Acts 4:31-37 | The Believers Were One In Heart And Mind

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The Believers Were One In Heart And Mind

By Nonso Ukeka

 

Acts 4:31-37

Key Verse 4:32

 

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.”

 

One day an elderly couple went to a fast food restaurant. The gentleman went up to the counter and ordered their food while his wife found a place to sit. He brought back to the table a burger, some fries, and a drink. While his wife took a sip of the drink, the gentleman carefully sliced the burger in half and neatly divided the fries into two separate piles. There was a group of teenagers nearby, and one of them observed this couple. Feeling sorry for them, he thought that they couldn’t afford to buy two meals, one for each of them. So, he offered to buy them another meal. But the older gentleman respectfully declined saying, “don’t worry young man, we’re used to sharing everything.” The woman began eating the food while her husband sat still, not eating. The young man watched the couple, feeling that there was something he ought to do to help. As the lady finished her fries, she began eating the burger; but he noticed that the gentleman still hadn’t touched his food. The young man grew increasingly concerned and approached the couple once more, “Sir, are you sure you wouldn’t prefer something else to eat?” The gentleman looked up, “oh no. Burger and fries are just fine with me.” “Then why aren’t you eating?” the young man inquired. The gentleman politely smiled, pointing to his wife, he said, “I’m just waiting on my turn with the teeth.”  “No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything.”

 

Now let me ask this question: What you do when you come up to a spiritual roadblock in life? Do you shrink back and allow fear to take over? Or do you lean further into the grace of God and overcome those obstacles? For the first time recorded, the early church had their first taste of persecution because of their faith in the resurrected Jesus. Peter and John had been unjustly imprisoned and spent the night in a cold hard cell because they told the crowd who it was that healed the beggar born lame. Then the next morning Annas, the High Priest of the land brought in his whole priestly family to interrogate John and Peter in an impromptu trial. They had already decided that these men were guilty and were intent on punishing the disciples. But purely by the grace of God, through the testimony of the beggar who was healed, they had to let these disciples go. They warned and threatened Peter and John to never again speak about Jesus nor to preach in his name. They could have said something like this: “We had Jesus crucified, so don’t think we won’t do the same to you!” After that, Peter and John went back to the church and shared with the rest of the congregation all that had taken place with them at the temple and the high priest’s court.

 

Suddenly now, the church found themselves in a precarious situation. Everyone had been living their lives believing in the name of the resurrected Jesus. All that they did was because of their faith in Him. They were devoted to prayer because of him. They ate, slept, and went around sharing this good news with the world around them because of Jesus. Now they hear that if they continue in their life of faith in Jesus, they too are in danger of being thrown into prison and possibly even killed. They had to make a decision. You know, this was a diverse group of people. There were the young and the old. There were the single folk as well as those who had families. There were young believers as well as mature old believers. The prohibition imposed by the high priest’s counsel was a tremendous obstacle for this young church. When conventional wisdom would compel any church congregation to worry or be afraid, what did this church community do? Look at verses 24-30. As we already saw, these beleivers chose instead to lift their voices in prayer to God. Let’s How great these men and women of faith were! Observe how God centered their prayer was. There was no complaint in their prayer about their situation. They weren’t vengeful. Nor did they even ask the Lord for relief. Not even one among them was worried about their lives or their job security, or their family, or their children. Instead, they entrusted it all to the Sovereign God. How could they pray like this? Because they trusted God. And because they only wanted to glorify God. This church truly loved Jesus, and wanted to fulfill the will of God. For that reason, they simply prayed: “Lord give us the boldness to proclaim Christ, regardless of the dangers of persecution.” It’s easy to see that what was on their hearts really reflected what was also on God’s heart, and so God was very pleased with their prayer. How then did God respond to their prayer?

 

Actually God didn’t hesitate to answer their genuine and God centered prayer. Let’s read verse 31, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” When the believers prayed, God answered their prayer by filling each of them with his Spirit. It’s as if so much power came into that room, which made the whole place shake, barely able to contain it. It’s as if God himself was eager and excited to answer their prayer. And when they were all filled, they did not just sit down and bask in God’s blessing. They went out and did exactly what God wanted them to do in the first place. They went out and began to speak the word of God Boldly to everyone. God gave them his Spirit in abundance this time in answer to their earnest prayer to continue preaching the word of God boldly and testifying to the name of Jesus. God emboldened them. It is truly encouraging that in spite of the dangers they would have to face, and the difficulty of their situation, they were still able and willing to boldly proclaim the gospel without fear in their heart, in the power of God. It is only the Holy Spirit who can enable us to overcome any obstacles of fear, or doubt, or worries or anxieties that often hinder us from testifying to the Lord and to his gospel. It is only by entrusting our lives into the sovereignty of the Lord’s hands that we can we can rise to Christ’s calling in life. And when we do so, we often discover that God’s blessings are much greater than anything we can ever imagine. Our ancestors the early church knew this by experience because they trusted him. They prayed and overcame.

 

The Holy Spirit did much more for the early church. Let’s read verse 32: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.” If you remember from the previous passages, some of the believers of the early church even grew up in different parts of the world and spoke different languages. How in the world could they possibly be of “one in heart and mind”? How is it that they could have such a deep sense of unity in such a large community? I can personally tell you that it’s extremely difficult for even three brothers who grew up in the same house to agree on the type of breakfast cereal let alone to be united yet here we see thousands of believers literally come together as one! This supernatural unity can only be achieved by the Holy Spirit, who binds the hearts and minds of those who have put their faith fully in Christ. This is not something that can be achieved through human effort. The Holy Spirit alone works to unify believers when he transforms their hearts and minds in Christ to make them one in him. Paul says: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:3-6)

 

It’s important to understand that unity does not mean conformity. We don’t have to look like one another and act like one another and speak like one another. We are all unique, every one of us. We all look different, sound different, think and do things differently. We all like different foods, have different taste in fashion, have different likes and dislikes. God made you the way you are, so that you can be a blessing to the church. Believers are one spiritual body where the hands bless the body by being able to grab, and the eyes help the body see, toes help the body just by being toes, yet they are all united by the same head, Jesus and bonded by the one Spirit. They are bound by the same goal— to ultimately reveal Jesus Christ— and so should it be for us who are also distinct and unique, but together are in Christ and live for him to honor and glorify him.

