They Had All Things in Common

Acts 2:44 – And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

Acts 2 gives us an account of the beginnings of the church, God’s kingdom as prophesied for thousands of years. At the end of chapter 2, we see this new church gathering together, praying together and worshipping together. Then we see them freely and gladly sharing their possessions with one another.

They had “all things in common,” Luke wrote.

I want to consider this phrase and connect it to other things that are said in this context in Acts 2. They certainly had a mindset that all things they owned were to be shared with their brothers and sisters. But where did that mindset come from? What brought such an attitude in people that led them to freely and gladly share anything they had with the others?

Because they had all things in common! Let’s look at the context around that phrase to see that this new congregation shared more than possessions.

They Had All Things in Common.

  • They had in common their brokenness before God (Acts 2:36). Each one of them had crucified the Savior and Messiah. The sin, guilt and shame before a holy and just God was shared by each person.
  • They had a common need for a Savior (Acts 2:37). They all were cut to the heart. Each one of them recognized the need for salvation and turned to Jesus. Every person in this group knew that Jesus was the only way.
  • They had a common entry into the kingdom (Acts 2:38,41). Each one had gladly received the word, repented of his or her sins, and was baptized into Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of those sins. Young or old, rich or poor, male or female, they had all obeyed the same gospel.
  • They had a common practice (Acts 2:42). This new congregation of saved people “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Each person in this group had committed to doing it God’s way. He or she had also committed to be with those who were like-minded. They spent time together and prayed together. They sang together and took the Lord’s Supper together. As a group they committed to following the apostles’ teaching because it came straight from their Savior, Jesus Christ. An intimacy developed in this group, didn’t it?
  • They had a common attitude (Acts 2:46). Collectively, this group was glad and generous in their hearts. Each person stood in awe of the power of God as it was displayed through the miraculous working of the apostles (Acts 2:43). As a church their hearts were full of praise for God (Acts 2:47).

So, why did the church lovingly and willingly share possessions with each other? Because they shared the same heart. They truly had all things in common.

Lost The Power Forever

I’ve never read, “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens, so we ordered it. We are currently reading this short story. We’ve watched a lot of movie versions of the book, the kids’ favorite is the Muppet Version.

As we were reading it the other night, we came to the part where Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s old friend, came from the dead to visit Scrooge. As Jacob Marley is about to depart, Scrooge sees tons of spirits moving through the sky, moaning and crying. They are crying because they had the opportunity to do good for their fellow man and did not do it. Now they are dead and they have to roam the earth to see all the misery they could have helped to relieve.

Here is a quote from the book:

Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity. He looked out.
The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a doorstep. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power forever.

Think about that statement, they sought to interfere in human matters but had forever lost the power. While they were alive they had the opportunity to intervene in the human suffering around them, but chose not to do so. Now it is too late for them. Sad, isn’t it?

What about us? We have today, and we have opportunity.

James 4:13-17 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

One Work

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
(Ephesians 4:11-12)

As I was growing up, I was taught about the 3 works of the church: evangelism, edification, and benevolence. I’m not intending to talk against this, because those are the works the New Testament congregations were involved in doing. As you read about the local churches in the book of Acts and in the letters, you see the churches carrying out those works.

However, today’s thought is to help us remember not to compartmentalize things in our mind, always trying to keep these works in separate boxes. These works are all connected. When you help/visit a widow and minster to her needs, you are doing benevolence, of course. But are you edifying at the same time? Yes, she is edified, you are encouraged and built up by her faith and trust in Jesus, and maybe the person you took with you to visit that person is encouraged as well. Are you doing evangelism in this work, too? What about the widow’s neighbor who notices what you are doing? Is it possible that you are preaching Jesus by your labor of love for the widow? It’s not only possible, it is exactly what you are doing, according to Jesus.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:35)

As a congregation takes care of its own (benevolence), it displays the love of Christ to the world (evangelism), and builds up the brethren (edification).

As you look at the verse at the beginning of this post (Ephesians 4:11-12), you see that elders/shepherds, evangelists and teachers are given by God to “equip” the brethren to serve, so that the body of Christ can be built up.

It’s one work.

What it means to visit

James 1:27 tells us to visit the orphans and widows in their affliction, but what does it mean to visit someone? We are going to look briefly into how God visits us, and it will help us learn a lesson on what it means to visit others.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27).

How God Visited us

God is praised by David in Psalm 8 for “visiting” mankind. David asked, “What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you take care of (visit) him?” This is quoted in Hebrews 2:6 to show that God cared for us and “visited” us by sending us Jesus.

Our Lord examined us with His loving and divine eye, and knew that we needed redemption. He saw the need and took care of it, at great cost to Himself. He did not look at humanity and say, “Boy, those guys are in bad shape, somebody should do something about that.”

“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people…” (Luke 1:68-69).

This Greek word for “visit” is used in many other places in the New Testament to praise God for visiting us with a Savior (Luke 1:68,78; 7:16; Acts 15:14).

What it means to visit

I remember being taught this concept by an elder in Columbus, Ohio, named Jeff. He told us about how the word “visit” means to scrutinize with the eyes. Jeff took us with him on visits and he showed us how to visit. For example, you go visit a widow who is struggling. You see that she can’t pay her bills. Her lawn mower is broken down and she can’t mow the yard. She has very little food in the fridge. You turn around as you are leaving and say, “If there is anything I can do, let me know.” Have you “visited” in the Biblical sense of the word?

The word “visit” in James 1:27 means “to look after; examine with the eye; or to go see.” So why would we go see an orphan or a widow and “examine” them with our eyes? Simply put, it is to see how we can help them.

Look at Jesus’ parable of separating the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25). What made the difference between the sheep and goats? Did they “visit” the sick (Matt. 25:36,43)? Meaning, did they look out to fill the needs of the least of the brothers of Jesus?

Take this to heart, men. Let us first understand that we must be active in “visiting” those who are in need. But we also must understand what it means to visit…to look and see how we can be of help. God did it for us.