Acts 2:42
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
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(42) And they continued steadfastly.—The one Greek word is expressed by the English verb and adverb. As applied to persons, the New Testament use of the word is characteristic of St. Luke (Acts 2:46; Acts 6:4; Acts 8:13; Acts 10:7), and peculiar to him and St. Paul (Romans 12:12; Romans 13:6; Colossians 4:2).

The apostles’ doctrine.—Four elements of the life of the new society are dwelt on. (1) They grew in knowledge of the truth by attending to the teaching of the Apostles. This, and not the thought of a formulated doctrine to which they gave their consent, is clearly the meaning of the word. (See Note on Matthew 7:28.) (2) They joined in outward acts of fellowship with each other, acts of common worship, acts of mutual kindness and benevolence. The one Greek word diverges afterwards into the sense of what we technically call “communion,” as in 1Corinthians 10:16, and that of a “collection” or contribution for the poor (Romans 15:26; 2Corinthians 9:13).

And in breaking of bread, and in prayers.—(3) St. Luke uses the phrase, we must remember, in the sense which, when he wrote, it had acquired in St. Paul’s hands. It can have no meaning less solemn than the commemorative “breaking of bread,” of 1Corinthians 10:16. From the very first what was afterwards known as the Lord’s Supper (see Note on 1Corinthians 11:20) took its place with baptism as a permanent universal element in the Church’s life. At first, it would seem, the evening meal of every day was such a supper. Afterwards the two elements that had then been united were developed separately, the social into the Agapœ, or Feasts of Love (Jude 1:12, and—though here there is a various-reading—2Peter 2:13), the other into the Communion, or Eucharistic Sacrifice. (4) Prayer, in like manner, included private as well as public devotions. These may have been the outpouring of the heart’s desires; but they may also have been what the disciples had been taught to pray, as in Matthew 6:9, Luke 11:1, as the disciples of John had been taught. The use of the plural seems to indicate recurring times of prayer at fixed hours.




Acts 2:42

The Early Church was not a pattern for us, and the idea of its greatly superior purity is very largely a delusion. But still, though that be true, the occasional glimpses that we get at intervals in the early chapters of this Book of the Acts of the Apostles do present a very instructive and beautiful picture of what a Christian society may be, and therefore of what Christian Churches and Christian individuals ought to be.

The words that I have read, however, are not the description of the demeanour of the whole community, but of that portion of it which had been added so swiftly to the original nucleus on the Day of Pentecost. Think, on the morning of that day ‘the number of the names was one hundred and twenty,’ on the evening of that day it was three thousand over that number-a sufficiently swift and large increase to have swamped the original nucleus, unless there had been a great power of assimilation to itself lodged in that little body. These new converts held to the Apostolic ‘doctrine’ and ‘fellowship,’ and to ‘breaking of bread’ and to ‘prayers,’ and so became homogeneous with the others, and all worked to one end.

Now, these four points which are signalised in this description may well afford us material for consideration. They give us the ideal of a Church’s inner life, which in the divine order should precede, and be the basis of, a Church’s work in the world. But, while we speak of an ideal for a Church, let us not forget that it is realised only by the lives of individuals being conformed to it.

I. The first point, which is fundamental to all the others, is ‘They continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine.’

An earnest desire after fuller knowledge is the basis of all healthy Christian life. We cannot realise, without a great effort, the ignorance of these new converts. ‘Parthians and Medes and Elamites,’ and Jews gathered from every corner of the Roman world, they had come up to Jerusalem, and the bulk of them knew no more about Christ and Christianity than what they picked up out of Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. But that was enough to change their hearts and their wills and to lead them to a real faith. And though the contents of their faith were very incomplete, the power of their faith was very great. For there is no necessary connection between the amount believed and the grasp with which it is held. Believing, they were eager for more light to be poured on to their half-seeing eyes. They had no Gospels, they had no written record, they had no means of learning anything about the faith which they were now professing except listening to one or other of the original Eleven, with the addition of any of the other ‘old disciples’-that is, early disciples-who might perchance have equal claims to be listened to as ‘witnesses from the beginning.’ We shall very much misunderstand the meaning of the words here, if we suppose that these novices were dosed with theological instruction, or that ‘the Apostles’ doctrine’ consisted of such fully developed truths as we find later on in Paul’s writings. If you will look at the first sermons that Peter is recorded as having delivered, in the early chapters of the Acts, you will find that he by no means enunciates a definite theology such as he unfolds in his later Epistle. There is no word about the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ; His designation is ‘Thy holy child Jesus.’ There is no word about the atoning nature of Christ’s sacrifice; His death is simply the great crime of the Jewish people, and His Resurrection the great divine fact witnessing to the truth of His Messiahship. All that which we now regard, and rightly regard, as the very centre and living focus of divine truth was but beginning to shine out on the Apostles’ minds, or rather to gather itself into form, and to shape itself by slow degrees into propositions. ‘The Apostles’ teaching’-for ‘doctrine’ does not convey to modern ears what Luke meant by the word-must have been very largely, if not exclusively, of the same kind as is preserved to us in the four Gospels, and especially in the first three of them. The recital to these listeners, to whom it was all so fresh and strange and transcendent, of the story that has become worn and commonplace to us by its familiarity, of Christ in His birth, Christ in His gentleness, Christ in His deeds, Christ in the deep words that the Apostles were only beginning to understand; Christ in His Death, Resurrection, and Ascension-these were the themes on the narration of which this company of three thousand waited with such eagerness.