 

Look again at verse 32, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.” Luke gives us a sense of the depths of their unity. He tells us that “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own. They shared everything they had.” It’s important that we don’t overlook this. This is such a beautiful picture of unity. Think about it this way. How important are possessions in this world? Often possessions mean everything! Possessions give people a sense of significance— a sense of status— a sense of history— a sense of welfare and security! A people usually look to their possessions to provide them comfort, security, and even pride. Possessions in this world are so sacred that many laws are created around the issue of someone’s possession and how others should treat those possessions. It boils down to this: What you possess dictates a lot who you are in this world, and if you possess nothing then you are nothing in this world. So, we see that these believers made themselves as nothing by making no claim of their possessions, for the sake of their brothers and sisters. They were imitators of the True Owner of all things, who came down from heaven and lived here on earth with us as if he owned nothing! These believers truly had the heart and mind of Christ who “Made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:7). At a time when danger is constantly looming over their heads; when the inner self urged them to do everything within their power to preserve the self, to protect the family, to guard and hoard up all possessions, what did they do? They chose to give it all to God. These believers had the proper view of themselves and their belongings before God Almighty. They truly believed that God was the owner of it all, and for his glory they use all that He has given them. Essentially, possessions are truly sacred not because of what it does for us, but because it all belongs to God, and he wants us to use them for his glory.

 

Look at Acts 2:42-47. The fact is that the disciples were no strangers to sharing and caring for one another. They already had a sense of unity among them from the very beginning. But never before had they experience this level of unity and sacrifice. There is a common bond/unity that all believers share throughout the whole world, as part of the body of Christ. It comes from the love and gratitude we all share because of Jesus’ grace in our lives. But the unique bond that the disciples here share can only be born out of persecution they experienced as they struggled to live by faith. Luke was not making up words to sound poetic when he said, “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” He actually meant every word here without exageration. Through their struggle, the believers came to know and understand one another’s hearts, their minds, their goals and heart’s desires, the struggles and the personal sufferings they were all going through. This level of unity is rare among Christians today. How much do we truly know about our brother and sister’s burdens, struggles or needs? How do we respond? We shouldn’t fall for the world’s philosophy which says: “My struggle is mine alone to deal with, and your struggle is yours.” Instead we need to listen to Jesus who said: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) It is imperative that we understand each other’s sufferings and carry each other’s burdens. Like the early church who valued each other more than they valued possessions, we too must value one another above the things of the world. The Holy Spirit really worked to remove selfishness and self-centeredness from their hearts. May he continue to do the same with us. Amen.

 

Let’s see how God used them as they created this environment of faith and love. Look at verses 33-34a. “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Luke tells us that God continued to work mightily in them. Let us consider some more how these believer’s lives of faith was in stark contrast to the worldly way. The world way says: “Okay, I don’t mind doing God’s work, but first I have to take care of myself.” In other words, “I must prioritize my needs, and take care of myself first, before I can take care of the work of God, or anything else.” Genuine Christians fall for this deception too! But we see that this early church thought no such thing. Because they prioritized God’s desire in their hearts and took care of his work first, God made sure that no one among them was in need. This is truly a sample of the kingdom of God at work in them all. Through these believers, we get a glimpse of what it’s like to live in the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom, when we fix our eyes on Jesus, when Jesus is at the heart of everything, nothing else seems to matter anymore. When we live by faith in God and his word, with his kingdom always on our hearts, it is amazing how the logic of this world seems upside-down. Here’s an example of this wondrous truth! Jesus commanded his disciples to “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt. 6:33) In order to obey him, we really need to trust him and trust in his love and to know that he cares for my every need. Didn’t God create a garden, and fill it with all that his children Adam and Eve could ever need and want? And why? So that they won’t have to be concerned about the things of the world and in that way to be wholly focused only on God, and on the things of God! In the same way, with the church, God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that they were none who were needy. And this made their testimony about Christ even more powerful.

 

Let’s look at verses 34b-37. “For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” Luke gives us an example of how the disciples practically cared for one another. It’s amazing that people who have much would willingly and freely sell what they have in the interest of their brothers and sisters. They would go so far as to sell lands, even homes, to be able to support their brothers and sisters. They very much had the shepherd heart of Christ who, though the whole world was his own possession, lived as if he had “No place to lay his head.” (Mt. 8:20). Like their Lord and Christ who gave his life as a ransom for their sins, these redeemed saints deeply understood the value of Jesus’ grace in their lives. They deeply cherished the love of God. And so they were happy to give up what little or much they had in the cause of Christ in only it might serve his purpose and honor his glory. They did it because they valued Christ more than anything else in life. They did it also because they valued their fellow saints more than anything else in life as well. When they received the gift of forgiveness and were filled with the Holy Spirit, they knew that no earthly treasure could ever be worth more. And when they saw needy brothers and sisters, they didn’t hesitate to share with them what God in his mercy had made available to them.

 

As we struggle to live according to our calling as God’s people, may God help us to lean more on his grace, through prayer; to boldly share the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit; and to carry each other’s burdens through the grace and love of our Love Jesus. May God also help us overcome the prevalence of materialism in this generation and value Christ and the lives of all people above any possessions in this world. God bless you.

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