The Acts of the Martyrs (04): The Martyr Community
The Acts of the Martyrs (04) - The Community of the Gospel
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:41–42
The Martyr Community is baptized. This is plain in vs 41, as well as shown in the baptismal pattern from Jerusalem to the Gentile cities. Christ commanded baptizing the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). Like Israel before, the renewed Israel (Church) must go through the water and be anointed with the water of the Holy Spirit. God brings people “into” Christ and clothes us with Him in baptism (Gal. 3:27). Practically, don’t worry about the circumstances of your baptism; rather accept by faith that God has set you apart as His child in this.
The Martyr Community is devoted to apostolic teaching. The apostles were teaching how Christ fulfills the promises God gave to the fathers and Israel. Christ fulfilled all the redemptive hopes in His ministry and atoning death. He also brought in new creation in the resurrection: “they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). You must accept that in Christ there is new creation because resurrection life is now in the world.
The Martyr Community is devoted to fellowship. The term “fellowship” (koinonia) means at root, “participation together.” Christian fellowship is sharing life together under the terms of the new covenant because of our union in Christ. This involves friendship, sharing of material needs, working together, and the spiritual communion we have with Christ and His Body in worship experienced in the Eucharist. We must “love one another” (Rom. 13:8, 1Pet. 1:22, 1Jo. 3:11), “encourage one another” (1Th. 5:11, Heb. 3:13, 10:25), “serve one another” (Gal. 5:13), “admonish one another” (Rom. 15:14), “be devoted to one another” etc.
The Martyr Community is devoted to the breaking of the bread. The life of the coming kingdom of God in the OT is strongly associated with a great feast (Dt. 16:16, 1Kg. 8:65, esp. Is. 25:6–9). The Gospels end with the rite of the Last Supper and Jesus promises to bring in the kingdom and once again join His disciples at Table (Luke 22:18). “Breaking of the Bread” “is Luke’s term for what Paul calls the Lord’s Supper” (I. H. Marshall). We must come to the Table with renewed joy in all that Christ has done for us and recognizing that we are part of His body (1 Cor. 11).
The Martyr (witness) Community is devoted to “the prayers.” Certainly we are to “pray without ceasing” and be personally prayerful and join in prayer with our families. However, “the prayers” almost certainly means the corporate prayer hours which were held at the temple. The early Christian community was shaped by the corporate worship of Israel. Then as the separation between temple worship and the new covenant congregations emerged, the church retained these renewed forms of prayer in the liturgy such as the Lord’s Prayer, the Great Thanksgiving at communion (cf the Didache 8-9). We must have zeal for corporate prayer and let that prayer shape our personal prayer life.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more