October 18/19, 2014
The disciples rightly saw that that their number one priority was preaching Jesus to a needy world. These disciples didn’t have the same weakness during these prayers as they had when Jesus asked them to pray regarding His persecution (Luke 22:39-46). They voiced a fresh appeal for God’s grace and acknowledged that God, not they, was doing a spiritual work. The same kind of filling (control) of the Holy Spirit came upon them and it resulted in them speaking the word of God with boldness.
Jesus made it clear that with His arrival came the arrival of a new kingdom on earth – God’s Kingdom. He instructed His disciples to proclaim that, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7). His people are always to model His Kingdom to the world. We are to portray what it looks like to worship the One True God. When we are brought into Christ by faith, we are a part of a kingdom that is not of this world. We are to work, under the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring this kingdom of heaven to earth – Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
Today’s text gives us a powerful glimpse of the early church. This passage mirrors the same description that Luke recorded in Acts 2:44-45. The results of the powerful work of the Holy Spirit caused believers to totally change the focus of their life energies. These were radical and counter-cultural patterns and ways of life. Look at the characteristics that marked them:
Unity of Heart & Soul
In the Gospels, the disciples often quarreled among themselves and were corrected by Jesus. In Acts the twelve are a unified group and this unity spread to the entire church. In verse 32 Luke says, “the full number… were of one heart and soul”. Their loves, hopes, and passions joined – “they had everything in common”. What joined them was not simply a common affiliation to the church. The unity was a spiritual unity, and a passionate commitment to a mission.
Community life is never the end in itself; a vibrant community is a community in mission. Later, the Apostle Paul insisted that the unity of heart and soul described here must be the norm for every Christian community (Philippians 2:2; Ephesians 4:3; Romans 15:5-6).
Our text is sometimes interpreted “with one mind” or “with one accord”. This unity is not based on common feelings but on a cause greater than the individual. Today, a church must have a clearly articulated mission of boldly proclaiming the Good News of Jesus in their own unique way, but if it is not embraced by each individual and solidified in relationship, it will be anemic in fulfilling the Great Commission as charged by Jesus. A commitment to a local church, without a commitment to relationships that are unified around boldly proclaiming the message of Jesus, is merely empty religion, narcissistic, and useless to the kingdom that Jesus came to establish.
Sharing and Possessions
Material possessions and our financial resources have always been a key obstacle in spiritual life (1 Timothy 6:10). Relationships among Christ-followers are often likened to family – brothers and sisters. Our relationships with one another are a spiritual reality. This oneness and unity of heart and soul extended to their possessions and finances.
Some (not all) voluntarily sold property and gave either some or all of the proceeds to the Apostles to distribute to those in need among them. The goal was to abolish poverty within the church and thus facilitate the proclamation of Jesus. This required some extreme sacrifices of many.
Generosity to others and the mission of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus marked the early church and should mark us as well (1 Timothy 6:17-19; Hebrews 13:5; Hebrews 13:16; Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:33; 2 Corinthians 8:2-5; 2 Corinthians 9:6-12). If you do not exhibit a tangible expression of generosity towards the poor and the proclamation of the gospel, your life is not reflecting the natural response to the Holy Spirit’s work. Living with extreme generosity screams the values of God’s Kingdom to the world. It demonstrates God’s ways and stands in stark contrast to the selfishness of the kingdoms of this world.
Keeping the Priority of Witnessing
Community life is never the end in itself; a vibrant community is a community on mission. This is expressed by the gather and scatter rhythms of the early church and should be modeled in today’s local church expressions. Verses 32 and 34 are about sharing possessions. But sandwiched between them is verse 33 about testifying and witnessing about the risen Christ. Why?
The care and maintenance of the group was not the primary consideration. Above everything else, this was a community of people that witnessed and testified. This commitment and focus is why “great grace was upon them all”. It would have been easy for the early church to focus on consolidation and inward organization and service after its initial growth – but the mission given by Jesus would have lost its place of priority.
Luke is very careful throughout the book of Acts to show that the early church was radically committed to witness to the realities of the facts of the gospel, the uniqueness of Christ, and the eternal consequences to the world that these facts create. Every chapter, except 27, says something about evangelism.
Today, churches and Christ followers can become very inward focused rather than outward. We came become focused on our own needs, wants, desires, and preferences. We often chase after that which will feed us, inspire us, comfort us, encourage us, and meet our needs. When we are focused on the needs outside our walls, we will have “great grace” upon us. Unity and generosity will flourish. God’s kingdom is focused on those who yet to come into the grace and love of the Father expressed through Jesus.
We are sent to show God’s Kingdom!
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the new commandment “love your neighbor” (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
Discuss the Message
Read: Acts 4:32-37
Take a moment to describe what this “everything in common” must’ve felt like to those inside this group or looked like to those outside this group.
Have you ever experienced a time when you felt the sense of community on mission like this? What caused the community to feel and act that way?
How would God have you leverage your property, resources, money, influence, family, position, etc., for His Kingdom purposes? What is the most difficult area of your life to give to God?
How does the Gospel show us the most gracious gift that makes our gifts to God pale in comparison?