“And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).
Every Christian dreams of finding a congregation with “one heart and soul,” but is it possible? Some congregations so deflate the gospel, while others openly engage in such flagrant hostilities and subterfuge among themselves that one has to wonder why they meet at all. Is the idea of a mutually loving, understanding, accepting, and supporting church real or just Christian fiction?
Remember that the church is God’s idea. Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost (Lk. 19:10). He laid down His life for the sheep (Jn. 15:10). He promised to build His church (Mt. 16:18). Jesus even prayed that His church would be one, just as the Father and He are One (Jn. 17:21). So, when He told the disciples to love one another as He had loved them (Jn. 13:34), He wasn’t engaging in wishful thinking. He meant it for them and for us.
Luke described the Jerusalem church as “the congregation of those who believed.” Surely there were false believers among them – the curious, the suspicious, hecklers, and others who followed the crowd to see a show, maybe catch a miracle or even a free lunch – but Luke was concerned with those who genuinely belonged to Christ, not just the merely religious. Those who believed truly were “of one heart and soul.”
Luke concluded the nature of their unity of spirit by witnessing their observable treatment of each other: “not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” No governmental decree could produce the kind of generosity they practiced. Their self-effacing benevolence displayed incontrovertible evidence of their heartfelt unity in fellowship.
When individual members of Christ’s church walk in fellowship with Christ, we can’t help but walk in fellowship with one another. When the Holy Spirit fills and empowers His people, walls of segregation and self-preservation crumble. We begin to look out for the weaker members among us. We look for needs to meet. We delight in caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
There are no cliques in the body of Christ. Factiousness is a mark of the flesh, not the Spirit.
Luke also deduced the church’s unity because “with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” Yes, they performed miracles, but they preached Christ robustly – not forcefully or aggressively, as playground bullies. As they made much of Christ, the Spirit convicted people of their sins and confessed faith in Christ as Lord.
When pastors, teachers, and others proclaim Christ fully and faithfully, the church grows in grace: “and abundant grace was upon them all.” Speaking the truth in love isn’t some Sunday school platitude for children; it’s vital to the health of Christ’s church. The truth without love is as grave an error as love without the truth. Both are necessary.
By the way, the truth isn’t always harsh. Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). That’s mighty sweet medicine.
I’ve been blessed many times to see the Holy Spirit breathe life into a spiritual cripple who began to comprehend the depth of God’s grace and walk by faith, being strengthened in the inner man. Crowds don’t generally gather, but I’m convinced the angels erupt into choruses of praise that would shake the earth every time one of God’s little ones takes that first tentative step of faith trusting God in ways they’d never imagined before. It’s truly a joy to behold.
More evidence of the abundance of God’s grace on His church at Jerusalem was seen in the fact that people didn’t just give tips and loose change when the plate was passed: “For all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.” The haves in the body of Christ shared their blessings with the have-nots in grand fashion. They didn’t just give leftovers. They gave the very best they had. No one was left out.
They sacrificed to ensure that every member of the church knew that he or she mattered.
Yes, the congregation at Jerusalem was of one heart and soul. It really happened and it really can happen. In fact, it does happen in ordinary churches of the risen Savior. I pray it happens with you.