Unity, Generosity and Testimony
Unity, Generosity, and Testimony (Acts 4:32-37)
Any appropriate assessment of a church involves more than the sheer number of people gathered at one place. The New Testament emphasizes both the quantity of people and the quality of life in the Christian community. Acts 2:41 notes that a quantity of 3,000 were added to the church. Immediately, verses 42-47 characterize the fellowship of the church qualitatively. Again, Acts 4:4 notes there were 5,000 more in the church. Verses 32-37 highlight the quality of fellowship in that large first church.
Our church is a large quantity of people. But that does not mean much unless certain qualities mark our fellowship. In a quality church a spirit of unity leads to generosity and testimony.
A Spirit of Unity Leads to Generosity
Unity characterizes a quality church. Outwardly that first church represented a great crowd of five thousand men plus their families (Acts 4:4). They represented different ages, incomes, nationalities, temperaments, and occupations. Yet this group had "one heart" (v. 32a, KJV). In the center of their personality the same thoughts, feelings, and volitions characterized them. One heart beat in 5,000 people. The church had one soul; one great principle of life pulsated throughout the body. There were no divisions, factions, or contentions. Although this ideal situation did not last long, it was nevertheless the ideal. The glue that held them together was the joyful certainty that the Lord Jesus was risen. This genuine church unity is not forced, synthesized, or organized. It is vitalized by the shared conviction that Jesus is risen indeed.
Generosity characterizes a quality church. There was a unity at the point of generosity. It is stated literally and emphatically that "not even one" among so many considered that his or her personal possessions were peculiarly his or her own. There was a unity in which each felt he held his possessions as a trust for the whole church. If there was a need, there was not a question on anyone's part—the need was met immediately. In the early church everyone felt that way; in the contemporary church does anyone feel that way?
Generosity in the church ought to have several characteristics. Sensitivity characterizes generosity: "There were no needy persons among them" (v. 34). This did not last forever. They did not build a Utopia. Later the Jerusalem church was very poor. But at its ideal best the church met every need. Spontaneity characterizes generosity. As need arose, people with resources liquidated the resources and brought the resources. Humility characterizes generosity. Affluent landowners brought their resources and laid them at the feet of unlettered fishermen. It was literally one of the most unusual days since creation.
A Spirit of Generosity Leads to Testimony
The unity which leads to generosity gives vitality to testimony. An overwhelming power characterized their testimony in those earliest days of unity. Our testimony is an obligation. Verse 33 tells us that our testimony is not a favor we give but a debt we owe. Literally the text says, "the apostles habitually paid back the debt of testimony." Our testimony concerns the resurrection. They had been arrested for proclaiming that Jesus rose from the dead (vv. 1-3). The resurrection is the crowning proof of Jesus' Deity, efficacy, and present sovereignty. Keep in mind that the power of their testimony to the resurrection rooted in their unity and generosity.
Our testimony of generosity is an attraction: "much grace was with them all" (v. 33). The unity and generosity of the Christians led to the admiration and attraction of those outside the fellowship. That loving and giving church enjoyed "the favor of all the people" (2:47). There would be a magnetism about my church that demonstrates such unity and generosity. Generosity is part of testimony. What kind of testimony will Travis give?