This week’s notes have been provided by Heather. The passage can be read here.
We read yesterday that the believers who had gathered to pray were filled with the Holy Spirit. Here we see some demonstrable outcomes of that in terms of attitude and behaviour.
Today’s passage is short, but packs a real punch! It speaks of a deep love uniting all the believers which led them to be concerned for and take responsibility for one another’s welfare – a love which affected their attitude to their own material possessions. These Christians held their personal but God-given resources with an open hand, so that they were willing to share as there was need.
Is this a rosy but unrealistic picture of the early church? …. is Luke glossing over natural human instincts and showing us only the good side? Not at all….. characteristics of the old human nature did surface, as we shall see tomorrow, but there seems to be a deep understanding amongst the early believers of the reality of life and death, and therefore of right priorities; and a increasing grasp that what was really important was not material possessions, but growth in their understanding of how God wanted them to live. It had always been God’s plan that the poor should be cared for appropriately (cf Deuteronomy 15:4). In these recent days of electioneering propaganda, every party has claimed the desire and the intention to alleviate poverty etc…. and they all have their different ideas of how to do it which usually ends up alienating at least one section of society!
Jesus himself acknowledged that there would always be people who for various reasons didn’t have enough financial resources to cope …’the poor you will always have with you..’ (Matt 26: 11) but in God’s economy, God’s way is that those whom he has blessed with material resources should show their love for God by using those resources voluntarily to assist those who are in need of them, so that both those who give and those who receive are blessed – the principle outlined by Paul in 2 Cor 9:10-14 will repay careful study and prayerful meditation on how to implement this in our lives in a practical way, not necessarily only using money, but also time, effort, thoughtfulness, friendship and any other ways which we may find to be useful in helping others. God uses these things to mould us all into right ways of living, whether we are givers or recipients. What would our society look like if it took this on board!!
God had demonstrated his supreme power in raising Jesus from death, so the disciples reckoned that God could take care of the smaller things of life….the Holy Spirit was enabling them to live ‘by the Spirit’ (as Paul was to put it later in Rom 8: 9) and to put to death the old human nature in which selfishness, pride, greed and envy had reigned, along with everything else which is contrary to God’s way of living! We see here in the early church those with many personal resources alongside those with very few….all in fellowship togetherJ
The work of testifying to God’s amazing action in the resurrection event went on – with great power. The change in the disciples themselves was a powerful witness and the Holy Spirit was blessing their testimony. The resurrection was the main focus, obviously because it was a pivotal point for the faith of the disciples personally but also because it was this which made the difference – they were following a living Lord who was present with them constantly and empowering them to live for him.
The phrase ‘much grace was upon them all’ in v 33 is a very powerful one… this is the result of living in obedience to and in submission to God’s principles and in step with his Spirit.
Joseph, or Barnabas as he is better known, seems to be one such disciple who enjoyed such grace….. Luke singles him out as an example of what he is trying to convey – a believer with generosity of heart and nature, who isn’t consumed by his own needs, desires or preoccupations, but is willing to let God work through his resources and his personality too, so that he becomes an encouragement to others. We shall see the contrast to that in tomorrow’s passage!
Is my love for God greater than my desire for the things of this earthly life?
Can God trust me to use what he has given me for His glory?
How much am I aware of God’s grace daily in / on my life?