RPM, Volume 13, Number 47, November 20 to November 26, 2011      


ONE Heart and ONE Soul

Looking for an Acts 2/4 Church, 24/7

Rev. Joseph R. Nally

Theological Editor, IIIM


Edited by:

Rev. Scott Lindsay
Pastor, South Baton Rouge Presbyterian Church



Acts 2:42-47 (ESV) And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.


Acts 4:32-35 (ESV) 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. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.



I sometimes imagine a society that has no needs.  One where everyone has food, clothing, and shelter. One where a group of people are so generous and so motivated to give of everything they have because they are of one heart and one soul! I weep to discover a real community of believers like this. Of course, in Heaven we will see a full reality of this. All Christians will live eternally with no needs. But what of today?

Can I hope for the church of yesterday and tomorrow, today? Does it exist? Will it exist again before Christ returns? Does it exist in me? Does it exist in you?


As I write this I question myself – am I willing? Willing to do what? Sell my riches? Early in my Christian life – I did. I sold everything that I considered excess. I sold my TV, my stereo system (a really nice one). I lived in an apartment and had just a few changes of clothes. Though I did not have much, I was able to give – and desired to give. I was happy in Christ!


But as I grew – or thought I grew – in Christ more stuff began showing up. Excess began to increase once again. While I biblically gave (not tithed [2]), a house, a car, student loans, etc. began to accumulate. I have a new TV now and many computers. None of this stuff is necessarily evil – as matter a fact it is being used in a righteous matter (much of it even to type this article). But when I look out my window and within five miles see the many homeless it causes me great pause. Children without a home living in a cardboard box! Fathers without a job. Mothers with no food to give their children or themselves. Then I look back at my stuff – not the necessities, but the excess riches. I wonder if this is the way it is suppose to be? Am I any happier with my stuff? One thing I do know – those in need are no happier because I own stuff!


And so, the reality is this: as much as I hate to admit it, I live in a world of excess. And so do you. A world where extra stuff exists to fill up our homes, lives, and time. Many of us have the basic necessities – food, clothing, and shelter. However, many of us also have excess. We eat more than just basic food. We enjoy those expensive dinners out and those $5.00 cups of coffee. Some live to eat and not merely eat to live. Some of us have more than our fair share of clothing as well. We have all the name brands and strut our stuff on our side of the proverbial tracks. We add to this several TVs, numerous electronic devices (all which are necessities, right?), and our multi car garages. Do you live in an excess world? Do you live an excess life?


Thus, a portrait of an excess world is painted for us upon a canvass of the poor who do not have even the basic necessities of life. This is one painting I do not desire to own.


What if we gave up our excess stuff? Can you imagine? What if we went back to just the basic necessities? What could be accomplished through such a committed group of Christians like this today? How would this change: (1) how we worship, (2) where we worship, (3) our idea of real community, (4) our idea what is ours and what is His, (5) how we spend our money, (6) the power of the Gospel? How would it change us? Do I even REALLY desire to change?


Those are tough questions. Before we go any further, I'm going to pray for myself, so I can continue to write. Will you pray with me:


Holy and merciful Father: I confess to you that I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what I have done and by what I have left undone. I have not loved you with my whole heart, mind, and strength. I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I have not forgiven others as I have been forgiven. I have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served me.


God, restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. (Ps. 51:12, NLT).



ONE Heart and ONE Soul - Looking at Acts 2


Out of the many things we could focus on in this chapter, the one that is most striking to me is this: The fact that all these people were running around in Acts selling their land and homes. Let me say that again, in case you missed it: They were selling their LAND and their HOUSES. Have you ever done that? Have you ever seen that, or heard of that? That's what was going on here. They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to the needy (Acts 2:45).


But why? It wasn’t mandatory. The examples of Barnabas and Ananias demonstrate the voluntary nature of this benevolence. Peter told Ananias, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?” (Acts 5:4). It is apparent that not all Christians were dispossessed of their property, for the disciples were later meeting in the house of Mary, Mark’s mother (Acts 12:12).

So, if it was not mandatory, what infected these people? Why were they doing such a strange thing – as selling their homes and then giving the proceeds to the needy? What kind of weirdo’s were many of these early Christians? (It may be more proper to ask, were they weirdoes or were those not giving the real weirdoes?) What kind of community is this? What does it say about our community? Indeed, what IS true community?


Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, it is important here to understand the historical context of the early church in Jerusalem. At this point in history, the economic situation in Palestine was steadily deteriorating because of famine and political unrest.[3]  Employment was limited – not only for Galileans and others who had left their fishing and farming for living in the city, but also for the regular residents of Jerusalem who now faced economic and social sanctions because of their new messianic faith.[4] Intense persecution was the main stay of the church at this time.


So, there were some legitimate needs in the church. The needy had a legitimate lack of necessities. However, many were meeting those needs:


After Pentecost, the new converts in Jerusalem “shared all things. They began to sell their possessions and goods and they gave to anyone who might have need.” The communal sharing of material goods was not a divestment of wealth. Rather, it was a willingness on the part of the owners to place their possessions at the disposal of all those believers who were needy. The aim of the early Christians was to abolish poverty so that needy persons, as a class of people, were no longer among them (4:34a). … Moreover, those who had possessions sold them on a voluntary basis (5:4).[5]


So, on the one hand, there were some particular historical circumstances that, no doubt, contributed to the formation of their community. But that doesn't explain everything. This was more than a group of embattled people merely responding to each other's needs. There was something going on under the surface. They were infected with “one heart and one soul.” They were unified in one Gospel. They had an infectious disease of the Spirit. They had a central purpose – a Holy Spirit given purpose. They were so wrapped in Jesus and His stuff, that they no longer cared about their own stuff – except for how it could help the common cause of the Kingdom of God! The rich sat with the poor. The Jews sat with the Gentiles. There was such unity that that all other distinctions were all but lost. Many loved his brother as himself. As Hervey states:


What each man had he held it not as his own, but as a steward of Christ for the good of all. … The ordinary worldly life seemed to have melted into the life of faith and godliness. Their wants were spiritual, their occupations were spiritual, they joys were spiritual. In this happy state, in the clear atmosphere of love, the great truths of the gospel shone out with marvellous (sic) brightness; the resurrection of Christ especially stood out in the lineaments of a distinct reality; and there was a rich glow of grace over the whole Church.[6]


While Hervey probably overstated the case of the early church, as the early church still had its problems, I believe his sentiments give us the intentions of the Spirit of God for the church. Evangelism and sanctification at its best. A purity of goal. An extraordinary unity of mind and purpose was there in the early church.


What a church! What a challenge! The Acts 2 church seems to have had an infectious generosity of spirit that must have been beautiful to behold. But what about us? Have we "caught" this same infectious spirit, or have we been inoculated against this truth? Have our hearts grown cold? Are we disturbed and unsettled by what we see here? Do you find yourself looking in the mirror and asking: Why is the almost reckless compassion and love and sacrifice that I see here so conspicuously absent in my own mind and heart?


I suspect that most of us reading this go to church. Not only that, we read our Bibles, and pray. Well done! We give some to the church. Again, well done! We occasionally visit the sick. Splendid. However, we also do many other things – like play or watch football, baseball, etc. We watch TV, we go here and there and do this and that. Where does all our time go? There is nothing necessarily wrong with these things. But what are we wrapped up in today? What is the tale told by our calendar and our possessions? What are our priorities? Are we wrapped up in Jesus (John 14:20) or are we just occasionally wrapping up Jesus in small little gifts? Are we caught up in his agenda, or are we trying to fit him into ours? Are we consumed with Christ or culture and, what balance does the Spirit require? Where are our time, talents, and treasures at work?



Devoted to the Apostle’s Teaching and Fellowship - Looking at Acts 4

Acts 4:32 is such a beautiful verse. Let us look at the first part: “Now the full number of those who believed.”  Full number of who? Believers from “from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) who spoke all different languages (Acts 2:6-11). A bunch of people uniting around one person: Jesus!


Notice what we do not see here: (1) The people were united in their music. No the text does not say this – but they still worshipped Jesus as one (Acts 2:47). (2) The people were united because of their new building. No the text does not say this either – rather they met together in the existing Temple and their homes (Acts 2:47). (3) The people were united around the newest church program. No the text does not give a list of the latest gimmicks – rather they met together with one heart and one soul (Acts 4:32). (4) The church was united because the Hollister crowd sat with the Hollister crowd, the Abercrombie and Fitch crowd with the Abercrombie and Fitch crowd, the iPaders with the iPaders and the PCers with the PCers, and the homeless outside in the parking lot. No the text does not say this either – rather everyone was considered in the “in” crowd (Acts 2:46). They were ONE.


But what was it that united them? What made them one? If it wasn't any of the things just mentioned that united them, what was it? What was the early church gathered to hear? What was the message that stunned them? The Gospel.


Awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles … And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.


The Apostles were teaching, with great power, the Gospel message. The early church heard the preaching of redemptive history culminating in the facts of the resurrection.

