The second chapter of Acts reveals many positive qualities for today’s church to imitate. But do you ever consider what Christ’s first-century followers had to do without?
What They Didn’t Have
They had no elaborate church buildings, so they met in public spaces and private homes. They didn’t have paved parking lots for their donkeys and chariots. No tech support, microphones, websites, or live-streamed videos. No padded seats, song lyrics projected on big screens, or convenient indoor restrooms. Worship wasn’t a scripted event, but a way of life. Ordinary people carried out the ministry of the body.
The Acts 2 church didn’t even have the whole Bible yet. Early in the first century the New Testament was an unfolding story, not a published document. You couldn’t access Scripture on your cell phone or carry a printed Bible in your pocket.
What They Did Have
Despite lacking the amenities of modern life, those first-century disciples were used by God to spark a global movement that changed the course of history and impacts our lives 2,000 years later. They had several important things going for them.
A clear mission. Jesus’ Great Commission rang in their ears: make disciples, baptize, and teach. The Great Commandments kept things uncomplicated: love God, love your neighbors. Unencumbered by the barnacles of tradition and propelled by the winds of grace, the Savior’s ship was free to sail.
Confidence in the resurrection. Peter declared, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it” (Acts 2:32). Since even death itself couldn’t vanquish King Jesus, his followers preached fearlessly and took risks without flinching.
The Holy Spirit. Starting at Pentecost, God poured out the gift of his own indwelling presence. The first-century disciples relied on the Spirit’s power to preach, pray, and persevere when persecution arose.
Inspired instruction. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (v. 42). The disciples eagerly devoured spiritual bread served up by teachers like James and John, Peter and Andrew, Matthew and Thomas, fresh from three years of “seminary” training at the feet of the Master Teacher.
Dynamic koinonia. In Acts 2 fellowship was more a verb than a noun—a shared life, not just a shared meal. Jesus’ followers ate, prayed, served, and communed together. They pooled their resources, even selling their personal property if that’s what it took to meet a neighbor’s needs.
A reputation for community impact. At first the church enjoyed “the favor of all the people” (v. 47). Later the church had many detractors, but who couldn’t help but be impressed by the unselfish lifestyle of a disciple like Tabitha (Dorcas) who “was always doing good and helping the poor” (9:36)?
It’s fine when the church meets in attractive facilities and uses every honorable means to get the message out, but by themselves nice buildings, impressive budgets, the latest technology, and the sharpest paid staff won’t guarantee success. The church could do without those things if we had to, but we can’t do without the spiritual dynamics described in the second chapter of Acts. Without the Spirit’s power we will never duplicate the way “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (2:47). Unless we love people well and faithfully teach the Word, we’re just making noise.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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