Sunday, 5 December 2021
and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. Acts 2:45
The previous verse noted that “all who believed were together, and had all things in common.” Along with that, it now goes on to say, “and sold their possessions and goods.” It should be noted that all of the verbs in this verse are in the imperfect tense –
“they were selling,” “they were dividing,” “anyone having a need.”
The idea is that they were in a state of selling everything they had as the occasion called for it. The word translated as “possessions” signifies landed property, such as a field or the like. The word translated as “goods” signifies stuff in general. It is simply something under the authority and discretion of a person.
One can get the sense that the disciples really thought that Jesus must be coming back quickly and there would be no need to have these things. So, they gathered together into a commune and sold their things off, waiting for that day. In doing this, they “divided them among all.”
There is a definite state of generosity here that follows after precepts found in the Law of Moses, such as –
“If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.” Deuteronomy 15:7, 8
This doesn’t mean these people were all poor that came into the fellowship, but that the principle of extending your hand to another to meet his need is one that Israel was aware of and lived by. As people sold their things, eventually someone would need to follow suit to take care of the person who had done so and found himself with nothing left. This is seen in the final words of the verse, “as anyone had need.”
Until these people joined the movement, they would have had their own property, their own employment, and their own means of tending to themselves. But it is quite apparent that they felt that these things would no longer be needed. The Lord would surely return soon, and the kingdom had arrived where there would be a new order of things.
Unfortunately, they misunderstood the times and the seasons Jesus spoke of in Acts 1:7. Israel, as a nation, had rejected the Lord. As a corporate body, they would be corporately punished for this, as outlined in the law – such as in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. They would go into an extended exile and the gentiles would pick up and carry the spiritual banner that had been carried by Israel for so long.
This is all clearly seen and revealed to them as Acts closes out –
“Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” Acts 28:28
It would be a calamitous mistake indeed to use Acts in a prescriptive way by following along with this verse in the church today.
Life application: The early church, misunderstanding the timeline of events to come, must have thought that they would enter into the kingdom age quickly. As such, they followed a rather reckless path concerning future savings. But even the Proverbs warned against that –
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” Proverbs 13:22
Solomon’s advice did not stop being true after the resurrection of Jesus. We should save for contingencies in life, and we should even save in anticipation of blessing the next generations.
Unfortunately, the early Gentile church at Thessalonica caught the same fever as the Jews in Jerusalem. Paul told them about the coming of the Lord at the rapture in his first epistle, and they took that as an indication that they would be swooped out of there in short order. Hence, in his second epistle, it is seen that there were believers who were lolling around and not being productive. That is what brought about Paul’s words concerning anyone not working would also not eat.
What is similar, but is found on a spiritual level, is the constant whittling away of time by the people of the church today because of the shape the world is in. And this has been going on constantly since the 1800s. Individuals and groups have gotten so into date setting that every twenty or thirty minutes it seems that a new date for the rapture is set. When it doesn’t happen, a new and “corrected” calculation comes out, moving the timing back a couple days or a month.
This constant stream of failure is bad enough, but the true failure is that these same people spend all their time consumed in the thought of their speedy departure and they fail to do the things that are truly necessary – like telling people the gospel and actually learning proper doctrine.
It is a sad state of affairs, and it is as common as bed bugs in a boarding house. What people need to do is to forget about the timing of the rapture (meaning the dating of it, not necessarily the sequence of events as Scripture lays out), and actually live their lives in a productive manner – spiritually, towards their family and friends, and economically as well. The Lord will come when He comes. All of the false date setting in the world will not change the time of His coming one bit. And, when it happens, the date setting won’t have mattered at all.
Lord God, help us to be responsible with the time You have given us in our lives. Amen.