Archive for the ‘Acts’ Category

Acts~8:5-25

Tuesday September 26, 2006

Luke has told us in general that as the dispersed Christians went about, they took the chance to preach the word. Here we see a specific example of that happening in Philip, one of the seven who were chosen to be in charge of distributing food.

He had an amazing ministry in “the city of Samaria”, performing healings and exorcisms to back up what he was saying. The response was “great joy”, though it seems that thus far (v8) the joy was over the miracles themselves rather than Philip’s message. Before he records their conversion, Luke cuts to Simon, “But [cf 5:1] there was a man…”. Simon was already in town and he was also able to perform supernatural tricks and amaze everyone. Luke seems to introduce Simon here to set up a contest and emphasise the power of the gospel – will the people stick with Simon or turn to Philip’s message? But, despite the appeal of Simon, the people believed and were baptised. Even Simon followed them, but there is more on him later.

First, though, Peter and John were dispatched from the apostles to Samaria, to pray “that they might receive the Holy Spirit”. The separation of belief and receiving the Holy Spirit is not normal in Acts, or the Bible. It may be that the faith of the Samaritans was defective, perhaps intellectual belief rather than commitment. In this case, the apostles’ prayer would have been that they would come to genuine saving faith at which point the Holy Spirit would be given to them. I think it more likely, though, that this was in recognition of the significance of this event – it was the first time that the gospel had spread into Samaria (the next step of the road map of 1:8). “Search the Scriptures” says, “as this was the first extension of the church beyond the borders of the Jewish people, it was fitting that the seal of the Spirit should be given through Peter and John, as representatives of the apostles. In a similar way Peter was chosen to go to Cornelius (10:5), though Philip was probably in Caesarea at the time [8:40, 21:8]”.

The gift of the Spirit may have been accompanied by charasmatic gifts (v18 gives that impression) but again this would have been because this was a landmark event. The church needed assurance that the Spirit could really be given to Samaritans, and this was it.

Apparantly the literal translation of v20 is “to hell with you and your money” (Tyndale, “Acts” p159) showing that Simon’s sinful attitude in desiring to control God for his own ends will leave him cut off from God. This, says Peter in v21, prooves that Simon has not believed the gospel (you have no lot in this matter) and the appropriate response is to repent. The “if possible” in v22 is tricky – it may be a warning that God’s mercy is not to be taken for granted, or that true repentance can only be granted by God, or something else entirely. The event seems to reflect God’s warning in Deuteronomy 29:16-20 about pretending to serve him but really walking in the “stubbornness of my heart” (note “bitter” again in v18) and again, “The LORD will not be willing to forgive him”. I don’t know enough about the Bible’s teaching on these areas to comment well but certainly Simon’s sin was serious, and he was to repent.

The apostles returned to Jerusalem, and as they went, they preached the gospel to the villages they passed through. This seems reminiscent of 8:4, every oppertunity is taken to preach.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that your kingdom extended beyond Jerusalem to Samaria, and eventually to “the ends of the earth”. I thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit, and ask that you keep me mindful of the privaledge and responsibility of having that gift. I’m sorry for any times when I have sought for you to serve me and not the other way round, and I pray that you will weed that tendency from my life. Thank you for your forgiveness and mercy. Amen.

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Acts~7:54-Acts~8:4

Wednesday September 20, 2006

I can’t tell whether Stephen meant to finish his speech where he did or whether the council was so “enraged” that they cut him off early, but he delivered some very stinging criticisms and there were consequences for him and the church.

Luke reminds us of the Spirit’s presence in Stephen allowing him to see God’s glory and Jesus’ presence with him. When he related his vision, the reaction wasn’t surprising – the religious leaders would not have been able to listen to the ‘blasphemy’ that any person (“Son of Man”) would be able to be near God, despite the fact that it was foreseen in Daniel 7:13. As the Jews had tried to stone Jesus for blasphemy (John 8:58-59), here they managed to stone Stephen for the same crime. Indeed, Luke seems to emphasise the similarities between the death of Jesus and that of the first Christian to die for him by recording that Stephen asked Jesus to “receive my spirit” (cf. Luke 23:46) and prayed that those who killed him would be forgiven (cf. Luke 23:34). And then, Stephen died.

