32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
A COMMON LIFE
In our reading today an important Bible truth is highlighted. Acts 4:32-37 demonstrates for us that the outcome of the Spirit of God at work in a community's life expresses his presence not just in Word but also in deed, action. We also note that the Holy Spirit's influence in peoples lives results in service as well as witness, love for the community of believers, as well as testimony to the world.
If you think back a few days ago we looked at Acts 2:42-47 in which we saw the character of a spirit filled community. There we saw that the developing community was describe for us as a learning church, a loving church, a worshipping church, and an outreaching church. In our reading today, as in Acts 2:42-47 we see that the Community of Jesus is a close-knit group. In both these passages we hear “All the believers” (4:32; 2:44) …. “were together” (2:44) and “devoted themselves to the fellowship," (2:42) they "were one in heart and mind.” (4:32).
My suspicion is as we read these passages some of us react with “wow isn't that a beautiful expression a fellowship,” and others of us will react with “certainly this is not a prescription for the way we should do things now in 2021.” However, we respond to this section of Acts, I believe we will all agree that this community had a radical attitude toward their possessions. They “had everything in common” (2:44); “no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” (4:32b) Let me just say, it is not that the members of the community did not own property or continue to hold property, it is rather that no one claimed that their possessions were their own because in heart and mind they have cultivated a radical attitude toward possessions that said whatever I own is available to help my sisters and brothers who are in need.
If you look at our passage today you will also see this radical attitude toward possessions led to sacrificial action. “from time to time those who owned lands door houses sold them, and then put the sale money at the apostles’ feet" so that they might distribute according to need. Notice the description here the selling was voluntary and occasional, “from time to time” as the need for cash arose. It was this kind of response that resulted as we read above that “there were no needy persons among them.” (34a)
It seems to me that what we see here is that the community of Jesus is a “generous community.” This passage also stresses that the same power of the spirit that brought healing to a lame man, that gave bold power to the disciples up Jesus, is also the power the draws the community together that results in a radical generosity in which they hold all things loosely. It is the same power that moves Barnabas to sell his field and give the proceeds to the apostles to distribute to those in need. “the power which broke the bonds of death on Easter, shattered the division of speech at Pentecost, and empowered one who was lame now releases the tight grip on private property.” (Willimon)
In one the Churches I Pastored there was a man who lived this attitude of holding possessions loosely. He believed all he had was a gift from God and that these possessions then ought to put into God’s service in any way possible. One beautiful example of this was that God had blessed him with a new car, and immediately on a recipe card he wrote a note and posted it on the Church Happenings Bulletin Board. The card stated that he and his car were available to anyone who needed a lift to appointments or for groceries etc. I believe he understood the teaching and challenge of today’s passage.
For today's prayer I invite you to offer the words of the song below as your response to God's word today.