But, of course, there was necessarily involved in the story a certain amount of what we now call doctrine-that is, theological teaching- because one cannot tell the story of Jesus Christ, as it is told in the four Gospels, without impressing upon the hearers the conviction that His nature was divine and that His death was a sacrifice. Beyond these truths we know not how far the Apostles went. To these, perhaps, they did not at first rise. But whether they did so or no, and although the facts that the hearers were thus eager to receive, and treasured when they received, are the commonplaces of our Sunda-schools, and quite uninteresting to many of us, the spirit which marked these early converts is the spirit that must lie at the foundation of progressive and healthy Christianity in us. The consciousness of our own ignorance, of the great sweep of God’s revealed mind and will, the eager desire to fill up the gaps in the circle, and to widen the diameter, of our knowledge, and the consequent steadfastness and persistence of our continuance in the teachings-far fuller and deeper and richer and nobler than were heard in the upper room at Jerusalem by the first three thousand- which, through the divine Spirit and the experience of the Church for nineteen hundred years are available for us, ought to characterise us all.

Now, dear friends, ask yourselves the question very earnestly, Does this desire of fuller Christian knowledge at all mark my Christian character, and does it practically influence my Christian conduct and life? There are thousands of men and women in all our churches who know no more about the rich revelation of God in Jesus Christ than they did on that day long, long ago, when first they began to apprehend that He was the Saviour of their souls. When I sometimes get glimpses into the utter Biblical ignorance of educated members of my own and of other congregations, I am appalled; I do not wonder how we ministers do so little by our preaching, when the minds of the people to whom we speak are so largely in such a chaotic state in reference to Scriptural truth. I believe that there is an intolerance of plain, sober, instructive Christian teaching from the pulpit, which is one of the worst signs of the Christianity of this generation. And I believe that there are a terribly large number of professing Christians, and good people after a fashion, whose Bibles are as clean to-day, except on one or two favourite pages, as they were when they came out of the bookseller’s shop years and years ago. You will never be strong Christians, you will never be happy ones, until you make conscience of the study of God’s Word and ‘continue steadfastly in the Apostles’ teaching.’ You may produce plenty of emotional Christianity, and of busy and sometimes fussy work without it, but you will not get depth. I sometimes think that the complaint of the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews might be turned upside down nowadays. He says: ‘When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles.’ Nowadays we might say in Sunday-schools and other places of church work: ‘When for the time ye ought to be learners, you have taken to teaching before you know what you are teaching, and so neither you nor your scholars will profit much.’ The vase should be full before you begin to empty it.

Again, there ought to be, and we ought to aim after, an equable temper of mutual brotherhood conquering selfishness.

‘They continued in the Apostles’ doctrine and in fellowship.’ ‘Fellowship’ here, as I take it, applies to community of feeling. A verse or two afterwards it is applied to community of goods, but we have nothing to do with that subject at present. What is meant is that these three thousand, as was most natural, cut off altogether from their ancient associations, finding themselves at once separated by a great gulf from their nation and its hopes and its religion, were driven together as sheep are when wolves are prowling around. And, being individually weak, they held on by one another, so that many weaknesses might make a strength, and glimmering embers raked together might break into a flame.

Now, all these circumstances, or almost all of them, that drove the primitive believers together, are at an end, and the tendencies of this day are rather to drive Christian people apart than to draw them together. Differences of position, occupation, culture, ways of looking at things, views of Christian truth and the like, all come powerfully in to the reinforcement of the natural selfishness which tempts us all, unless the grace of God overcomes it. Although we do not want any hysterical or histrionic presentation of Christian sympathy and brotherhood, we do need-far more than any of us have awakened to the consciousness of the need-for the health of our own souls we need to make definite efforts to cultivate more of that sense of Christian brotherhood with all that hold the same Lord Christ, and to realise this truth: that they and we, however separate, are nearer one another than are we and those nearest to us who do not share in our Christian faith.

