On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit of God (Spirit of Jesus – Holy Spirit) indwelled 120 of Jesus’ followers as they were waiting for the “Promise of God” as Jesus had instructed them. The Holy Spirit was that Promise, and they all immediately began to proclaim the praises of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:1-4) After Peter’s proclamation (and, logistically, I’d argue it was after the proclamation of the other 119 also), 3000 people received that same promise, the Spirit of God. (Acts 2:41)
What follows is a beautiful of summary of the new (re-newed) life of that community in Christ. Their life included dedication to fellowship with God and one another, sharing meals together, praying together, sharing their possessions with anyone who was in need, and (apparently) proclaiming the gospel.
But, according to the very beginning of that summary description in Acts 2:42, their new life in Christ included something else: dedication/devotion to (or perseverance in) “the apostles’ teaching”:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)
What does it mean that these 3120 (plus more added daily) “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”?
To begin with, the verb “devoted themselves” (the ESV translators must have found the “themselves” in the verb) could also be translated “persisted in,” “busied themselves with,” or “persevered in.” The form of the verb makes it clear that this was an ongoing practice. (For those who understand grammar, this is a periphrastic participle.) So, it’s acceptable (and perhaps even closer) to translate this verb as “they kept on devoting themselves to…”
But, what was “the apostles’ teaching” that they were devoting themselves to? Well, “teaching” here is not a verb. It would be incorrect to think that Luke was painting a picture of those early Christians continually devoting themselves to listening to the apostles teach/preach. Instead, they kept on devoting themselves to WHAT the apostles were teaching.
What were the apostles teaching? If we conclude that the apostles were following Jesus’ instructions, then the apostles were teaching what Jesus had taught them. And, beyond teaching facts, the apostles were teaching people to DO everything that Jesus had told them to do. (For example, consider Matthew 28:19-20.)
Thus, being continually dedicated to what the apostles were teaching is tantamount to continually DOING everything that Jesus had taught the apostles to do while he was with them. (I believe that much of this teaching – and the most important of Jesus’ teachings – are included in the Gospels, and then explained or interpreted in the epistles in the contexts of each of those churches/recipients. And, of course, the most important thing – according to Jesus – is to love God with everything you have and to love your neighbor as yourself.)
The apostles’ teaching has just as much to do with a way of living as things to believe. This is easily verified by checking the statements of Jesus in the Gospels. Furthermore, we can see what Paul understood as “doctrine” or “teaching” (the words are the same) in Titus 2:1-15.
So, what does it mean that those early believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”? It means that they were continually persisting in doing everything that Jesus had taught the apostles (and them) to do.