Many churches have a sign that promises visitors a “friendly church.” Unfortunately, newcomers who venture inside some churches may discover that the church members really only like the people they already know. A truly friendly church will care deeply for every person who enters the doors. In its early days, the experience of the New Testament church was marked by an uncommon unity. As the church grew in numbers, so did the mutual concern of its members.
The church showed this unity of heart and mind in practical ways by caring for one another’s needs. They “shared everything they had” (v. 32). Luke’s observation that “there were no needy persons among them” in verse 34 seems to be an echo of Deuteronomy 15:4. There the Lord had promised that “there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.”
One of the ways they were able to do this was by selling land and allowing the apostles to distribute the proceeds among those who had need. Some have incorrectly characterized this as either communal living or communism. It was neither. These early Christians continued to live in their homes and own private property. The sale of land or houses was “from time to time,” as the need arose (v. 34).
Joseph, a Levite from Cypress, is singled out by Luke as an example (v. 36). His nickname Barnabas meant “son of encouragement” or “son of exhortation.” As a Levite, he assisted the priests in their duties. Later on, Barnabas would introduce Paul to the other apostles and become one of his most trusted associates (Acts 9:27).
>> How can we reflect the unity of the early church? Do you see someone living among you who is in need? How can you use the blessings God has given you, your family or your local church to help someone else today?
Dear God, we love the picture of church unity revealed to us in the book of Acts. Show us, we pray, how we can work toward the same unity in our local congregations—for your glory! Amen.