I do not dwell upon this point. It is one on which it is easy to gush, and it has got a bad name because there has been so much unreal and sickly talk about it. But if any Christian man will honestly try to cultivate the brotherly feeling which my text suggests, and to which our common relation to Jesus Christ binds us, and will try it in reference to A, B, or C, whom he does not much like, with whose ways he has no kind of sympathy, whom he believes to be a heretic, and who perhaps returns the belief about him with interest, he will find it is a pretty sharp test of his Christian principle. Let us be real, at any rate, and not pretend to have more love than we really have in our hearts. And let us remember that ‘he that loveth Him that begat, loveth Him also that is begotten of Him.’

II. Another characteristic which comes out in the words before us is the blending of worship with life.

‘They continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine . . . and in breaking of bread.’ Commentators who can only see one thing at a time-and there are a good many of that species-have got up great discussions as to whether this phrase means eating ordinary meals or partaking of the Lord’s Supper. I venture to say it means both, because, clearly enough, in the beginning, the common meal was hallowed by what we now call the Lord’s Supper being associated with it, and every day’s evening repast was eaten ‘in remembrance of Him.’

So, naturally, and without an idea of anything awful or sacred about the rite, the first Christians, when they went home after a hard day’s work and sat down to take their own suppers, blessed the bread and the wine, and whether they ate or drank, did the one and the other ‘in remembrance of Him.’

The gradual growth of the sentiment attaching to the Lord’s Supper, until it reached the portentous height of regarding it as a ‘tremendous sacrifice’ which could only be administered by priests with ordained hands in Apostolic succession, can be partly traced even in New Testament times. The Lord’s Supper began as an appendage to, or rather as a heightening of, the evening meal, and at first, as this chapter tells us in a subsequent verse, was observed day by day. Then, before the epoch of the Acts of the Apostles is ended, we find it has become a weekly celebration, and forms part of the service on the first day of the week. But even when the observance had ceased to be daily, the association with an ordinary meal continued, and that led to the disorders at Corinth which Paul rebuked, and which would have been impossible if later ideas of the Lord’s Supper had existed then.

The history of the transformation of that simple Supper into ‘the bloodless sacrifice’ of the Mass, and all the mischief consequent thereon, does not concern us now. But it does concern us to note that these first believers hallowed common things by doing them, and common food by partaking of it, with the memory of His great sacrifice in their minds. The poorest fare, the coarsest bread, the sourest wine, on the humblest table, became a memorial of that dear Lord. Religion and life, the domestic and the devout, were so closely braided together that when a household sat at table it was both a family and a church; and while they were eating their meat for the strength of their body, they were partaking of the memorial of their dying Lord.

Is your house like that? Is your daily life like that? Do you bring the sacred and the secular as close together as that? Are the dying words of your Master, ‘This do in remembrance of Me,’ written by you over everything you do? And so is all life worship, and all worship hope?

III. The last thing here is habitual devotion.

I suppose the disciples had no forms of set Christian prayers. They still used the Jewish liturgy, for we read that ‘they continued daily with one accord in the Temple.’ I am sure that no two things can be less like one another than the worship of the primitive Church and the worship, say, of one of our congregations. Did you ever try to paint for yourselves, for instance, the scene described in the First Epistle to the Corinthians? When they came together in their meetings for worship, ‘every one had a psalm, a doctrine, an interpretation.’ ‘Let the prophets speak, by ones, or at most by twos’; and if another gets up to interrupt, let the first speaker sit down. Paul goes on to say, ‘Let all things be done decently and in order.’ So there must have been tendencies to disorder, and much at which some of our modern ecclesiastical martinets would have been very much scandalised as ‘unbecoming.’ Wise men are in no haste to change forms. Forms change of themselves when their users change; but it would be a good day for Christendom if the faith and devoutness of a community of believers such as we, for instance, profess to be, were so strong and so demanding expression as that, instead of my poor voice continually sounding here, every one of you had a psalm or a doctrine, and every one of you were able and impelled to speak out of the fulness of the Spirit which God poured into you. It will come some day; it must come if Christendom is not to die of its own dignity. But we do not need to hurry matters, only let us remember that unless a Church continues steadfast in prayer it is worth very little.

