THE STAGE IS SET
"And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person's need.
"Joseph, called by the apostles "Barnabas" (which means "Son of Comfort"), a Levite born in Cyprus, sold a field that he owned, brought the money and made an offering of it to the apostles." Acts4:34-37 (The Message).
These few verses seem like nothing more than a simple bit of information regarding the miraculous life of the new-born church in Jerusalem. It was a miracle because most people without Jesus don't normally live that way.
Here was a community within a community that did life together in unity. They identified with each other so closely that everyone shared in the joy and suffering of the group. The apostles had a safe haven to go to when things got tough for them outside. Their resources were pooled so that everyone had a share. Those who had shared with those who did not have.
They had to live like that for several reasons: they were expressing the generous nature of the one who lived inside them. Their disposition was transformed by the power of God from greedy, selfish people to those who willingly and unselfishly served their fellow believers.
They were no longer individuals responsible for themselves and their families. They were now members of a new family held together by their faith in their living Lord. He had shown them how to live and they were following and imitating Him.
They were a community under threat. Like their Master, they had fallen foul of their religious leaders because of what they taught and lived. Their lives and message opposed the legalistic self-righteousness of their leaders and showed up their true nature just as Jesus had done. The church stuck together and supported one another.
In spite of their circumstances, the church flourished and grew. There was something about them and their way of life that drew people to them like moths to a flame. Yet, as idyllic as it sounds, it was inevitable that there would be bad apples in the box. Satan always has his unsuspecting allies who are there to throw a spanner in the works.
These verses conclude the opening chapter of the life of body of Christ, the church, and also form the introduction to a new era in which the rot began from within. Jesus told a parable about a farmer who planted good seed in his field. In the night an enemy came and sowed weed seeds among the wheat. The new plants looked so alike that the only solution was to let them grow together until the harvest. The fruit would distinguish wheat from weeds.
The church is like that as well. There are pseudo-believers in the mix that seem so genuine that no-one can really tell the difference. But the time does come when their true nature is revealed. The next episode in our story will throw the spotlight on two people who, unfortunately, did not escape the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit in Peter.
There is a message in this story for us. Attachment to the body of Christ does not guarantee true membership. It's really an issue of the heart. God looks beyond our behaviour to the attitude and motive of our hearts. That's where our union with Jesus happens and is worked out in our relationships within His body.
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