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This Week’s Sermon: “The Church: A Grace-Filled Community”–Acts 4:32-37 (Rusty Osborne)

This Week’s Scripture Memory: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.”–Acts 4:32

Next Week’s Sermon: The Mission of the Church–Acts 7-28 (Bill Victor)

Next Week’s Scripture Memory: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”–Acts 17:30-31

Devotional/Reflection: In his classic work The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis writes: “It was one of the Wesleys, I think, who said that the New Testament knows nothing of solitary religion. We are forbidden to neglect the assembling of ourselves together[…]In our own age the idea that religion belongs to our private life–that it is, in fact, an occupation for the individual’s hour of leisure–is at once paradoxical, dangerous, and natural” (158). Hebrews 10, which Lewis seems to be referencing here, makes it clear that we are not forsake meeting together, though at the same time admitting that it was the habit of some to do so. The reason Lewis gives, which is the reason the New Testament gives, is that we are not “members” but “organs.” Although we are in one sense members of the church universal and the local church, many understand members along the lines of “being of the same kind.” We are not, however, of the same kind. We each have our own specific gifts, talents, abilities, personalities, and professions. We are not the same person. We are, rather, different organs that belong to one Body. And what unites us in this one Body is that we have the same Head, Jesus Christ (Eph 6).

In Acts 4:32-37, the believers are selling their possessions and giving to any who have need. Some have taken this to mean there was a type of Christian communism, but this misses the point of the passage. It is clear from the portrayal of Barnabas and the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 that they were not compelled to give. It was not mandatory. Rather, it was the outflow of redeemed sinners who lived out a grace-filled community because they were overwhelmed by the grace of God. They were motivated by God’s grace to give, not mandated by the apostles. As we live out grace-filled community in our own contexts, then, we should not be compelled by legalistic requirements to give to others, but we ought to be motivated by love to care for those among us in need. As 1 John 5:1-5 says, we know that we are saved if we love God, believe that Jesus is the Messiah, love God’s people, and obey His commandments. Everywhere in the New Testament we are called to love fellow believers. It is this love for one another that was the motivating factor in the early church, and it should remain our motivating factor today.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some ways that you have experienced this type of grace-filled community?
  2. What are some ways that you have experienced something negative as a part of a community?
  3. What motivates you to act on behalf of others? Why? What are some examples?

Additional Resources: