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Some of the words used in this passage deliberately remind us of the first disciples gathering together in 1:14. Luke is showing how the group is growing but staying true to essential principles: teaching, prayer, and fellowship, including eating together, both in private home settings and publicly in the temple. But added here is the idea of sharing all things in common, even selling their possessions to give the money to anyone who has a need.
We have personal experience of this kind of commonality, something which constantly amazes my non-believing family. As cross-cultural workers who return to our sending country every few years, we are often given cars to drive and homes for accommodation at no cost. I don’t think anyone has sold their possessions in order to share with us the proceeds, but we are certainly the beneficiaries of people’s sacrificial giving. In return, we try to be generous with our own things – car, house, time, meals – in the country where we usually live, but it is rarely a reciprocal style of giving because of our geographical dislocation. Nevertheless, I believe we could all do more, share more, support one another more, eat together more. The net effect of this lifestyle, apart from the obvious benefits, is favour with the people and ongoing growth of the fellowship.
The other factor in this growth is the wonders and signs performed by the apostles. We will hear more details about this in the following chapters. I have not seen supernatural miracles in my ministry, or the ministry of those around me, although I don’t believe that they are no longer possible. What I have seen is the dedicated work of my team-mates and others in bringing education, healing, and social transformation to the societies and individuals with whom they work. It may not be a miracle, but it is a sign and a wonder when a family is reunited, when a drug addict is set free, when an under-privileged child receives teaching that can lift their eyes beyond their circumstances.
Let us not neglect the significant activities listed in this short passage: (1) devotion to the apostles’ teaching (now enshrined in the New Testament); (2) the fellowship of believers, including eating together; (3) prayer and praise; (4) sharing possessions and supporting one another in times of need. These were the building blocks of the early church and they will also increase the church today.
Prayer: Lord, I confess that sometimes I grow tired, bored, and even overwhelmed with these essentials. It sometimes feels like more than I can do, and I want to keep to myself and for myself. Forgive me for my selfishness. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to be one who gives, one who prays and praises. Help me reach out to my brothers and sisters for gathering together, and teach us through your word. I ask this so that my own faith will be enriched, but also so that your church may grow.