Friday, September 25, 2015

What does a gospel community look like?

Transforming Devotions in Acts

Act 4:32-37 NASB - "32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. 36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet."


What does is mean when a congregation is of “one heart and soul”.  It means that they think alike on the big issues and can agree to disagree in an agreeable manner on areas of disagreement.  They found their unity in the gospel of the Messiah Jesus and the teaching of the apostles.  In this they were all united and they considered these two sources of truth to be at the center of their outlook on life.  They were all passionate about learning, worshiping, praying, and being a community.   The resurrected Christ was at the center of their community as its head.  They were a community of grace that was saved by grace.

Part of what happened here were that those with financial resources sold them and this allowed the poor to be cared for by the church.  It appears that a good percentage of the brothers and sisters who were saved were economically challenged while others may have been among the “1%”.  The teaching that they were to love each other even as Christ loved them practically meant that sacrifices needed to be made to make sure no one was without food, clothing, and lodging.  Barnabas, the son of encouragement, is one of these wealthy people who sells property to equip the church with the ability to care for the poor. 

This was a type of simple volunteer communalism.  Some would have argued that Barnabas would have been wiser to provide jobs for people and keep the land since it would have continued to produce a profit year after year.  It is likely that the early church is thinking the return of Messiah Jesus would be soon and therefore were not planning strategically.  One could argue the Lord Jesus would have encouraged them to do just that in HIS parables (Matthew 25:14-30). [1] Christians have attempted things many times, often in imitation of what we read here.   Sometimes these groups became cults and many struggled financially.   One of the most famous of these groups would be the Amish.  This pattern was not followed in all the New Testament communities so was an optional arrangement not one demanded as a standard of life.   

What is not optional is that every Christian community has to be dedicated to caring for the physical needs as well as the spiritual needs of everyone in the community.  Care for the poor is the one of the best illustrations and examples of the gospel lived out since Christ became poor for us by leaving heaven and paying for our sins.  It is light of this great sacrifice that now we sacrifice for others (James 2). 

How should we then live?

What could we do to become of “one heart and soul” with those we go to church with?

What causes us to not be able to feel very close to those that we worship with weekly?

How could we make caring for the poor a greater priority and do it as an illustration of the gospel?


Lord, help us learn to love each other as you have loved us.  Make us one in you and know the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace found in the gospel.  Allow us to seek ways to help each other physically and spiritually so that the world would see in us a community of great mercy, grace, harmony, and peace.  Amen

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