The Devotion of the Early Church

small church

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. On Sundays, I do not include supplemental material, but I do post a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Acts 2:42–47 (ESV)

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Boldly Proclaiming Jesus Christ

Acts 238 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Acts 2:22–41 (ESV)

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up and began to preach. This is quite a change in Peter. Remember, he is the same person who had ran away when Jesus was arrested and then denied that he even knew Jesus. However, in the power of the Holy Spirit, he stood before the crowd and declared that Jesus was the Christ and that they had crucified him. When the crowd heard Peter’s words, they were convicted of their sin and asked what they should do. Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Then they too would receive the Spirit and be equipped to tell others.

The disciples went from being cowards to boldly proclaiming the gospel because of the power of the Holy Spirit at work within them. Their transformation is amazing! We too have received the Spirit and given all we need to preach the truth of Jesus Christ to the world. We have no reason to fear, but have been called to go bravely into the world and call for repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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The Gift of the Spirit

Acts 24 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Acts 2:1–13 (ESV)

1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus had promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to empower his disciples. In these verses, we see the fulfillment of that promise. It was a promise that God had made in the Old Testament Scriptures in Joel 2:28-29.

We read that the Spirit came in great power with the sound of a mighty wind and the appearance of flames. As a result of the Spirit’s coming, the disciples began to speak in tongues. This allowed the people around, who were from many different places and languages, to hear the disciples speak in their own native language. This was a supernatural ability to communicate in other languages!

The disciples had been told not to depart Jerusalem until they had received the Spirit. The reason for this was because they were not yet equipped and ready to go into the world with the gospel. Now they were ready. They had the Spirit and he would equip them with his great power. Since this day, every believer has been given the gift of the Spirit and empowered for the work of ministry. Jesus did not call us to go into the world in our own power and abilities, but in the power of God through the Holy Spirit.

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Casting Lots

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Reading the Word

Acts 1:12–26 (ESV)

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’;


‘Let another take his office.’

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Before he ascended, Jesus told the disciples that he would soon send the Holy Spirit to them. Until then, they were to wait. So that is what the disciples did. They gathered together and devoted themselves to prayer.

During this time, they realized that they were short one disciple. Judas had abandoned the group and hung himself. They needed a replacement. There were two men that fit the requirements of having been with Jesus from his baptism until his ascension. The men were Justus and Matthias. In order to decide between the two, they cast lots. The decision was Matthias.

I have heard it mentioned a few times that casting lots is the way decisions should be made in the church today. It has been argued that elders and deacons could be chosen in this way to make sure God’s choice is followed. However, I think this is a mistake.

There is nowhere else in the New Testament where the casting of lots is used or encouraged. In fact, throughout the rest of the New Testament, we are instructed to make decisions by bringing the matter before the church. We are to use the collective wisdom and discernment of the body of Christ.

It is important to note that the casting of lots was used in the Old Testament to aid in large decisions. However, with the events of Acts 2, there was a major shift taking place in the way God was working in the world. The Holy Spirit would be poured out on every believer to equip them for the work of the ministry. This was not the case in the Old Testament (or in Acts 1). Believers today have the Spirit at work within to guide in wisdom and discernment. As the collected body of Christ comes together to make decisions, we do so with the Spirit at work in our midst to guide and direct us. We have been given a great gift and a better way to make decisions than casting lots.

You Will Be My Witnesses

Acts 18 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Acts 1:1–11 (ESV)

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Yesterday, we finished our look at the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts. However, there are a few more verses that tell us about Jesus’ final days on earth. We find that information recorded in the first chapter of the Book of Acts.

Acts is the second book written by Luke, which is why he begins in the first verse saying, “In the first book.” Jesus had told his disciples that when he departed that he would send the Holy Spirit to them. Therefore, they were not to depart Jerusalem until that had taken place. They were called to be witnesses throughout the world, but they would not be properly equipped until the Spirit had come.

In the last moments of Jesus’ time on earth, the disciples were still confused over Jesus as the Messiah. They asked him if it was not time for him to set up his kingdom. After all, Jesus had been through so much. It must finally be time! Jesus’ response is one that we need to hear today also. He told the disciples, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The disciples were wondering about the future and the timing of the end. Jesus told them not to concern themselves with such things. God did not intend for them to know the details of such. Instead, they needed to concentrate on what they had been called to do. They were to be witnesses. They were to go into the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and proclaim the gospel. That is our task as well. We must not let other things distract us from the main task at hand. The world is lost and in need of Christ. We are the ones who are called and equipped to carry the message of salvation to all.

