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Acts 4:32-37, like Acts 2:42-47 before this, gives us a cameo of life in the early church. It’s a very positive picture, with all the believers united (‘one in heart and mind’ Acts 4:32) Their unity is expressed in terms of their commitment to share practically with each other to ensure that there was no one in need. John Stott comments that their ‘economic sharing was but one expression of the union of their hearts and minds.’ (John Stott, P 106) He goes on to comment that ‘their radical attitude led to sacrificial action’, something John later urged all believers to imitate (1 John 3:16-18).
It can be difficult to know how to apply these principles nowadays. We cannot compel this kind of action (it was not compulsory even in the early church, as Acts 5 makes clear), but neither should we dismiss it as unreasonable and impractical. We are still called to take care of the needy and to demonstrate sacrificial generosity (see Deut 16:4-5, 2 Cor 9:6-8). Both James and John make it clear that faith without works, faith which is not seen in action, is useless (see James 2:1-26). What comes through very clearly in these early chapters of Acts is a group of people united, committed to each other and seeking to serve God in practical ways. We need to be the same.
The example of Barnabas, practically demonstrating love and commitmen by selling a field and giving the proceeds from this to the apostles to use to bless others, is then contrasted with the example of Ananias and Saphhira in Acts 5. But that’s another story… to be told in our next Bible study!