in the sense of "reverential fear", seems better. The textual variant, "in Jerusalem, there was great fear upon everyone", attempts to widen those who are affected, and such is certainly a common response to "signs and wonders." "A feeling of awe was upon them all", Cassirer.

te ..... kai "...., and" - [many] both [wonders] and [signs were becoming = being performed]. A coordinate construction. "What revealed the heavenly accreditation of Jesus is now used by Luke to confirm the heavenly approbation of the apostles", Fitzmyer.

dia + gen. "by [the apostles]" - through, by means of [the apostles]. Instrumental, expressing agency.


iii] Communal lifestyle, v44-45: The dynamic unity of the Spirit experienced by these early believers ("the believers were together" = in fellowship / community) most likely enhanced a sense of the early return of Christ and so prompted a reaction to private property. They "had everything in common", in the sense that they viewed their possessions as the property of all. As a result, they sold their assets and divided them according to individual needs. The sale of assets may explain the poverty of the Palestinian, prompting Paul's collection of the Saints. Yet, it does seem that many kept their homes and businesses (eg., fishing boats), so Luke may only be referring to the sale of surplus assets which the community then held in common. Luke does seem to embellish life in the Jerusalem church somewhat, but his description does provide an ideal for Christian community, and this in keeping with the significance of the outpouring of the Spirit. Of course, the communal life-style does fade over time, eg., 4:32-5:11. So, Luke is depicting a commonality highly regarded in the ancient world ("friends share everything"), and even practised by some groups, eg., Qumran.

oiJ pisteuonteV (pisteuw) pres. part. "[all] the believers" - [but/and all] the ones believing. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the imperfect verb to-be; "all those who believed were ......" The aorist variant would read "those who had become believers", Barrett.

h\san (eimi) imperf. "were" - were. The imperfect verb to-be here, as with the string of imperfect verbs that follow, is durative, expressing "established practice", Longenecker.

epi + acc. "together" - upon [the same place]. Spatial; "[were] at, in [the same]" = "were together." The believers continued to meet together in the same place, or just regularly met together. A variant drops the verb to-be h\san before the prepositional phrase and the conjunction kai, "and", producing the descriptive "together in common", ie., a communal society of believers.

aJponta adj. "everything" - [and were having] all things. The adjective serves as a substantive, direct object of the verb "to have."

koina adj. "common" - common. Accusative complement of the direct object "everything", standing in a double accusative construction and stating a fact about the object. Possibly common use rather than common ownership; "they remained owners of property, which they put to the common use of others", Fitzmyer.


epipraskon (pipraskw) "sold" - [and] they were selling. As with diemerizon, "gave" ("divide" = "distribute"), the imperfect is durative, possibly expressing established practice, or even repeated action, so MHT III - the selling being when needed, from time to time. Possibly, "they pooled their resources that each person's need was met", Peterson, although better "it was their custom to sell their goods and possessions, and to share out the proceeds among them, as any might need", Barclay.

kthmata (a atoV) "possessions" - [the properties and] the possessions. Accusative direct object of the verb "to sell." Longenecker takes the view that the Christian community in Jerusalem adopted a form of communalism in line with the Qumran covenanters and this because they stressed the spiritual unity they possessed in Christ. Thus, he views "possessions" as "real estate" and "goods" as "personal possessions." Whether or not this is the case, it seems likely that "this sharing of material things in common is not a required communalism, but a voluntary caring response to need", Bock.

pasin adj. "to everyone" - [and were distributing these things] to all, everyone. The adjective serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object / interest - advantage. Presumably the distribution was to believers, although this is unstated.

kaqoti a[n "-" - because [certain = someone has need]. The causal conjunction kaqoti, "because", often used as an adverb by Luke, with the iterative particle a[n, gives the sense "as / to (the degree) that." In classical Gk. a[n + opt. = iterative action, ie., repeated action, although the classical form has weakened. The repeated giving is as someone has creian, "need", rather than daily.


iv] Communal worship, v46-47: The believers gathered regularly in the temple for public worship, meeting in Solomon's colonnade on the east side of the outer court. As such, they functioned as a haburah, a Jewish sect, a feature of which was a communal meal. For the meal, they met "by households." Again, we are unsure if this meal was the Lord's Supper, or just a fellowship meal, but it is probably best to assume it was the Master's Meal. The community was enriched with a sense of rejoicing and generosity (better than "sincere") and enjoyed popular good-will. They were focused in their praise of God, and they grew in numbers daily. The "Lord added to their number" in the sense that God accepted those who believed in Christ - He added their number to the remnant.

