April 24, 2023
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
What are you devoted to? I suspect, for most of us, the list is quite short. Maybe we consider ourselves devoted to our family or to a job we love. We might be devoted to a particular organization or charitable cause. Possibly, we’re devoted to an area of study or a life-long hobby. But chances are, we could count on the fingers of a single hand the number of things in our lives that reach the level of “devotion.” As finite people, we simply don’t have the ability to be devoted to more than a few things.
This is true for the church, too. Our churches—those gatherings of believers and their children in a particular place under the authority of ordained elders—are unable to be devoted to every possible activity.
In the context of today’s verse, the newborn church had a choice to make. Having just received the Lord’s command to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8), the band of believers had much to do. There were churches to plant, sermons to preach, widows to feed, and missionaries to send. Those things, in turn, would open opportunities for dozens of other things.
Where should the congregation devote their energies?
Filled with—and guided by—the Holy Spirit, the first church in Jerusalem dedicated themselves to four priorities: “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship. . . the breaking of bread and the prayers” (2:42). The congregation gathered to hear God’s Word proclaimed, to share physical and spiritual nourishment, and to pray together. In the end, just four simple things were worthy of the devotion of God’s people.
Their devotion had practical implications: they did these things daily, they did them wherever they could, and they did them gladly (2:46). The church was so committed to these means of grace that they weren’t content to give them a mere hour once a week. Instead, they made them the priority of each day—forming the schedules of their busy lives around worshipping their God. They also made the most of every opportunity. They worshipped together in the temple—prioritizing times of stated public worship—and they met to encourage one another in their homes—practicing hospitality and family discipleship (2:46). Perhaps most striking of all, they did these things with consistent joy. Their hearts were “glad and generous” and their lips gave praise to God (2:46–47).
The church today may be 2,000 years old, but we have not outgrown our need for the same priorities as our brothers and sisters in the first-century. We, too, have many possible tasks before us, but we can only be devoted to a few. Like the early Christians, we must devote ourselves to the means Christ has provided: preaching, fellowship, sacraments, and corporate prayer.
As we joyfully prioritize those things, we may find that the simple testimony of God’s people gathered to worship will have the same effect in our communities as it had in Jerusalem: “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (2:47).
Brothers and sisters, what are you devoted to?
Megan Hill is the author of several books, including A Place to Belong: Learning to Love the Local Church, and serves as the managing editor for The Gospel Coalition. A pastor’s wife and a pastor’s daughter, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four children where they belong to West Springfield Covenant Community Church (PCA).