Now, dear brethren, it is said about us Free Churchmen that we think a great deal too much of preaching and a great deal too little of the prayers of the congregation. That is a stock criticism. I am bound to say that there is a grain of truth in it, and that there is not, with too many of our congregations, as lofty a conception of the power and blessedness of the united prayers of the congregation as there ought to be, or else you would not hear about ‘introductory services.’ Introductory to what? Do we speak to God merely by way of preface to one of us talking to his brethren? Is that the proper order? ‘They continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ teaching,’ no doubt; but also ‘steadfastly in prayer.’ I pray you to try to make this picture of the Pentecostal converts the ideal of your own lives, and to do your best to help forward the time when it shall be the reality in this church, and in every other society of professing Christians.Acts 2:42-43. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine — Notwithstanding all the apparent danger to which they were exposed, they regularly attended on the word which the apostles preached, and resolutely adhered to their doctrine. And they all lived in the most endearing communion and intimate friendship one with another, and especially expressed their mutual affection in breaking of bread — Together, and joining in the exercise of social prayer. Though we have great reason to believe that the eucharist was often celebrated among these primitive converts to Christianity, perhaps much oftener than every Lord’s day, yet there seems no sufficient reason to conclude with Lightfoot, Pearson, and many others, that this phrase must here refer to it, since it may undoubtedly signify common meals, as Grotius, Wolfius, and several others have shown; in which sense the same phrase is used, Luke 24:35, for there, it is plain, the eucharist could not be intended. And fear came upon every soul — Many who were not converted and did not join with the Christians, when they observed how the testimony of the apostles, concerning the resurrection of Jesus, was confirmed by the gift of tongues and other miracles, and saw the wonderful effect of their preaching, were so mightily struck and impressed thereby, that a reverential fear and inward dread fell upon them, and gradually spread itself over the whole city and neighbourhood; for they apprehended such unexampled events might be the forerunners of some public calamities on those who had slain Jesus, it being declared by his disciples, that these extraordinary things were all effected by his power. And the consternation was still further increased, by the many wonders and signs which continued to be daily wrought in his name by his apostles, all which plainly showed an extraordinary divine interposition, and proved incontestably that they spoke and acted by God’s authority.2:42-47 In these verses we have the history of the truly primitive church, of the first days of it; its state of infancy indeed, but, like that, the state of its greatest innocence. They kept close to holy ordinances, and abounded in piety and devotion; for Christianity, when admitted in the power of it, will dispose the soul to communion with God in all those ways wherein he has appointed us to meet him, and has promised to meet us. The greatness of the event raised them above the world, and the Holy Ghost filled them with such love, as made every one to be to another as to himself, and so made all things common, not by destroying property, but doing away selfishness, and causing charity. And God who moved them to it, knew that they were quickly to be driven from their possessions in Judea. The Lord, from day to day, inclined the hearts of more to embrace the gospel; not merely professors, but such as were actually brought into a state of acceptance with God, being made partakers of regenerating grace. Those whom God has designed for eternal salvation, shall be effectually brought to Christ, till the earth is filled with the knowledge of his glory.And they continued stedfastly - They persevered in, or they adhered to. This is the inspired record of the result. That any of these apostatized is nowhere recorded, and is not to be presumed. Though they had been suddenly converted; though they were suddenly admitted to the church; though they were exposed to much persecution and contempt, and to many trials, yet the record is that they adhered to the doctrines and duties of the Christian religion. The word rendered "continued stedfastly" - προσκαρτεροῦντες proskarterountes - means "attending one, remaining by his side, not leaving or forsaking him."

The apostles' doctrine - This does not mean that they held or believed the doctrines of the apostles, though that was true; but it means that they adhered to, or attended on, their teaching or instruction. The word doctrine has now a technical sense, and means a collection and arrangement of abstract views supposed to be contained in the Bible. In the Scriptures the word means simply "teaching"; and the expression here denotes that they continued to attend on their instructions. One evidence of conversion is a desire to be instructed in the doctrines and duties of religion, and a willingness to attend on the preaching of the gospel.

And fellowship - The word rendered "fellowship," κοινωνία koinōnia, is often rendered "communion." It properly denotes "having things in common, or participation, society, friendship." It may apply to anything which may be possessed in common, or in which all may partake. Thus, all Christians have the same hope of heaven; the same joys; the same hatred of sin; the same enemies to contend with. Thus, they have the same subjects of conversation, of feeling, and of prayer; or they have communion in these things. And thus the early Christians had their property in common. The word here may apply to either or to all of these things to their conversation, their prayers, their dangers, or their property; and means that they were united to the apostles, and participated with them in whatever befell them. It may be added that the effect of a revival of religion is to unite Christians more and more, and to bring those who were before separated to union and love. Christians feel that they are a band of brethren, and that, however much they were separated before they became Christians, now they have great and important interests in common; they are united in feelings, in interests, in dangers, in conflicts, in opinions, and in the hopes of a blessed immortality.

Breaking of bread - The Syriac renders this "the eucharist" or the Lord's Supper. It cannot, however, be determined whether this refers to their partaking of their ordinary food together, or to feasts of charity, or to the Lord's Supper. The bread of the Hebrews was made commonly into cakes, thin, hard, and brittle, so that it was broken instead of being cut. Hence, to denote "intimacy or friendship," the phrase "to break bread together" would be very expressive in the same way as the Greeks denoted it by drinking together, συμπόσιον sumposion. From the expression used in Acts 2:44, compare with Acts 2:46, that they had all things common, it would rather seem to be implied that this referred to the participation of their ordinary meals. The action of breaking bread was commonly performed by the master or head of a family immediately after asking a blessing (Lightfoot).

