The Formation of Community: Shared Generosity, Communal Prayer, and Giftedness

Texts: Acts 2:42-45; 3:1; Eph 4:7-8, 11-12

Days 62-64 in Around the Bible in Eighty Days.

Previously, we have seen the formation of community through a shared initiation (baptism), shared faith in Jesus the Messiah (through the apostles’ teaching), and a shared table (breaking bread). These were communal moments in Acts 2. Together, 3000 were baptized and then gathered in the temple to listen to the apostles and in homes to break bread.

Alongside the above three, community was also formed in other ways in Acts 2: communal prayer, shared generosity, and giftedness for the sake of the body.

When Acts 2:42 names “fellowship” (koinonia) it uses a broad word that encompasses many dimensions. Last week we concentrated on “breaking of bread” as one expression of that fellowship.

Another expression of that fellowship is an active community in their life together. They held all things in common (koina). This was the sort of fellowship meant people sold their possessions in order to meet needs within the community. It was, apparently, need-based, but it was a communal sense of shared life that generated resources to meet these needs. Indeed, the Jerusalem community was able to become what God always intended in Israel: “There was not a needy person among them” because “they had everything in common (koina)” (Acts 4:33-34; cf. Deuteronomy 15:4). The proceeds from the sale of property, including fields and homes were “distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:35). This generosity is expressed by the assembly of Jesus throughout the book of Acts (for example, Acts 11:29).

Another expression of fellowship was communal prayer. Acts 2:42 refers to “the prayers.” This identifies a particular set of prayers or timing of prayers, or perhaps a pattern of praying among the early believers. When Peter and John went up into the temple at the ninth hour of prayer (“the prayer of the ninth hour” or 3:00 PM), it refers to a specific moment in the temple courts when devout Jews gathered to pray. Peter and John joined them there. Apparently, it was their habit to do so. (Three in the afternoon was the time of daily evening sacrifices.)

Of course, this was not the only time the church gathered to pray. In Acts 4:23-31, believers assembled to pray for boldness in the face of hostile powers advancing against them. “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” The assembly of Jesus continued to pray throughout the rest of the book of Acts (for example, Acts 6:4; 12:12; 14:23).

Another expression of fellowship is gifted leadership. The Apostles are highlighted in the first chapters of Acts. Their “many wonders and signs” inspired awe among the people (Acts 2:43; 5:12-16). The shared resources were placed at their feet for distribution (Acts 4:35; 5:2). The people selected deacons or administrators to help distribute these resources (Acts 6:1-6), and evangelists were sent out to surrounding areas like with Philip to Samaria (Acts 8:4-8; 21:8). Along with these evangelists, God raised up prophets and teachers (Acts 11:27; 13:1; 15:32; 21:9) and appointed elders in every church (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 22; 20:17). God gifted the community with leadership—apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are the leaders of the renewed Israel. This gifted leadership equips the body of Christ for ministry (Ephesians 4:8–16).

Through a shared life together, led by people gifted by God, the assembly of Jesus prays together and shares their resources with the needy among them. It is this kind of community that has the favor of people, and people want to become a part of it (Acts 2:47).

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