November 7, 2021

Growing Fellowship

Acts 2:42-47

Steve Bryan


On the front of your bulletin is a diagram, which I call the wheel. This summarizes the Christian life. Christ at the centre and obedience to Christ are the foundational elements; without these, there is no true Christian life. The spokes, though, are also important. When I am thinking about which parts of the Bible we should read in Church, I generally think through these elements. This year the book of Hebrews taught us about gathering, John’s Gospel and Colossians helped our spiritual growth, Romans focused on giving, then Jonah kicked off our ‘Go’ part of the calendar.

The book of Acts, by and large, is about mission, that is, going to the nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ. All of these elements on the wheel overlap significantly, however. In this section of Acts, the end of chapter 2, ‘going’ goes hand in hand with ‘gathering’, That is, church growth goes with fellowship. Today we learn about a growing fellowship.

Three thousand people have become believers in verse 41, and so began the first MegaChurch. Let me read out verses 42 to 43 again:

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 

The Olympic cyclist is devoted to pushing those wheels around and around for day after day. The Christian, according to verse 42, is devoted to three priorities: teaching, fellowship, and prayer. I think breaking of bread, also mentioned, is a crucial part of a growing fellowship, as we shall learn soon. Today we’ll firstly think through two marks of fellowship – that is sharing and meeting. Then we’ll consider the growth of this fellowship.


Fellowship is mentioned as one of those three priorities in verse 42. But it is verse 44 that defines fellowship for us: 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. Togetherness implies meeting together, and this is described in verse 46. Having things in common implies sharing, and this is described in verse 45. Since verse 45 comes first, we’ll think about sharing first.


This is a challenge to us, isn’t it? The believers in this first Church ‘had everything in common’. The phrase ‘in common’ is closely related to the word ‘fellowship’ in verse 42. Both words have the idea of sharing at heart. Fellowship is sharing each other; being in each other’s company, and here in verse 44 it is possessions which are shared.

Verse 44 sounds communist, doesn’t it? But Christianity is not communist, nor is this advocating us setting up some kind of hippie commune. Having everything in common means that they saw all of their possessions as a gift from God to be used for the common good. Christians do own stuff, but we hold stuff with an open hand, and are willing to give it up when required.

Verse 45 reports this in practice: 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Real estate was sold and personal possessions were pawned to help out needy people in the Church. Over in chapter 4, Luke adds more detail: All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. (4:32-35).

That first Church really shared everything. Notice from that passage why this happened: there was teaching about the resurrection of Jesus, and God’s grace worked powerfully among them. This was God’s work. Immediately beforehand in chapter 4 is a description of prayer. The Church prayed and listened to the teaching of the apostles, God’s grace worked, and sharing resulted.

Friends, as we listen to God’s word and pray together, we become united in heart and mind, and by God’s grace we share our possessions too.

But … what if someone is lazy? What if people start pressuring the wealthier members of our church to share their wealth? Who decides who gets help and who doesn’t? All of these issues were faced by that early Church. You can read about a sharing dispute that arose in chapter 6 of Acts. The letters from the Apostles in the New Testament also consider these issues with sharing our possessions with each other.

At no time do they say that the Church should give up sharing. It remains a Christian practice. This is why we have a care fund at BMAC. People give money for distribution to the needy, and that distribution is handled by members of Parish Council. In chapter 4, the proceeds from the sale of land was ‘put at the apostles’ feet’, so that those leaders could give to church members in need. This is an important principle. It leaves the decision making to a group of leaders. In this way people are not pressured by other Church members. Please, give to that care fund, by either giving via direct debit and sending me a message that money is for distribution to the needy, or putting cash into a marked envelope in the giving bowl.

We also give to the needy more widely, don’t we? I was reading the Voice of the Martyrs monthly magazine during the week, and was amazed by stories of persecuted Christians overseas being helped. Meredith and I give regularly to VOM, so I was encouraged that our money was being distributed well. A young man called Thuta in Myanmar had been kicked out of home by his family because he trusted in Jesus. After many months of poverty and hardship, VOM bought him a motor tricycle so that he could make money as a taxi driver. Thuta said “When I asked Jesus Christ into my life, I accepted Jesus for my spiritual life; now because of Christ I am being blessed even in my physical life.” What a great way to share. Sharing is the first crucial element of fellowship.


The second part of fellowship is meeting; deliberately sharing time and space. Verses 46 and 47 describe two kinds of meetings – in public and at home. Luke explains: 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. 

Let’s think through these two meetings, which were both important in the fellowship of the first Church.

Meeting in Public

Firstly, they met daily in the temple. Because these new Christians were Jews who saw Jesus as the fulfilment of Jewish hopes, they considered Jerusalem to be their city … the temple as their sanctuary and the Law as their law (Longnecker). What was different now was that they were being taught by the apostles, verse 42, and praying in the name of Jesus.

