One of the most wonderful verses in the Bible is found in Acts 4:34. It says “There was not a needy person among them.” The early church in Jerusalem was described in this way. This is one of the most amazing ways to describe a church. What was their secret? How as it possible? Acts 4 gives us some principles that help us to understand how it is possible and how we can make it a reality in the church today.
We read in Acts 4:32-37 says, “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power, the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
From this passage, we can see three factors that contributed to the fact that nobody in this congregation was ever in need.
This passage begins with a declaration of the unity found in the community. It says that the believers were of “one heart and soul”. We need to remember that the church is filled with people from every tribe, every nation and every tongue. It is the image of diversity. People who were once strangers and even enemies all became believers. This made a difference in their lives! As a community, they began to trust one another rather than opposing one another. Bosses and servants became brothers and sisters. This congregation had no dividing lines and no cliques. They were one in heart and soul. They shared a common faith, a deep love for God and a deep love for one another, expressed in practical ways.
Luke then fleshes this out more by saying, “no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” Now it is important to point out that God is not calling all of us to give away all our belongings is a stretch. It would lead to all Christians declaring bankruptcy and living on the street. What Luke was describing was the outworking of the people’s love for one another. Jesus taught us that we were to love one another. Love is an action demonstrated in caring for the needs of each other.
Lastly, the end result is God demonstrates His power through the lives of the people. Again, the text says, “And with great power, the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. “ With the Ascension, Jesus conquered our biggest enemy, death. The early church realized that Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension meant that eternal life is a reality. This made them realize that everything on earth, including their possessions, were temporary.
These three factors enabled this congregation to share the things they had so easily held on to with others. Barnabas is one such example for us today. Anthony J. D’Angelo said, “Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.”
The church today has experienced years of spiritual impotence. The church in North America is on the decline. Passion for evangelism is waning. If it is our desire to see God work in and through us and to see people come to faith, I believe it must begin with our own desire to love and care for those around us. Am I advocating selling all of our possessions and give them to the poor just as Jesus did with the rich young ruler? No. But I am advocating Christians to be kind and caring toward each other and in doing so create an environment for God to work through us in reaching the world for Christ.