There is one other characteristic of the church mentioned in this paragraph. It was a witnessing or evangelizing church. That is why we find as we get to the end of the paragraph that the Lord added “to their number daily those who [were] being saved” (v. 47). This does not say specifically that they were out witnessing. But we know that the way God reaches people is through the spoken word and that when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, what happened is that those who received the Spirit immediately began to speak about Jesus. If we find, as we do at the end of this second chapter, that the Lord was adding to their number daily those who were being saved, it must have been because they were out witnessing.
How could they do otherwise? They had experienced something wonderful, the ministry of God’s Son. They had been present in Jerusalem when Jesus had been arrested, tried and killed. Some had been present when he died on the cross. They had in their number many who were witnesses of the resurrection. These were great facts and theirs was a great and life-transforming message. They had to share it with other people. How could they not?
Yet, as they shared it, they did not make the mistake of saying, as some do, “We are the ones bringing in the kingdom. We are adding to the church. This is being accomplished by our skill, our eloquence, and our power.” They knew perfectly well that they were only channels for what God was doing, only a means to the end that God Himself had determined. So they did not say, “We are building the church” but rather, “The Lord is adding to our number those who were being saved.”
There is a sense in which it is always both, of course. God works through us, which means that we must work. If we do not work at witnessing, nothing happens. If we do not pray, little happens. But when we do and when it does happen, it is because God Himself is working. To many people that sounds like a contradiction, but it is not a contradiction. It is good biblical theology. It is the way God operates. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians in a similar vein, saying to them, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12-13).
Not only was God saving people, He was adding them to the church. These two thing go together, too. Sometimes we say, “Well, let’s get out and witness to people, witness to them one by one.” We do, and God may save some. But then we let them go off and do their own thing, forgetting about them. That is not the way God wants it. When a person is brought to the Lord Jesus Christ, he or she is not brought to Him individually. People are saved individually. That is, people become Christians by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ themselves. They come one at a time. But when they come, they come into the company of God’s people, which is a way of saying that Christianity is never individualistic. God saved many in these days following Pentecost. But when He did, He added them to the fellowship of the church, and the church grew.
The final thing I notice is that, not only did God do the work of saving people, and not only did He add them to the church, He also did it daily. The text says, “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” That seems to have been a normal pattern then, and I assume it should be a normal pattern for us, too. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every day we had reports of those who have come to the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior?
John Stott makes an interesting point in his commentary on Acts.
Looking back over these marks of the first Spirit-filled community, it is evident that they all concerned the church’s relationships. First, they were related to the apostles (in submission). They were eager to receive the apostles’ instruction. A Spirit-filled church is an apostolic church, a New Testament church, anxious to believe and obey what Jesus and his apostles taught. Second, they were related to each other (in love). They persevered in the fellowship, supporting each other and relieving the needs of the poor. A Spirit-filled church is a loving, caring, sharing church. Third, they were related to God (in worship). They worshiped Him in the temple and in the home, in the Lord’s Supper and in their prayers, with joy and with reverence. A Spirit-filled church is a worshiping church. Fourth, they were related to the world (in outreach). They were engaged in continuous evangelism. No self-centered, self-contained church (absorbed in its own parochial affairs) can claim to be filled with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a missionary Spirit. So a Spirit-filled church is a missionary church.1
The world does not really know what it needs. It does not even know what it wants. But what it needs and wants (or needs to want) are those relationships.
1John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts: To the Ends of the Earth (Leicester, England: InterVarsity, 1990), 87.