Acts 2:42

ESV And they devoted themselves to the apostles ' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
NIV They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
NASB They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
CSB They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.
NLT All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper ), and to prayer.
KJV And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
NKJV And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

What does Acts 2:42 mean?

The new church has seen an influx of three thousand people in a single day. Many of them are from other countries (Acts 2:9–11). They have temporary lodging for Pentecost, but that may just be a bit of grass on the Mount of Olives. Jerusalem is used to seeing 900,000 people swell their ranks of 100,000—it happens three times a year at Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. But, eventually, the visitors go home. This time, many of them stay, and the city is unprepared to handle their need of housing and food.

The people have theological needs, too. Those from Judea, Samaria, and Galilee know something about Jesus and His teaching. It isn't so big of a leap to understand that this miracle-working teacher is the Jews' Messiah. They may even have heard the rumors that His grave is empty. But others are from as far away as Rome to the west, Mesopotamia to the east, Egypt to the south, and Cappadocia, on the shore of the Black Sea, to the north. Even if they had seen Jesus or John the Baptist in their occasional trips back to Jerusalem, they still don't understand who Jesus is or what He came to do.

The Israelites did not enjoy their four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. But God protected them in that time, provided for them, and allowed their numbers to swell to 600,000 men, not to mention women and children (Exodus 12:37). Now, He is doing something similar for the church. Within a few years, Jewish leadership in Jerusalem will persecute the Jesus-followers, driving them from the city (Acts 8:1–3). When that happens, the church will be numerous enough to survive in exile and the people will be trained enough to spread the gospel (Acts 8:4–8, 26–40; 11:19–21). In less than forty years, the Romans will attack, destroying Jerusalem and burning the temple. By that time, Christianity will have spread all over the Roman Empire.

The four tasks listed here create a special unity in the group. They are being unified in their beliefs, as they all receive teaching from the apostles Jesus trained. They spend their spare time and meals together, sharing everything they own (Acts 4:32–37). And their prayer unites them before God as they present their needs.

The minute details of the early church in Jerusalem are unique to this time and place. God's call for churches to be unified is not. We receive different spiritual gifts, but we are called to serve each other in the church (Ephesians 4:1–16) "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:2–3). Whatever the church looks like today, it is still called to have the same heart as the first church in Jerusalem.

Scholars debate as to whether "the breaking of bread" refers to the Lord's Supper or to communal meals—specifically, the first loaf of bread that is broken and shared at the beginning of a Jewish meal. Acts 2:46 suggests full meals were included. In the same way, it's unclear if "the prayers" means the fellowship prayed regularly, as in Acts 1:14, or the more formal schedule of Jewish prayers, as in Acts 3:1. Considering the early church members lived together and shared everything in common, it's reasonable to assume the verse refers to all of the above.
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