Steadfast Continuance – Acts 2:42

Sometimes the pastor’s job is to simply reiterate the obvious.

And that is what we have this evening.

No razzle dazzle, no thrills, and no new ground.

One of the reasons that I’m preaching this scripture is because the more mature we get as Christians,

The more quickly we slide right over the obvious and common place.

Sometimes in our search for the new and novel we look right past the faithful and familiar.

But this is like refusing to eat bread in order to eat cake.

Eventually it will kill us.

So, in the light of this, I need your help tonight;

Force yourselves to stay alert and attentive, because the message itself won’t do it.

Let’s apply the five standard journalistic questions to this straight forward verse:

“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

Who, what, where, when and why.

First, WHO?

There is a single pronoun found once in verse 41 and it comes up again in verse 42.

This provides evidence that the people of verse 42 are the same as those of the previous verse.

“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

Those who were continuing steadfastly with the Lord’s church were the newly saved, newly baptized people of the Day of Pentecost.

(And you didn’t believe me that this was going to be a simple message.)

Let’s move on to the WHERE question.

Despite the common perception that a church building is absolutely necessary to the growth of a church,

The first church didn’t have one for some time.

In fact, although I have no historical evidence about this, the first Baptistic Church of Jerusalem may NEVER have had a building of their own.

I have some questions which I just might pose to our Baptist history experts some day:

For example, where do we find the first reference to a building dedicated solely to the use of one of the Lord’s churches?

And another is whether the church in Jerusalem continued to exist after 70 AD and the destruction of the city under Titus and the Romans?

Again the first church MAY have never owned a building of their own.

So where was it that the new believers continued steadfast?

Later in the chapter we see that they met from house to house and in the temple.

Again, I don’t have concrete evidence, but it appears that the church favored meeting on the grounds of the temple.

In fact it appears that they preferred the place called Solomon’s Porch.

Acts 5:12 says, “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.”

And 3:11 says, “And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.”

As the church quickly grew from one hundred twenty to thirty-one hundred and twenty, finding a place for everyone to gather became an immediate problem.

And the numbers didn’t stop there, because the Lord was adding to the church daily such as should be saved.

The temple may have been the only place in the city where a crowd of 10,000 or more could gather at any one time with any convenience at all.

This Solomon’s Porch or Solomon’s Colonnade ran along the east side of the outer court of the temple, and it provided space and shelter at the same time.

And in addition to the larger gatherings, the people of the church met at private homes as well.

Some of those homes provided more spacious rooms and courtyards, such as that of John Mark’s family.

But probably the majority of houses were as small or smaller than ours.

Yet that didn’t keep people from inviting others and collecting as many of the saints as they could.

The word “WHEN” takes us to the title of the message.

Those new saints continued steadfastly in the things of the church.

There are no surprise meanings behind those two words, but there is something curious:

“Continue” is actually an old familiar state-of-being verb, rather than an action word.

It’s the word “en” (ane) and more than half the time we find it in the Greek Bible it is translated “was.”

The word “steadfast” is the Greek word “proskartereo” (pros-kar-ter-eh’-o), and it means “to continue” or “to adhere.”

Do you see in verse 46 where there same people were “continuing daily with one accord in the temple.”

The word “continuing” is the same word – “proskartereo” (pros-kar-ter-eh’-o).

Together they describe a constant state of constancy; a ceaseless condition of continuance.

So when were these new saints spending this time with the Apostles?

As often as possible.

Was it just on the Lord’s Day, or on the Sabbath?

Did they throw in a Wednesday evening once in a while, for those who were especially spiritual?

No, these people were trying to meet one another constantly – every day, some of them were meeting.

And WHAT was it that they were trying to do?

There were four things: teaching, talking, tasting and transcending.

“They continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ DOCTRINE.”

The meaning of the Greek word “didache” (did-akh-ay’) is simply “teaching.”

These new believers couldn’t get enough of the Apostles’ teaching.

And of course the things that they were teaching had come from the Saviour, Who had taught them.

So the new-comers were learning about the Saviour from the Old Testament scriptures.

They were learning about the true nature of Jehovah.

That is that “God is a spirit” and that “He must be worshiped in spirit and in truth.”

So they were also learning to worship and serve the Lord in a fashion different from the Pharisees and Sadducees.

And they were learning about the future of their nation from what the prophets had said.

Don’t these sound somewhat like what we are trying to do here?

Secondly they continued steadfastly in the FELLOWSHIP of the church in Jerusalem.

