Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
What a testimony the above verse is to a world marked by strife and division! Just this week, we were reminded by the tragic events in Boston of man’s tendency towards hatred and cruelty. As a society, we may still be shocked by these increasing displays of violence, but they are merely outward expressions what many harbor in their hearts. Remember, 1 Jn 3:15 tells us plainly that “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer…” Paul describes the state of man outside of Christ as being “foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. (Tit 3:3) Brethren, the church should be distinctly different!
Our text today describes the early church as being “of one heart and one soul” and having “all things in common”. Earlier in the same chapter, we find a similar description of the believers in Ac 4:24. Here, we read that they raised their voice to God “with one accord”. The Greek word translated “with one accord” is only found 12 times in our New Testament, almost exclusively in the book of Acts. Interestingly, the word generally describes one of two things–the church’s oneness in heart and mind or the world’s unity in its hatred toward the saints! The one instance of this word outside of Acts is found in Rom 15:5-6: “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The church should be marked by unity!
Paul told the Philippians that what would really make him happy was if he found them “being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (Ph 2:2) He longed to see the brethren united in Christ! The next verse tells us the key to such harmony: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Unity comes naturally when people put everybody else ahead of themselves! You can’t strive “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” unless you also “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love“! (Eph 4:1-3) A humble church will be a united church.
Oneness in the body of Christ is the responsibility of every member. 1 Cor 12:25-26 says that “there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” Maintaining unity is not the job of only a handful within an assembly! Individuals that are bent on separating the brethren should be dealt with firmly and swiftly. We are admonished to “note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” These type of people can do great harm within the church for “those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Rom 16:17-18) In Tit 3:10-11, we find an even stronger word than “avoid” when speaking of how to deal with such a person: “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.”
In contrast, the blessed ones of Mt 5:9 are “peacemakers” not “strifemakers”; however, even though that peace is a fruit of the indwelling Spirit (Gal 5:22), it doesn’t mean that it will take no effort on our part to maintain it! We must, “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Ps 34:14) Strive for peace! Temptation to divide is all around us. I’ve heard of it creeping into more than one assembly in recent days. Congregations are fracturing and on the verge of separation. Let it not be on our watch, dear saint! “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled…” (Heb 12:14-15)