Within this passage is a mandate to all. First, let me explain a bit of what it meant to be within the first century Church. Second, we’ll look at the passage directly. Third, we’ll ask the question of how we get there.
Within Acts 2:42-47, we read that they who were added to the Church continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, having all things in common, selling their possessions and distributing as anyone had need, and spending time together daily, whether in the temple, going from house to house, or or otherwise. It was completely natural. You didn’t have to tell anyone to sell their possessions; they did it naturally. You didn’t have to tell people to live in obedience to the apostles’ teaching; they did that naturally. It was the logic of the salvation and outpouring of the Spirit that caused them to come together daily, and not merely weekly.
It is within this context, spending day after day with the other believers throughout your city, that we have a definition of Church. The Greek word (ekklesia) actually comes from the Hebrew Kahal, neither having any kind of religious connotation. It simply means an assembly, or a group of people who have gathered together. The sunagoge (synagogue) was where they met. Once again, there was absolutely nothing religiously affiliated with that word in the first century. Herod called the scholars together, and that gathering was called a sunagoge (Matt 2:4). In Hebrews 10:25, the “gathering together” is sunagoge. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1, the place where Jesus gathers His Church is called an epi-sunagoge.
From this context, let us ask again what “Church” is. Within that first century manifestation, the Church was simply the people of God. For this reason, we find that Paul writes to whole cities, and not congregations within those cities. They met together daily, and anyone who had need was provided for. How did they have so much money? They didn’t. Everyone lived within their means, living a peaceful and quiet life. They didn’t spend their money on large homes, fancy clothing, or “things”. Rather, they spent their money on one another, putting it to a greater use than themselves.
This all came down to the eschatological dimension. The end times were not something far away and outside, but were a dynamic that was lived out in daily life. There was an expectation of imminent judgment upon the House of Israel, and a knowing that the righteous should be preserved. There was a knowledge that God was progressing His people forward in an ultimate drama, and therefore every day was another chance to grow and develop, progressing with God toward that ultimate climax of the age.
When we come to Galatians 6:6, we find Paul telling the people to give to they who teach. For you who are being taught, and who are finding much growth spiritually through a certain teacher, you should do what you can to provide for their needs. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul uses the idea of sowing and reaping in a similar context. But, notice that Paul doesn’t remain with providing for they who teach, but the conclusion in verse 10 is to do good to all. Given the context, it must be that Paul is speaking about physical need, and giving to those who have need.
Why is this stressed?
It is the logic of our salvation, the logic of love, to provide for one another. Simply living what we’ve received demands that we would take care of one another. And how do we even get back to such a thing? In our day and age, especially here in the West, we are enshrouded with debt, with expenses, and with financial trouble. How do we get free of this? Let me be clear: Dave Ramsey might speak about getting free from debt, but he doesn’t give the biblical answer.
From the New Testament text, it seems that the way that we get free from debt is selling everything. You have your house paid off? Invite they who don’t have their homes paid off in, and allow them to live with you until they have the necessary provision to buy a home without debt. Are you still paying on your car? Sell it and get something much less exotic. Are you struggling to pay your bills? Get rid of the cable, the Internet, the cigarettes, the Netflix, and anything else that is unnecessary, and ultimately is a waste of life and time. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “Sell your possessions, give to the poor, THEN come and follow me.” How many of us would also go away saddened, and not follow Jesus?
You want freedom? How much? You want the first century reality in your midst? How much? Are you willing to buy your brother or sister a new roof on their house because they need it? Are you willing to ding-dong ditch some groceries? Are you willing to purchase a car for the single mom who can’t afford to fix the minivan that she is currently driving at 250,000 miles? Are you willing to get to know the people around you well enough to know their needs, and know whether you can provide or not? It is a shameful testimony that you can have someone who can’t even afford to feed their child and someone who has tens of thousands of dollars in their bank account gathering at the same building for “church”.
My wife and I live at a level that is so far in poverty that we don’t even register on the chart. Yet, we don’t have debt, we pay our bills, we have clothes, we have food, and everything is provided in its time. I confess, we often do have struggle, and we’ve gone without meat, we’ve gone without reasonable shoes, we are currently going with clothes that are worn out and falling apart, we have no computers, our apartment is so small that the living room is our bedroom, when car insurance or veterinarian bills come we get nervous, we’ve known hunger, we’ve known what it is to only afford water, we’ve known what it means to have a drafty house that chills you in the winter, we’ve known what it means to skip changing the oil in the car because you can’t afford it, we’ve known what it means to debate paying the electric bill or buying groceries, we’ve experienced the ghetto poverty even outside of the ghetto, and yet I boast in these things because His grace is sufficient.
You want to know why my words are often so powerful? You want to know why I speak so much of resurrection? It is because if my God is not real, then my wife and I will perish. Everything is cast upon God. If He doesn’t come through for us, providing us our daily bread, then we don’t eat. It’s not expedient, and it certainly isn’t comfortable, but it’s life from the dead.
So I ask again:
How much are you willing to experience the first century phenomenon?