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The Ongoing Influence of Jesus

Luke 2452–53 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 24:50–53 (ESV)

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Understanding and Applying the Word

With today’s reading, we come to the end of our time reading through the life of Jesus Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts. After Jesus’ resurrection he spent forty days on earth revealing himself to different individuals and groups and making final preparations for the future of his followers. At the end of those forty days, Jesus departed and ascended into heaven.

We might think that with Jesus no longer in the world that his teaching and influence would fade and disappear. However, nothing could be further from the truth. After Jesus’ departure, his fame and influence spread quickly. His original followers went throughout the known world proclaiming all they had seen and heard and many believed. Even today, the name of Jesus is known and discussed throughout the world. There are many who still hear the news about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and believe. It is amazing to think how influential Jesus has been on our world. There is none like him!

The Bible tells us that those who hear the news about Jesus, repent of their sins, and turn to Jesus in faith, will be saved and have eternal life. He came into the world to give his life as a sacrifice for sin. He died. He was buried. And he rose from the dead in victory over sin and death. That is the Good News. He came to save us. Have you trusted in him?

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The Great Commission

Matthew 2819 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 28:16–20 (ESV)

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus prepared to depart this world and return to the Father, he left his disciples with instructions. He told them that they were to “make disciples of all nations.” They were to accomplish this through “baptizing” and “teaching.” When we read these words, we can summarize the task given to the disciples as evangelism and discipleship. Jesus used the term “baptizing” to summarize bringing an unbeliever into the faith. Baptism is the picture of that. Jesus then used the word “teaching” to describe the ongoing growth of the believer as they learn the word of God and how to live in the world.

As believers today, our task remains the same. We are called to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ to a lost world. In doing so, we will see unbelievers saved. As unbelievers are saved, it is then our responsibility to continue to teach the word of God so that new believers can grow to maturity. These twin callings are the core of the Christian life. May we go into the world as the people of Christ and proclaim the gospel.

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The World Could Not Contain the Books

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Thank you for reading Shaped by the Word. This page is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. On Sundays, I only post a suggested Scripture reading without additional comments or insights. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day!

Reading the Word

John 21:24–25 (ESV)

24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

You Follow Me!

John 2122 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 21:20–23 (ESV)

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Jesus had given instruction to Peter about what he was to do, Peter asked Jesus about what the future held for John. Jesus’ response can be summarized as “Don’t worry about what I have planned for others. Just make sure you are following me.”

In this short passage we are reminded that the Lord has unique plans for his people. We should not look to compare ourselves to others for our sense of worth or success. Our primary concern is not to outdo one another, but to focus on following Christ wherever he may lead us. Our faithfulness to him is what we are called to. The Lord may ask some of us to go to far away lands as missionaries. Others he may call to preach to megachurches of thousands. Still others he may lead to tiny country churches that only a handful of people attend. And he may call us to be stay-at-home moms, factory workers, farmers, or a host of other things. Whatever he has called us to, our main priority is to be faithful and do it for his glory.

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Do You Love Me?

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Reading the Word

John 21:15–19 (ESV)

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Jesus’ resurrection, there probably was no one more ashamed of their actions than Peter. He had promised to stand at Jesus’ side come what may, but when Jesus was arrested, Peter had run away and left Jesus alone. When Peter was asked by others if he was one of Jesus’ followers, he denied that he even knew Jesus. And Jesus knew this was the case. He had predicted it and had witnessed Peter’s actions. So, while Peter was happy that Jesus was alive, he was surely feeling great remorse for what had transpired.

Jesus spoke with Peter and asked him if Peter loved him. He asked him three times, which is the same number of times that Peter had denied being one of Jesus’ followers. Each time, Peter affirmed his love for Christ and each time Jesus instructed Peter to care for his followers. Jesus used these questions and instructions to encourage Peter that, even though he had failed, Jesus was not done with him. He was still very important to Jesus and he was still going to play a vital role in the days ahead.

We must not think that just because we have failed in the past that we are no longer useful to Jesus. We too can acknowledge our sin, turn our hearts to Jesus, and serve him with our lives. We all fail. Thankfully, we have a Savior who stands ready to forgive us and restore us. What a wonderful savior!

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