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God’s Word for You

Acts 4:32-35 They shared everything

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Believers Shared Everything

32 The whole multitude of believers was of one heart and soul, and there was no division among them.  No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but everything they had was held in common.

“Multitude” here is plethos (πλήθος) from which our word plethora comes, “an abundance; a large population.” It is used for the singing army of angels in Luke 2:13, the “multitude of sins” in James 5:20, the “abundance of ill-gotten gains” in Micah 4:13, and the “multitude burned up in smoke” in Nahum 2:13. It is so often used as a military term that it is tempting to see the report given here in military terms, as we see in the numbering of the males in “groups of hundreds and fifties” in the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Mark 6:40). A plethos would be the word used when more than one whole army combined into a fighting force for battle. Here in another context, it meant a very, very large group of people.

This idealistic form of sharing possessions did not last long. A serious famine struck Judea and the whole “Roman world” during the reign of Claudius (41-54 AD), prophesied by Agabus in Acts 11:28. During the famine, the community was struck by severe poverty. While their faith was tested, this was an opportunity for the newly converted Christians in the distant regions of the Mediterranean, who had the opportunity to give contributions to help their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25; 1 Corinthians 16:3; Galatians 2:10). Here, the church shared what it had, like a family sharing everything without a single thought of who first had owned what. This attitude might be reflected in Paul’s words: “Those who buy something should live as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them” (1 Corinthians 7:30,31). If anyone needed something, the group shared. We will talk more about this ideal or utopian arrangement with verses 34-35 below.

33 The apostles continued to testify about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ with great power, and abundant grace was upon them all.

Here is God’s answer to their prayer in verse 29: “give your servants the ability to keep on speaking your word with all boldness.” Preaching to the multitude and teaching them in manageable groups was a daunting task, but God gave them the ability, the circumstances, and the wisdom to do so. No wonder the apostles favored Solomon’s Colonnade, where a large group could assemble with good acoustics and few distractions.

34 There was not a needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them and brought the proceeds from what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each one according to what anyone needed.

God said through Moses, “If there is a poor person among you… open up your hand to him and freely lend him enough of whatever he needs for himself. Give freely to him, and do not feel resentful about giving to him” (Deuteronomy 15:7,8,10 EHV). Some of the Christians who owned property even sold some and brought it to the apostles.

The reference to laying the sum “at the apostles’ feet” is the same as in Acts 7:58 and shows someone giving over responsibility to someone else. Here, the apostles took over the responsibility of using and distributing the gifts people gave; they did not insist that their gifts should be used one way or another.

This passage usually brings up a question in Bible Study about communism. Did the early Christians practice communism? Should Christians strive for communism today? No. There is no one form of government which is held up by Scripture as superior to any other. When the Israelites wanted a king, they were warned about the drawbacks of a monarchy (1 Samuel 8:11-12) but God regulated the reign of such a king (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). With regard to social status, Paul said, “Each person is to live in the situation the Lord assigned to him—the situation he was in when God called him to faith. Brothers, let each person remain before God in the situation he was in when he was called” (1 Corinthians 7:17,24 EHV). If you live under a prince and become a Christian, do not overthrow your government in order to become communist or capitalist. Give glory to God under whatever government you live, “for no authority exists except by God, and the authorities that do exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1 EHV). Whatever your circumstance, live to give glory to God, and share your faith whenever you can, beginning at home with the people you love.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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