What the Early Church's Spirit-Led Unity Really Looked Like

(Pixabay/m_tanzid)

In Part 1 we introduced the three levels of the unity of the Spirit that was present in the early church. To recap:

Three distinct "levels" of unity of the Holy Spirit as found in Acts 2:42-47 are:

Level 1 – LCD (Lowest Common Denominator)

(v. 42): "they continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers." 

Level 2 – Signs and Wonders

(v. 43): "Fear came to every soul. And many wonders and signs were done through the apostles." 

Level 3 – A Lifestyle of Mutual Support and Sharing All Things

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(vv. 44-47):  "All who believed were together and had all things in common. They sold their property and goods and distributed them to all, according to their need.  And continuing daily with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."

 

In Parts 2-4, we considered four questions about Level 1 unity:

  1. What does this level of unity look like in the church?
  2. What conditions are necessary for this level of unity to exist in the church?
  3. How can the church enter in/rise to this level of unity?
  4. What responsibilities do church pastors and clergy have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in His work of unity at this level?

In Part 5-8, we looked at Level 2 unity and Questions A-D.

In Part 9, we now look at Level 3 unity and Question A.

Now, we will examine the highest level of unity possible in the church on earth today.

Level 3 Unity: Sharing and Common Stewardship of All Things

Acts 2:44-45

44 "All who believed were together and had all things in common."

45 "They sold their property and goods and distributed them to all, according to their need."

The first question for Level 3 unity:

  • What does Level 3 unity look like?

First, some observations on what level 3 unity is not:

  • They did not live in a commune. Acts 2:46 says they went from house to house. They still had their homes—those who didn't lived with other members (note well: not in the Salvation Army shelters).
  • They didn't necessarily agree on minor doctrinal issues, but it was not a source of separation of their hearts.
  • They didn't have all the same preferences regarding lifestyle, culture and so forth, but these were of no consequence to their hearts being bound together in love.

What Level 3 unity is:

"Togetherness":

They were together (v .44, and Acts 4:32): In other words, there was no pattern of disconnected believers who separated themselves from the church body. In today's church, there are many such disconnected believers.

"Had all things in common":

They held their things (houses, possessions and so on) as stewards, not owners. Thus, other members who had needs had access to these things.

Acts 4:32: "All the believers were of one heart and one soul, and no one said that what he possessed was his own. But to them all things were in common."

The attitude was one of one heart and soul: none said what's mine is mine and what's yours is yours; rather, they all said—what's mine is yours. This killed greed, covetousness, materialism and possessiveness.

"[They] who were owners of land or houses sold them ..." (Acts 4:34b

They liquidated their estates, land holdings, pension plans, 401Ks, stocks as necessary to help ensure that the others weren't evicted from homes and would not go hungry or need clothes for their kids.

In other words, the reality of family—a true body, closely knit (1 Cor. 12) hit home.

But That Was Then ...

To understand the perspective of unity they held, consider your own family: spouse, children, mom, dad, brothers and sisters.

Would you do everything possible to help meet your family needs for shelter, clothing and food?

Would you use your savings, investments, sell off extra assets to meet their needs?

Most of us would!

This is the way it was in the early church—not to just family but to all their fellow believers. Every believer was actually considered as part of their own family—the family of God. Burdens and blessings were to be shared by all.

Assets were not viewed as "mine and yours."

They truly had one Father (Eph 4:3 and following) and were viewed and treated as brothers, sisters, sons or daughters.

This is Level 3 unity in the Spirit. It's scary in our society and enculturation.

Everything in our culture fights against this.

Next time we will consider the second of the four questions about Level 3 unity:

  • What conditions are necessary for Level 3 unity to exist in the church?

Louis Posthauer is the executive director of Hunters of the Harvest Ministry. He has been actively involved in the local church for more than 37 years and currently serves as a lay leader and teacher at Living Word Church of the Nazarene in Houston. For more information, visit huntersoftheharvest.org.

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