Karl Barth on Acts 2:41-47

This Sunday our meeting for worship will be focusing on the last portion of Acts 2:

“So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:41-47 NRSV).

We will be reflecting on the text following the pattern of Lectio Divina. I look forward to how the Holy Spirit will speak to us through this passage. As I have been studying this week and thinking through this text I found these two quotes from Karl Barth which I deeply appreciate:

The continued existence of the Christian community implies constant “adding” of men [sic] to it ( v. 41). Seen from below, this means that … they enter into and belong to it … To enter into and belong to the Christian community is to step out of blindness and neutrality into the kingdom of God. Those who carry out their decision to join declare that they are aware of the kingdom of God, not as a spectacle which they may attend as spectators, but as an action by which they themselves are summoned to action. They bear witness that it concerns them, and that it does so in such a way that they must confess its occurrence by their own existence… This committal includes the fact that a man does not merely bind himself privately but that in accordance with his conviction he does so publicly, allowing himself to be addressed, together with all those who are in the same position, in the words which Peter was once unwilling to accept: “And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth” ( Mk. 1467). With this commitment a man fulfils the affirmation of the existence of the Christian community and thus partakes in its service. (III, 4, p. 491 f. The Active Life.)

What stands out to me specifically about this above text is the focus on entering into the kingdom of God where one is not a spectator but “summoned to action.” He says: “They bear witness that it concerns them, and that it does so in such a way that they must confess its occurrence by their own existence…” Finally, his statement about allowing ourselves to be publicly addressed, “allowing himself to be addressed, together with all those who are in the same position,” spoke to me as a deep call for unity and love among Christians.

Here was the second quote:

In v. 44 f. we read of a bold attempt by the most primitive post-Pentecostal community … There is only one other direct mention of this attempt, in Ac. 51f.. It has often been taken up since in different forms. But in whatever form can it ever have more than the significance of an attempt? It is worth pondering that the venture was at least made. And it will always be inevitable that there should be impulses in this direction wherever the Gospel of Jesus is proclaimed and heard. But it has never happened-least of all in the modern system called “Communism”- that even in smaller circles the way which leads in this direction has been trodden to the end. (IV, 2, p. 178. The Royal Man.)

I like that Barth says, “And it will always be inevitable that there should be impulses in this direction wherever the Gospel of Jesus is proclaimed and heard.” Oh to see this Gospel Order lived out in all our communities.

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.