Can you even image that?  Their “in crowd” was being “in Christ” concerned about “His message”!


And what was the result? A full number of diverse people dedicated to God! Many worshipping as one. A common devotion to Jesus, teaching, prayer, and each other was the essence of their lives. Their common interest in the complete Gospel overshadowed their diversity. The Lord’s resurrection convicted them to act with loving concern for each other. Unlike the future Corinthian church, they worshipped as one body – diverse, yet united! That's the power of God's Spirit in action. The Holy Spirit unites people who would never otherwise be united. The Holy Spirit unites people who may otherwise be at odds with one another. The Holy Spirit unites people who may have nothing in common other than Jesus. He unites us around himself, His Word, and His people.


But here's the question: What are we united to? What are we united around? Is it the gospel that we are truly united around? Is that what makes us one? Is that what energizes our fellowship? Does the resurrection story still stun you? Do you marvel at its simplicity and complexity? When was the last time you went to church in awe BECAUSE OF THE RESURRECTION? When was the last time everyone around you was in awe?


Or Has the church - our church - grown cold? Is it lukewarm? Is the church today like the church at Ephesus, which needed to repent:

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent (Rev. 2:4-5).


When was the last time you truly contemplated the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, its power, purpose, and immediate presence? Do you stand in awe? These truths are the very core of our faith. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul reasoned:

if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (1 Cor. 15:14-17).


Oh, the glory and grace of Christ's life, death and resurrection. There is more than enough there for us to ponder for a lifetime. But here's the question: What is the connection between these things - and the Acts 2 church? What, in particular, was it about this teaching that not only drew God's people together, but also turned them around and propelled them outward in ministry, mercy and mission?


While there may well be many things that could be highlighted, here's what, I believe, is one of the most astonishing truths about the life, death and resurrection of Christ; here's the things that I think both draws us in, and then compels us outward: the fact that what Christ did, he did for US. For me. For you. This is where it gets really personal - namely, the fact that God loved such worthless persons like us! “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He died for ME. And YOU. This God did for each of His children! And when did Jesus do this?


Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't, and doesn't, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn't been so weak, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him (Rom. 5:6-8. MSG).


I look at my sin before I became a Christian. But I must also look at my sin after becoming a Christian. It is a horrible portrait. The horrors I can visualize concerning myself.  My canvass is stained with sin. I am the chief of all sinners and yet God loves me despite this? This brings to mind what the Apostle Paul once stated: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners�"of whom I am the worst” (1 Tim. 1:15). An example may help bring this home for each of us:


William Carey (1761-1834), known as the "Father and Founder of Modern Missions," was the first missionary to India sent out by the Baptist Missionary Society. His motto was, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” In his will, Carey directed a simple headstone to be placed on his grave, inscribed as follows:


William Carey, born August 17, 1761:

died 'A wretched, poor,
and helpless worm, On Thy kind arms I fall.'


On his deathbed he said to Alexander Duff, “When I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey; speak about Dr. Carey's Saviour.” [7]


God loved me when I was unlovable – and He still loves me! I do not deserve it. Those in Acts did not deserve it either. You do not deserve it! Nevertheless, “great grace” came upon us all (Acts 4:33) who are in Christ. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,” Paul told the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:31). What precious resurrection grace is this! Are you in awe of this great love? This great grace?


Many people, if they were honest, would have to admit that they aren't really blown away by God's great love and mercy. They know they probably "should" be, but they aren't. Why is that the case?  We know the short answer - our sin. But that's too general to be helpful. What, specifically, is it that gets in the way of our valuing and treasuring the grace and mercy of God? In my experience, it can usually be traced to my own reluctance to admit to, and embrace, the depth of my own sin. I discount my own sin and need of grace. But here's the problem: when I discount my sin, I simultaneously discount God's provision - the cross of Christ. And that's where the disconnect happens. So what can transform this? It is the honest, fearless contemplation of our sin and brokenness and the simultaneous contemplation of God’s majesty and kindness that makes Christ's sacrificial death on our behalf more and more precious. Day by day, we should delve into His life and He into ours! While God definitely does the latter, are we doing the former? Are we "fixing our eyes on Jesus" who is the author, and finisher, of our faith?


But, again, what's the connection? What does any of this have to do with becoming and Acts 2/4 church? Only everything. The more we are blown away by the kindness and patience and mercy and love of God, the more we treasure his emptying himself, "making himself nothing" making himself poor that we might inherit the richness of life with him, and IN HIM  - the more we are gripped and captivated by that - the more we will see that life which we value so much become manifest in our own. We all tend to become like that which we worship. The more we understand the greatness of Christ, the more he is our "hero".


