Empowered by One and the Same Spirit


The preaching at Pentecost had given a breath-taking turn to the understanding of Scripture in light of the resurrection of Christ. Turning now from the concept of Israel as the holy nation, a new people has come into being. In this lesson we see the very first manifestations of this powerful working of the Spirit in different ways inculcating affections and practices that will be consistently manifest in the church.

I. Verse 41, 42 – A Record of the immediate responses of those that believed

A . They were baptized – The apostles carried out the command of Christ to baptize all those that were made disciples (Matthew 28:19). The New Testament records no baptism of any other than those who hear the gospel and profess to believe it. The record of household baptism does not alter this judgment. There is no evidence that any infants or young children lived in these households (Acts 16:15, 33-34; 1 Corinthians 1:16; 16:15, 16)

B. They were devoted to the Apostles’ teaching – The gift to the church of the apostles (Ephesians 4:11) as a personal presence in the church was limited to this generation.

1. They were qualified by having received a personal commission from the risen Christ  (Acts 9:6, 15-17; Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1). Their messages consistently set forth their witness to the resurrection of Christ (2:23, 24, 36; 3:13-16; 4:33)

2. God verified their ministries by signs of wonders. See Acts 2:43; Also 2 Corinthians 12:12, Hebrews 2:4.

3. God gave them the gift of revelation and inspiration for preaching, teaching, and writing the completed truths of the redemptive work of Christ as prophesied under the old covenant. See 1 Corinthians 2:6-13; Galatians 1:11, 12; Ephesians 3:1-6; 2 Peter 3:1, 2.

4.  Their writings would bring to maturity God’s purpose of revelation and contain the full and final embodiment of revealed truth about God’s redemptive purposes and decrees. (See 1 John 1:4; 5:13; 2 Timothy 3:10-17; 2 Peter 3:15, 16; Revelation 22:18, 19.

C. They were devoted to fellowship – The idea of fellowship is that of a common life. They all had had the experience of conversion in which they saw their sin and condemnation and the perfect sufficiency of Christ to save them and make them sons of God. That reality created a bond of unity that transcended all earthly bonds. It gives a common hope of eternity, in being together before the face of Christ forever.

D. They were devoted to breaking of bread – They shared not only the common experience of conversion but saw this life as a preparation for the fellowship of eternity. They wanted to share temporal goods with those with whom they would spend eternity and show the self-emptying spirit of Christ (Philippians 2:1-4).

E. They were devoted to prayer.  Prayer became the natural corporate outlet of a recognition of God’s presence among them and their joyful dependence on his grace. For an example of their praying together see Acts 4:23-31.

II. Verse 43 – The Supernatural atmosphere of this Pentecostal Season

A. The pervasive sense of awe – A reverential fear came over them. That the God who created the world (4:24) had condescended to make himself their God through the work of Christ (4:27, 28) and had made them his spokesmen (4:29) and called them as the firstfruits of his people (James 1:16-18) brought an overwhelming sense of the holy presence of omnipotent power (4:31) and infinite mercy.

B. God’s verification of the importance of the Apostles. The signs of divine calling and power resting on the apostles continued. An example of this is seen in the narrative of Peter and John in their healing of the lame beggar at the gate of the temple (3:6-10). Peter’s discernment of the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira and his knowledge that God would kill them brought a deep sense of the gravity of dealing with the living God (Acts 5:11 – “Great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard these things.”)

III. Verse 45 – The Spiritual Impulse of sharing to meet Outstanding Needs

A. The people were selling. Spiritual sympathy and fellowship led to deep concern about physical welfare. John, who obviously was present in all these events, wrote “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:17, 18). How they came to have such need so soon might be explained in terms of the opposition seen in chapter 4. Perhaps some of the people came from families that shared this hostility and ostracized their family members, leaving them destitute.

B. The people were distributing.

1. This distribution occurred “as any had need.” We see in 4:32-37 an exalted generosity and sense of complete unity. It says “No one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had every thing in common.” The generosity was spontaneous and large-hearted so that “there was not a needy person among them” (4:34). Some communitarian groups have used this passage as an indication of “Christian communism,” that is, the entire community of believers holding all things in common. This was a description, not a prescription. It was born out of the immediate needs of the unusual transformations of social life and family life that occurred as a result of so many conversions in such a short time.

2. Nothing else in the New Testament based on principles of work and family support a view of community possessions. Paul commanded those that were seeking to live off the benevolence of others to “do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (2 Thessalonians 3:12) He himself, in fact, did not “eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you” (2 Thess. 3:8). The principle is to work, to earn, to gather, to support oneself and one’s family and have sufficient to give to those in need. “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28). With this commendation of labor and gathering, however, we must be aware that the purpose of ‘filthy mammon” is to make friends for the sake of eternal life (1 Timothy 6:17-19; Jesus’ parable about the rich fool, Luke 12:13-21; Also the parable of the unjust steward, Luke 16:1-13: “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth.”)

IV. Verses 46, 47 – The Pervasive Character of True Worship

A. They attended the temple together –The temple still was the place of their worship. That was the place that exposition of Scripture took place on a regular basis, and they still attended the hour of prayer (Acts 3:1). It was probably amazing to those Jews as yet unconverted that so much zeal for the exposition of the word was manifest by these that had come to believe that the crucified Jesus was actually the Messiah.

B. They met in each others’ homes for meals. Not only did those that have sell much of their possessions and land for the sake of the common good, they also held mealtimes for large numbers. These times were filled with a new level of fellowship not hitherto experienced and rejoicing in the coming of the messiah and his work of redemption. Clearly the Holy Spirit had drawn them to salvation and had filled their affections with love and joy.

C. Their lives exuded the freeness of praise to God. The elevation of praise that fills many of the Psalms such as Psalm 111:1-10 must have been constantly in their hearts and on their lips. They gave “thanks to the Lord with their whole heart in the company of the upright, in the congregation” They saw the splendor and majesty of his works and the unchanging nature of his righteousness in the context of his mercy and grace. They had experienced the “power of his works,” had seen that he was “faithful and just” [cf 1 John 1:9], and that his revealed word was “trustworthy.” In giving themselves to the apostles’ doctrine they came to see that the gospel demonstrated that God’s precepts are “established for ever and ever” in “faithfulness and uprightness.” They had seen his “redemption to his people” in accord with his eternal covenant (“He has commanded his covenant forever” -see Hebrews 13:20). All of this joy and praise is an expression of a proper “fear of the Lord” which is the “beginning of wisdom.”

D. They experienced divine blessing in conversion growth – Soon the number had come to be 5000 (4:4). People came from towns around Jerusalem and the signs and wonders continued and “more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (5:14). And even subsequent to that, “The word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” (6:7).

V.  Some Thoughts

A. The growth of the church comes only according to the will of God in accord with his power.

B. If we desire to sense New Testament power, we must seek New Testament preaching, prayer, fellowship, and selfless concern for the well-being, spiritual and physical, of our fellow Christians.

C. Should such a blessing of spiritual power, so transforming in nature, come, we must also be prepared to suffer the opposition of the world.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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