Radical Discipleship, Continued Membership

Temple in Jerusalem
". . . continuing steadfastly with one accord in the Temple . . ."

They continued steadfastly in the emissaries’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and prayer. Fear came on every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the emissaries.

All who believed were together, and had all things in common. They sold their possessions and goods, and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need. Day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. The Lord added to the assembly day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

This snapshot of the early disciples’ lives is incredibly revealing—and, when we look deeper, even a bit shocking.

That these new disciples dedicated themselves thoroughly to the teachings of Yeshua’s emissaries (apostles) shouldn’t really surprise us anymore, right? Except when we realize that these 3000 new disciples were Jews from all over the world who had come up to Jerusalem to visit for the pilgrimage feast, doubtless intending to stay only for the week of the Feast or perhaps a short time longer. And yet they all stayed for an extended period of time to learn the Word of Yeshua, to fellowship with those who had walked with Him, and to dedicate themselves to prayer.

Small wonder that they had to share all things in common, since many of them would have quickly started to run out their funds. (And nary an ATM in sight!) Imagine setting aside some money for a weekend retreat and then finding yourself staying on for months longer to learn from a great teacher, delaying your return to your job and even family, being supported by your fellow brethren for the duration out of their own funds and life savings when yours ran out.

Another shocking thing–at least to many of my Sunday brethren–is found in v. 46: “[they were] continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple.” What? Didn’t they realize that Yeshua had condemned the Temple? Didn’t they know that the Cross had rendered all of the Temple sacrifices superfluous at best and “crucifying Christ all over again” at worst?

Apparently not. Nor was this simply a misunderstanding on their part, since thirty years later taking Nazrite vows and making the requisite sacrifices at the end were apparently quite common among the Nazarines (Acts 21:23-26, see our article on Hebrewroot for more details). During his trials, Paul himself stated that he had returned to Jerusalem for the express purpose “to bring gifts for the needy to my nation, and offerings . . .” (Acts 24:17). The word for “offerings,” prosphora, always refers to the offerings of the Temple service, never to monetary alms. So it seems that the Jewish followers of Yeshua did not distance themselves from the Temple service—as corrupt as the priests were—at all in the way that, for example, the Essenes did. Rather, they saw the service as transformed and about to be wholly transferred into heaven when the earthly Temple was destroyed (cf. Heb. 7:12, the word “changed” meaning “transferred,” not exchanged).

How does this connect to how we modern-day disciples should live?

First, we need to be prepared to sacrifice time, effort, and even wealth in order to pursue “the emissaries’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and prayer” together—and to help other disciples to do the same. One of the wonders of the internet age is that we can find good teachers and study under them at far less cost than our ancestors and predecessors could, so we certainly are without excuse. However, the internet does not allow us to break bread and fellowship together in a true sense—and that we must still seek out.

But secondly, the behavior of these disciples towards the Temple is a valuable lesson to us. All too often, those seeking a deeper understanding of the Word and who discover that they may not be getting perfect or complete teaching in their existing bodies can become disillusioned to the point of breaking off fellowship. Some wander from assembly to assembly looking for one that agrees with their understanding of the Scriptures and which will take them deep into the Word—and fail to find it. We can become very insular, putting ourselves and our light under a bushel.

All of that goes triple for Messianics, btw. We’re probably the worst of all in this regard.  In fact, counteracting this tendency is one of the driving forces behind the “two law” segment of the movement (the other being a concern for Jewish identity).  While some of us disagree with the proposed solution, we have to admit that there is a problem.  But that’s a subject for another time.

Here’s the point for today:  If the disciples did not separate themselves even from a corrupted Temple, one whose leadership had put their King to death, nor from the Judaism of their fathers, what excuse have we to withdraw ourselves from the churches and synagogues of our day? Should we not do as our spiritual fathers did and stay and teach the truth of Scripture until and unless they kick us out?

I think so. There may come a day when the churches will be Babylon and we will have to withdraw from them completely, but the call to “come out of her, My people” has not, I think, come yet (just as the call to flee Jerusalem had not come to the disciples yet), and if we can by our presence encourage others in the Word and in prayer, then we will be following in the footsteps of those who truly sat in the dust of our Master’s feet.

Shalom

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