Acts 4:32-37

Sunday Morning Bible Study

August 31, 1997

Introduction

We've seen the early church now move through two great waves of conversions.

On the day of Pentecost, when Peter explained the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, 3,000 people got saved.

Then when the lame man was healed at the temple, and Peter explained what happened, the church added a few thousand more souls.

:32-37 The giving church

:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul

We've mentioned quite a few times already that the strength of the early church was in it's togetherness, it's unity.

Lesson:

Unity

Illustration

Sometime ago Denalyn, Max Lucado's wife, bought a monkey. He writes,

I didn't want a monkey in our house, so I objected.

"Where is he going to eat?" I asked. "At our table."

"Where is he going to sleep?" I inquired. "In our bed."

"What about the odor?" I demanded. "I got used to you; I guess the monkey can too."

Unity doesn't begin in examining others but in examining self. Unity begins, not in demanding that others change, but in admitting that we aren't so perfect ourselves.

If we stop criticizing, and start loving, think of the great things God will do!

:32 neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

common - "koino", the root of koinonia, the word for "fellowship".

Lesson:

It doesn't belong to me.

This is the essence of what is called "stewardship"

Everything you own belongs to God, and He's just loaned it to you to watch over for awhile.

This is difficult, because for all of us, one of the earliest words we learned as children was "mine".

Just yesterday, our boys must have fought a dozen times over toys that one child said "it's mine, I had it first ".

Illustration

When candy manufacturer John S. Huyler started out in business, he took Jacob's pledge: "...of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee" (Gen. 28:22). Going to the bank, he opened a special account which he initialed "M.P." Into that fund he regularly entered a proportionate amount of his income. When anyone asked what the strange label meant, they were told that it stood for "My Partner." As he kept God uppermost in his mind in all his transactions, his industry grew at a phenomenal rate, and each week the "Lord's treasury" received increasingly large sums. His gifts to worthy causes and private individuals amazed his business associates. These contributions were always accompanied with the request that the donor should not receive any thanks or glory for his actions. He asked each recipient to offer praise to God alone, for he said, "After all, the money isn't mine; it's the Lord's!"

I imagine that there are some of you beginning to wonder if the preacher is going to call for an offering and make us all give lots of money!

I have a concern that our reaction to the offering-hungry preachers has driven some of us to the point where we have forgotten that our money belongs to God, and that He will from time to time desire to have a little access to it.

Martin Luther astutely observed, "There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, mind and the purse."

Paul said,

Acts 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

:33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus

I think this power is in both the preaching of the gospel, as well as in the signs and wonders that were being done.

Jesus had said,

(Acts 1:8 KJV) But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

And now we've seen through the last few chapter just how powerful the witness has been, with over 5,000 coming to the Lord through the preaching and the miracles.

:33 and great grace was upon them all.

grace - charis - a gift, that which gives joy, pleasure, delight; it's not something you earn, it's something you receive because it's given to you.

The Bible says that we're saved by grace:

(Eph 2:8-9 KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: {9} Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Mankind has a great problem, and that is that our sinfulness has separated us from God.

Yet God has loved us so much, that He has paid the price of our sin, removing the problem, by having His Son Jesus die on the cross in our place.

And God now offers to us a way to have this relationship with Him restored, all by what He has done for us, by what He has given to us.

But it doesn't end there.

Even after they're saved, the church has been receiving gifts of the Holy Spirit, wonderful miracles, protection from their enemies, people getting saved, and on and on.

Some people get the idea that salvation comes by grace, but once you're saved, you've got to work as hard as you can to keep God happy with you. Wrong.

Lesson:

Walk in Grace

A lot of times we hear about what we ought to be doing for God.

But in reality, God has done way more for us that we could ever repay.

God continues to give and give and give, and we need to continue to receive and receive and receive.

Note: Because they were such receivers of God's grace, they were also great givers to the needs around them as we'll see in the next verse.

The key to giving is receiving.

I wonder if some of us have stopped being so gracious towards each other because we've stopped receiving God's grace in our lives.

:34 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,

The language here indicates that this was an ongoing process, that from "from time to time" people would sell a possession, bring the money the church, and the needs were met.

It's not that everybody who had any property were being forced to sell all their possessions and give everything to the church.

Those that sold and brought money into the church did so on their own, of their own will, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (we'll see this in Acts 5:4)

We've seen a lot of these cult groups lately where people are forced to sell all their possessions and give them to the group.

I recently read an article about this group that lives communally together and trains to run ultra-marathons, and how they too are told by their "guru" to sell all they have to support the group.

Lesson:

Giving should be done from a free will.

2 Cor 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

Giving should not be done because somebody twists your arm, but because God has put it on your heart, and because you have a cheerful desire to do it.

Quote

"Giving with glad and generous hearts has a way of routing out the tough old miser within us. Even the poor need to know that they can give. Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon greed."

-- Richard J. Foster, Money, Sex & Power

It's not necessarily how much you give, it's how willingly and cheerfully you give that counts.

