4:34-35, "Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were
possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things
that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was
made unto every man according as he had need."
This morning, political ideologies are being discussed at a heightened pace.
With change in the air, fear on the rise, and unrest growing in every corner,
politics have become the watchword more than before. As politics are discussed,
it becomes quite clear that someone's viewpoints may align politically in ways
that oppose other areas of their life. For instance, someone may appear quite
the picture of moral excellence yet still fiercely support those that oppose his
moral compass of individual striving. Others are members of groups, secret
societies, etc that oppose, in their own ideological structure, the very tenets
of their personal thoughts. An example of this is my dad's stepfather. As a
devout 32nd degree mason, he was very deeply involved in a society that is
pretty much communistic in their thoughts and tenets, yet this man was an
entrepreneur and highly capitalistic. His personal thoughts did not align with
his political associates. Today, our climate many times will beg the
question from us, "How should Christians be politically? Or, what should their
political viewpoint be?"
While no political structure made by man is perfect, nor will it ever be, people
like to point to certain things in the Bible and ask, "Is that our model of
government and political structure?" I have been asked quite a lot lately about
what form of government is most Biblical. While there is not a cut-and-dry
answer to many of these burning questions, I will say this: one of the principle
tenets of Christian behaviour is to function honourably, morally, righteously,
obediently, and lawfully within whatever political structure we are found in.
(Matthew 22:17-22, I Timothy 2:1-2, Hebrews 13:17) The only exception to going
contrary to the human powers above us would be if they exercised a law that
contradicted our service to God. Daniel's disobedience to the king's decree on
prayer (Daniel 6) is a good example of this, but barring that circumstance, our
mode should be to function obediently and lawfully - as much as lieth in us -
with a republic, democracy, monarchy, oligarchy, etc. Even if the form is
something not preferable to us, we should still be honourable citizens to
society. Yet, when discussing Biblical politics, many times the verses above
will come into focus with the question, "Should we be doing what they were
One of the chief things to understand when studying Scriptures is what audience
is addressed. Many times, the New Testament has different terminology based on
whether the audience is Jew, Gentile, or mixed. A Jew understood terms that the
Gentile was unfamiliar with, and that sometimes dictated the language. At other
times, the language is specific about the particular people at that place. For
example, we cannot literally salute the brethren by name that Paul mentions at
the close of his epistle. That command was specifically for that church at that
time. Yet, even these specific examples do serve as general principles for our
lives. We should salute the brethren as we have opportunity and commend brethren
on their way. Therefore, let us see what in these verses is specific to that
audience and what is the more general principle for us today.
In these verses the saints at the church in Jerusalem are rejoicing in the early
days of the church after the ascension of Christ. They share in one another's
joys and partake in things having all things common. (Acts 2:44-45) They were
parting with earthly goods, distributing according to need, and living together
in a communistic fashion. So often today, I hear people say, "If we could all
just find a spot all our own, we could live completely removed from everyone
else." Brethren, compound societies have never worked for God's people, and I
believe that Scriptures bear out that they never will. (I Corinthians 5:9-10) We
should not have fellowship in the church with people engaged in egregious
lifestyles, but to be able to completely remove ourselves from the world (live
out of the world as it were) is impossible. We might leave behind all the other
things in the world, but we would still have the world in this old flesh to
contend with, and given time, would bite and devour one another in some
So, why were these brethren living in this communal way? Why were they selling
all their lands and possessions? Are earthly possessions supposed to be
completely shed once we join ourselves to the Lord's church? I would say that
specifically this lifestyle was regulated to this church alone for a particular
reason, but there is a more general principle here that applies to us today.
These brethren and saints were all members of the Jerusalem church, living in
that general vicinity, and thereby able to have this close fellowship. However,
they knew something was coming that their acquaintances and neighbours did not.
Having the words of Jesus, what did they know? They knew that Jerusalem's days
were marked and numbered. They knew, from the Saviour's words, that eventually
not "one stone would be left upon another." From reading Matthew 24, Mark 13,
and Luke 21, they had glimpses of what was coming. They knew that an army would
eventually encompass the city, lay it waste, and they were to be fleeing into
the mountains for safety.
Knowing this, what good did it do to own a house there? What good were
possessions and lands in that area that would be laid so low that historians
declare that Rome's army made such a burning that one could not tell there was a
city there when they were through! If any one of us knew that our local area
would be demolished and completely ruined, how fond would we be of our house or
property? Its days, being numbered, could be more suitably used in the form of
distribution to the saints in need. Having no more need of a house or land soon
to be destroyed, give the monetary value to your best friends and kindred in
Christ that stand in need of such things.
Since that case is particular to the Jerusalem church, I do not believe that
their lifestyle at that time serves as a specific model for us today. We are not
in error by having houses or lands and not living in this communal way.
Christians do not fail the litmus test by not living in communism (or desiring
to). Rather, we have a very good general guideline here of how the church should
behave one to another. If we see a brother in need, we should be more than
willing to impart to him some of the goodness that the Lord has blessed us with.
If one of the members of the church body suffers, it is like a pained member of
the natural body: all feel it. Therefore, all should be ready to do what is
necessary to help the pained member in their situation. I am thankful to say
that in my years of the church, I have repeatedly seen this scenario of a pained
member being salved by the other members of the body. Without a grumble or a
gripe, the other members willingly and lovingly did whatever they could to help
their dear friend and brother.
Furthermore, they knew that their days as citizens of Jerusalem were numbered,
and we understand that our days of citizens of this earth have an end. As our
days here get short, we have need of less. With no more children to bring up and
care for, we require less means to do than we did before. Finally as we feel,
like Paul did, that our course is about finished, we certainly do not need
things that we once needed in years past. As our needs lessen (whether due to
age or otherwise), we should be willing to impart of our own selves those things
that our brethren stand in need of. These saints did sell their possessions,
yes, but there was a need being served.
Therefore, whatever political climate we find ourselves in, may we proceed in
the most honourable way we know how. May we freely bestow as we have opportunity
to the needs of our brethren, especially them of the household of faith.
(Galatians 6:10) May we lead as quiet and peaceable a life as we can without
grumbling and complaining. No matter our feelings for those in positions of
authority above us, we are required to pray for them and seek the Lord in
blessing and upholding them. Prayer with grumbling does not constitute proper
prayer, but praying knowing that God's hand can turn the heart of the worst
leader to benefit God's people is a sweet aroma in His nostrils. (Ezra 6:22)