Here we are first introduced to Saul, and all we know is that he approved the murder of a man whose only crime was talking about Jesus. Not a prime candidate to become a major player for the good guys in this book, but nothing is impossible with God as we see again in 8:1. This killing and the “great persecution” which it begun should have caused problems for the church and for God, but Luke shows that God used it for his own plans. The disciples were scattered throughout “the regions of Judea and Samaria” – just where Jesus promised in 1:8 that the gospel would spread to after Jerusalem had heard the news.

After mentioning the persecution, Luke jumps back to the “devout men” who buried Stephen, as if to emphasise the risk that they were taking in the midst of this turmoil. He then goes back to the details of Saul “ravaging the church” which makes depressing reading. But them he looks at the scattered disciples and that as they went they were “preaching the word”. Not only have Christians been forced into Judea and Samaria, but by trying to destroy the church the Jews have forced the gospel to spread around the country. God wins again.

Heavenly Father, I praise you that you are able to work through the darkest situations for your glory and the salvation of many. I pray that I will follow Stephen’s example, as he followed Jesus’, in persecution and that I would use every chance to go about preaching the word. Amen.

Acts~6:8-15

Tuesday September 19, 2006

Here begins a new section of Acts, in which the believers and the gospel first move out of Jerusalem. As it begins the action is still in Jerusalem, but the narrative moves quickly and seamlessly to the beginning of chapter 8 where the news heads out.

Stephen had just been appointed and comissioned by the apostles, and his role wasn’t limited to sorting food. The seven were chosen as men who are full of the Spirit (which as we have seen before is almost synonymous in Acts with being a witness of Jesus: 1:8, 2:4, 4:8, 4:31) so it is hardly surprising that the next time Luke mentions Stephen he was telling people about Jesus. This was the first time that anyone other than the apostles performed miracles (“great wonders and signs”), so it is clear that the seven were to play a significant role in the church.

I don’t know anything about the people who disputed with Stephen, but they didn’t have a chance against the Spirit of God so they resorted to underhand tactics. Once they had stirred up the people, Stephen found himself in front of the same council that the apostles have been in. Again, false witnesses were brought forwards to lie about Stephen’s words with two charges. Firstly, he spoke against “this holy place” by saying that Jesus would destroy it and, secondly, he spoke against “the law” by saying that Jesus would “change the customes that Moses delivered” to the Jews. The first of these charges is reminiscent (as is the whole trial) of Jesus’ own appearance before the council – see Matthew 26:61. Jesus did also prophecy the destruction of the temple (Luke 21:5-6) and even the whole of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). It could be that Stephen had been repeating these teachings and the ‘witnesses’ were deliberately misrepresenting what he said. It is easy to see where the second charge came from – Jesus taught a new interpretation of the law of Moses than the religious leaders of the day did, and they probably saw their version of being what Moses intended. It was, of course, false to suggest that what Jesus said and Stephen presumably repeated was speaking “against” the law.

Once the charges had been brought, everyone turned to Stephen to see what would happen next, and his face “was like the face of an angel” – the very mediators who had brought God’s law to Moses. It can’t have been a great moment for those who were trying to silence him.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that you showed faithful to your promises again. You were clearly with Stephen, showed him exactly what to say and gave him the boldness to say it. I pray that all Christians who are having lies told against them will be inspired by your Spirit to stand firm and stand for you. Amen.

Acts~6:1-7

Tuesday September 12, 2006

It seems that the Jewish-speaking, Palestinian Jews were failing to meet the needs of the Greek-speaking, foreign Jews. The matter was brought to the attention of the apostles who summoned everyone together to address them. It doesn’t seem that there was malicious intent – it may just have been an oversight, or that the apostles who were in charge of distributing food were over-worked (see 4:33-35). The apostles didn’t want to lose any more of their time, so they asked the people to pick seven men who will look after the matter. The qualifications seem to be a godly character, someone who is clearly full of the Holy Spirit and someone who is wise (the first and last of which will be a result of the Spirit’s action). It might seem odd that these things are needed to distribute food, but the New Testament principal is that those in any leadership must be good examples to believers and non-believers alike. The apostles saw their calling as being prayer and the “ministry of the word”, ie. preaching and teaching.

Everyone liked the idea and they picked out seven men. I would guess that Steven is given the most intention in the list because he will quickly become an important character in Acts, not to suggest that the other six were not full of faith or the Spirit. He may, though, have been the leader of these seven as Peter was the leader of the twelve. The apostles prayed for the new leaders and “laid their hands on them”. To be honest, I’m not sure what laying of hands actually signifies, but it seems here to be a blessing by the apostles of the new ministry of the seven and to signify that these men will have a special gifting and role in the church. From 8:1-5, though, we can see that these men (Philip in particular) did not become apostles. It seems that appointing the new leaders was successful – the next verse talks about continued growth of the “word of God”.

