Essentials of Public Worship in Church (Acts 2:42)
The following is an excerpt from William Hendriksen’s excellent commentary series – “Baker’s New Testament“.
“Luke describes the beauty of the growing and developing church. He portrays the spontaneity, dedication, and devotion of the early Christians in relation to God in the worship services. In the last section of this chapter, he describes the church at formal and informal worship and its influence in the community.
Acts 2:42. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Notice these components:
The sentence “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” points to the fervor and dedication of the first converts to Christianity. They steadfastly turned to the apostles for instruction in Christ’s gospel, for Jesus had appointed his immediate followers to be the teachers of these learners (Matthew 28:20).
During his earthly ministry, Jesus taught with authority and “not as the teachers of the law” (Mark 1:22, NIV). Before he ascended, he delegated this authority to the apostles, who spoke in his name. Notice the double meaning of the term teaching. Extensively, the word refers to the good news of all that Jesus said and did. And intensively, the apostles were involved in the work of teaching an oral gospel to the converts, whom Luke calls disciples (learners) in Acts. We assume that this teaching was done especially at public worship services, where the apostles taught this gospel in their preaching.
Three words follow the term teaching. The first one, fellowship, describes the enthusiasm believers demonstrated in a common bond at worship, at meals, and in the sharing of their material goods (Acts 2:44). The Christians visibly showed their unity in Jesus Christ in the worship services, where they called one another brothers and sisters.
c. Breaking of bread.
Is this a reference to a meal in a private home (see Luke 24:30, Luke 24:35) or to a communion service? This question is difficult to answer. The context, however, seems to suggest that it refers to a celebration of the Lord’s Supper. In the Greek, the definite article precedes the noun bread and thus specifies that the Christians partook of the bread set aside for the sacrament of communion (compare Acts 20:11; 1 Corinthians 10:16). Also, the act of breaking bread has its sequel in the act of offering prayers (presumably in the setting of public worship). The words breaking of bread appear within the sequence of teaching, fellowship, and prayers in worship services. Therefore, we understand the term as an early description for the celebration of Holy Communion. In the liturgy of the Christian church, this celebration was and is usually accompanied by the teaching of the gospel and by prayers.
Literally the text has “the prayers.” Note that here also Luke uses the definite article to describe definite prayers uttered in worship; perhaps they include the formal prayers the Jews were accustomed to offer in the temple (Acts 3:1). In summary, the four elements Luke mentions in this verse (Acts 2:42) appear to relate to public worship: apostolic teaching and preaching, fellowship of the believers, celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and common prayers.”