Sharing a Common Life | Spirit Filled Community, pt. 7
We just talked about the Spirit Filled Community, and how they were constantly Sharing Their Lives.
Now we’re going to follow the Early Church a step farther than sharing their lives. We’re going to see how they are marked by Sharing a Common Life. The Passages we’ll look at are considered to be the 2 great summary statements of Luke. This is what the Early Church is known for.
Before we get into these passages, I want to quote from a great Christian Philosopher.
Aristides was recognized as a great by other great Church Fathers
About A.D. 125, a couple generations after Christ, he wrote about the Church:
“They walk in humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them. They love one another. They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. Whoever has distributes liberally to whoever has not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof, and rejoice over him as if he were their own brother: for they call themselves brothers, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit of God. When one of their poor passes away from the world, and any of them see him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability; and if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs, and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him. And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy, and they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.”
This is about 100 years after the Church began.
Aristides reports that the Church is still Sharing a Common Life
What Luke and Aristides describe is a Church marked by giving and sharing, but it is far more radical than that. People are committed to the needs of the Church over their own.
Are we really willing to sacrifice for the Church?
Are the needs of the Body important to us?
I. COMMON GOODS
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
Signs and Wonders
It is important that Luke links “wonders and signs” to this radical community. Here the miraculous is connected to the common life. In Acts 4.33, the power to witness and preach is part of unity.
The power of God follows the unity of the saints.
There would be no Pentecost in Acts 2 . . .
if it weren’t for the unity of the saints in Acts 1.
Unity invites the power of God to move and the power of God produces unity.
More Than What is Required
This is not a regular Church with tithe-payers. Tithe is required. If you’re not tithing, you’re robbing God (Malachi 3.8-10).
What the Church does is far more radical than tithe.
They “had all things in common”
That means everything that they possess.
The word “common” is koinos. We have talked about “fellowship” – koinonia. The word common or koinos is a root word of “fellowship.”
They fellowship with their finances and goods, real sharing.
They Share Voluntarily, Not Out of Guilt
There is no record anywhere of the Apostles begging for money.
They “had all things in common.”
The Primitive Church “sold their possession and goods.”
They “parted them to all men.”
They Invest with Eternal Returns, Rewards
“Those who have received liberty set aside all their possessions for the Lord’s purposes, bestowing joyfully and freely not the less valuable portions of their property, since they have the hope of better things [hereafter].”
Sharing Forms Community
The only other group like this that we know of is the Essenes. We’ve discussed the Essenes community discipleship. They are also known for their communal sharing, of everything.
“An Essene-like discipline was established by the whole community, with believers selling their properties to give to the poor and sharing their goods in common.”
This is definitely a different mindset, even for their day.
“The Spirit had created in them a stronger consciousness of membership in the group than of individual identity, and so they viewed their possessions not as ‘mine’ and ‘yours,’ but as ‘ours.’”
They have a different mindset. It’s NOT – “What’s yours is MINE and what’s MINE is MINE.”
Thinking in terms of us, not me, is completely foreign to Western Mentality.
II. COMMON GROUND
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Again, the Term “one accord” is Used
It can mean: having one mind. But it also means: having one strong emotion, or one passion. They had COMMON GROUND.
Here the term “one accord” is linked to their common life. We can say we’re in unity. But until we’re living in unity, are we really in unity?
They Literally Have COMMON GROUND
They are “in one accord in the temple.” This refers to the actual Temple in Jerusalem. But it can also refer to the local synagogues, where they gather. Although they are the Church, they go to Church together.
They are “breaking bread from house to house.” Home groups didn’t start as a Church fad in the late 1970’s early ‘80’s. As we open our homes to each other, we open our arms to each other.
COMMON GROUND draws others in (Acts 2.47).
III. COMMON COMMITMENT
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. (Acts 4.32)
In the Koine Greek this verb is in the imperfect tense. The action of the verb is continual, it keeps happening.
As Luke summarizes the community activity of the Church in Acts 2 and 4, Luke is using the imperfect tense.
They “were continually of one heart and of one soul.”
“No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own” (NIV). They gave in secret. They kept the secret.
Do we give with a dual-motive, recognition, personal rights?
They kept on having “all things in common.” Luke uses this type of language throughout both Passages. Giving a one-time gift is one thing. A Continual Commitment is quite another, a lifestyle change.
There was not only a draw to the community, but spontaneous waves of giving. The common life quickly became an identifying mark of the Primitive Church.
“the multitude of them that believed”
“The apostles can proclaim the gospel to any who will listen, but it is through observing the life of the Christian community that many people are convinced of its truth.”
“Again the commonality of possessions is expressed, but this time against the background of an intense unity of spirit: one heart and one soul. It would be hard to imagine a more graphic or amazing statement of unity, because many thousands of people were involved.”
The Church will be attractive to outsiders if they see us sharing in community.
IV. COMMON TRUST
And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
Again, Luke links the power of God to the common life.
A Banking System, A Trust
People sell their goods. They give the proceeds to the Apostles. The Apostles share the finances with all.
In effect, they form a banking trust.
They organize a community system, with money and goods.
Trusting in the Apostles
The system grows so large, thousands of people become involved.
The Apostles eventually give this system to the new Deacons (Acts 6).
It must be a high priority to organize the finances of the Church.
What’s wrong with organizing the Church to meet needs? Budgeting?
When organized the right way, it builds trust in the Church and leadership
Trusting in God
Ultimately, as we share we are not giving to men, but to God.
“Then, as you know, believers sold their possessions and brought the prices of them and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: a symbolic act designed to shew that men must trample on covetousness. But the Lord yearns for believers’ souls more than for their riches.”
Jerome uses the phrase “trample on covetousness” elsewhere. When we share, we kill our desires to covet, our greediness. When we share, it is ultimately an act of worship to God.
“In the world the Christians are a colony of the true home.”
pic credit: jaefrench | 01.03.17 | pixabay
For more writings on the Kingdom of God CLICK
- Howard A. Snyder, Kingdom, Church, and World: Biblical Themes for Today (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1985), 80.
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies IV.XVIII
- Dale T. Irvin and Scott W. Sunquist, History of the World Christian Movement, Volume I: Earliest Christianity to 1453 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009), 25.
- Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1985), 1040.
- Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 178.
- J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 315.
- Jerome, The Letters of St. Jerome: To Lucinius
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost Of Discipleship (London: SCM Press, 1959), 243.