Gospel Shaped Community

Acts 4:32-35

by Rick Bower

The book of Acts offers a great snapshot of the early church.  It is a chance for us to see and hopefully embrace the gospel as THE SOURCE of any hope for real change and purpose – and also THE SOURCE of our connection in community.

Tim Keller in his piece on the Centrality of the Gospel writes, “The Christian life is a process of renewing every dimension of our life – spiritual, psychological, corporate, social – by thinking, hoping, and living out the “lines” or ramifications of the gospel. The gospel is to be applied to every area of thinking, feeling, relating, working, and behaving.”

With this in mind turn with me if you will to Acts 4:32-35 as I read;

Sharing Among Believers

32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

In this passage we see the Gospel is the great connector in Gospel Shaped Community.

  1. It unites our relationships
  2. It is the basis for our common goals and service
  3. It unleashes the power and presence of God
  4. It propels us (from the inside out) into uncommon service

Let me encourage you to remember Keller’s words, “The Christian life is a process,” as we take a closer look at these 4 points of connection and their relationship to Gospel shaped Community.

1.     Gospel Shaped Community unites our relationships (vs. 32)

  • Text – …the congregation of those who believed or “all the believers” were of one heart and soul…This verse is almost verbatim what we read in Acts chapter 2:44.
  • 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common… The Message puts it this way, and all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common.
  • This congregation was together because of what they had witnessed and come to believe, the Gospel.
  • The Gospel is God’s great love for us on display and His greater plan of salvation realized through Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection.  The Gospel is where this congregation found the common ground to become “of one heart and soul.”
  • 1 John 3:16: We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (NASB)
  • These “believers”, understood this verse better than most.  They were living it!
  • Relationships are critical to community.
  • Being part of a community doesn’t mean you come to Sunday service and sit and watch others perform and leave.  “Being part of” implies much more.
  • Community has never been built on spectatorship.
  • Community’s foundation is relationship and relationship is built through personal interaction.
  1. Relationships take time, effort and they take being together.
  2. Relationships take a genuine interest in others.
  3. Relationships take vulnerability.
  • Acts 2:46-47: Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (NASB)
  • For some of us, relationships are tough because they force us to intersect with others in a way that is threatening.
  1. Maybe we don’t know how to introduce a conversation or make small talk;
  2. Maybe we are fearful that you will see the non Sunday me or;
  3. Maybe we don’t understand how to deal with disagreement w/o insulting others.
  • For community to happen relationships must be safe; as in the NT, safe enough to admit need and allow for accountability.
  • Safe relationships seek the best in people.  They aren’t always looking for an angle to point out faults.
  • Romans 12:14-16: Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. (MSG)
  • Safe relationships work to correct faults while being accepting.  This can be hard!
  • Hebrews 10:24-25 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (NASB)
  • Each Sunday we take a minute to meet and greet someone.  I have been encouraging you to meet someone you don’t know during this time.  Can I encourage you to take it to the next level?  Here’s what you do, maybe following the Sunday service, or at a pot luck, or over a cup of coffee . . .
  • Share your testimony (your story) with someone here at Southside, that you don’t know their story.
  • Have them share their story with you.
  • As you listen ask yourself these 3 questions.
  • What did I hear?
  • Where did I connect with your story? (i.e. a similar interest or experience, etc)
  • How can I encouragement you to continue on in your faith?

2.     Gospel Shaped Community is the basis for our common goals and service. (vs. 32)

  • …the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul…
  • These folks were dialed into God, to his plan, purpose and direction.
  • To see Jesus exalted.

In Acts 4:11,12 – Peter in front of the High Priests answers; 11 He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (NASB)

  • To see the Gospel proclaimed.

Acts 1:8 – We read; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (NASB)

  • To see a new kind of community built, one that would meet each other’s needs, serve one another, love one another, encourage one another, etc.

John 13:34,35 – Jesus says to us; A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (NASB)

  • In Deuteronomy 6:5-6 Moses spoke these words from God to Israel; You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. (NASB)
  • And Jesus prayed these words for each of us in John 17:22,23 on the night he was betrayed; The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (NASB)
  • This passage in Acts reminds us that God’s will and His ways can and do work for those who are committed to Him. 
  • One commentator put it this way; “They were dead to this world. This was a great evidence of the grace of God in them. They did not take away others’ property, but they were indifferent to it. They did not call it their own; because they had, in affection, forsaken all for Christ, and were expecting to be stripped of all for cleaving to him. No marvel that they were of one heart and soul, when they sat so loose to the wealth of this world. In effect, they had all things common; for there was not any among them who lacked; care was taken for their supply.”
  • In the coming weeks and months we will have a great opportunity, each one of us to engage in developing this character trait of gospel shaped community.  We will be seeking God’s heart for Southside as we take aim at and identify the common goals and purposes that God would have for us moving forward.
  • My challenge to you and to me, “to us” today is to Pray, seek God, and to get Involved!  Let it be said of us that they are of “one heart and soul”!