In prayers - This was one effect of the influence of the Spirit, and an evidence of their change. A genuine revival will be always followed by a love of prayer.

42. continued steadfastly in—"attended constantly upon."

the apostles' doctrine—"teaching"; giving themselves up to the instructions which, in their raw state, would be indispensable to the consolidation of the immense multitude suddenly admitted to visible discipleship.

fellowship—in its largest sense.

breaking of bread—not certainly in the Lord's Supper alone, but rather in frugal repasts taken together, with which the Lord's Supper was probably conjoined until abuses and persecution led to the discontinuance of the common meal.

prayers—probably, stated seasons of it.

They continued stedfastly, speaks the reality of their conversion, and that they were not only for the present affected with what they had heard and seen. These three parts of worship were frequently, if not always, in those purer times used together: though some understand by breaking of bread, their civil fellowship and community, yet breaking being a holy rite used by our Saviour, at the institution of his supper, Matthew 26:26, and breaking of bread being here put in conjunction with preaching and praying, the celebration of the eucharist, if not only meant, is chiefly to he understood in this place.

Prayers; all those kinds of prayers mentioned by St. Paul, 1 Timothy 2:1, as also their frequent praying, is implied. Thus, by a united force, they laboured to pull down mercies upon themselves and others, and to do violence unto the kingdom of heaven. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine,.... And which is the same with the doctrine of Christ, of which he is the author, preacher, and subject; the substance of which is peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation by him: this the apostles received from Christ, and constantly taught in their ministry; for which reason, it is called theirs; and this these young converts had embraced gladly; and were not only believers of it, but persevering believers; they were constant hearers of it; they continually attended on the ministry of the apostles, and held fast the form of sound words they had received from them; and stood fast in the faith of the Gospel, notwithstanding all the reproach cast upon it, and the afflictions they endured for it:

and fellowship; with the apostles and other saints, in spiritual conversation with them, in private, and in communion with them at the Lord's table in public: and so the Vulgate Latin reads this clause, in connection with the next, thus, "in the communication of breaking of bread"; to which agrees the Syriac version, and "they communicated in prayer, and in breaking of the eucharist"; though it seems better to understand this of a distinct branch of fellowship, or communication, and may rather intend liberality and beneficence, in which sense it is used, Romans 15:26 and so expresses their constant contributions towards the support of the apostles, as ministers of the word and of the poor members of the church; a duty which, in both its branches, is incumbent on those who have it in their power to perform, and which these first Christians were remarkable for:

and in breaking of bread; or "of the eucharist": as the Syriac version renders it, which was an usual name with the ancients for the Lord's supper; and which seems to be intended here, and not eating common bread, or a common meal; seeing it is here mentioned with religious exercises: and though the Jews used to begin their meals with breaking of bread, yet the whole repast, or meal, is never by them called by that name; and for what reason these saints should be commended for keeping their common meals, cannot be said, unless to show their sociableness, agreement, and brotherly love in eating together; and which is not hinted at here, but in Acts 2:46 where it is mentioned as something distinct from this: it seems rather therefore to design, that they were constant at the Lord's table, kept their places there, and duly attended whenever the ordinance was administered:

and in prayers: not only in their closets, and in their families, but in the church; in the public prayers of the church, they observed all opportunities of this kind, and gladly embraced them.

{11} And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and {b} fellowship, and in {c} breaking of bread, and in prayers.

(11) The marks of the true Church are the doctrine of the apostles, the duties of charity, the pure and simple administration of the ordinances, and the true invocation used by all of the faithful.

(b) Sharing of goods, and all other duties of charity, as is shown afterwards.

(c) The Jews used thin loaves, and therefore they broke them rather than cut them: so by breaking of bread they meant living together, and the banquets which they used to keep. And when they kept their love feasts, they used to celebrate the Lord's supper, which even in those days began to be corrupted, and Paul corrects this in 1Co 11:17-34.

now describes what the reception of the three thousand had as its consequence; what they, namely the three thousand and those who were already believers before (for the whole body is the subject, as is evident from the idea of προσετέθησαν), as members of the Christian community under the guidance of the apostles perseveringly did

Acts 2:42 now describes what the reception of the three thousand had as its consequence; what they, namely the three thousand and those who were already believers before (for the whole body is the subject, as is evident from the idea of προσετέθησαν), as members of the Christian community under the guidance of the apostles perseveringly did.[136] The development of the inner life of the youthful church follows that great external increase. First of all: they were perseveringly devoted to the instruction (2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Corinthians 14:6) of the apostles, they were constantly intent on having themselves instructed by the apostles.

