Summary: Let’s seek to live radically open lives; caring and open with each other, and open to God.
A house without ceiling or walls
- A Radical new way of being community -
Last week’s memory verse : “Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
Purpose of the Passage: The presence of the Holy Spirit created a community characterised by sacrificial care, and dealt decisively with dishonesty and dodgy desires.
Aim of the Sermon: Let’s seek to live radically open lives; caring and open with each other, and open to God. [It is right to desire that this kind of community is noticed by outsiders].
Would you want to live in a house without ceiling or walls? Or maybe more realistically, would you want to live in one of these modern houses that seem to be more glass than concrete and stone. I imagine glass would be nice and warm on a sunny day. I’m sure that you’d save on lighting costs by relying more on natural lighting. I don’t know how well insulated you’d be from chilly Manchester winters (that might whack up your heating bill).
Two major concerns that would keep you or I away from living in a house with lots of glass walls and ceiling would be cost and privacy. You’d have to be pretty rich to even think about one of these modern glass arty things, and you’d have to be a bit of an exhibitionist (“look at me, look at me”). I read of a house in North London pretty much completely glass at the back. Why would you want everyone in the opposite terraces staring in on you, I do not know?
In our reading today from Acts we’ve got one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament. On the one hand we have Joseph Barnabas from Cyprus who gives generously to help out needy members of the church, and on the other we have Ananias and Sapphira who give almost as generously but get the death sentence.
Let’s look at this passage together and try and wrestle with some of our questions…
4:32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No-one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
36Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
5:1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
The effect of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the believers had been threefold… v.31 previous to our reading said that one effect was that the believers spoke the word of God boldly, and we’ve seen that with Peter addressing the crowd at Pentecost, explaining the healing at the temple gate, and standing up to the temple guard and Sadducees (temple officials). So one effect was that the believers spoke boldly about Jesus, they were enabled to WITNESS.
Two other effects of the Holy Spirit’s presence are mentioned in v.32… Firstly “all the believers were one…”, and secondly, “they shared everything they had.” If the Holy Spirit made them radical WITNESSES, He also made them radically UNITED, and radically GENEROUS.
Where the threat of persecution had been an attack on the believers’ WITNESS, here in our reading we have an attack by Satan on the believers’ UNITY and GENEROSITY.
Joseph Barnabas was a good example for UNITY and GENEROSITY in his gift and in his character as an encourager (v.36), but Ananias and Sapphira were a threat to the new Christian community.
This sharing all that they had, was not the end to private property. From the reading it’s pretty obvious that people still had stuff of their own, and “from time to time” (v.34) someone would sell something and hand it over to the apostles for distribution. This was radical community living. Caring for one another. The Holy Spirit had brought radical UNITY and GENEROSITY to their fellowship. This example is not necessarily a model to follow rigorously, but it is a spur to us to re-examine how united and how generous we are in our community of faith. Are we willing to be radical in our living as Christians together, to live out the good news of Jesus Christ in our unity and generosity. If the death of Jesus for our sins, and his resurrection and ascension that demonstrates his complete victory, is important to us, maybe we need, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to live more radical lives. For as Jesus said (Jn 13:34), “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”