For How Long?

Am I the only one who thinks Acts 2:42-47 is a bit of a crock?


They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The early days of the Christian church sound downright idyllic, don’t they?

It makes our messy, squabbling, fractured, bickering, gossiping churches look pretty abysmal by comparison, doesn’t it? These five verses make it sound like the early church achieved spiritual, economic and social harmony, right off the bat – and this ideal is held up as the model to which all modern churches are required to compare themselves – always falling woefully short, obviously.

All the believers had everything in common. They sold their stuff and gave the proceeds to anyone who was in need. They ate together with glad and sincere hearts. They enjoyed the favour of all the people.

But in the immortal words of Captain Kirk (John Belushi) in the iconic 1976 Star Trek parody on Saturday Night Live, ‘But for how long, Mr. Spock? For … how … long?’

‘Nay verrra long, Cap’n,’ I’m tempted to snark in my best approximation of a Doohanish Scots dialect.

After all, look at what happens in the church, according to the ensuing chapters and verses of Acts.

Things truck along well in Acts 3 and Acts 4 – Peter heals a lame beggar and then preaches another scathing sermon, and then he and John are hauled before the Sanhedrin and told to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. Peter tells them where to stuff it in Acts 4:19-20, saying, Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’

Mic drop. Take THAT, Sanhedrin!

But in Acts 5 we have the sordid tale of Ananias and Sapphira, the believers who lied about giving all they had to the church, and then died as a result of their deception. (Still think the New Testament God is all warm n’ fuzzy?)

In Acts 6, the Disciples deem themselves too important to ‘wait on tables’ and then pass the ‘trivial’ work of the church – actually taking care of people – to ‘lesser’ leaders, like Stephen, who stepped up to become a formidable preacher and the first Christian martyr – and Philip, who went on to baptize the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.

The stoning of Stephen in Acts 7 set off a significant persecution in Jerusalem that scattered believers all over Judea and Samaria, so the Acts 2 honeymoon certainly seemed to be over by that time.

In the ensuing decades, Paul and others founded churches all over the Roman Empire, none of which were able to capture the Acts 2 mojo.

They squabbled and drifted toward circumcision and a saved-by-works theology. They figured that they should sin more, so grace would increase. They grappled with sexual morality and struggled to find the balance between coexisting with pagan neighbors and encouraging their idolatry. Some of them figured there’s no point in doing work or planting crops, since the Second Coming was just around the corner. They argued that the real Christians followed Paul — no, Apollos — no, Cephas. They got complacent. They became lukewarm.

In light of all that, the Acts 2 good ol’ days seems to have been pretty short-lived — and it feels like the Body of Christ has consistently fallen short of this ideal ever since.

We’re an inferior Church. A shell of our former self.

Or are we?

In his letters, Paul regularly refers to the churches as ‘God’s holy people’, or as ‘the Saints’, as he began letters intended to rebuke and correct their wayward ways. Is that because God sees us that way, regardless of our faults and failings?

Jesus is a God of redemption. He calls me a new creation, more than a conqueror, a co-heir with Christ – even as Paul says of himself in Romans 7:19, ‘I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.’

If God looks through grace-colored glasses when She looks at us individually, could the same be true of us collectively?

In light of that, I wonder if Acts 2:42-47 doesn’t describe a Church that, in the truest sense of reality, is still going strong.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

It’s not all true of all of us all the time, but it’s all true of some of us, some of the time. In the same way that it was once true that the Sun never set on the British Empire, maybe it’s just as true that all of Acts 2:42-47 is true at all times, somewhere in God’s church. And in Christ, that’s sufficient!

So devote yourself to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer, as often and as wholeheartedly as you can. Be filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles, to the best of your ability. Continue to meet together in the temple courts. Give sacrificially to anyone who has need. Break bread in your homes and eat together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of some of the people. Know that the Lord is adding to our number daily those who are being saved. (Maybe not so much here, but in other countries.)

‭‭Today can be the good, old days – if we allow them to be. We are the Acts 2:42-47 church to whatever degree we choose to live like it.

Peace be with you.

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About robpetkau

Communications professional by day, amateur musician by night, worship leader (at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary) on weekends and aspiring Bible teacher in my dreams. Grateful husband to the woman who completes me. Doing-the-best-I-can dad to the son and daughter who keep me on my toes. Striving disciple of the GodMan who came, taught and died for me. Thanks for stopping by!
This entry was posted in Church, Community, Faith, Family, Gospel, Grace, Holy Spirit, New Testament, Sacrifice, Saturday Night Live, Social Justice and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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