τῇ κοινωνίᾳ] is to be explained of the mutual brotherly association which they sought to maintain with one another. Comp. on Php 1:5. See also Weiss, bibl. Theol. p. 141 f., and Ewald. The same in substance with the ἀδελφότης, 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Peter 5:9. It is incorrect in Wolf, Rosenmüller, and others to refer it to ΤῶΝ ἈΠΟΣΤΌΛΩΝ, and to understand it of living in intimate association with the apostles. For καὶ τῇ κοινων. is, as well as the other three, an independent element, not to be blended with the preceding. Therefore the views of others are also incorrect, who either (Cornelius a Lapide and Mede as quoted by Wolf) take the following (spurious) ΚΑΊ as explicativum (et communione, videlicet fractione panis et precibus), or suppose a ἓν διὰ δυοῖν (Homberg) after the Vulgate: et communicatione fractionis panis, so that τῇ κοινων. would already refer to the Agapae. Recently, following Mosheim (de rebus Christ, ante Const. M. p. 114), the explanation of the communication of charitable gifts to the needy has become the usual one. So Heinrichs, Kuinoel, Olshausen, Baumgarten, also Löhe, Aphorism. p. 80 ff., Harnack, christl. Gemeindegottesd. p. 78 ff., Hackett, and others.[137] But this special sense must have been indicated by a special addition, or have been undoubtedly suggested by the context, as in Romans 15:26; Hebrews 13:16; especially as κοινωνία does not in itself signify communicatio, but communio; and it is only from the context that it can obtain the idea of fellowship manifesting itself by contributions in aid, etc., which is not here the case.

τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου] in the breaking of their bread (τοῦ ἀ.). By this is meant the observance of common evening-meals (Luke 24:30), which, after the manner of the last meal of Jesus, they concluded with the Lord’s Supper (Agapae, Judges 1:12). The Peschito and several Fathers, as well as the Catholic Church,[138] with Suicer, Mede, Wolf, Lightfoot, and several older expositors, arbitrarily explain it exclusively of the Eucharist; comp. also Harnack, l.c. p. 111 ff. Such a celebration is of later origin; the separation of the Lord’s Supper from the joint evening meal did not take place at all in the apostolic church, 1 Corinthians 11. The passages, Acts 20:7; Acts 20:11, Acts 27:35, are decisive against Heinrichs, who, after Kypke, explains the breaking of bread of beneficence to the poor (Isaiah 58:7), so that it would be synonymous with κοινωνία (but see above).

ΤΑῖς ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧΑῖς] The plural denotes the prayers of various kinds, which were partly new Christian prayers restricted to no formula, and partly, doubtless, Psalms and wonted Jewish prayers, especially having reference to the Messiah and His kingdom.

Observe further in general the family character of the brotherly union of the first Christian church.

[136] With the spuriousness of the second καί (see the critical note), the four particulars are arranged in pairs.

[137] That the moral nature of the κοινωνία expresses itself also in liberality, is correct in itself, but is not here particularly brought forward, any more than other forms of its activity. This in opposition to Lechler, apost. Zeit. p. 285.

