Acts 4:32-37 describes the early community of believers in Jerusalem. In this study, essentials of communal living are looked at with particular attention to unity in mind, belonging to the Church as covenant community of givers and keys to giving that meet practical needs in the community of believers.
The church as covenant community of those united in mind (Acts 4:32)
Acts 4:32-37 pictures essentials of communal living. The first characteristic is that the early community of believers were united in mind. Jeremiah 32:39 portrays unity as a distinguishing characteristic of the Holy Spirit’s activity in the New Covenant. It is most probable that the unity of “one mind” described in Acts 4:32-37 alludes to 1 Chron 12:38-39 that describes the beginning of the Davidic kingdom. For the passage portrays that whole nation is of “one mind” to make David king, as demonstrated in their eating and drinking together for three days with David. Unity of mind does not mean there was no differences in opinion. It could be said that differences of opinion are inevitable among human personalities and can actually be helpful if handled well. The passage therefore brings out the importance of spiritual unity. For it is this virtue that brings out loyalty, commitment, and love for God and his Word. This means that without spiritual unity, the church could not survive.
The church as covenant community of givers
The passage shows that none of the early believers felt that what they had was their own, so they were able to give and share, thereby eliminating poverty among them. The idea was that they would not let a brother or sister suffer when others had plenty. In this light, concerning our possessions, Christians should adopt the attitude that everything we have comes from God. And so we are to share what is already God’s. Again, worth noting here is that the early church was able to share possessions and property as a result of the unity brought by the Holy Spirit working in and through the believers’ lives.
Keys to communal sharing
Worth noting here is that this way of communal giving is different from communism as practised in secular countries. The keys to the faithful sharing in the community are that, in the first place, their sharing was voluntary. They did not give out of compulsion.
Next, the giving did not involve all of their private properties. They gave as much as what was needed. The case in point is what Barnabas did. Last but not the least, the giving was not a membership requirement in order to be a part of the church. However, they gave because they saw themselves as saved and belonging to the covenant community of believers.
The spiritual unity and generosity of these early believers attracted others to them. Worth emphasising here is that this organizational pattern about the early church is not a biblical command for every Church to follow. Rather it offers vital principles for the contemporary Church to follow.
- How can we be one in mind in our local churches?
- To what extent can we learn from Barnabas in order to be faithful members in the community of giving.
- Giving is not a requirement to be part of God’s Church. But one cannot claim to be part of God’s church but fails to practice giving. Discuss.