We’ve talked a lot about the core of Jesus’ message of a new kingdom society available in his day (and in ours). We’ve considered the good news he proclaimed to the poor, the captive, the blind, the outcast – truly good news that applied to the their immediate circumstances and not just some “pie in the sky in the Sweet Bye and Bye” promises.
The apprentices (disciples/apostles) of Jesus learned by listening to his words and watching his example over the course of about three years. Once they were on their own – the goal of any apprenticeship – it’s interesting to see what happened.
42 The disciples were devoted to the teachings of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. 43 A feeling of fear came over everyone as many amazing things and miraculous signs happened through the apostles. 44 All the believers kept meeting together, and they shared everything with each other. 45 From time to time, they sold their property and other possessions and distributed the money to anyone who needed it. 46 The believers had a single purpose and went to the temple every day. They were joyful and humble as they ate at each other’s homes and shared their food. 47 At the same time, they praised God and had the good will of all the people. Every day the Lord saved people, and they were added to the group.
– Acts 2:42-47 (God’s Word translation)
- The apostles (Jesus’ apprentices) took on new apprentices (as you would expect). They were “devoted to the teachings of the apostles”. We can assume that their technique was similar to Jesus’ – a shared life using daily events as opportunities for teaching, illustration, example, encouragement, and practice. It’s unlikely that their approach morphed into one person on a platform talking down to a great crowd seated neatly in rows of chairs or pews; that wasn’t Jesus’ way per se. However, there were indeed times he spoke to large groups from hilltops, boats, etc, but that wasn’t necessarily instructing apprentices so much as it was making a general proclamation after which people could choose to leave or draw closer.
- These new apprentices were devoted to fellowship. The Greek word used for this, koinonia, means to be knit/woven together like a tapestry. In other words, their lives became intertwined with each other. They spent time together, did projects together, shared meals (“broke bread”) together, and even shared times of prayer together as they mutually relied not only on each other, but on God. They experienced miracles together where God stepped in and answered “Yes!” to their prayers and showed His power in a way that was irrefutable to them. In the process, their faith grew (as it does in times like that).
- These new apprentices shared what they had so that no one lacked. They evidenced the sacrificial generosity that Jesus himself displayed throughout his life and death. They sold their possessions so they were free from slavery to their possessions and free to give wherever they saw a need. And to be aware of needs means that their fellowship was deep enough, honest enough, vulnerable enough to know what needs actually existed in their community. They were involved, grateful, humble, liberal, and gave God the praise rather than doing it for show or pretense like the practice of the Pharisees that Jesus spoke against in Matthew 6.
- These new apprentices “had the good will of all the people”. The people of the kingdom – even those just learning how – were people who generated good will. These were not obnoxious protesters who condemned everyone who wasn’t in their little club; these were humble, kind, generous, grateful people who were quick to love, to serve, to pray, to help.
Whatever is going on at Church Inc. on a Sunday, it’s pretty much not this. And whatever happens during the week at Church Inc. – if anything – is pretty much something else, too. Because this is not a program. It does not require classes, certification, or a signed doctrinal statement. It does not require registration fees or a dress code. It’s not something periodic or temporary. The apprentices were in for the long haul…for life.
How can one get back to this kind of lifestyle? Is it even possible in our day and age? Can lives really be that intertwined, that intentionally shared? Can love really be that strong, that vulnerable, that actively engaged? Can we really generate that kind of “good will of all the people”? I sure hope so… because it seems to me that it’s the only hope for mankind.