And who doesn't want to be like their hero?


That love, that gratitude, that respect, that admiration - all of that is the engine room that drives mercy and compassion and moves people to stop clinging to things that don't matter, and things that don't last. That is the only "fuel" that will go the distance - not guilt and not duty.


And that's the connection. The passionate pursuit of Christ by recovering sinners, results in the imitation of Christ by grateful worshipers. That is one of the surest evidences that the Holy Spirit is having His way with us – conforming us to Christ so that our heart is moved by the things that moved Him.


So, let me try and bring some of this home by asking some hard questions: Do we love the unlovable? Are we generous? Do we love the homeless, the destitute, the downtrodden? Let me put that more concretely: If our pastor or mother became homeless tomorrow, what would WE DO? Would we provide for them? Would we sell some of those excess riches to help them? Now, how is our pastor or mother any different from the homeless person we just passed upon the street? Oh, they are our family, aren’t they? What was it that Jesus said, “'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). Our family is upon the streets – how can this be in light of our excess riches? Starbucks vs. His bucks? Of course, one individual probably cannot help the entire homeless population, but what can an entire community in unity accomplish? Will the outpouring of our individual generosity be so great that others need to be appointed to do “daily distribution” (Acts 6:2)? What a GREAT problem for the church today to have and envision?




Because of Christ's life, death and resurrection, because of His mercy to us in spite of our unworthiness, we are now free to live for others because we know every one of our needs has been met in Christ. Instead of greedily holding on to our money and our possessions we are now free to give them away because we know all of our security is found, not in them, but in Jesus. Instead of devoting all our time and energy chasing this or that accomplishment we are now free to devote our time and energy to the fuller Gospel, as anything less is no Gospel at all. Instead of only feeling comfortable around people who think like we think and look like we look and like what we like, we are free to experience community with all types of people because we know we share a common mission, a common inheritance, and a common resurrection. Instead of thinking that we’re too good for this group of people or not good enough for that group of people we are free to relate with each other as equals because we are all equally sinful apart from Jesus and equally righteous in Jesus. Instead of looking for the church to serve us, we are free to serve the church because we have been perfectly served in Jesus.


Do you see what the true Gospel does? The Gospel of Jesus Christ allows us to give ourselves to community in all of these ways. But it doesn’t just allow for these things. It demands these things. No matter how much you say you love Jesus you cannot truly be committed to Jesus if you are not committed to Jesus’ Church – His community. He did not die to just save an individual here and an individual there. He died to create a new people, His own people, for His own glory! When we resist the community that Jesus gave His life to create we deny Him some of the glory He has earned and we deny the world a beautiful, powerful, and attractive picture of what Jesus’ life and death and resurrection have accomplished.


I know it sounds difficult �" especially in our individualistic culture where our lives are filled with so much busyness and so much responsibility. But we really can experience this type of community! Our lives need reevaluating continuously. We need the constant filling of the Holy Spirit. When He is fully present and we are not quenching His grace, then we will be of one heart and soul and we will be generous with those in need.


May God give us faith to more fully believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and particularly in the fact that God raised Him from the dead (Phil. 3:8ff). May we come to more fully know that Jesus Christ is the only Savior and there is no other. May we all remember that Jesus is the Judge whom we will all face, because it is appointed to man once to die and then comes judgment. May we more fully know of whom our family exists. May we be more fully transformed in our giving. May we more fully understand the great grace that came upon us all.


God is looking for an Acts 2/4 Church, 24/7. It began in Acts. Will it continue with us?

ONE Heart and ONE Soul


This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries. If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor..


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[1] This paper was developed form a series of e-mails thru Q&A at Third Millennium Ministries. Some of the quotes and commentary selections are from this exchange and are not necessarily that of the author of this article. The e-mailer was anonymous.

[2] The New Testament Tithe? IIIM Ministries. (https://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/43275).

[3] Jeremias, Jerusalem, pp. 121-22.

[4] Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981, p. 310

[5] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, vol. 17, New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles, Accompanying biblical text is author's translation., New Testament Commentary, 112 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001).

[6] Hervey, A.C.; Pulpit Commentary; Eerdmans Publishing Co; Grand Rapids; 1950; v 18, p 128.).

[7] George Smith, ll.d. c.i.E The Life of  William  Carey,  D.D. Printed by R. & R. CLARK, Edinburgh, 1885.