Today, as I mentioned, we don’t have apostles. We do have the writings of the Apostles, however, which we call the New Testament. Their teaching continues through the Bible. We also don’t have a temple, but we have built church buildings as public meeting spaces. Here at BMAC you hear a public sermon on the Bible every week.

Meeting in homes

The second type of meeting was in homes. People got together in smaller groups at each other’s houses. Breaking of bread is mentioned in verse 46 for the second time, so was important to Luke. This is probably not a way of saying ‘the Lord’s Supper’, as we are celebrating this morning. Luke uses the same phrase to mean an ordinary meal, for example in Acts 27:35, which was on board a boat.

On the other hand, these meals in homes were not ordinary meals, like you and I have a few times a day. Luke says they ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God. There was prayer and perhaps music at these meetings. I said earlier that these Christians were devoted to teaching, fellowship and prayer, from verse 42. Luke uses the same word in verse 46, though our translation hides this. Devotion to fellowship meant meeting together publicly and privately. A verse in chapter 5 says that the apostles also taught from house to house (5:42). Their public fellowship and their fellowship in homes went hand in hand.

Friends, I’d like to see much more of this happening in our church. I did a quick tally during the week. I’m the pastor of this Church, and I’ve been in less than half of your homes. I’ve been invited to share a meal in only 13% of your homes. I’m not upset; I think we get on well, you and I. But my family has had two thirds of you into our home for a meal, and I’d like to know why you haven’t invited us back to your place? I know that’s awkward to ask, and I wouldn’t ask that of you in a personal conversation. But I am curious.

I suspect that I’m not alone. That is, I suspect people in our congregation in general are not having each other over for meals. I know a few of you have had a number of people over, and others have cooked meals when members have been in need. But many of us, I suspect, have never invited another Church member into their home. I think that should change.

Wanna know why? For two reasons. Firstly, because of verse 46, where the first church ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God. If we deliberately had Christian brothers and sisters over to our houses; and included prayer and teaching (that could be as little as thanking God for the food and reading something from the Bible), we too would experience more of this joy in our hearts. The word for sincere also means humble or simple. It communicates a shared thankfulness and love for God. Don’t we want more of that in our lives? We also want more praise of God, don’t we? The God who has saved us from sin and Satan and death, who has given us our houses and food and each other deserves our worship. I long to hear more stories of Christians in our Church rejoicing in what Jesus did on the cross over a meal together.

I’ll get to the second reason in a moment. Right now, though, I’d like you to make a commitment to having someone else over for a meal, to break bread with a fellow believer … or a few … even 6 people if you’d like to have my whole family over. It doesn’t have to be a fancy meal, because you are not doing it to impress people. You are doing it to love God. On your communication card is an opportunity to make that commitment. If you have genuine reasons not to be able to do share a meal in your home, why not just take someone out for a coffee? Just invite someone to share some kind of food or drink. It’s best in our homes, because home is where our hearts are, where we are who we truly are, and so sharing homes is the best way of sharing lives. But if that’s not possible, there are other options. Take that card out now and pray about it. I’ll continue in a moment.

[30sec pause]


The second reason for sharing meals in homes is a result we all want. Growth. Verse 46 says the first Church, as they met publicly and in homes, were enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The connection between fellowship and Growth in numbers is impossible to miss. I don’t think Luke is simply being descriptive here. The joy and sincerity that the believers experienced in their shared meals would no doubt have coloured their public meetings. The love demonstrated in sharing possessions would have been obvious to all. When added to the teaching of the word, prayer and miracles in their public meetings, the result was public favour and growth.

I hasten to say that this growth is the Lord’s work; he is the one adding to their number. The Lord usually uses human activity to achieve his purposes, but we cannot say that because the Church was devoted to fellowship, God blessed them with growth. It’s not a cause and effect thing. Rather, we can say that in that first church, fellowship and growth went hand in hand.

There are other reasons for growth in Acts. In chapter 4 the growth is linked to persecution and to the healing of a lame beggar in chapter 3, which we’ll look at next week. However, growth is linked to sharing in chapter 6 (v7), and again to meeting in chapter 5 (v14).

If we as a modern Church devote ourselves to fellowship – meeting regularly in public and in our homes, sharing our possessions, the result will be apparent to those around us. If we are hearing good teaching and praying as well, then perhaps we will see the Lord adding to our number. And that is what we are here for, brothers and sisters, instead of being with the Lord Jesus in heaven, awaiting the new creation. How incredible would it be to see the Lord adding to our number daily? Then let’s share our possessions, and let’s meet here and in our homes, and may our church be a growing fellowship. Amen?

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