This is the Greek word “koinonia” ( koy-nohn-ee’-ah ).

I tell you that primarily for the sake of trivial knowledge.

But also to point out that the interdenominational radio ministry which happens to be located in Post Falls is not called “aletheia” (al-ay’-thi-a) which is the Greek word for “truth.”

Rather it is called “koinonia.”

There is a huge difference between “fellowship” and “preaching the truth.”

I wonder if the Holy Spirit was trying to tell us something when He put “doctrine” before “fellowship”?

Fellowship is a very important ingredient in the spiritual health of a Christian, but it must not come before, or at the expense of, the truth of the Word of God.

The new believers were taking every opportunity to be with those who had been with the Saviour.

Because these saints were different from those people that these folk had grown up with.

The apostles and the rest of the hundred twenty had a different outlook on life.

When they laughed it was about different things.

When they were sorrowful it was over different things than the rest of the world.

They “sorrowed not as others which had no hope.”

These people had hope, despite the presence of the Roman army in their city.

The older saints BEHAVED differently, PRAYED differently, and even PLAYED differently.

And the new saints took every opportunity, not only to worship with them, but to enjoy their company.

But there might be a specialized aspect of this fellowship that they enjoyed as well:

Paul referred to it when he wrote to the Philippians:

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

For your FELLOWSHIP IN THE GOSPEL from the first day until now;

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

There is a special fellowship that occurs when two or more people are fellowshipping together while they are directly involved in the ministry.

In other words, there is a “joy in serving Jesus.”

Thirdly, the new saints continued steadfastly in FOOD.

“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

So far this week, I read about a dozen arguments from both sides of the “breaking of bread” question.

And I looked up all the scriptures which speak about the breaking of bread.

My two primary sources of information are divided about whether this is talking about the Lord’s supper or simple meals.

A.T. Robertson says that the word “bread” doesn’t reveal any answers to the question,

And Luke uses the verb only twice, once talking about an ordinary meal and once about the Lord’s Supper.

When the resurrected Jesus caught up with the two disciples on their way home to Emmaus,

“They constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.

And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.”

There is little doubt that this was an ordinary evening meal.

But Luke used the same terminology to describe the Last Supper.

Another place where we have this same kind of terminology is Acts 20:

“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.

And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.

When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.

And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.”

I find it very difficult to believe that this is talking about the Lord’s supper.

Adding what little evidence we have together, both pro and con, it seems to me that Acts 2:42 is talking about ordinary meals, just as it is in verse 46.

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.”

If someone wants to argue that this is the Lord’s supper,

Observed by small groups rather than the entire church,

I think that the burden of proof lies on their shoulders rather than mine.

The only thing which makes me hesitate from being really dogmatic about this,

Is that we so often associate fellowship with food, as in pot luck meals.

Yet, I still think that if try to explain this as is the Lord’s Supper it causes more problems than solutions.

Then fourthly, the new believers joined the older saints in their PRAYER meetings.

They were filled with praise for their Saviour and salvation.

And they were praying for the peace of Jerusalem and the fulfillment of more the Lord’s promises.

I don’t think that they thought of prayer as an Christian option.

These hours of prayer were an important and integral part of the ministry of the first church.

And it ought to be so of ours as well.

Although I don’t think that we all agree about this, I believe that prayer ought to be the primary purpose of this service on Wednesday nights.

So we’ve looked at the Who, What, Where and When, and now we come to the WHY.

Why were these new believers continuing “stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers”?

I thought about looking at this verse as an example of how a church ought to worship the Lord.

A sermon could be developed which might teach that these new saints were taught that …

These four things are responsibilities incumbent upon all church members.

These four things ought to be the four primary characteristics of the Lord’s churches.

And if this is the case, then it makes what is NOT mentioned quite interesting.

For example, the modern ideas of evangelism are not to be found in verses 41-47.

Then I thought about approaching these four things as necessary ingredients in their protection.

As a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, the church needs to gather her chicks under her wings.

These four things not only help the new believer to grow in the Lord, but they are also instrumental in the protection of those saints from sin, heresy and the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Again, the Apostles could have demanded that these new believers become active in these things.

But I think that there is something else:

These saints “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” because it came automatically with their new lives in Christ Jesus.

They didn’t have to be ordered, forced or coerced into these four things, because their newly quickened hearts longed for them.

When a saint of God is close to the Lord, then these things will be a part of their lives.

And that leaves us with the question: how important are they in your life?