A Dependent Church – Acts 4:23-35 (pt. 5)

IV. A Dependent Church is Unified (v. 32a)

So far we have seen three traits of a dependent church: 1) a dependent church prays, 2) a dependent church finds comfort in the Sovereignty of God, 3) a dependent church boldly proclaims God’s word.  In the v. 32 we will see that the fourth trait of a dependent church is that a dependent church is unified.  In this verse Luke is done recording the prayer, and now he begins to describe the church.  The first thing that he says about this group of believers is that “the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”  With this we learn that they were not only united in their prayer, but they were also united in heart and soul.  Or to put it another way, they were unified.

The terms heart and soul together simply indicate that they were unified in the entire being.  There was no part of them that was not unified with the rest of the church.  When I think of this it is quite amazing to me, and leaves me with several questions.  For instance, what does this kind of unity look like?  In response to this question Kent Hughes put it better that I can when he said that

This does not mean these believers saw everything eye to eye. It is wrong to suppose, as sadly some do, that when believers dwell in unity they will carry the same Bible, read the same books, promote the same styles, educate their children the same way, have the same likes and dislikes—that they will become Christian clones. The fact is, the insistence that others be just like us is one of the most disunifying mind-sets a church can have because it instills a judgmental inflexibility that hurls people away from the church with lethal force. One of the wonders of Christ is that he honors our individuality while bringing us into unity.[1]

As we pursue unity in our own church Hughes’ quote is very helpful.  We should not be looking for conformity to one another’s preferences.  Instead, we should accept the different ways that God has gifted each one of us, and seek to use those gifts together to serve Christ.  This is the essence of unity.  Unity is a group of individual who have been joined together through the work of Christ, and who are willing to set aside personal preferences in order to better serve Christ. The bible tells us that when the church is unified in this way there will be amazing results.  In fact, when Jesus was praying just before his crucifixion He made this request of the Father:

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. (John 17:20-21)

Here we see that the unity of the church is a testimony to the world that Jesus was sent by God as the Savior.

Another question that arises in my mind as I contemplate the unity of this early church is: where does this kind of unity come from?  I ask this in my mind because this kind of unity is difficult for me to pursue.  I don’t want to surrender my own preferences.  I would rather have everyone just do it my way, so this kind of unity is not going to come from within me.  In fact, this kind of unity is not going to come from within any one of us, it comes only from God.  This is why Ephesians 4:2-3 says “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Notice the it says that we need to preserve the unity, not create it!  This is because God has already provided it for us through the work of Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. REMEMBER, Unity is a group of individual who have been joined together through the work of Christ, and who are willing to set aside personal preferences in order to better serve Christ. You see, Christ died so that we could be forgiven of our sins and become a part of His spiritual body.  Additionally the Spirit has given each one of us individual gifts so that together we can effectively serve Christ.  This means that our unity come from God.  Or to put it another way, we must depend upon God for our unity.  When we are jealous of another persons gifts we are really failing to depend upon the God who gave the gifts.  When we refuse to humbly forego our own rights for the good of our brother we are really selfishly pursuing our own good rather than depending upon God to work all things together for our God.  I think you get the point.  Dependence upon God will result in unity.  This was certainly the case with this group of believers in Acts 4.  They were so busy depending upon God that they didn’t have time for disunity.  They were busy praying, preaching, and as we will see in a minute providing for one another.  They didn’t have time for disunity.  Rather, their dependence resulted in unity.

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Acts : The Church Afire, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1996), 69.