Called to Live
A series in the Book of Acts
House Group Leaders Notes
Intro to the series:
With a new chapter soon to begin in the life of the church we’re going to spend some time looking at a short section of the Book of Acts. In particular we’re going to look at some of the ways in which the early church lived out their calling to a life of radical missional discipleship.
As we read and pray through the passages we’ll take some time to stop and ask the question:
‘As someone with the same calling, how does the experience and way of life of the early church relate to and inspire my call to live as a radical missionary disciple?’
Week 7 Living Generously
Acts 4:32-37, Luke 21:1-4
Commentary on the passage
In the passage from Acts we're given another short summary of the life of the early church. In some ways it seems a bit like a space fller, but it's intended to highlight a significant difference in attitudes that existed within the early church community. The passage should be read in contrast to the story of Annanias and Sapphira in Acts 5.
Although the later passage in Acts 5 is longer and more detailed this shorter passage, and especially verses 36-37 should be read as describing the normative way of life in the early church - it is against this norm that Annanias and Sapphira emerge.
Like the earlier passage in Acts 2:43-47 our passage today stresses the common mind and the generosity of the disciples in thier life together. We read that this common sharing and generosity was a demonstration and indeed proof of the grace of God at work in the early church, and some commentators have suggested that Luke is here trying to make clear that the gift of the Holy Spirit led not only to inspired preaching but also to deep fellowship and generosity.
We see then a pattern of life emerging in which the notion of possession was redefined, in its meaning and it's 'telos' (ultimate end goal) - no longer was possession a purely self serving act, to something which served a new purpose - no longer self serving, but God serving and other serving.
The wording of the passage is interesting and seems to suggest that what each of the members of the new community possessed continued to be thier property until it was found necessary to use it for the good of the whole group. Personal ownership is not negated, but possessions were seen as important not only in so far as they enriched the invidiual who possessed them, but important in so far as they were able to bless the wider community. All this motivated by deep devotion to God.
And so we see the first two and greatest commandments being embodied in the early church - Love God and love nieghbour.
We also see a bringing to reality of a prophetic promose from Duet 15 - that among Gods covenant people there would be no poor. As the blessings of God are held in common so poverty and need are addressed.
Some questions to start us off…
As we reflect on this reading it likely challenges some of our deep cultural assumptions to do with ownership and possession.
Do we need to re-appraise the ultimate end goal for which we employ our possessions?
How does the way in which we hold and use our possessions help or hinder us from fulifilling the first two commandments to love God and love others?
How important is the alleviation of poverty? Both on a local level - within the church perhaps - and the wider national and global level?
What is our response to poverty as Christians and why?
Can we think of anyone within our own church community who might be in need and are we willing and able to offer and support and help to them for the glory of God and for the sake of loving them?
Some prayer prompts:
Pray for those who we know are in need
Pray for ourselves if we are in a position to help those in need
Pray that we might be able to redfine what it means to possess things as the early church did, that Gods grace might be seen to be powerfully at work
Simon Butler, 19/07/2015