[138] This Church draws as an inference from our passage the historical assertion: Sub una specie panis communicaverunt sancti in primitiva ecclesia. Confut. Conf. Aug. p. 543 of my edition of the Libri Symbolici. See, in opposition to this view, the striking remarks of Casaubon in the Exercitatt. Anti-Baron. p. 466. Beelen still thinks that he is able to make good the idea of the daily unbloody sacrifice of the mass by the appended τ. προσευχ.!Acts 2:42. The growth of the Church not merely in numbers but in the increase of faith and charity. In R.V. by the omission of καὶ before τῇ κλάσει two pairs of particulars are apparently enumerated—the first referring to the close adherence of believers to the Apostles in teaching and fellowship, the second expressing their outward acts of worship; or the first pair may be taken as expressing rather their relation to man, the second their relation to God (Nösgen). Dr. Hort, while pointing out that the first term τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων (“the teaching,” R.V., following Wycliffe; cf. Matthew 7:28, “doctrine,” A.V., which would refer rather to a definite system, unless taken in the sense of the Latin doctrina, teaching) was obviously Christian, so that the disciples might well be called scribes to the kingdom, bringing out of their treasures things new and old, the facts of the life of Jesus and the glory which followed, facts interpreted in the light of the Law and the Prophets, takes the next words τῇ κοινωνίᾳ as separated altogether from τῶν ἀποστόλων, “and with the communion”: κοινωνία, in Dr. Hort’s view by parallelism with the other terms, expresses something more external and concrete than a spirit of communion; it refers to the help given to the destitute of the community, not apparently in money, but in public meals, such as from another point of view are called “the daily ministration” (cf. Acts 6:2, τραπέζαις). There are undoubtedly instances of the employment of the word κοινωνία in this concrete sense, Romans 15:26, 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:13, Hebrews 13:16, but in each of these cases its meaning is determined by the context (and Zöckler, amongst recent commentators, would so restrict its meaning here). But, on the other hand, there are equally undoubted instances of κοινωνία referring to spiritual fellowship and concord, a fellowship in the spirit; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 13:14, Php 2:1, Galatians 2:9, 1 John 1:3; 1 John 1:6-7; cf. also in classical writers, Arist., Ethic., viii., 9, 12, ἐν κοινωνίᾳ ἡ φιλία ἐστί. Here, if the word can be separated from ἀπος., it may be taken to include the inward fellowship and its outward manifestation, Acts 2:44. May not a good parallel to this signification of the word be found in Php 1:5, where κοινωνία, whilst it signifies co-operation in the widest sense, including fellowship in sympathy, suffering and toil, also indicates the special and tangible manifestation of this fellowship in the ready almsgiving and contributions of the Philippian Church; see Lightfoot, Philippians, in loco. The word naturally suggests the community of goods, as Weizsäcker points out, but as it stands here without any precise definition we cannot so limit it, and in his view Galatians 2:9 gives the key to its meaning in the passage before us—the bond which united the μαθηταί was the consciousness of their belief in Christ, and in the name ἀδελφοί the relationship thus constituted gained its complete expression.—τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου: no interpretation is satisfactory which forgets (as both Weizsäcker and Holtzmann point out) that the author of Acts had behind him Pauline language and doctrine, and that we are justified in adducing the language of St. Paul in order to explain the words before us, cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:24, Acts 20:7 (and Acts 27:35, Weizsäcker). But if we admit this, we cannot consistently explain the expression of a mere common meal. It may be true that every such meal in the early days of the Church’s first love had a religious significance, that it became a type and evidence of the kingdom of God amongst the believers, but St. Paul’s habitual reference of the words before us to the Lord’s Supper leads us to see in them here a reference to the commemoration of the Lord’s death, although we may admit that it is altogether indisputable that this commemoration at first followed a common meal. That St. Paul’s teaching as to the deep religious significance of the breaking of the bread carries us back to a very early date is evident from the fact that he speaks to the Corinthians of a custom long established; cf. “Abendmahl I.” in Hauck’s Real-Encyklopädie, heft i. (1896), p. 23 ff., on the evidential value of this testimony as against Jülicher’s and Spitta’s attempt to show that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the early Church rested upon no positive command of Jesus. Weizsäcker’s words are most emphatic: “Every assumption of its having originated in the Church from the recollection of intercourse with Him at table, and the necessity felt for recalling His death is precluded—the celebration must rather have been generally observed from the beginning”Apostolic Age, ii., p. 279, E.T., and cf. Das apostol. Zeitalter, p. 594, second edition (1892), Beyschlag, Neutestamentliche Theol., i., p. 155. Against any attempt to interpret the words under discussion of mere benevolence towards the poor (Isaiah 58:7) Wendt regards Acts 20:6-7 (and also Acts 27:35) as decisive. Weiss refers to Luke 24:30 for an illustration of the words, but the act, probably the habitual act of Jesus, which they express there, does not exhaust their meaning here. Spitta takes Acts 6:2, διακονεῖν τραπέζαις as = κλάσις ἄρτου, an arbitrary interpretation, see also below. The Vulgate connects τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου with the preceding κοινωνία, and renders in communicatione fractionis panis, a rendering justified in so far as the κοινωνία has otherwise no definite meaning, and by the fact that the brotherly intercourse of Christians specially revealed itself in the fractio panis, cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16, and Blass, in loco, and also [129] where he reads καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ τῆς κλάσεως τοῦ ἄρτου. But whilst Felten refers to the evidence of the Vulgate, and also to that of the Peshitto, which renders the words before us “in the breaking of the Eucharist” (so too in Acts 20:7), it is worthy of note that he refuses to follow the usual Roman interpretation, viz., that the words point to a communion in one kind only, Apostelgeschichte, p. 94. It is possible that the introduction of the article before at least one of the words τῇ κλάσει (cf. R.V.) emphasises here the Lord’s Supper as distinct from the social meal with which it was connected, whilst Acts 2:46 may point to the social as well as to the devotional bearing of the expression (cf. Zöckler, note in loco), and this possibility is increased if we regard the words τῶν ἀποστόλων as characterising the whole sentence in Acts 2:42. But unless in both verses some deeper meaning was attached to the phrases τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτουκλῶντες ἄρτον, it seems superfluous, as Schöttgen remarked, to introduce the mention of common food at the time of a community of goods. No doubt St. Chrysostom (so Oecum., Theophyl.) and Bengel interpret the words as simply =victus frugalis, but elsewhere St. Chrysostom speaks of them, or at least when joined with κοινωνία, as referring to the Holy Communion (see Alford’s note in loco), and Bengel’s comment on Acts 2:42 must be compared with what he says on Acts 2:46.—καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς, “and [in] the prayers” R.V. Dr. Hort suggests that the prayers may well have been Christian prayers at stated hours, answering to Jewish prayers, and perhaps replacing the synagogue prayers (not recognised in the Law), as the Apostles’ “teaching” had replaced that of the scribes (Judaistic Christianity, p. 44, and Ecclesia, p. 45). But the words may also be taken to include prayers both new and old, cf. Acts 4:24, Jam 5:13 (Ephesians 2:19, Colossians 3:16), and also Acts 3:1, where Peter and John go up to the Temple “at the hour of prayer,” cf. Wendt, Die Lehre Jesu, ii., p. 159.

