There is one thing we followers of Jesus do which hurts our fellowship. Luke tells us how those who believed “were of one heart and one soul.” We want the fellowship at this church to be were all who believe are of one heart and one soul. We want our testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus to be filled with great power. We want great grace to be upon every individual believer in our midst. We then give our testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
However, there is one thing we followers of Jesus do which hurts our fellowship. We are not holding everything we own in common. Yes, I know this is the 21st Century were land ownership and the ability to have private possessions is considered a right. So we hold our possessions close. It is the holding of our individual possessions that hurts our fellowship.
I am thinking that is why Luke told us about Barnabas and the couple named Ananias and Sapphira. Those who had possessions sold them and laid the proceeds before the apostles. The apostles then made sure the proceeds were passed on to any who had need. Not only was the good news of Jesus Christ being told, but the apostles and the whole group were making sure no one in the fellowship had any need. It is like what John Wesley said about the living church. He used the phrase, “Scriptural Christianity.” Wesley said that scriptural Christianity is the individual believer and the church being filled with the Holy Spirit, the mind of Christ.” For when we are speaking about God’s deeds of power, the Holy Spirit fills us to be a living church. In order for us to have the mind of Christ, we are to be of one heart and one soul.
A. Barnabas is an example of being of one heart and one soul (4:32-37)
1. Joseph, the Levite from Cyprus, was called “the son of encouragement” – Barnabas
a. Individual Levites were not to own any land (Deuteronomy 12:12)
b. but for what the tribe owned (Joshua 14:2-3)
c. Levites depended upon the rest of Israel for their daily needs
2. He sold a field, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet
3. What trust Barnabas showed! As he followed Jesus Christ, he knew he could depend upon God and the people of God. So he sold a field. He went from trusting what he could provide for himself to trusting what God could provide for him. Barnabas showed this trust by submitting himself to the apostles. Oh, that we could see such trust in our lifetimes!
B. We need not forget that one thing can damage our fellowship (5:1-11)
1. A crack emerges in the fellowship of the whole group
2. Together Ananias and Sapphira agreed to hold back some of the proceeds from the sale of their property
3. Not only was Peter the main speaker for the fellowship, but Peter was also the head apostle who made sure that there was not a needy person among the fellowship
4. Peter confronts Ananias
a. Somehow Peter knows of the lie told by Ananias
b. For the Holy Spirit filled the fellowship – the part that keeps the fellowship together
c. Ananias did not lie to the fellowship, to the men, but to God – the Holy Spirit!
d. So, the young men took Ananias’ body and buried it
5. Peter confronts Sapphira
a. Three hours later, Sapphira has some questions to answer
b. Their agreement put the Spirit to the test
c. The young men took her body and buried her beside her husband
6. The fellowship, the church, had great fear, as did the community around the church have great fear!
7. Maybe this is why fear gripped the fellowship, each person was asking themselves this question: what am I holding back so as to hurt our fellowship with God and each other? Husbands and wives may even do the same thing today. We talk with our husband or wife, and we agree together. But the agreement of the husband and wife is against the fellowship of believers. In a sense these married couples are dying when they agree against the fellowship of believers. Anytime an individual believer is not giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is difficult to see how great grace can be upon the church. For when we connive ways to keep what was once ours, we are hurting the church. Our trust in God dies as we keep back some of the proceeds from what was once our own.
This is a somber day. We realize as we celebrate the death of Jesus with receiving Holy Communion, some of us are dying. Oh, we may not die like Ananias and Sapphira did. But as we withhold a part of what we had, we are not living Scriptural Christianity. For it was the mind of Jesus Christ to trust God through dying on the cross. It is the mind of Christ to not keep back anything for the apostles, the fellowship, dare I say even the church.
Somedays I pray that great fear would come upon the church. For then we would ask ourselves: what am I holding back so as to hurt our fellowship with God and each other?
When we hear the church is not relevant today, I concede the point on this one matter. For when our possessions are more important than the fellowship, we each die. As we come forward to receive what Christ Jesus gave for us to be in this fellowship, may we search our own lives to discover what we are holding back so as to hurt our fellowship with God and with each other. What we hold back could keep us from being a living church.