“Day by day”
(Act 2:46 ESV) 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
“Day by day” indicates a continuous practice. Many translations” say daily.”
The modern practice of weekly gatherings has little in the way of New Testament support. The apostles taught daily house to house (Acts 5:42). They seem to have had daily baptisms (Acts 16:5). The Bereans studied the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11), which would have require a daily trip to the local synagogue or to the home of a member with a copy of the Old Testament scrolls. We are called to exhort one another daily (Heb 3:13).
The early church grew in a culture radically different from our own, and it would be a mistake to treat this as some sort of law. But our community should be about much more than a weekly gathering and a “hello” in the foyer.
How we strive to accomplish that will vary from place to place, but we must work hard to create true community, not merely an event to attend.
“Attending the temple together.”
The New American Standard translates —
(Act 2:46 NAS) And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
The early Christians did not reject their Jewish roots entirely. They continued in the Temple. Now, the Temple was not exactly the Jewish form of our church service. To the Jews, “worship” meant sacrifice in the Temple, not singing or hearing sermons. Therefore, the likely went to the Temple not because Jewish law required it but because it was a place of prayer, a space large enough for thousands to meet, a great place to preach the gospel to others, and a place of profound eschatological significance.
It seems that the church thus met both in homes and in the Temple — in the homes for meals and in the Temple for fellowship with the entire congregation. Certainly, the Temple would have been a great place for instructing the entire membership, as it would have been hard to find enough teachers to go to over 100 homes early on.
Thus, Luke paints a picture of a community in right relationship with one another and with God, submissive to their leaders, and encouraging and supporting each other both spiritually and, as needed, financially. This is the Kingdom as well realized as it will be before Jesus returns.
The “pattern” therefore isn’t five acts of worship. The pattern is found in joined hearts, common meals, and mutual support.
The Temple and the Pattern
We can’t ignore the fact that the church met in the Jewish temple, where instruments were played by the Levites and a Levitical choir sang praises to God. Many of the Psalms were written to be part of the Temple service.
And yet the early Christians didn’t feel obliged to flee these things. Rather, they chose to meet in the very heart of Judaism. Indeed, they thought of themselves as Jews who believed in the Messiah. What better place to celebrate the coming of the Kingdom than in God’s holy Temple?
Indeed, we later read that the apostles, following Jewish custom, went to the Temple to pray (Acts 3:1). The Christians worshiped God in the Temple even though it was filled with instrumental and choir music, animal sacrifice, and other marks of the Jewish religion. They didn’t so much see Judaism as repealed as fulfilled, and so long as God allowed the Temple to stand, they worshiped God there.
It took time for the church to sort out how the coming of the Kingdom changes Judaism. In fact, that sorting out process is a major theme of Acts as well as several of Paul’s epistles. It was not an easy transition, but ultimately God made it plain.
It was not the church and Pentecost that ended Temple worship but God via the Roman army. God’s judgment finally came and the Temple sacrifices became entire impossible.
Therefore, we do well to remember that the early Christians were largely Jews, and that the New Testament is written largely by Jews against a Jewish culture. And this simple observation will often dramatically change how we read the text.
(Act 2:47 ESV) praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
To “praise God” can certainly mean in song, but it’s not necessarily the case. In fact, the other place where Luke uses the identical phrase is —
(Luk 2:20 ESV) And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Indeed, if you trace all the uses of “praising” in Luke-Acts, you’ll find that most plainly are not referring to song and none are necessarily referring to song. That’s not to say that I don’t think the early church sang, just that this verse cannot be forced into service to support a patternistic model of singing as one “act of worship.”
But did they sing? Of course, they sang. They were First Century Jews who’d experienced the coming of the Kingdom and the outpouring of the Spirit. How could they not?
(Jer 31:12 ESV) They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more.
“Having favor with all the people.”
Luke will soon report on the persecutions suffered by the early church at the hands of the Jewish authorities. But among the ordinary people, the Christians were highly regarded. After all, such generosity and such love must have been very attractive.
Sadly, this is no longer the image of Christianity. We no longer have the favor the people. And the problem isn’t the media or liberal judges. The problem is us.
If we were to live as the early church lived, if we were to share with each other as they did, if we were to love each other as they did, we’d have a very different image because we’d be very different people.
“The Lord added …”
And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
In the Churches of Christ, we read this as God adding the saved to the listing of all saved people. We see it as accounting — and so use this text to oppose the Baptist practice of voting on who is to be accepted into the church.
The real point, I think, is that God added them into the fellowship and community of the church. They weren’t just saved to go home but to join the vibrant, living community of faith — and God caused this to happen.
Indeed, the clear point is that, even though the community must choose whom to accept, it’s ultimately God’s call, and a convert’s faith is ample reason to accept him. There is no basis to reject those are saved. That is, if God accepts someone, so must we.