The instinct of the new church was to meet frequently. As people met with Jesus in casual situations, this was now the habit of the church.
The church now devoted itself to teaching, the Lord’s Supper, prayer and being together. Wonders and signs are an inevitable result of this corporate body and how they lived.
As many of the Jewish people who arrived for Passover joined the church, some likely didn’t return home, but stayed in Jerusalem where the only church was.The believers donated funds to enable them to settle there.
Meeting in homes was augmented by open air preaching/evangelism. Because of the believers’ relationship with God, because of their holiness, thousands could not resist and were added to the church. At the beginning, the believers were not persecuted. Persecution began against the individual; after Steven’s murder, persecution against believers began in earnest which led to the scattering of the church. And with it the gospel.
The book of Acts covers the first thirty years of Church history. It tells of how the gospel spread from its centre in Jerusalem throughout the Mediterranean area and beyond.The apostles are prominent in this book but the Holy Spirit is more so. It shows how the power of the Holy Spirit in tandem with believers living in holiness and what miracles were the result.
The introduction connects Acts with Luke’s other book, his gospel account. At this early point, the believers were still wondering about Jesus’ earthly reign, and wondering when this would occur. They were Jews living under Roman occupation, something they were keen to see an end of. Jesus, however, redirected their attention to what he had told them to do. The fact is, all believers have wonderful, amazing things that they almost can’t wait for, but while we wait in keen anticipation, we are to be busying ourselves with the things he gave us to do.
By the time of Jesus’ ascension, he had spent forty days proving to his followers that he was who he had said he was all along. He wasn’t there constantly; he was preparing them for a time when he would depart from them, and send them his Holy Spirit. As before his murder, Jesus spent time with his disciples, after his resurrection he spent more time with them teaching them, encouraging them, and preparing them for the task he had given them; spreading the gospel and discipling new believers.
One of the main messages of Acts is that the Church has amazing things coming, but the believers are not to sit and wait, nor are they to just sit (as in many institutional/unbiblical churches today). We are to keep busy obeying Jesus until the time comes when he will take us home. Interestingly, Jesus had told them, shortly before his ascension, that they were to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. But once the Holy Spirit came, believers were given the power to obey Jesus’ command, and since then the instruction has been to get out there and do some stuff. And ever since, those who do the stuff in the Holy Spirit’s power not their own, have witnessed wonderful things. As Warren Wiersbe says, ‘the ministry of the Holy Spirit is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity.’
In the church at that time, the apostles preached and spread the gospel, but all the believers provided a witness by the life they led, wholly devoted to Jesus. Not everyone is called to be an evangelist, but we are all called to be witnesses; living out our faith by holy living, and being prepared to give an answer to those who earnestly ask. This is sadly lacking in the institutional/unbiblical churches today. Those who are committed are encouraged to become ‘professional’ Christians and those who do not take this up are considered second-class, the laity. However, the Bible teaches that there are no professionals – Paul made tents for a living, so that his message could not be compromised. When people are paid for teaching, it affects what they teach; it’s as true now as it’s ever been. Pastors don’t want the drop in donations that will come when the gospel is preached, which leads them to present a one-sided and accurate view of the gospel which misleads people. Iinstead, the onus was on every believer living a life devoted to God. There were no pew-warmers at this point in church history.
The holiness that the believers attained enabled them to be in unity, and more than that, to be so excited and committed to spend so much time together in celebrating the Lord’s Supper, teaching, prayer and just being together. This sort of life became the way the believers did things. They put God first, and sought his will, and his help in all things. They had the childlike faith and dependence on their Father that Jesus had taught them about. They relied on daily helpings of the Holy Spirit’s power to do what Jesus wanted them to do. Are we still the same or are we willfully self-sufficient, trying to do things in our own strength?
Luke tells us of the apostle’s decision to select a twelfth apostle, this was in order that the required witness could be given in Jerusalem at Pentecost, and also that there would be twelve apostles judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The apostle needed to be someone who had been baptised by John and who had travelled with Jesus during his earthly ministry and witnessed his resurrection. Matthias fitted the bill. Paul didn’t. Paul was sent mainly to the gentiles, he didn’t see himself as one of the twelve, and neither did the twelve themselves. Once the witness of the twelve to the twelve tribes had been given at Pentecost, this part of Jesus’ commission was completed – and it was then open season for everyone – right to the ends of the earth.