[129] R(omana), in Blass, a first rough copy of St. Luke.42. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine] i.e. They allowed nothing to interfere with the further teaching which the Apostles no doubt gave to the newly baptized. The converts would naturally seek to hear all the particulars of the life of Him whom they had accepted as Lord and Christ, and such narratives would form the greatest part of the teaching of the Apostles at the first.

and fellowship] That communion, or holding all things common, of which a more full description is given in the following verses, and which would bind them most closely into one society.

breaking of bread] The earliest title of the Holy Communion and that by which it is mostly spoken of in Scripture. (See Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16, &c.) In consequence of the omission here and elsewhere of any mention of the wine, an argument has been drawn for communion in one kind. But it is clear from the way in which St Paul speaks of the bread and the cup in the same breath, as it were, that such a putting asunder of the two parts of the Sacrament which Christ united is unwarranted by the practice of the Church of the Apostles.

and in prayers] The Greek has the article here, and stress has sometimes been laid on this, as though the Church at this early date had some settled form of prayer. But it is enough to refer to Acts 1:14, where the article is also found, but which few would wish to construe “they continued stedfastly in the prayer.”Acts 2:42. Προσκαρτεροῦντες, continuing stedfast, persevering) having forsaken all things else.—κοινωνίᾳ, in fellowship) of all their internal and external goods, actions, and plans. Comp. as to their resources, Romans 15:26.—τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου, in breaking of bread) that is, in frugal diet, partaken of jointly one with the other. Comp., however, note, Acts 2:46. [The Lord’s Supper is included in this expression.] The Christianity of all, and each individually, is to be estimated, not merely from Divine worship, but also from the daily mode of life.Verse 42. - Teaching for doctrine, A.V.; in the breaking for and in breaking, A.V. and T.R.; the prayers for in prayer, A.V. And fellowship; better, as in the margin, in fellowship; not meaning the apostles' fellowship, but the fellowship of the Church - that common life of close brotherhood in which all that they did was done in common, and all that they possessed was possessed in common, so that there seemed to be but one heart and one mind amongst them all. Breaking of bread; in the Holy Eucharist (see Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; Luke 24:30; 1 Corinthians 11:24; 1 Corinthians 10:16; Acts 20:7). The prayers; the common prayers of the Church. Continued steadfastly

See on Acts 1:14.

Doctrine (διδαχῇ)

Better, teaching.

Fellowship (κοινωνίᾳ)

From κοινός, common. A relation between individuals which involves a common interest and a mutual, active participation in that interest and in each other. The word answers to the Latin communio, from communis, common. Hence, sometimes rendered communion, as 1 Corinthians 10:16; 2 Corinthians 13:14. Fellowship is the most common rendering. Thus Philippians 1:5 : "your fellowship in the gospel," signifying co-operation in the widest sense; participation in sympathy, suffering, and labor. Compare 1 John 1:3, 1 John 1:6, 1 John 1:7. Occasionally it is used to express the particular form which the spirit of fellowship assumes; as in Romans 15:26; Hebrews 13:16, where it signifies the giving of alms, but always with an emphasis upon the principle of Christian fellowship which underlies the gift.

Breaking (κλάσει)

Used by Luke only, and only in the phrase breaking of bread. The kindred verb κλάζω or κλάω, to break, occurs often, but, like the noun, only of breaking bread. Hence used to designate the celebration of the Lord's Supper.

Prayers (προσευχαῖς)

Always of prayer to God. Compare on δεήσεις, prayers, Luke 5:33; and besought, Luke 8:38.

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