It’s the time in history after the death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord. The promised Holy Spirit has been poured out, creating a rich gospel movement in Jerusalem. Peter and the eleven other disciples are known as the Apostles who have been performing signs and wonders in connection to their message about the LORD of all who the Jews crucified but whom God has raised from the dead.
In chapter 2, a large miracle occured with the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter preached about Jesus’ Lordship and the Spirit captured 3,000 souls for life that day. Then the church experienced a time of great fellowship and learning together (2:42-47). In chapter 3, a great miracle occurred with a lame man healed, Peter preached about Jesus’ being the Messiah who will bring refreshing and restoration one day – 2,000 more believers were added to the church but the rulers and authorities (chapter 4) came down on the apostles and ordered them, and threatened them to stop preaching in Jesus’ name. What we have in 4:32-37 is a similar end to the whole cycle which resembles 2:42-47. Are there differences? What is unique about this section which contributes to the overall narrative of Acts. Note that in chapter 5, we will see a different kind of threat to the church – not persecution from the outside but lies from within.
Verse 32 shares two attributes of the believers at this time: a) they were one in heart and mind and b) they shared everything that they had. I wonder if either of these statements could be true without the other being true? ie, one outworking of being truly one in heart and mind is that ‘things’ are just ‘things’ and the trust shared means that things are also shared. Put it the other way: to be willing and able to release your hold on the material things that you own and be so free to share it with a community of people, wouldn’t there need to be a unity in the church that could only be described as one in heart and mind? I suppose the alternative is a forced community that demands all things be shared whether you like it or not! The beauty of this community is that it was a oneness in heart and mind that drove the sharing.
Oneness in mind: the ESV (and the original Greek) uses the word for ‘soul’ or ‘life’ instead of ‘mind’. The description is capturing more than simply a shared phylosophy – like atheists or greenies or even protestants! But that the multitude of believers were at rest and peace with one another. This is one of the profound blessings of life with God and what He is determined to fulfill among us – read through Psalm 133; Eph 4:1-6 (and 7-16); 11 Peter 3:8-9 (and 10-12). Has Christ died in order for us to pursue our own gains separate from community? Or did Christ die in order to create gospel community?
“They shared everything they had.” Re-read Acts 2:42-47 and ask yourself if the picture is of nobody actually owning anything or if it is of everybody releasing their grip on what they own. Is there another way of seeing this? Verse 34 explained that “from time to time” people sold what they had and gave it to the disciples. I suspect that we’re reading here a reflective summary of what the community was like rather than a prescription of how to do community. This must of course challenge us. Our Western culture has thrived on individual success and material accumulation. Is there a way that our Christian community – starting with our Growth Groups – can repent and live differently? Here’s a couple of suggestions:
- Talk together generally about giving – be sure not to be competing with one another but it could be helpful to share the principal of how you give and share your wealth with others.
- Make sure your group has an understanding of what the church actually does with the offertory and income it receives.
- Perhaps discuss opportunites in your group to raise funds OR equipment/resources for a charity. The charity may even be someone in the church that you can seek to care for.
- Ask one another what channels do we use when we need help ourselves? We live in a country with a relatively caring and generous government – healthcare, centrelink and other systems are in place in our country to assist people. What role does the church play here amongst believers?
The principal of the church had not been moved: to bear witness to the risen Lord. Their testimony was given among the believers and to all who would come and listen.
“With great power” – this could refer to signs and wonders that have been accompanying the Apostles’ message but the context suggests that it is the boldness and courage that the believers prayed for in 4:29.
“God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.” This statment is followed by the description of sharing and caring with those in need amongst the church. ‘Grace’ emphasises the giving with no assumption of repayment at all. By Grace we have been saved – God has paid the price for our sins and we have contributed…nothing! We repay God…never. Christ died so that we could live – He was regarded unrighteous for our sake so that we could be called righteous in his name! God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. The multitude of believers who received such abundant love from the Father were so stoked to give to others in the same manner.
“That there were no needy persons among them.” The world is full of poverty and it has been pointed out somewhere that if every wealthy person would give a percentage of their wealth and shared it globally, then there would no longer be any world poverty – poverty would be beaten. I’ve heard somewhere that even if just the Christian churches showed generosity, then the world would be a much better place! I think this is a great challenge to the Christian church BUT I notice too that the description in Acts is not for the removal of world poverty but that all the believers were looked after.
34-35 are summaries of what has been described already and they also work to setup the next story in chapter 5 when we read of when this is all done for show and not from the heart. Verses 34-35, however, are driven from that oneness in heart and soul that only Christ can win over.
One example of this happening was from a man named Joseph. He sold a field and brought all the money from the sale to the apostles’ feet. The grace of God was so powerfully at work in him that he released his ownership on a field and shared it with his fellow believers.
This man was known as Barnabas – not Barabas who was the murderer released instead of Jesus – but Barnabas who was well known in the community of believers for his encouragement. This word ‘encouragement’ means to build up. Ephesians 4 is full of what it looks like to build others up. Barnabas was a man who looked for ways to encourage, strengthen and help others in life and in the faith.
This Barnabas went on to be a close missionary companion of Paul’s (Acts 9:27; 11:22-30; 13:1-3; 14:1-3; 15:1-2)
Receivers and believers in the grace of God have their lives tranformed by a gospel heart and soul. The grace of God brings salvation to the believer and a united community of saved believers.
- Where is your heart when it comes to money and material things?
- The teaching of God’s grace ought to lead to transformed lives of graciousness. This is gospel explosion. It doesn’t follow that generous giving makes you a Christian. Note the source of the generosity is the understanding of the gospel of grace.
- What needs are you aware of in and around the church community? Can you or your Growth Group jump into action to share and encourage?
- The parish are caretakers of property that we do not own – the diocese actually owns it. We have the responsibility to upkeep this property for the purpose of proclaiming Christ as the risen Lord. How can we take the principals of Acts 4:32-37 to work together to keep the gospel work progressing in the Campbelltown area?
Prayer for the week
God of grace and love, create in us hearts and souls that are driven by the power of the gospel. Deliver us from greed, selfishness and fear of the future. Give us a shared love for one another that stems from your love for us. Help us, dear God, to protect, encourage and love one another from the heart. Amen.