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What is the Apostles’ Teaching?

Posted by on Sep 8, 2011 in community, discipleship, fellowship, scripture | 18 comments

What is the Apostles’ Teaching?

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.

(P.S. I am happy to see that another blogger is discussing this same topic. See Josh’s post “The apostles’ teaching.”)


18 Comments

  1. 9-8-2011

    really good Alan

  2. 9-8-2011

    I think the biggest thing is that we can’t assume this means that ALL 3120+ DAILY continued TOGETHER in the teachings/doings and breaking of bread

    Although I’m sure at least collectively they did

    Either way it is amazing how far off this concept the modern day church

    It is mostly Sunday (for the devoted weekday and special services as well) but the constant sharing and living it out together seems all but gone even for the closest of churches

    I mean imagine all the rich people of a church selling all they have laying it at their “leaders” feet and THEN those leaders actually distributing it to those who had need

    Virtually unheard of on the grand scale

    This is not to say this NEVER happens but sad to say its not the dominant theme in christianity especially among some of these larger (mega) “kingdom now” establishments

    I personally believe we should live communally as the early Church did but that doesn’t seem to be possibly with how selfish the majority of people (myself included) are in todays church

    I guess its hard to pioneer it

    One day I hope to have a ministry to do this but right now I can hardly pay my bills while some “church leaders” have million dollar houses and 5 car garages with landing strips…….is that the apostles teaching………I think not

    Whew sorry bout the rant but man I wish we could live this

    There’s a scripture…….how we live it for you

    And they continued (on sundays at 10:30 and wednesdays at 7) in the (pastors sermons) and the (passing of crackers and grape juice once a month) and they (gave 10% of their gross income) so that (the paid staff could have a salary and the bills of the facility could be paid)

  3. 9-8-2011

    Just sayin………

  4. 9-8-2011

    Doug,

    Thanks again.

    Mike,

    Check out this one: “Scripture… As We Live It #155“.

    -Alan

  5. 9-8-2011

    Thanks alan

  6. 9-8-2011

    “And they continued (on sundays at 10:30 and wednesdays at 7) in the (pastors sermons) and the (passing of crackers and grape juice once a month) and they (gave 10% of their gross income) so that (the paid staff could have a salary and the bills of the facility could be paid)”

    I love this!!

    Thanks Mike :)

  7. 9-8-2011

    And don’t forget to also look at Mark 16:15-20. It gives a detailed description of what the “Great Commission” was supposed to be. And these SIGNS…

    Mark 16:15-20
    15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

    19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

  8. 9-8-2011

    Good stuff! Thanks Alan … and Mike… and Suzanne, and Larry.

  9. 9-9-2011

    Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    -Alan

  10. 6-1-2012

    Nice stuff! I enjoyed your perspective. Very edifying.

  11. 6-4-2012

    Russ,

    Thank you very much!

    -Alan

  12. 9-8-2012

    Sorry Larry but Jesus never said that in Mark as Mark ends at 16:8. Great stuff Allen, followers of the teaching of the apostles where known as followers of the Way, or two Ways. Acts 2:42 is an ecclesiastical imtroduction. If you want to know what the teaching was the best, clearest example is found in the Didache.

  13. 9-9-2012

    Adrian,

    I find it interesting that you reject the longer ending of Mark because “Jesus never said that,” but you accept that in Acts 2:42 Luke was talking about the Didache, which was written much later. By the way, I think that the Didache is an important early Christian writing, but I don’t think it’s what Luke had in mind in Acts 2:42.

    -Alan

  14. 11-30-2012

    Hi Alan, Great post.

    A small question though that affects how you’ve understood and worded something throughout: what is it about the form of the periphrastic construction that leads you to say they were *continually* devoting themselves? Are you relying on the present tense-form of the participle? If so, what does that reflect about the model you are using to address aspect/tense/Aktionsart?

  15. 11-30-2012

    Andrew,

    Thanks for the comment. From what I’ve studied, the periphrastic participle construction is the most marked verbal construction in Greek when it comes to aspect. So, yes, I’m basing part of my interpretation on the use of the imperfective aspect in the participle in that construction. However, even the verbal root seems to indicate some type of continuation, perseverance, etc.

    -Alan

  16. 2-1-2013

    what a wonderful and succinct post…and so huge if we get it!

    Linked you here:
    http://davewainscott.blogspot.com/2013/02/pastors-preaching-or-apostles.html

  17. 2-3-2013

    Dave,

    Thanks for linking to my post!

    -Alan

  18. 9-11-2013

    good job!!!!!!!

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