And with that, this section of Acts closes. There is still more action in Jerusalem, but from now on the focus is not just on the one city. The reader has been prepared for this by Luke’s first reference to non-Hebrew believers in 6:1, so the jump to non-Jewish believers is less surprising. In Luke’s summary of the section since 3:1, he emphasises the work in Jerusalem once more by referring to the city by name and referring to the “great many” priests who “became obedient to the faith”.

Heavenly Father, as I look over the work of your apostles and your Spirit in Jerusalem from Pentecost to here, it’s amazing the boldness and the growth and the faithfulness and the generosity which you gave to your church. I pray that by the same Spirit, I will grow to act in the same way with my life, and will be full of the Spirit and of faith. Amen.

Acts~5:12-42

Monday September 11, 2006

Verses 12-16 of this section are another summary of the church, as we have seen through Acts. This one seems placed to explain the reasons for the jealousy of the high priest which is the back drop of the rest of the chapter. The apostles were “regularly” doing “many” miracles in Jesus’ name. It seems the fear of God at the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira had spread to non-believers who would not join them in the temple, yet they were held in high esteem. Their numbers were growing. And certainly, the power of the miracles drew many people to the apostles so that they could be healed. It is no surprise that the religious establishment were jealous of the attention that was being taken from them to these new messengers of God and new workers of his power.

The religious leaders moved in quickly to break up what the apostles were doing and threw them in prison. After a very embarassing incident for them which showed God’s power and caused the minimum delay to teaching about “the words of this Life”, they brought the apostles before the council. They reminded the apostles of the charge they made to stop teaching about Jesus, and added that they are being blamed for the death of Jesus. That seems like an odd complaint, since it’s true, but it’s easy to see why they weren’t happy about it.

Peter reiterated that they must obey God, not men, that God raised Jesus and that these leaders killed him. He repeated that repentance and forgiveness of sins was now possible, and that the apostles werewitnesses to all these things. For the first time he said that the Holy Spirit is also a witness, and that God gave him to those that obey him. Whether it was this ‘blasphemy’ that God lives inside people which finally enraged the council is uncertain, but they were certainly livid that these men would not stop talking about Jesus.

Gamaliel – the saviour of the apostles – spoke wisely and also correctly. The fact that the church is still alive today is, as he said, evidence that it is from God and not a human invention. The council agreed to let the apostles go so that they wouldn’t find themselves fighting a losing war against God. First they beat them – which only seems to have delighted the apostles who would have remembered Jesus’ beatings – and again told them not to talk about Jesus – but they did not cease to teach or preach him. The clear presence of God and fresh filling of his Spirit which accompanied the first arrest of the apostles did not occur here (see comment on 4:31), but they remembered that event and knew God was the same.

Heavenly Father, it shouldn’t be surprising that the authorities relentlessly hounded your church because that’s what Jesus said would happen. There will always be those who see your power and yet deny you but I pray that like the apostles I would never give up on anyone or ever give up teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Amen.

Acts~4:32-Acts~5:11

Monday September 11, 2006

This is a game of two halves, and the description of the good in the church in the first half makes the deception of Ananias and his wife all the more stark and surprising. But we start with the good.

v32, 34-5 show the general generosity of those in the church. 5:4 makes it clear that this giving was entirely voluntary, and the scope of it is impressive. Verse 33 seems a little out of place in this account of how things were shared, but the reference to the apostles’ teaching ministry immediately before the extra work required of them to distribute the wealth sets the stage for the beginning of chapter 6 where the apostles were overstreched. In v36-7, Luke singles out Barnabas – whether to further paint the contrast with Ananias, or to introduce one of the major characters of this book, or because he was exceptionally generous is unclear.

TNTC: “The ancient law forbidding Levites to own land (Numbers 18:20, Deuteronomy 10:9) seems to have been a dead letter (Jeremiah 32:6 onwards)” Here Jeremiah – a Levite (Jeremiah 1:1) bought a field at God’s prompting.

