The Early Church in Action
– These few verses in Luke’s narrative cover approximately 1 year of Paul’s Third Missionary Journey! During this time Paul re-visited the Churches of Macedonia and Greece which he had planted on the Second Missionary Journey. The Epistles of 2 Corinthians and Romans were both written during this time and give us further insight into the details of his missionary activity.
– Although we must be careful about drawing doctrine from narrative (descriptive) passages, these verses help us to understand a few central priorities within the Early Church (cf. Ac 2:42-47)
I. Generosity (vv. 1-4)
1) The Jerusalem Collection:
- One of the crowning achievements of Paul’s ministry which is underappreciated!
- Mentioned in Acts 19:22, Romans 15:25-26, 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 Corinthians 8-9)
- Intended to ease the burden of the poor and persecuted Jewish believers in Jerusalem.
2) A Pattern of Generosity:
- A top concern for Paul’s ministry
- Agreement with Apostles (Gal 2:9-10)
- Paul’s hesitance to place a financial burden on the Church (Acts 20:33-35)
- A top concern for Luke’s writing of Acts
- Selling of personal property (Acts 2:44-45, 4:34-37)
- Consequences of greed (Acts 5:1-11)
- Famine relief (Acts 11:27-30)
Application: A concern for us today?? Do our financial priorities reflect the generosity and priorities of God? Do we love the brethren in both word and deed? (cf. James 2:14-17; 1 John 3:18)
II. Camaraderie (vv. 2-6)
1) Ulterior motive for the Collection
- Relations between Jewish and Gentile Christians in the Early Church were tense because of cultural differences
- Paul hoped that the love and generosity of the Gentiles would help ease these tensions
2) A Display of Gospel Solidarity
- The messengers mentioned by name and region in v. 4 accompanied Paul to Jerusalem as a visible expression of Church Unity!
- Paul’s persistence in “encouraging” the churches also underscores the camaraderie that existed within the Early Church
Application: Do we see other Churches and Missions as ‘comrades’ in the Gospel or as ‘competitors’?
III. Worship (vv. 7-12)
1) A Designated Day for Worship:
- Early Christians met on Sunday instead of Saturday (cf. 1 Cor 16:1-2)
- Jesus rose from the dead, and the Spirit was poured out on the first day of the week
- Sunday is not a replacement of the Sabbath! (cf. Col 2:16-17; Gal 4:10-11; Rom 14:5-6)
2) The Lord’s Supper:
- Observed during a communal meal called the ‘Love Feast’ (cf. Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 11:17-34)
- Observed weekly in the Early Church!
- Church’s insatiable hunger for God’s Word
- Paul’s delight in preaching