In Acts 4:32-35, the Apostle Paul’s friend and physician, Luke, says this:
“And the [congregation] of them that believed were of one heart and soul: and not one of them said that [any] of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things [in] common. And with great power gave the apostles their witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. For neither was there among them any that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the [profit] of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto each, according as any one had need.”
In this passage, Luke describes the first church, which was in Jerusalem, as it was under the threat of persecution, and had just been given a greater empowerment from the Holy Spirit, so that it was speaking His Word with great boldness. This was the result of its prayer that it prayed together to its Sovereign God with Scripture and seriousness, asking for boldness despite the threat of persecution from being bold in speech. In this passage, the Holy Spirit provides at least 5 characteristics of this church that was speaking boldly, despite having been threatened with persecution for doing so:
- The Church’s Harmony
- The Church’s Heralding
- The Church’s Holiness
- The Church’s Helpfulness
- The Church’s Hierarchy.
In verse 32, Luke describes the harmony of the church. First, he describes the church as being a congregation, or gathering, of those who believed. What did they believe? The good news that God sent His Son to become a man without ceasing to be God, that this God-man died as punishment for people’s sins, that He was raised bodily from the dead, and that God commanded all people everywhere to change the way they thought, and to depend upon this God-man and this message about Him as the only basis for His forgiveness of their sins.
Luke then says that this congregation had 1 heart and 1 soul. By heart, he means the mind, so that they had 1 mind, or they were united in their thinking. By soul, he means the life, so that he means they shared 1 life, and were united in their living, as partners in life. Next, he says that not one of them claimed that anything they had belonged to themselves, but, instead, everything they had was common property. That is, instead of considering what they had to only belong to themselves, they viewed all they had as belonging to all of them, since they had one mind and one life.
In the first part of verse 33, Luke describes the heralding of the church. He does this by saying that the 12 Apostles, or those had been sent by Christ as eyewitnesses of Him before and after His resurrection, and to have authority in establishing the church through the preaching and teaching of the gospel, had great, or a lot of, power, in giving their testimony about the resurrection of the Lord, or Supreme Authority, Jesus, the God-man who saves His people from their sins. What does it mean that the Apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power? It means that they were being empowered by the Holy Spirit to testify to the resurrection, so that they were testifying to it with confidence, boldness, and outspokenness. In addition, it means that they were living their lives as if they had actually seen the resurrected Lord Jesus, so that they were living their lives to please and glorify Him, and were obsessed with Him and the gospel.
In the second part of verse 33, Luke describes the holiness of the church. Not only were the Apostles testifying to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power, but, he goes on to say that abundant, or great, grace, or undeserved favor from God, was upon them, or covering them, all. Who is the “all” here? It refers to the entire congregation of the church, including the Apostles. Why do I call this fact a description of the holiness of the church? Because holiness literally means separateness, or the characteristic of being set apart. This church was set apart by God to not only give them grace, but to cover them with abundant grace. This could also be understood as excessive grace.
In verse 34, Luke describes the helpfulness of the church. In doing so, he explains how he knows that abundant grace was upon all of the church members, including the Apostles — none of them was needy, since anyone who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the profits of the sales to the Apostles. So, what is the connection between the fact that none of them was needy, and that those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the profits to the Apostles? Anyone who had any potential need of money or living necessities were helped by the church by receiving money from it to prevent them from being in need.
Finally, in verse 35, Luke describes the hierarchy of the church by saying that those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the profits of the sales in front of the Apostles’ feet, and then they would distribute the profits to anyone that was in need of money for the necessities of life. Here’s a question: why did these people lay the money at the Apostles’ feet? First, notice that the Apostles were the ones who received the money, so that they were the ones who would distribute it to those in need. Why? First, because the Apostles were the most like Jesus, or spiritually mature, having physically followed Him for about 3 years. Second, they were appointed by Jesus to be the first leaders of the church, so that it was their responsibility to be the servant-leaders of the church. Recall that Jesus said, if anyone wishes to be the greatest, he must become least of all, and must become the servant of all. As the first leaders of the church, they had been given special authority by Jesus to be special witnesses of His, since they had lived with Him before and after His resurrection, so it was fitting that they be the ones to represent Him in caring for the needy.
Here’s a second question: why did they lay the money at the Apostles’ feet? Well, this probably is describing something that would have been done when the entire church gathered together, so it makes sense that, before the Apostles would determine how to distribute the money, they would have it placed in one spot, so they could get an idea of how much they had to work with. Also, it is possible that people were giving more money than they could carry at one time. Perhaps the distribution of this money even occurred during the gathering of the church in one place. Regardless of the details of how this occurred, it was the Apostles, as the leaders of the church, who were the ones to whom the money was given, and it was they who were the ones that distributed the money to anyone who had need for it.
So, are you believing in the gospel of the God-man, Jesus, His death for your sins, bodily resurrection from the dead, and the forgiveness of your sins through changing the way you think about Him and yourself, and by depending only upon this message for His forgiveness of your sins?
Are you the member of a congregation of those who believe the gospel?
Are you united in the way you think and in living with the congregation of which you are a part?
Do you claim that anything you have is yours alone, or do you consider your property to belong to your church family?
Are you giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power?
Is God’s abundant grace upon you because you are only depending upon His Son’s death for your sins and His bodily resurrection from the dead for His forgiveness of your sins?
Are you willing to sell your property to care for needy people in your local church?
Do you recognize that the pastor or other pastors of your church have the responsibility of making sure that your church’s money is only going to those in need of it?
Do you understand why you need God’s abundant grace? The Apostle Paul wrote about it this way:
“. . . I make known unto you brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-9
This is what the Apostle John said about the gospel in John 1:1-18:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. John beareth witness of him, and crieth, saying, This was he of whom I said, He that cometh after me is become before me: for he was before me. For of his fulness we all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
This is what Christ Himself said about the gospel:
“. . . God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:16-20
John the Baptist said this: “. . . he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on [stays directed toward] him.” – John 3:36
The Apostle Paul said this in Romans 2:4-16 and 1:18-32:
“. . . despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law: and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law; for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified; (for when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them); in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ.”
“. . . the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousnessof men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves: for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due. And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful: who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practise them.”
Speaking of those that practice sin, the Apostle Paul uses this quote:
“. . . There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God; They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one: Their throat is an open sepulchre; With their tongues they have used deceit: The poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness . . .” – Romans 3:10-14
This is my appeal to you, as written by the Apostle Paul:
“. . . we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20b-21
This is how you become reconciled to God:
“. . . if thou shalt confess [acknowledge] with thy mouth Jesus as Lord [Greek: kurios, or Supreme in Authority], and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him [depend upon Him]: for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [who He is, what He has done, and what He can do] shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13