At the chapter break, the “but” in 5:1 introduces us to Ananias and Sapphira and warns us that they didn’t follow the pattern set by the church. Their crime wasn’t keeping some of the money – 5:4 makes it clear that they could have kept it all – but lying to the Holy Spirit (v3) (synonymous with lying to God, v4). Peter was given insight that this is what he had done and condemned him with the same language as Luke used to describe Satan’s control of Judas (Luke 22:3). Though Peter didn’t pronounce death Ananias died instantly, and the suggestion that it was just of natural shock at being discovered seems overruled by the fear which it brought to those present. God had punished the deception.

A similar event unfolded with Sapphira when she came in, but there were differences. Peter asked her how much they sold the field for. We don’t know the sum that Peter said – it could be that he said the amount which the apostles received, in which case Sapphira lied, or it could be that he knew how much the field had cost and Sapphira is now confessing the previous lie. Either way, we know from verse 4 that the crime wasn’t lying to Peter, and Sapphira also died for her previous attemp to lie to God. Again these events increased the believers’ awe and reverence for God, which is probably why they happened. There have been people since who have lied to God and survived, but at this critical time in the church’s growth it was essential for everyone to grasp the awesomeness of God.

This is the first time that Luke used the word church to describe the disciples. Whether they used it at this time or not is uncertain, but it seems Luke felt that from this time on there was enough organisation and unity to use the term – possibly since the sharing of goods began.

Heavenly Father, I praise you that your Spirit can prompt and inspire people to acts selflessly and like you. I know that there have been times I have lied to those around me and to you about my actions and intentions. Please forgive me. Please fill me with fear and reverence by your Spirit and let me follow your example in Jesus. Amen.

Acts~4:23-31

Sunday September 10, 2006

As soon as they could, Peter and John went back to their friends and told them everything. And then they prayed together. It’s a great first reaction. It is very unlikely that they all said these words together – though they may have been written or pre-learned. It seems more likely that one person lead the group, but that the prayer represented the thoughts of all present.

This prayer doesn’t think that God was out of control and that’s how the leaders were allowed to persecute the apostles. In fact, the entire prayer from the first word to v28 seems to simply be acknowledging God’s sovereignty. There are two proofs given for this, marked by the two “who”s which refer to God. Firstly, God created everything. Secondly, God said (through David) the words of Psalm 2. Why does that show God’s control? “For truly…” shows that these disciples believed this was a prophecy of God about Jesus which had come true – the events didn’t catch God by surprise. Looking at the rest of the Psalm, even as the people plot against God he is laughing at them and waiting until the moment when his anger will terrify them – they will never beat him and the disciples would have remembered that part of the Psalm as well. Finally, in case it was just that God knew what was going to happen but couldn’t actively do anything about it, it is made clear in v28 that the death of Jesus is what God’s hand and “plan had predestined”.

Yet the prayer doesn’t complain to God or blame him. Jesus had promised persecutions, so the disciples weren’t being short-changed.  Instead, once they have realised that God is completely in control, and it must have been a huge comfort to know that he couldn’t be beaten by the human authorities who were causing them problems, they simply come to God and ask him to get them through whatever the council – and ultimately God himself – has coming. They don’t ask for protection or even success, but that they will continue to speak God’s word and for a continuation of the miracles God has sent. Since Jesus promised they would be witnesses (1:8) and that they would be able to heal the sick (eg, Luke 10:9), they are on fairly safe ground.

It is an astounding prayer. In many prayers, people bring their suggestions to put in God’s inbox and demand he does things our way. From the point of view of suggesting things to God, this prayer was entirely useless. Essentially it reads “God, you are in control of everything. Everything you say, happens. Do what you said you would.” It could be argued that this is useless as it doesn’t tell God anything new or suggest anything new. (I am, in fact, exaggerating to make a point. I don’t think I know anyone who would say that.) God certainly approved of this prayer – he instantly did the two things which they asked for. The building was miraculously shaken, and the disciples received a fresh filling of the Spirit which gave them the boldness to speak God’s word.

v31 – a couple of theological notes, while I’m here. Firstly, the inseparable relation of the Spirit of God and the word of God – as seen in many other passages. Secondly, the Spirit seems to act in big ways at big moments. In the next chapter, similar events to the apostles’ imprisonment occur, with no subsequent filling of the Spirit. God provided assurance the first time that they needed it, and then wanted them to remember and to trust.

Sovereign Lord, I praise you that are in control, that you created everything and run it, that your promises and plans can’t be thwarted and that you know what is best. I ask that you will help me trust you and submit only to your will. Please give me boldness to speak about you, and cause me to grow closer to you and more like your Son. Amen.

