For the past few weeks we have been exploring the details outlined in Acts 2:42-47. In this brief passage, we are given a glimpse into the life of the first century church. In it, we not only learn that the first century church was “devoted…to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers” when they assembled, but we also learn that “every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts [and] they broke bread in their homes” (Acts 2:46, emphasis added). A similar description appears just a few chapters later in Acts 5:42, which says, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah” (emphasis added). Additionally, we read about Paul’s work with the church in Ephesus and how “he withdrew from [the synagogue] and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus,” when opposition against his teachings arose (Acts 19:9, emphasis added). Based on these narrative statements about the life of the first century church we discover that the earliest Christians assembled on a “daily” basis. But why?
One reason they assembled so frequently is because their relationship with God and fulfillment of His mission necessitated their frequent participation. Did you notice where they met on a daily basis? According to Acts 2:46, “every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts,” and, according to Acts 5:42, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house…” In both passages, the temple courts are identified as the public meeting place of the first century Christians. Based on Acts 3:11 and 5:12 it appears that there was a specific section of the temple that you could regularly find the Christians. It was known as Solomon’s colonnade, portico, or porch. It was apparently their little corner of the temple, possibly because it was the part of the temple in which Jesus frequently taught (John 10:23). And the early church likely assembled at the temple during the daily times of prayer in keeping with their Jewish heritage (Acts 3:1). But the most important thing to notice is what they were doing when they assembled in the temple. In particular, Acts 5:42 says that “they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” In other words, they went to the temple every day and while there they preached, they evangelized, they engaged in their duty of communicating the gospel of salvation to a lost world. The first century Christians demonstrated daily involvement in the evangelistic assignment that Christ gave them.
Another reason they assembled so frequently is because they desired to be together as much as possible for the purpose of fellowship and encouragement. We have to remember that the first century Christians faced much greater persecution than we in the United States do today. Not long after the church was instituted, the apostles were collectively arrested, imprisoned, and beaten for preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:18, 40). After that Stephen was executed, accused by the religious leaders of committing blasphemy (Acts 7:54-60). Then, immediately after Stephen’s death, Saul initiated “a great persecution of the church in Jerusalem” that forced the Christians to relocate throughout “the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:2). A few years later, Herod Agrippa executed James (Acts 12:2) and imprisoned Peter, intending to execute him as well (Acts 8:3-5). As the early church endured such frequent persecution, they found themselves in need of frequent encouragement. That’s why the author of Hebrews instructed his readers to “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” The stated purpose of encouragement in this passage is to prevent individuals from hardening their hearts, and the stated frequency of engaging in encouragement was on a daily basis. Thus, it appears that the first Christians needed to counter the frequent attacks on their faith with frequent encouragement from their brothers and sisters in Christ. Maybe that is the reason they didn’t just meet daily in the public sphere of the temple courts, but they also met in the private sphere of one another’s homes (Acts 2:46; 5:42).
What we need to gain from the first century Christians is the need for ever increasing involvement, interaction, and participation in the church. We must recognize that our involvement in the activities and ministries of the church should not be limited to the four regularly scheduled worship assemblies of the local congregation. In fact, I am of the opinion that first century Christians would be surprised, confused, and potentially even disappointed by the infrequency of involvement in the work of the church by many believers today simply because, in the first century, involvement in the activities and work of the church was part of their daily routine.
For the record, I’m not advocating that the church schedule worship assemblies every day of the week. What I am advocating is that we take note of the frequency with which the first century Christians were involved in church related activities and consider what bearing their example should have on Christians today. We should never forget that discipleship is described as a daily responsibility, such as when Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23, emphasis added) or when the Christians in Berea were described as “more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica” because they were “examining the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11, emphasis added). In closing, read Acts 2:46 and 5:42 again and ask yourself, “how frequently was the first century church assembling?” Then read Acts 2:47 and 16:5 and ask yourself, “how frequently were their numbers increasing?” Do you think there was a correlation between the frequency of their involvement and the frequency of their growth?