They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.Acts 2:42-47
As this is the holiday season I will keep the Gems shorter and more focused during the next week. A number have written telling me that with the holiday break and being out of routine, they have not got to read the Gems and are feeling like they are missing something. Given that background, I will focus on one or two of the questions I posed for you each day in the Gems.
1. What does “devoting themselves” mean?
The verb is [proskartereo] meaning to “hold fast to something”, “persevere with something”, “busy oneself with”, “be devoted to” or “devotedly engage in something”. I think we can see from the nature of the word used that a number of things held these people’s attention and resulted in their devotion to a package of activities which were all related. Something had certainly captured their attention.
It was not that they were simply attracted to these preachers or teachers. Oh, sometimes that happens to us. We hear some new preacher on the block or an old hand who is preaching a series of sermons that touch our heart and we want all their CDs, Pod Casts or messages that we can get. Nowadays we go online to search out what insights we can get from them. Was that what happened with the disciples teaching? Suddenly they became popular with the message they were preaching? No, it is far more than that. Notice Luke’s sentence tells us what they were devoted to.
They were continually devoting themselves:
- to the apostles’ teaching
- to fellowship
- to the breaking of bread
- to prayer.
Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe . . .
This was not just an infatuation with a particular preacher. If it was that, Luke would not have added all four elements to the same sentence. He would have merely told us of the impact the disciples teaching was having. Note the way these four elements hang together in a package. These followers were taken by, attracted by, devoted to, engaging in – all four elements: the teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer. I will deal with these four elements separately and focus only on the disciples teaching today in an attempt to keep the Gems short.
2. What did the apostles teach? Was it just preaching or was it more than that?
The teaching of the disciples literally is “of that which the disciples taught”. Well the obvious question arises, what was it that they taught? We have a term from Greek [didache] which refers to the body of teaching of the Twelve Apostles. This is the focus of many scholars as to the set teaching of the Apostles encapsulated in what was passed on by the church in the late first and early second century. There are hints that this teaching was pre-packaged and firmly established as to what should be passed on. We see this in Paul’s writing when he says, “I pass on to you what I received from the Lord Himself . . .” (1 Cor 11:23). But Paul was not with the Lord in the same way the other Apostles were. So how did Paul receive it from the Lord? Either Jesus revealed heaps to Paul on the Damascus road or this teaching was passed on “en bloc” as that which should be taught initially. Scholars spend much time trying to ascertain what was taught in the Didache. There is debate among the scholars as to whether the Apostles Teaching here means:
- The Didache
- Simply what the Disciples taught impromptu
I think it is simple, we don’t have to complicate it.
Jesus has taken the disciples through the Old Testament and explained the connections to Himself and why all these things have happened. He has explained the fulfilment on the Messianic prophecies in Himself and given the disciples an overview, the big picture of how it all fits together. I think the disciples began to teach with a new understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures, putting it all together for the Jewish listeners in the first instance. They also taught what they had heard from the Lord Himself. In the Great Commission statement found in Matthew 28, Jesus tells them to go and make disciples of every ethnē (every [ethnic] people group) teaching them to obey all I have commanded you. They are simply doing what Jesus told them and what Paul talked about. Passing on what they had learned from the Lord.
I for one would have loved to have been there and heard first-hand the explanation which came from those first excited witnesses, now that they were finally putting the pieces together. I see the same thing happening among the Deeper Bible teachers and students. When they “get it” its like the lights come on and it gets even more exciting. I think that same thing was happening with the disciples and what they taught. It came with new authority and passion because these disciples were becoming witnesses. That is what you are called to do. The way to get there is to devote yourself to the teaching. Study to show yourself to be a disciple who rightly teaches or interprets the Word of God. When you do, it will come with new authority and passion. For those of you who can, join Deeper Bible – running in New Zealand now. But in due course it will be available Online so that anyone can do. That is what I am working toward each day as well as teaching DB here in New Zealand. Covid has stymied me teaching in Brazil or Indonesia at this stage.
If you don’t know who you are, you’ll answer to any name. If you don’t know your calling, you’ll accept any task another has for you.Anon
There are 3 kinds of men. Those who learn by reading, those who learn by observation and those who have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.Rick Godwin
The truth is driven deeper when you practice what you preach. Or when you test the truth for yourself to see it is true. (Like peeing on electric fences.)Ian Vail
Passion and devotion grow when you begin to understand the big picture or understand how to understand.Ian Vail
Taste and see that God is good – and His word is understandable.Ian Vail