Acts~4:1-22

Sunday September 10, 2006

Do you want the good news first, or the bad news? The bad news is that the authorities don’t like what Peter and John have been doing, and have arrested them. The Sadducees in particular would have been annoyed that the teaching of Jesus about the resurrection with which he embarassed them (Luke 20:27-40) had gotten louder since they put him to death. The good news is that many people believed the message of Peter and the church swelled.

In the courtroom, Peter and John are set in the midst of an intimidating group of people, and asked about what happened. Luke refers to Peter as being full of the Holy Spirit. This is surely a reference to Jesus’ promise that when his disciples were brought before “the rulers and the authorities” the Spirit would teach them “in that very hour” what to say, which Luke records in Luke 12:11-12. Luke takes the chance while recording this story to assure Theophilus that while he was in front of the leaders, the Spirit was indeed guiding him. It seems unlikely that Peter had a fresh experience of God at this point, Luke is simply refering to Peter’s continual state of being filled.

Peter reminds everyone that they are being tried purely for a good deed, and then repeats that they cucified Jesus and God raised him from the dead. As before, he goes on to make an evangelistic appeal – that there is no other way for salvation than through Jesus Christ.

The council was in an obvious tough spot, and had no real choice other than to let the apostles go and tell them to stop talking about this. It is interesting that they accept that a “notable sign” has been performed, but they still won’t believe in Jesus’ power. The apostles could have left silently, but before they left they made it clear that they would not submit to the will of the council. They were threatened more, but the people were so amazed by what God had done that threats were all they could do.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that your Holy Spirit is such an amazing source of boldness and wisdom, and that you gave him to the apostles and to me. I pray that I would trust in him and so be bold when I am under attack and that you would teach me in every situation what you want me to say. Amen.

Acts~3

Sunday September 10, 2006

Here begins another section in the story of Acts which continues until 6:7 and deals with the events surrounding the spread of the gospel in Jerusalem, and particularly the dealings with the religious authorities.

After a reminder that the apostles went to the temple to pray, Luke begins to set the scene for the first miracle of the apostles which is recorded in detail in Acts. The generosity of Peter (“what I do have I give to you”, v6) and his faith in raising the man up (v7), the immediacy of the recovery (v7) and the response of the people (v9-10) are all noteworthy and impressive. The most important thing for this man, though, was the fact that he could now enter the temple (v8). It wasn’t that he had been physically unable to walk in, but he wasn’t allowed. There were several layers of entry to the temple and points beyond which only certain people were allowed, and a disabled man would not be allowed to go as far as an able one. Given the importance of the temple as the dwelling place of God, the fact that he could enter it would have been far more important to this man than the fact that he could now walk down the road to buy some milk. I think that this miracle symbolises the work of the apostles – going to people who cannot have a relationship with God because they are unacceptable to him and allowing them to have that relationship through faith in Jesus Christ (v16).

When the crowds wonder at what they have seen, he quickly points the attention away from himself and towards God and Jesus. I. Howard Marshall (“Acts”, Tyndale, IVP) points out that here, as in the speech at Pentecost, Peter begins by clearing up the crowd’s misunderstanding, then talks about the power of the risen Jesus which has made the miracle possible, then makes an evangelistic appeal to repent). Peter reminds the Jews of the life and death of Jesus, not avoiding pointing out their culpability in it or the significance of it (“killed the Author of life”, in particular, emphasises how wrong and unnatural Jesus’ death was, and contrasts him with the “murderer”), and tells them about the resurrection to which he and John “are witnesses”. He ends with the statement that it is by faith in the risen Jesus that the beggar has been healed. This is why telling them about the story of Jesus is the cure to the audience being confused by what has happened (v12) – when you realise who Jesus is and that he is alive it stops being surprising that his followers can do amazing things.

After having cleared up how the man was healed – and in so doing demonstrating his importance and reminding those listening of their hand in his death – he turns his argument to look at what they should do about it. He emphasises that God had foretold it, and that by the actions of these people he was actively fulfilling what he had said. He stresses that they must “repent” of what they have done, and that there is forgiveness if we turn to Jesus – the blotting out of sins, times of refreshing and the return (if that is what verse 20 means?) of Jesus. I am unsure of the meaning of “therefore” in verse 19. It may be saying ‘because God has worked to make it possible for forgiveness, repent and be forgiven’ or it may be saying ‘repent because the way that God fulfilled his promise was by your sin (“thus”, v18)’. The later would not be unfair – the fact that God worked through and used the sin of the people didn’t mean that they were not responsible for it.

