ACTS 4:37 SEPTEMBER 25, 2016
“UNITED IN HEART AND MIND”
Earlier this month we had prayers for the nation as we remembered the 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001. As many of us remember the aftermath of those days you might recall how united the nation was for a few weeks. For that brief period the nation was of one heart and mind. Alas, that unity of spirit lasted only for a short period before humanity returned to a self-centered focus. In much the same way we believers read this passage of how the early church was once united in heart and mind. How far we have fallen from those early days! Revelation 2:4-5 (NIV) “4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Let’s take a look at this period when the church was united.
Luke had earlier described how the early church operated. Acts 2:42-45 (NIV) “42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”
This time Luke provides more detail. Acts 4:32 (NIV) “32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.” This unity flowed naturally to the church as all of the apostles were united with one purpose. Acts 4:33 (NIV) “33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.” As we discussed last week the church united together in prayer asked for boldness to speak about the resurrection of Jesus Christ to one and all. Being united with a common purpose united around one goal brings about powerful results. This resulted in meeting one another’s needs. “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.” Everything we possess is a gift of God.
What does it mean to be a follower of Christ? Again we must return to Jesus last command. Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV) “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” A Christian is given two commands (duties). The first is for each of us to be an evangelist, to tell others about Jesus Christ. The second duty is to obey the commands of Jesus. The church devoted itself to the apostle’s teaching so they were learning what Jesus expected of them. Acts 2:42, 44“42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”
This passage is not speaking against private property; neither is it speaking for communism. Communism is a system where the government demands and controls every aspect of a person’s life. The emphasis here is on taking care of each other’s needs by a willing individual. Acts 4:34-35 (NIV) “34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” Believers still held personal property, such as owning a home, as in Acts 12:12 it mentions Mary the mother of John Mark having people come over to her house. This passage in Acts 4 is referring to those more wealthy individuals who owned additional lands and homes besides their primary residence.
The language of “laying the funds at the apostle’s feet” may sound odd to us. But it was used as an indication that the person was giving it to the church as a freewill offering to be used wherever the apostles knew there to be a need. We do the same thing with the pastor’s discretionary fund which is used to take care of needs inside and outside the church.
Luke gave a positive example of one who had sold property and laid all the funds at the feet of the apostles. Acts 4:36-37 (NIV) “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.” Luke in mentioning Joseph introduces him as he will later become the companion and fellow evangelist with Paul. Acts 13:1-2 (NIV) “1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
This passage highlights the importance of the church being united in heart and mind with one purpose. Other scriptures which support this can be found in: Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV) “1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Ephesians 4:3 (NIV) “3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Romans 15:5-6 (NIV) “5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We are called as Christian disciples to be obedient unto Christ. Right? This means that we must continually strive to follow the teachings of Christ and the scriptures. Our main purpose is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. In so doing we will be united together with like minded believers, taking care of one another, which includes assisting one another as we have need. I am proud to be your pastor as I see this church endeavoring to reach out to others, especially with the kid’s bible club. (20 students signed up so far). We also do a good job of bearing with one another’s burdens and needs.
We will never be perfect in our obedience to Christ. However, this truth is not to be used as an excuse to get off track. We are called to proclaim Jesus Christ and then to look after one another as our Father gives us the ability to do so. You are doing well! So let’s keep focused on loving and serving our Lord Jesus Christ with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Let us pray.