There is a lot written today about what makes up genuine biblical community. Some of it is true. Some of it is not necessarily true…but rather cultural.
This section in Acts (2:42-47) describes what was happening in the first few days of the church. It is a descriptive passage. Much of Scripture is either descriptive (recording what happened) or prescriptive (commanding or modeling how to live). This passage is describing what the early church did. It gives insight into their daily routines and rhythms of life. Much of this schedule was influenced by their culture and tradition. So we need to be able to look at this passage and decipher what is a biblical principle and/or model and what is merely cultural. This can be difficult to do but let’s take a look at it. I feel confident that in verse 42 we see a prescription for biblical community:
1 – Teaching
This occurred in both large group worship settings as well as small group settings. This is why we have our worship/Sunday school format. It’s biblical. We should hope that confession of sin and repentance occurs during this time. James 5:16 says to confess your sins to one another. In a community this should be present. Relationships go much better when their is confession of sin.
Make no mistake: unless teaching Scripture (about Jesus, what he did, what he said, what the apostles said, etc) is taking place there is not genuine biblical community. The teaching of the resurrection of Christ is the glue that holds biblical community together.
2 – Fellowship
This fellowship occurred at worship, at meals, and in sharing their material goods. We often joke about Southern Baptists eating all the time. But the fact is that eating together is biblical. In fact, it’s one of our ordinances. It’s not called the “Lord’s Meeting.” It’s called the “Lord’s Supper.” There is something holy and righteous and worshipful about the people of God eating together.
3 – Worship
We are conditioned to think of worship as a large gathering. But there should be an element of worship in a small group as well. We see here that they are breaking bread in homes. There is some debate as to whether this is describing meals in a private home or specifically taking the Lord’s Supper. The context, however, seems to refer to taking the Lord’s Supper as an act of worship. In the Greek it is literally “the breaking of the bread.” Worship must be present in order to have biblical community.
4 – Prayer
Literally “the prayers.” One of the Jewish elements of worship was formal public prayers. Thus, the early church probably carried this over into worship. But in community we can still pray to the Lord and for each other.
What follows in verses 43-47 are the effects of biblical community. I do not believe they are necessarily essential. For instance, we see the disciples meeting in homes. Does this mean that we should only meet in homes? Well, if we take that verse literally then we should also build a temple to worship in and do it every day. Verse 42 are the elements that are essential for true biblical community to exist. What follows are the effects of that community being faithfully carried out.