Peter backs up what he has said with reference to the words of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-20, though “shall be destroyed from the people” does not appear there but is used in Leviticus 23:29 talking about something else) who Peter sees to be endorsing Jesus and the penalty for rejecting him. He then claims that all the prophets from Samuel spoke about “these days” – in Samuel’s case it may be seen that his prophecy of David’s kingdom was fulfilled in Jesus’.

Finally, Peter reminds his audience that they are the descendants of these prophets and of the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 and 22:18. (Paul in Galatians 3:16 explains that this promise means that through Jesus (the offspring of Abraham) everyone will be blessed.) Peter agrees, saying that Jesus has been sent to the Jews to bless them “by turning every one of you from your wickedness”. This is also a persuasion that they should believe in Jesus – they are the sons of the prophets who prophesied him so they should believe in him now he’s here. Jesus’ ministry was first to the Jews, so they have no excuse for ignoring it. The use of “first”, and “all the families of the earth” sets up that the blessing will be taken to the Gentiles as the Jews have ignored it – which we will see happening soon in Acts.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that when you raised Jesus from the dead you gave him authority and power and the gift of the Holy Spirit for his church. I thank you that you are powerfully active in this world, and that you offer forgiveness to everyone. Please help me to be more compassionate and bold with the people that I deal with. Amen.

Acts~2:37-47

Tuesday September 5, 2006

After hearing Peter’s sermon, the Jews gathered want to know what they can do, and Peter knows exactly what they need – to repent, to turn from their old way of living towards Jesus Christ. The outcome of this is the forgiveness of sins and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Baptism symbolises this repentance, forgiveness and the baptism with the Holy Spirit (see comment on 1:5) – which isn’t a post-conversion experience but the indwelling of the Spirit from the moment of repentance.

In v39, Peter maakes it clear that the offer of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit (“promise” means the promise that those who repent will receive these things) is open to all (with, I believe, the reference to “your children” being rhetorical rather than meaning that children of believers are automatically heirs of this gift) but then adds “for…everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself”. Only those who God calls will receive these blessings, because they are the only ones who will respond to God’s offer. The offer of salvation is open to all, but God knows and has called in advnce those who will accept it.

Three thousand people turned to Jesus that day – what a party there must have been in heaven! It followed weeks of serious prayer and required incredible courage, faith and obedience from the desciples. God still has the power to make many believe his word, and I pray that he will because our world needs it.

I know of a church that has set itself up on the basis of v42 – they aim to “devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers”. There are far worse models to go for. The unity oand generosity of these Christians is a fine example, and it seems from v47 that people around noticed. Like Jesus, the early church seems to have been popular with the public but not with the establisment as we will soon see. A couple of things stand out. Firstly, v43 – “many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles” – uses much the same language as v22 which is about God doing miracles through Jesus. It wasn’t their power. But it does seem that so far it is only the apostles who perform these signs, not ordinary believers. The second is that the Christiians still went to the temple. I. Howard Marshall in his commentary on Acts (Tyndale, IVP) suggests that this could just have been a meeting place (see 5:12) but that it is also quite possible they were involved in the temple worship. They may just have been going for prayer (note that v42 says “the prayers”, not “prayers” which may suggest an oranised prayer of some sort; see also 3:1) or maybe for the sacrifices as many of the Jewish Christians would not yet have realised that the sacrifice of Jesus made the temple sacrifices useless. Either way, the Christians were involved in worshipping God they did it together (v46) and they also met in each other’s homes to remember Jesus’ death by breaking bread (v46).

The end of this passage seems to be the first of the little summary sentances which show the end of sections in this book. Having looked in a lot of detail at what has happened since the resurrection; Luke zooms out and makes a brief comment on the overall work of God and the church. It is an impressive state of affairs – “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved”. This first section about the preparation of the apostles and the day of Pentecost – the beginning of the Christian faith – is such a great reminder of what is possible with God and the amazing priviledge of being his child and being forgiven and given his Holy Spirit. And the adventure of Acts is only just beginning.

Heavenly Father, I ask that the example of the early church in Jerusalem and the demostration there of your power would inspire me and prompt me to better love the Christians I know in fellowship and the non-Christians I know by seeking and taking chances to tell them about you. Amen.