Acts 2 narrates the paradigmatic revival of the Christian church on the Day of Pentecost. There are three dimensions to that revival: (1) experiential, (2) evangelical, and (3) ecclesial. We have already studied the experiential and ecclesial dimensions of revival in some depth, so let us turn to Acts 2:42-47 and begin to explore the ecclesial dimension, that is, how people express their commitment to God through involvement in a local church.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he 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.
These verses speak of five concrete ecclesial activities:
The first is liturgy. Verse 42 outlines four elements of a worship service: teaching, fellowship, communion, and prayer (which in the first century included singing). Over the centuries, Christian denominations have developed considerable variety in their liturgies, but these four elements are present in some way in each and every one.
The second activity is expectation of the miraculous. Throughout the history of the church, Christians have witnessed divine signs and wonders in response to faithful prayer, just as the early church did (verse 43). Such signs and wonders are part of the gifts of the Spirit God distributes to the church (1 Cor. 12:9) in response to committed prayer (James 5:13-16).
The third activity is social concern. The early church developed organizational structures of voluntary giving and accountable generosity so that its poorest members would not have financial or material needs (verses 44-45). These organizational structures carried on the ministry of Jesus Christ to the poor, and whenever the church has recommitted itself to him, it has recommitted itself to them, whom Jesus loved and blessed.
The fourth activity is small groups. In addition to their Sunday liturgy, the early Christians in Jerusalem met daily for worship at the Temple (a practice which permanently ended when the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70). According to verse 46, they also met in one another’s homes to eat together, celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and worship together. Christian revivals have almost always included what 17th-Century German Pietists referred to as eccesiolae in ecclesia, that is, “little churches within the church.”
The fifth activity is evangelism. In verse 47, we read that the church grew as God converted people daily to the Christian faith. God is the Great Evangelist, but he used the words of Peter and uses our words today to catalyze people’s interest in the gospel.
Revival cannot happen without a vital experience of the Holy Spirit, a deep commitment to Jesus Christ, and regular participation in a Christian church. They are a chord of three strands that cannot—and should not—be broken.