Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah. When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brother, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
– Acts 2.36-47, TNIV
This description of the earliest disciples of Jesus life together (v. 42-47) following the Apostle Peter’s most famous sermon has always intrigued me. The description is the outcome of the response to Peter’s challenge in v. 36 to accept Jesus of Nazareth as both Lord and Messiah The response to the challenge from Peter was to accept the call to repentance and baptism which came with the promise of forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The life of these disciples is a direct result of what happens when the gospel is truly understood, when both grace and the powerful presence of God through the Spirit are truly received.
One of my big theological interests is how Christian eschatology (present and future hope, salvation, redemption, etc…) shapes our ecclesiology (formation of the life and practice of church). This week as I was preparing a sermon from the above passage, I ran across a great statement by George E. Ladd who discusses this very interest. Ladd suggests that what Luke is summarizing for us is what a Christian community looks like that has been shaped by Christian eschatology (the realization that their future victory in Christ is already a present reality that now shapes the formation of Christian life). Ladd writes:
The early Christians were conscious of being bound together because they were together bound in Christ. They were an eschatological people not only because they were called to inherit the eschatological Kingdom but because they had already experienced the blessings of the messianic era. In a sense, their fellowship was a foretaste of the fellowship of the eschatological Kingdom, displayed in history in the midst of Judaism. It was inconceivable that a believer should be such in isolation. To be a believer meant to share with other believers the life of the coming age, to be a believer in fellowship, to be in the ekklēsia.
The connection between the abstract theology into practical theology may not be easily apparent in most contemporary English translations where there is usually a division existing between verses 41 and 42 which may subconsciously allow us to read v. 42-47 apart from its proceeding verses. Ladd helps us to see the eschatological dynamics taking place here that give shape to the life and practice of this early Christian community. It is also important to remember that such a community cannot exist without the acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Messiah which assumes a call to repentance and baptism.
The question we face today is what do we do with a passage such as this? The challenge to accept Jesus as Lord and Messiah and the call to repentance and baptism has always been accepted as normative for the formation of church. However, the rest of the practices have been a challenge. Do we practice the contents of v. 42-47 with literal precision? Or do we seek the intent of the passage but recognize that such practice will vary from culture to culture? Rather than reading this passage as a formulaic set of rules on how to do church, Hays suggest we need to read this passage as it is given to us – as story. In reading the passage as a story, we are asked to “consider how in our own communities we might live analogously, how our own economic practices might bear witness to the resurrection so that those who later write out story might say, ‘And great grace was upon them all.’”
I offered the quote from Hays because I happen to agree with him (that’s a real surprise☺). For those of us from the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, we have always struggled with how literal our practices must be to live as faithful recipients of the grace we have received. I would suggest our call is not necessarily to restore the same form in Acts 2 but instead, as a community that has accepted Jesus as Lord and Messiah and has embraced the call to repentance and baptism, to be vigilant in allowing the victory we have received in Christ to form our community. When this occurs, I suggest that we will be a community that has restored the intent of v. 42-47 even if the form would not be an exact replica of the first century description. In the meantime, as Hays suggest, let’s read and re-read this story and allow that story to stir our imaginations as to what it might look like in our own culture if we allow our victory in Christ to shape the life and practice of our Christian community.
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Acts of the Apostles, Sacra Pagina (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1992), 60.
 George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), 388.
 Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation; A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1996), 302.