Spirit Filled Community (Acts 5)

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Journalism has shifted from reporting reality to shaping a narrative. Most media outlets review events to possibly be covered and choose to hide and bury stories that they do not want reported, and they promote other situations with the perspective they want publicly communicated. Whether you watch NBC, CBS, or Fox, they all have an angle and agenda they seek to promote.

Luke was author of a two-volume work: Gospel and Acts. He took great effort to investigate eyewitnesses, gather reports, and write an accurate account of life during and after Jesus Christ. One of the reasons we deem Luke, and other Scriptures, trustworthy is because they are unafraid to share the flaws and failures of God’s people – the key characters of the story. Early Christianity doesn’t have cover-up and conspiracy but disclosure and confession.  

Today’s passage will explore the nature of Spirit filled community and make applications for us to grow into authentic faith and faithful lifestyles.

Early Christianity doesn’t have cover-up and conspiracy but disclosure and confession.  

EXAMINE       Acts 5                      Spirit Filled Community

ACTS 4:32-37

32 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. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Luke provides a second summary description of the early church (cf 2:42-47; 4:32-37). In this latter passage and following, we discern four marks of Spirit filled community. Some of these marks will only be addressed briefly, since we have touched on them previously and will continue through our book study. Yet, there will be at least two marks that we address with more specific awareness and application.

#1 United to serve God.
Previously, Luke described them as being “together,” “devoting themselves to one another,” and “having one accord [not Honda!]” (cf 1:14; 2:42, ff). Here in 4:32 they are described as having “one heart and soul.”  The phrase is symbolic, not 5-10K people literally having one heart/soul, yet strikingly beautiful of the shared friendship and spiritual focus among the early Christians.

A church’s unity gives credence to its faith. What could possibly unite people from diverse backgrounds, different experiences, and distinct personalities? Only God’s grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ can create a commonality.

  • Dwell on agreements more than disagreements. Christians will spend eternity together, so we should practice loving one another in the present.
  • Dwell on our church’s G.O.S.P.E.L. values and discuss with others what it means to grow godly generations.
  • Divide gracefully. It only serves yourself to divide with hostility or disappear in silence. If the Lord calls you to leave, do so gracefully.
    1) Communicate reasoning with a pastor.
    2) Confess your part.
    3) Leave in peace.
    4) Reinvest in another church.

A church’s unity gives credence to its faith.

#2 Unselfish to care for others.
Luke describes them having “everything in common without a needy person among them.” The Christian community viewed each other as family, and therefore were more than willing to provide for the needs and assist in carrying the burdens of others. Such unselfishness should not be mistaken for early indications of socialism or communism. The Communist mindset says, “What is yours is everyone’s” while Christianity says, “What is mine is yours.” Christian compassion is voluntary and cheerful, not mandatory, and begrudgingly (cf 2 Cor 9:7).

Since the beginning of the church, Christians open their homes, distribute food to the needy, share possessions, give of their time and talents – even share their toothbrushes… ok, maybe there were certain boundaries, but you get the idea!

Christians understand God as the source of all our blessings and possessions, and we are merely stewards. Christians also understand God blesses us to be a blessing – we are not lakes who only take in, but rivers that flow and feed others. God’s grace teaches us how to be generous toward others.

The early church’s generosity made a difference not just for insiders (believers) but outsiders (non-believers). The world took notice that Christians cared for the needs of others in tangible ways. The gospel loosened their grip on their belongings and tightened their grip on their belonging in community.

I’ve heard it said that when it comes to generosity, some people are like rocks, sponges, or a honeycomb.[1]

  • Rock: God uses a hammer to break free items to share, and more often than not, He only gets chips and sparks.
  • Sponge: You’re willing to give but God must first squeeze.
  • Honeycomb: Sweetness drips and overflows onto others.

It’s the gospel and grace of God that transforms hearts of stone into honeycombs. Which one are you?

The gospel loosened their grip on their belongings and tightened their grip on their belonging in community.

#3 Urgent to communicate the gospel.

Table

Description automatically generatedAs we’ve seen, the church is not just adding but multiplying to its number into an unstoppable movement. V.33 states, “with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” We observe the passion, priority, and urgency of Christians to tell others their testimony. A testimony is your story of how you came to experience forgiving grace and eternal joy of Jesus.

Tips for sharing your testimony:

  • Know your story. It’s your before, how, and after with Jesus. It’s powerful bc your unique.
  • Keep it brief; 3-minutes. Make them want more not less.
  • Keep it about Jesus. Explain why Jesus lived, died, and resurrected. Using a key Scripture verse is helpful to make it more about Jesus than self.
  • Leave the results to God. You’re only responsible for being faithful to share, not the person’s response.

In all, the church does not grow by accident or luck but disciplined actions. The good news is that a church does not have to come up with its own plan or purposes. God has already given His plan and purpose for the church: The Great Commission. It’s disciples of Jesus making disciples of Jesus. Jesus’ plan includes mass proclamation (air war), but primarily relies on personal witnessing one-to-one for helping others to understand gospel truth.

The early church combined evangelism with discipleship, so that every member of the church was included in the mission of the church. There is no such thing as spectator Christianity!

Once again, let’s make it a goal: each one, reach one (person/family).

#4 Unafraid to confront sin.  