te "-" - then, so, and... It is not overly clear how the conjunction is being used here. Possibly as a sequential marker - the believers were loving toward each other (acted in generosity) and loving toward God (attended the temple for worship / instruction). The second use is similarly confusing. Culy suggests that we have a te .... te .... construction for a te .... kai .... construction, a "both ..... and", ie., a correlative construction; "daily they [both] regularly frequented the temple with a united purpose and at home they broke bread together", Berkeley.

kaq hJmeran "every day" - according to day = daily, every day. Idiomatic phrase formed by the distributive use of the preposition kata + acc.; "day by day."

proskarterounteV (proskarterew) pres. part. "they continued" - persevering, devoting themselves. As with the participle klwnteV, "breaking", an attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "they shared [food]"; "they ate together .... breaking bread ... and continuing/devoting with one mind in the temple." Yet, it may be adverbial, temporal, modifying the imperfect verb, as Berkeley above. The believers (not necessarily all) gathered in the temple, not just for the daily devotions, but also for the purpose of sitting under the teaching / preaching of the apostles; "day after day they met together in the temple", CEV.

omoqumadon adverb. "together" - with one mind. The weakened form of this adverb of manner is "together", but it possibly means "with one mind", or "unanimously".

en + dat. "in" - in [the temple]. Locative, expressing space.

klwnteV (klaw) pres. part. "they broke [bread]" - [and] breaking [bread]. The participle, as above. Most likely a reference to the Lord's Supper, although a regular daily meal may be intended.

kat (kata) + acc. "in [their homes]" - according to [house]. Another distributive use of the preposition kata; "according to homes" = "from home to home" = "in each other's home"; "in their various houses", Barrett. Some argue that the reference is to a Christian meeting-house. Possibly "by households", ie., the communal meal was at the temple and the believers ate the meal together in family groups. For a haburah, a Jewish sect, a communal meal in the temple precinct was common practice.

metelambanon (metalambanw) imperf. "[ate] together" - they were sharing, partaking of [food]. It is difficult to understand how this statement relates to the breaking of bread. Was this a different meal, say a fellowship meal together? It seems best to treat this verb as commencing a new sentence which runs through to the end of v47; "So they received nourishment, praising God with happy and unruffled hearts, and enjoying the good will of all the people", Berkeley.

en + dat. "with [glad]" - in [gladness, exaltation, and simplicity, singleness]. Adverbial use of the preposition, modal, expressing manner; "gladly and sincerely." The noun afelothti is a hapax legomenon, once only use in the NT, in fact, an uncommon word outside the NT, therefore the sense is disputed. "Generosity", Bruce, but also possibly "simplicity of heart", Cassirer, = "sincerity".

kardiaV (a) gen. "hearts" - of heart. The genitive here is ablative, reference / respect, "a sincerity with respect to their hearts."


ainounteV (ainew) pres. part. "praising [God]" - praising [god and having favour]. This participle, as with econteV, "having / enjoying the favour of", is attendant circumstance, expressing action accompanying the verb metelambanon, "they were sharing [food]", v46. They "ate together .... praised God and found (had) favour with all people." Possibly "giving God thanks before all the people", Begg, but rejected by Barrett. "They were always praising God and everyone liked them", Barclay.

proV + acc. "of" - toward [all the people]. Here expressing association, a friendly relationship; "with all the people", ESV.

prosetiqei (prostiqhmi) imperf. ind. act. "added" - [but/and the lord] was adding to (of people added to, attached to, a group or an individual). An alternate reading adds tina th ekklhsia - "they were added to the church."

epi to auto "to their number" - upon the same. The sense of this prepositional phrase is unclear and has prompted numerous textual variants. The preposition epi + acc. is obviously spatial, so possibly "in that place" - "the Lord daily added to their number to the church in that place, those who were being saved." Barrett argues that the phrase itself means "in the church / in church"; "one with the fellowship", Cassirer, "in the church fellowship", Bruce.

kaq hJmeran "daily" - according to the day. Distributive use of the preposition, as above; "day by day."

touV swzomenouV (swzw) pres. pas. part. "those who were being saved" - the ones being saved. The participle serves as a substantive, accusative direct object of the verb "to add to." Possibly a theological passive indicating that God was doing the saving, not the preachers.


Acts Introduction


Exegetical Commentaries


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