Acts 4:23-37 (web)
The Christians in One Accord
Praying for Boldness and Affirmation
and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.
4:24 When they heard it, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said,
"O Lord, you are God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them;4:31 When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were gathered together.
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
Having all things in common
Not one of them claimed that anything of the things which he possessed was his own,
but they had all things in common.
4:33 With great power, the apostles gave their testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Great grace was on them all.
4:34 For neither was there among them any who lacked,
for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them,
and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,
4:35 and laid them at the apostles' feet,
and distribution was made to each, according as anyone had need.
4:36 Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas
(which is, being interpreted, Son of Encouragement), a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race,
4:37 having a field, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.
The other thing which unites a community is a common sense of purpose. The Great Commission of Acts 1:8 and Matt 28:19,20 was the uniting purpose of the Christian community. But we will see this sense of purpose decline in the Jerusalem church to a degree. So also in the history of post-Biblical Christianity, for a long time the Great Commission had been abandoned, being set aside through deviant theology, but for more than a century now this sense of mission has been renewed in much of the Christian community.
The Predeterminant Counsel of God
If we interpret this to mean that God caused these people to crucify Christ in a puppet-like fashion, then it would appear that God hold's people responsible for things they have no control over. It is unfortunate that due I believe to deviant theology which has propogated through the ages, many Christians take that position. But such an interpretation makes God unjust and guilty. Indeed can puppets even be reckoned guilty. Thus to accept such a view, the concept of justice itself must be severly modified so as to both not condemn God and yet reckon puppets guilty. But a more reasonable interpretation is simply to reckon that God didn't cause people to sin, but rather arranged the circumstances so that people out of their free will would crucify Christ. For he knew how these men would react to certain circumstances out of their free will. But of course they would be held responsible for things they had control over, and in particular the decisions they made.
Boldness and Miracles
Ac 14:3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.Of course today we can point to the miracles done in the past to affirm the message. The fact that miracles become historical events the moment after they occur doesn't nullify their usefulness in affirming the message. But it is also not unreasonable to ask God for miracles today in the same spirit, given that one faces a good deal of opposition as the early Christians did. And thus while miracles of the quality done in the New Testament are rare in countries where religious freedom dominates, they are not uncommon even today in Third World countries where Christians face particularly harsh opposition. But being obsessed with miracles is also not appropriate in the Christian faith, for Jesus said, "Blessed is he who has not seen, but believes." John 20:29 (niv) This was spoken in rebuke to Thomas, who in fact had witnessed years of Jesus' miracles, but they were not sufficient for him. Thus though God provides sufficient evidence affirming the message through miracles, He might not provide overwhelming evidence. For there must be room for faith. And by "sufficient" I mean from God's point of view.
Mt 12:18 "Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles."In the same spirit it would appear to me that "servant" would also be the appropriate translation here in Acts 4, given that verse 25 refers to the Lord's Christ. (Anointed) However it is insightful also to consider that "child" often implied "servant". For in those days in that society children were in submission to their parents much as slaves were in submission to their masters.
Holding all things in common
But realize also the situation here in Acts called for special sacrifices. In view of the fact that the Christians tried to stay together, which for many meant surviving away from home, and as is apparent from the hatred and persecution these Hebrew Christians had to face in that society, there were many needs within the Christian community brought about by these circumstances. Thus the Christian community was reckoned a family, everyone contributing to its health. But also there was probably a sense of the imminent return of Christ and the coming of the Kingdom of God. As such person property was devalued by such faith as they held an apocalyptic anticipation of the future.
But this was not the same as is practiced in communism. For in Christianity gifts are voluntary. "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion." 2Cor 9:7 (niv) This will become an issue in the next chapter.
vs 36-37 These lead us into the next chapter as Barnabus's donation
is compared to the of Ananias and Sapphira. It was this Barnabus who later
introduced Paul to the Apostles and who travel with Paul on his missionary
journey's. Note this fact. For we will see a number of ordinary Christians
who serve and give generously become dominant figures in Acts. If you want
to be used by God in spiritual matters, first serve in practical matters.