Read - Acts 4v32-37
Message - Scott Woodburn
At the end of chapter two Luke famously described what the church of Jesus Christ looked like in the days after Christ's Ascension. As chapter four ends he shows us again that these Christians were radically different from the world around them.
They were living and meeting in Jerusalem and by this stage of history that great city had known famine and hardship. The church of Christ would not have been immune from such difficulty and perhaps the outside world was curious to see how this "new" religion would react. The answer was that they reacted with grace.
These men and women had received Christ by faith and had been brought into the one body of the church. They had done nothing to deserve such an honour but instead they had received the grace of God in the Gospel. What is grace? Grace is God's unmerited favour to those who deserve His wrath. The Gospel had such an impact that these believers responded to hardship by holding everything in common (v32).
Did they join together in a big barn on the outskirts of town sleeping in bunk beds and rearing each other's children? No. We are not called by the Scriptures to such a life. There has always been a movement towards asceticism in the church. What's that? Some who earnestly desire a closer walk with God have done their best to remove themselves from the world and all of its sinful pleasures. Perhaps the most famous ascetic was Simon the Stylite who lived on a small platform at the top of a pillar for 37 years.
I'm as certain as I can be that Simon was a saved man but I see no call in Scripture for us to find our own pillar. The men and women in this passage owned private property (v34) and would certainly have continued to do so, but in response to the hardship of their brothers and sisters in the Lord, they sold such property and laid the proceeds at the feet of the Apostles (v37). They didn't retreat into splendid isolation. They didn't take vows of silence or chastity or poverty. Instead they met the needs of their fellow Christians with generosity and grace.
The Gospel changes attitudes and hearts and passions and treasures. Suddenly the field that has been in our family for generations doesn't compare to the treasure of knowing Christ. Quickly the home that we've spent thirty years building doesn't shine as brightly as Jesus. As Christians we know that our earthly treasures cannot be kept and so with glad and generous hearts we seek to meet the needs of our fellow saints in the household of God.
It was the American missionary Jim Elliot who was killed by those he was trying to reach with the Gospel. Days before his death he wrote in his diary "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." May the glory of the Gospel be reflected in our generosity towards others.
Q78 What is forbidden in the ninth commandment? The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbor’s good name.