According to Luke, about 3000 people were added to the church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). In the next few verses, Luke gives us a glimpse into the daily lives of these new believers. This is what he says:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 ESV)
In this post, I would like to focus on one verse in particular:
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts… (Acts 2:46 ESV)
There is an assumption that the followers of Jesus gathered together as a large group in the temple for “preaching and worship” (think Sunday morning worship service) while they gathered in their homes for fellowship (think Sunday School or Bible study). However, the grammar of this verse does not lend to this kind of distinction.
First, note that the main sentence is this: “they received their food with glad and generous hearts…” This is the main point that Luke is trying to get across. The clauses that begin this verse are subordinate clauses that help us understanding the main clause. So the clauses “day by day”, “attending the temple together”, and “breaking bread in their homes” help us understanding the main sentence and place it in context.
Thus, Luke’s main point in this verse is that the brothers and sisters who were added to the church that day began eating together (gladly and generously sharing with one another).
The three subordinate clauses help us understand more about their eating together. First, they ate together daily. Second, they ate together in the temple. Third, they ate together in their homes.
Now, as far as I can tell, it would have been logistically impossible (not to mention quite improbable) for 3000 people to eat together in either the temple (or temple courts) or in homes. Thus, the idea of “together” in this passage cannot mean “all at the same time and in the same place,” although it does include some idea of gathering. So, for Luke, it is possible for those believers to be “together” and have “all things in common” even though they were not all at the same place at the same time.
So, the common popular perception of 3000+ believers gathering together in Jerusalem for “preaching and worship” (the first megachurch) does not match with the scriptural evidence. Instead, Luke writes that the 3000+ believers ate together, whether they were in the temple or in their homes. Since 3000+ could not have assembled to eat together, he must have been talking about smaller groups.
However, even though these 3000+ believers could not have assembled together in the same place and at the same time, they still considered themselves (and Luke considered them) one church. At this point, it would probably be good for believers to stop trying to justify large gatherings, and start asking why we don’t put as much focus as Luke did on sharing meals together, and why we don’t consider multiple groups gathering together as one church.
(By the way, if you continue to study what the early believers did in the temple, you find that they went there to pray, and to announce (proclaim) Jesus as the Messiah and that resurrection is through him.)