3.     Gospel Shaped Community  unleashes the power and presence of God (vs. 33)

  • Text: And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…
  • Acts 4:13-22: Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15 But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.” 18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22 for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.
  • The Spirit was empowering the words of the apostles.  The apostles new it, and so did the church and the Jewish leaders.  In verse 13 we read:  Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.
  • God was granting success in the effectiveness of the message.
  • ii.     5,000 were saved, Acts 4:4
  • iii.   The lame man was healed, Acts 3:7
  • The acceptance of the message was a demonstration of the power of the Spirit.
  • Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?  I’ll say it again;

Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

  • For the early church in Acts the answer was ABSOLUTELY!!  I don’t even think this was a question and I believe that is why verse 33 says; “and abundant grace was upon them all.”
  • These Christians were fully committed in word and deed and that makes a difference!
  • Call it whatever you like; maturity, obedience, fruit, etc. the simple truth here is that with each faith step we take God is right there dumping more of His “abundant grace” on us.
  • So, how do you answer the question;

Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

  • If you have to think about it you have already answered the question.
  • It is my hope and prayer that more and more our answer would be ABSOLUTELY!!
  • When we can answer the question ABSOLUTELY! we will have a community of believers here at Southside bound together, becoming more aware that God is at work in our midst!  We will say ABSOLUTELY to God;
  • Fixing that broken marriage
  • Healing that disease with no cure
  • Transforming that life in crisis
  • Doing the ministry that only he can do
  • Look around.  What do you see?  How is God working in our midst?
  • Do you see the status quo?
  • Are you satisfied with that?
  • God wants to work in your life.  The question is will you let Him?
  • God is going to work in this church.  The question is, will we try to stand in His way?
  • Our hesitation to say yes is all that stands in the way of us experiencing, “Truly vibrant gospel shaped community and allowing God to work in truly extraordinary ways”.

4.     Gospel Shaped Community propels us (from the inside out) into uncommon service (vs32B, 34-37)

Text… and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own . . .

34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

  • For the early believers this involved giving material possessions.
  • My commentary put it this way;

“They did not take away others’ property, but they were indifferent to it. They did not call it their own; because they had, in affection, forsaken all for Christ, and were expecting to be stripped of all for cleaving to him. No marvel that they were of one heart and soul, when they sat so loose to the wealth of this world.”

  • They were sensitive to others needs and willing to do doing whatever it took to meet those needs.  The result, no one was in need.
  • For us, community means we use what we have to benefit others.
  • We take what we have and willing give our:  Spiritual gifts, personal strengths, financial resources, influence, our mind, and the list goes on, and use them to benefit other people.
  • People are drawn together because they are helped and loved.
  • One pastor put it this way, “The energy fueling their fellowship did not arise from within the believers. There was neither knowledge of nor dependence upon programs or seminars to stimulate and sustain the atmosphere of wonder and worship. It was enough to know the good and merciful hand of God upon them. As warm air and warm water at the top of the ocean fuel a hurricane, the Gospel – faithfully preached, deliberately shared, and humbly lived out – is what fuels a sense of wonder and joy in the church.   Mark it down.  The vitality of our fellowship is a function of the brightness with which the flame of the Gospel burns within and among us.”
  • Here at Southside we have plenty of opportunity before to serve each other and grow in Gospel Shaped Community.
  • Love someone by serving them.
  • If you see a need, meet a need.
  • “LOVE Serves” is all about realizing the truth of Mark 10:45: ”For even the Son of Man did not come to be served , but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Concluding Thoughts:

  • The Gospel is the great connector in Gospel Shaped Community:
  • It unites our relationships
  • It is the basis for our common goals and service
  • It unleashes the power and presence of God
  • It propels us (from the inside out) into uncommon service
  • We need to know the Gospel.  Check that, we need to experience the Gospel in our own lives.
  • Gospel Shaped Community shows us we are more depraved than we have ever realized and we are simultaneously more loved than we ever dared imagine.
  • As we realize God’s transforming power of the Gospel in our own lives, and as we apply “the gospel to every area of thinking, feeling, relating, working, and behaving”, we will overflow with good works in service to Him.  Not because we “have to,” but because we “get to”.
  • Remember: Pray, seek God, and get Involved!
  • Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?  If we follow the lead of the early church in Acts our answer will be ABSOLUTELY!!

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