:35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

If a person in the church had a real need, the apostles' would help by distributing some of the funds toward that need.

It's kind of like what we do as a church, when we are made aware of a need, the elders have a fund to work with to help meet the needs within our body.

But please, don't lay any money at my feet!

:36 And Joses

Or better, "Joseph", meaning "let him add".

:36 who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas,

Apparently this guy had endeared himself to the apostles so much that they gave him a nickname.

"Barnabas" is an Aramaic name, a compound of "bar" (son) and "naba" (to prophesy, to prophesy under the influence of the Spirit).

This is not an unheard of thing, giving a new name to a person.

After having wrestled with God, Jacob was told that his name would be changed from "conniving dirty rotten thief heal-catcher" (Jacob) to "governed by God" (Israel). (Gen 32:28)

Jesus told Simon, the son of Jonah, that his name (which meant "hearing") would be changed to Cephas, or Peter (Aramaic and Greek equivalents) which meant "Rock". (Joh 1:42)

:36 (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,)

Luke, for clarification, gives us a meaning for "Barnabas" so his Greek readers would understand a little about Joseph and the reason for this nickname.

It's interesting to compare the translations of the two, since "son of prophecy" and "son of consolation" doesn't sound anything alike.

Yet in a way, they're very much intertwined with each other.

Consolation - paraklesis - a calling alongside for help; and it can carry the idea of exhortation, or urging to action, encouragement, or comfort. We've seen before that one of the names for the Holy Spirit is the parakletos, the "Comforter" (John 14:16).

And prophecy often contains an element of "exhortation".

1Co 14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men [to] edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

Actually, the two are very close indeed.

Lesson:

Be a Barnabas.

1. Speak for God.

Ac 13:1-2 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

Remember that "Barnabas" means "son of prophecy". A prophet is a person who speaks for God.

Barnabas was listed as one of the prophets in Antioch, and though it may not have been him specifically, God used a prophet to speak to the church, sending Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey.

The greatest way to encourage someone, is to let God give you the words to say, to let God speak through you.

The easiest way to "speak for God", is to speak His Word.

Read, study, learn your Bible, then use it, and share it.

(Psa 19:7-8 NLT) The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. {8} The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are clear, giving insight to life.

2. Bring the new ones into the fellowship.

Ac 9:26-27 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought [him] to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.

Saul was still a little suspicious to the Christians. Nobody knew whether he was telling the truth, or whether he was just trying to deceive the church to hurt it.

Barnabas knew Saul was sincere, and he stood up for Saul, helping him to become a trusted part of the church in Jerusalem.

Some of you are playing "Barnabas", as you reach out to those who have made commitments at the Harvest Crusade, and are trying to help them feel at home in the church. Encourage away! It isn't easy to fit into a group!

3. Put people into ministry

At one point in the early church, God began to move among the Gentiles up in Antioch, Syria. The church sent Barnabas there to help them grow in the Lord.

Acts 11:23-26 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. {24} For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. {25} Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: {26} And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Did you see that Barnabas "exhorted" (parakaleo) the people, just like his name?

Barnabas didn't try to handle the church by himself, but went and got Paul to come and help him, bringing Paul into the ministry.

We look at the apostle Paul as one of the great pillars of the early church, but it was Barnabas that was responsible for putting him into ministry.

Illustration

An example of a modern "Barnabas" was Dr. Henrietta Mears.

She was born in 1890 in Fargo, North Dakota, and when the doctors told her that her worsening eyesight would have her blind by 30, she didn't listen to them, and instead went to college.

A couple of years into college, she fell in love with a man who did not share her faith in Christ. She wanted to be married and have children, but ended up breaking her engagement when she surrendered her desires to serve the Lord.

She taught high school chemistry for a few years, and then in 1928 became Director of Christian Education at Hollywood Presbyterian Church.

In her first three years, Sunday School attendance went from 400 to 4,000. She took over teaching the College group and began training and discipling Christian leaders. Through her direct influence, more than 400 young men and women went into full-time Christian service, including Bill Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), Richard Halverson (former Chaplain to the Senate), and Dr. Paul Carlson (martyred missionary in Africa).

She founded the Gospel Light Curriculum company to publish her Bible Studies, and started a retreat center in the mountains, Forest Home.

It was Henrietta Mears who helped a young Billy Graham at a Forest Home retreat. At a crisis point in his faith, she encouraged him to trust in the Lord and believe in the Bible.

:36 a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,

In other words, Joseph (Barnabas) was a Jewish man, of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of the priests, and was born on the island of Cyprus.

Some of this will be important as we see some of Barnabas' ministry up ahead.

:37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

Just like many others in the church, Barnabas responded to God's prompting, and sold a piece of property, bringing the money to the apostles.

Apparently, there were some people who were impressed with the kind of response Barnabas got when he gave his gift to the church. Next week we're going to see an example when giving is wrong!