A Dependent Church – Acts 4:23-35 (pt. 6)

V. A Dependent Church Gives Generously (vv. 32b, & 34-35)

We have seen four 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 the God’s word; 4) a dependent church is unified.  Now in vv. 32-36 we will see that a dependent church gives generously.  Here Luke further describes the church by saying,

and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

To understand this passage we need to go back and remind ourselves a little bit about the situation that these people were in.  The church was filled with new coverts from every stripe of life.  Many of these people were very poor, and with the Jewish community persecuting them it would be hard to earn any extra money in the market place.  Additionally, many of the new converts were in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast, but when they repented and accepted Christ they extended their stay so that they could learn more about their new found faith.  This meant that there were a lot of people in financial need.  But look at how the church responded to this need.  No one held onto their own personal property.  Everything they had they made it available for service to Christ.  They understood that God was the one who gave it to them, and so they had no problem giving it back to God for the good of His church.  Because of this generosity Luke tells us that there was not a needy person among them.  This does not mean that everyone lived in the lap of luxury, or even that everyone was in the same tax bracket.  It simply means that everyone had their basic needs provided for.  Verse 34 tells us specifically that this was because some of the more well off believers were able to sell of land and give it to the apostle to be disbursed among the church. Thankfully the Lord saw fit to save some individuals who were in a more stable financial situation.

By the way, I want to set the record straight.  This passage is not teaching some kind of Christian communism.  As Calvin notes, “…he meaneth not that the faithful sold all that they had, but only so much as need required.” (Calvin, 192)  People still retained their possession, however they were willing to generously give up their possession when the needs of others required it. Kent Hughes further explains it, “If we focus on what seems to be the impracticality of this, or upon the seeming communism, we miss the point. Communism says practically, ‘What is yours is everyone’s. ‘Christianity says, ‘What is mine is yours.'”[1]

This kind of generosity can only come out of a heart that understand that God is the one who provides us with the material blessing that we have.  Or to put it another way, generosity comes from a dependent heart.  If we are depending upon God to provide for our needs then we will not fret giving away something the belongs to us.  The problem is that we very rarely view our money as a gift from God.  In fact, often times we depend upon our money rather than upon God.  We keep checking our bank accounts and as long as we have so much money we feel safe.  Or, we depend upon money to purchase the things that we think will satisfy our desires.  Either way we are depending upon our money, and when we do this it will be impossible to give generously.

What we must do instead is depend upon God to supply us with our needs, and then wisely use the resources that He has provided for us to serve Him.  Remember, whatever God has given you belongs to Him and He expects you to be a good steward of it.  He expects you to generously help your brother or sister in need.  And He expects you to regularly give to your church.  If you are depending on God then you will easily be able to do these things because you are not depending on you money.  The believers in Acts 4 were able to do this even though they were facing the kind of persecution that was eventually going to affect them economically, and they were able to do this because they were depending upon God.

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Acts : The Church Afire, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1996), 71.