Opening Our Hands: Christian Unity & Generosity Part 3

Read Part 1, Part 2

Sermon Series- The Acts of the Apostles: The First Thirty Years

Acts 4:32-27

Now that we’ve dispelled the clouds of guilt that were forming above our heads as we read today’s passage, let’s admire the beauty of the statement on its merit. “32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” The Church in Jerusalem is not a single worship community. It has to be divided into districts of some kind by now. They started as 120, meeting in an upper room. But God has blessed their labor. As I’ve stated in the last two sermons, there are somewhere between 5,000 and 25,000 or more in the Church. I don’t think I am underselling it when I say this is an incredible work of the Holy Spirit of miraculous proportions. It competes with making the lame walk. God desires to bring unity through the Holy Spirit in the Church today too, but I hope we can appreciate the situation and their need for this type of unity at this time. How can 12 govern 5000 or 25,000 people? The New Covenant has brought a change in how the Church is to be governed and none of that structure is in place yet that we can tell.

As the Church grows, it will need more governance, even with the power of the Holy Spirit working at this high intensity. Again, two chapters from now, we’ll see new officers come about, deacons, because there will be a strain on the body. Saul’s persecution will bring the first martyrdoms and the dispersion of the apostles out of Jerusalem too. Phillip will take the Gospel to Samaria, and Saul will turn to Christ. Saul becoming Paul will mean that the entire New Covenant project will become not just multinational but multi-ethnic. We are in the calm before the storm. The countdown for the launch has begun. We are getting a glimpse at a beautiful moment of peace and unity in the early history of the Church.

I don’t think we are looking at some communist prototype when the Scripture says, “and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” We live in an era of ideology. During the New Testament period, forms of civil government were fairly straightforward. Nations were extensions of the family. They were ethnically based. Kings were the rule; they were “first” fathers. The ancients reasoned that if fathers possessed a divine right to rule in the family, then, by extension, God had divinely appointed the father of the greatest family to lead the nation. Ideologies like communism didn’t exist. Only a post-Enlightenment person would come to that conclusion because we are ideologically based now. There was no “political philosophy” in the first century. The verse gives context to what it meant to be of “one heart and soul.” (vs 32) Their hearts, homes, and hands were all open to each other. 

We can look into the next chapter to see evidence that this is not proto-communism. When Ananias lies about the price he sold his property for, Peter reminds him that he didn’t have to sell it. And then he tells him that he didn’t have to give it to the church after he sold it. “3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4) The New Covenant doesn’t negate the Law of God. The 8th commandment says, “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15) You cannot steal what is not owned. The 8th commandment assumes the virtue of private property, and the Gospel doesn’t change that. What it does change is the hearts of men. The Holy Spirit indwells us and fills us with love for our brothers and sisters. That is one of the marks of authentic faith.

1 John 2:9-11

9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

What does living in the light and loving our brother look like?

1 John 3:16-18

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Further, our generosity towards each other demonstrates, not only our love for each other, but also our thanksgiving to God for all that He has supplied for us.

1 Corinthians 9:9-13

“9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,”

Beyond that, giving is one of the New Covenant forms of sacrifice too.

Philppians 4:15-18

15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

Look for Part 4 tomorrow!

Blessings and may God be with you!

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