ACTS 5:1-11

1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

In the previous passage we were introduced to Barnabas

  • Name appears 23x in Acts and 5x in Paul’s letters.
    • Name was Joseph, but nicknamed Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.”
    • From tribe of Levi and native to island of Cyprus.
    • One of first identified generous givers.
    • First to embrace Paul, and often vouched for him (cf Acts 9:27…)
    • Encouraged Antioch church in diversity and pastored Gentile converts (Ac 11:25-26).
    • Assigned oversight of famine relief money to Jerusalem.
    • Missionary with Paul… and John Mark. Barnabas was willing to give 2nd chances.
Photo on Pexels.com

In contrast to Barnabas, we are introduced to Ananias & Sapphira. Likewise, they were generous givers. After their property sold, they gave a partial sum of the proceeds, yet they stated they gave the whole sum as Barnabas did. Their sin was not in the amount of their gift but the attention seeking of their gift. They wanted the reputation of being generous when reality was, they were greedy and prideful. They valued the praise of people rather than the glory of God.
 

The result was both were confronted of their wrongful attitude by Peter (and apostles), and then condemned by God with their immediate death.

Why did God condemn with such strong punishment and not provide grace?

  1. God’s grace provided Ananias an opportunity to repent during the intervals of the property sale, before gifting to the apostles, and when confronted by Peter. Yet, Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, saying it was the full amount, and unfortunately, he never repented.
    1. God is indeed slow to anger and eager to forgive. In fact, God is so slow to anger that when we do see His wrath that we are offended by it. We forget that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. We are not to take advantage of God’s patience with continued sin. We deceive ourselves if we think God winks at our sin, He’s weak to discipline, or is powerless to punish us. But God’s holiness is never to be disobeyed or His wrath to be disregarded.
  2. God was establishing a foundation for the early Christians. To work against the church is to work against the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and God the Father. Further, Christians needed to understand sin is not just personal but corporate. What one person does affects others.

Unfortunately, the most quoted Bible verse is, Matthew 7:1, “Judge not that you be not judged,” claiming all judging is wrong. The problem with this mindset is the rest of the Bible.

  • Lev 19:15 “In righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”
  • Judges whole book, whom God raised up each.
  • Prov 31:9 “Open your mouth, judge righteously.”
  • Mat 7:1-5 / Rom 2:1 judge without hypocrisy
  • John 7:24 “Do not judge by appearances, but judge w/ right judgment.”
  • 1 Cor 5:12-13 hold Christians accountable and judge their life by who their lips say is their Lord… but don’t judge non-Christians; let God do that.
  • Mat 18:15-17; Eph 4:15; Gal 6:1; James 5:19-20; Jude 1:23 exhort Christians to hold Christians accountable with right judgments; speaking truth in love.
  • Is there sin in your life that needs confronted? Repent before it’s too late.
  • Do you see someone drifting downward and straying in sin?
    Jude 1:23 “save others by snatching them out of the fire”
    James 5:20 “bring back a wandering sinner to save their soul from death”

APPLY/THINK        3 closing applications

  1.  Familiarity w/ God does not equate to faith in or following Jesus.

Ananias and Sapphira were part of the church membership roll. They appeared to follow the example of Barnabas’ generosity. But deep inside their heart was pride and greed. They wanted the applause of the crowd more than authenticity.

It’s unknown if Ananias and Sapphira were actual Christians or just faking faith. From the text, “they lied to and tested the Holy Spirit” (v.3, 9). Peter also said, “Satan filled their heart,” which is a contrast to the Holy Spirit filling believers in Acts. The incident also recalls the actions of Judas (Jn 13:27). In all, the Gospels and Acts reveal it’s far too easy to be familiar with God and church but not have personal faith and following Jesus Christ.  

Listen, a day is coming when our lips will be compared to our life. We can say we believe and trust in God, but our life will be weighed and measured by God himself. On judgment day, every idle thought will be replayed over heaven’s loudspeaker and every secret sin will displayed on the eternal screen.
(cf Dan 2:22; Prov 21:2; Ecc 12:14; Mt 12:36-37; Lk 8:17, 12:2; Heb 4:13). If we try to play church or attempt to fool God, then we are the ones deceived.

A day is coming when our lips will be compared to our life. We can say we believe and trust in God, but our life will be weighed and measured by God. On judgment day, every idle thought will be replayed over heaven’s loudspeaker and every secret sin will displayed on the eternal screen. If we try to play church or attempt to fool God, then we are the ones deceived.

2) Individual family members can help or hurt the whole family.

Husbands: Ananias set the wrong example and led his wife to sin against the church and God. His actions caused her to not only suffer wrong behavior but the consequences of that behavior. Men, you have a high responsibility for the daily choices and spiritual decisions of your family (Eph 5; Col 3; 1 Pet 3)

Wives: Sapphira followed her husband into sin and was held equally accountable. Women, your calling to respect your husband might mean you follow him into a mistake (a job transition, a possession purchase, or other), but it never means following your husband into known sin (behaviors, lifestyle, salvation & spiritual walk of your own and your kids participation in church).  

Children: Actions of your parents do not absolve your spiritual accountability. It is the parent’s job to introduce children to the Lord, but it is the child’s role to apply truth.

3) Fear of God is the church’s power.

This passage repeats a theme of “fear.”

  • Acts 5:5 “Ananias [died] and great fear came upon all who heard of it.”
  • Acts 5:11 “Sapphira died and great fear came upon all who heard of these things.”

The church’s fear of God was not frightening but faith-building. They understood God’s character and commandments were worthy of obedience not indifference or trivializing with endless theologizing of cultural background and parsing word meaning with original Greek and Hebrew. As a pastor with multiple degrees and study, I’m for theological study to know God more deeply and devotedly. But I am against hiding behind religious talk for the sake of following your own priorities against God’s principles.  

The result of the church’s fear of God…Acts 5:12-16

12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

Acts 9:31 “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

  • May we confess and not conceal our sin.
  • May our worship become more abandoned and attentive to the Holy Spirit than
  • May our generosity of our stuff and ourselves grow open-handed to those we love and who love us.

[1] J.D. Greear sermon on Acts 5.

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