44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts
Note that “they had all things in common.” Does this mean they practiced communism? No, they practiced community—the sharing of things. Just like today, there were those in the first church who had plenty, and those who were in poverty. There were those who owned things; and those in need of things. Those who owned things sold it and gave it to the needy. That is not communism. Rather, that is community. The owners were not forced to share, which is communism. They sold it voluntarily, which is community.
Actually, this is nothing new. It was the practice of the Israelites in the OT. It is the command of the Lord. Deut. 15:7-8, 11 says:
7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother,
8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be
11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”
The first church obeyed this command. They practiced sharing their goods with the needy in church. They did not rely on the rich members to provide for the poor members. They all shared their goods to the needy brethren in church.
To provide for the poor in church is to love in action, and not just in words. John wrote in 1 John 3,
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
One day Jesus told the rich young man, “Go, sell all your possessions and give it to the poor and come, follow me.” The rich young man turned and walked away. He loved his money more than Jesus. Then Peter said, “We have left everything and followed you.” They took Jesus’ teaching literally. They literally left everything—father, mother, brother, sister, and yes, their lands, and followed Jesus (Matt. 19:16-30).
They did the same radical thing in the first church. They gave up their goods and gave it to the needy in church. I call that “radical community.” They practiced radical community. The radical thing is that they obeyed Jesus’ call to give up their goods and give it to the poor.
That is what is lacking in many churches today. We are good in worship. We are good in preaching. We are good in building nice buildings. We are even good in getting members from other churches. But when the poor in church need money, we are not good in sharing with them. Instead, we are good in closing our eyes and ears to them.
The problem of believers in many churches is covetousness. Because we are covetous, we find it hard to be generous. We want to hold on to our goods. We don’t want to give up our goods and give it to the poor. It is a problem of the heart, which is the heart of the problem.
If we should practice radical community, we must be willing to obey Jesus literally. We must forsake the sin of covetousness. We must give up our goods and give it to the poor. Sell that extra car and give it to the poor. Sell that extra cell phone and give it to the poor. Give your extra clothes to the poor. Then the people watching you will begin to wonder what in the world is happening in your church. Actually, it’s not in the world. It’s out of this world—the kingdom of God ruling in the hearts of believers in church.
At GGCF, every December, I invite everyone to look inside their clothing cabinets. I encourage them to bring out the clothes that they don’t need any more. Nice used clothes, not unusable clothes. You will be surprised to see that you have more clothes than you need. I urge the folks to bring it to church, gather it in bundles, and give it to the poor.
The day will come when I will open a big bed sheet in the center of our church meeting. I will invite all of you to throw in your extra jewelry, your extra money, your extra car keys, and your extra watch.
At GGCF, we have a budget item for mercy ministries—for members who are sick and with sky-high hospital bills, victims of calamities, etc. Last March, a GGCF member lost their home to a fire. We gave a special offering for the fire victim. But that falls short of what they did in the first church. They sold their goods and gave it to a fund for the needy. Can we do that at GGCF? If so, I assure you that there will be no needy person in church. People will be amazed at how we really take care of each other.
“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 4:46). The word, “together” from the Greek, homothumadon, is an interesting word. It means, “with one mind or purpose.” (Gingrich) I like the KJV translation, “with one accord.” In the temple and in their homes, they were of one mind. They were united in purpose. In Acts 4:32, they were “one heart and soul.” They were united in Christ. This spiritual unity is driven by the Spirit.
I’d like to see this in GGCF—one mind and heart for each other, for the gospel, for the kingdom, and for the glory of God. Is there spiritual unity in GGCF Bacolod? Do you gather for corporate worship and in the homes? Do you share your things for the needy in church? Let us practice radical community!