Unity in the Body of Christ

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 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. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Acts 4:32-35

After the things which we have seen in the last few sections, Luke gives us a glimpse into the lives of the believers in those early days. They lived in unity of purpose and of mind; they were generous, holding back nothing in their devotion to the Lord and each other. As we can see, those who had means often put their means at the feet of the apostles who used the resources to ensure that no one in the community of faith had unmet physical needs.

It should be observed by all that those donations from the sale of assets were entirely voluntary, for nowhere in our text are we told that anyone directed anyone else to dispose of an asset or give for the needs of others. Rather, we can rightly infer that those who made such gifts did so entirely of their own accord as the Lord led them to do so. Another thing we should note here is that there were believers of substantial economic resources and those with little or nothing in this world within the Body of Christ at that time, and since the text is clear that they lived in unity in “heart and mind” they were not divided along socioeconomic lines, a concept as radical in the first century as it would be today; perhaps even more so.

Luke adds a specific account of this generosity and in this case he mentions a name:

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. (4:36-37)

Here we are briefly introduced to Barnabas, of whom we will see much more later in the book. There is an interesting note here that we might not want to miss, for Luke notes that Barnabas was a Levite. The Levites served in the temple, and were not permitted to own property and so we must infer either that this practice was not observed in the first century or that Barnabas might have owned the property he sold through marriage, or perhaps that the non-ownership of property was only applied to those living in Jerusalem; as usual, scholars debate these things. Whatever the case was, Barnabas demonstrated his devotion to the community of believers and the leadership of the apostles in his act of generosity.

Barnabas also stands in marked contrast to what happens next in Luke’s narrative…

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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2 Responses to Unity in the Body of Christ

  1. BT says:

    Unity
    The Natural State of All Things In God

    Unity is the natural order of anything which pertains to God in the Spiritual world. Where God rules, Unity is. It is not something to be attained by works rather it is the natural state of anything that is submissive to God’s Spirit. Jesus prayed that we may be ONE as He and His Father are. Jesus did not strive to be ONE with His Father for that ONENESS is who they are. If we are in Him the natural expression is UNITY. It is the Lie and the desire of self that prevents that which is in heaven to be so in the earth. Men do not want to give up their positions, their churches, fellowships, ministries or their very selves in order to see God’s end in the earth: the ONE Body. Unity is the fruit of the heart of Jesus and the whole purpose of salvation is expressed in us “being transformed, by the renewing of our minds” until we are freed from the fallen nature into the mind of Christ. (Read each verse in the same Spirit which inspired it).

    2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
    3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
    4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
    5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
    6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
    7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
    8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
    Philippians 2:2-8

    How can we read this and not feel the piercing of His Holy conviction? How do we reconcile the thing we see in the land today with such deep and powerful words? We see every day, everywhere the contradiction of this within the household of faith. Men and women ostracizing others, declaring this is our church, our beliefs, our teacher (pastor, evangelist, prophet or apostle). This is not the language of the New Testament nor of the Spirit of God! It grieves God’s heart for such things to even be spoken. Yet many of God’s people feel no pangs of sorrow, no grief of soul and are even comfortable with the arrangement.

    “The prophets prophesy falsely,
    and the priests bear rule by their means;
    and my people love to have it so…”
    Jeremiah 5:31

    This is nothing new for where there is no change within the human heart there will always be this comfortable arrangement. Jeremiah precedes this verse with a telling description of the environment which is conducive to this horror.

    “Now hear this, O foolish people, even you without heart, who have eyes and do not see. who have ears and do not hear. Do you not fear Me, declares Jehovah? Will you not tremble before My face, that I have placed the sand as the boundary for the sea by a never ending decree, so that it cannot cross over it? And though they toss themselves, yet they cannot prevail; though its waves roar, yet they cannot cross over it. But to this people there is a revolting and a rebellious heart; they have turned, and are gone. And they do not say in their heart, let us now fear Jehovah our God who gives both the former and the latter rain in its season; He keeps for us the appointed weeks of the harvest. Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withheld good from you. For among My people are found wicked ones. They lie in wait, as one who sets snares. They set a trap, they catch men. Like a cage full of birds, so their houses are full of treachery. On account of this they have become great and grown rich. They have become fat; they shine. Yes, they pass over the deeds of the evil; they do not plead the cause, the cause of the orphan, that they may prosper. And they do not vindicate the right of the needy. Shall I not visit for these things, declares Jehovah? Shall not My soul be avenged on such a nation as this? An astounding and horrible thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their hands; and My people love it so…”
    Jeremiah 5:23-31(LITV)

    The reason things do not change is because His people are comfortable with the status quo. The preachers preach a comfortable gospel, the people pay them to do so, there is no conviction, reproof or exhortation in the land. We are not pressed to forsake our carnal ways and the way of the world..

    There can be no unity to those who walk in the strategies of the carnal mind, “for the carnal mind is not subject to the law (and reign) of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7-8). Unity will only be known by those who walk, live and dwell in His Spirit. They who insist on their own way, who love the pre-eminence and the control where God’s people meet will never know of the blessing, power and glory of God in our midst.

    Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
    Psalm 133:1-3

    The unity brings the anointing, the power and the blessing.
    Ω

    “The Church, during the apostolic age, did not consist of isolated, independent congregations, but was one body, of which the separate churches were constituent members, each subject to all the rest…”
    – Charles Hodge

    Brian Troxel
    http://www.aword.info

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