A Tale of Two Fields - Acts 4:32-5:16

The Early Church and Revitalization  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The Church is United by Commitment to the Holy Spirit

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Church unity requires true commitment to one another, and to God.

Good morning brothers and sisters, thank you for having this morning.
For those who do not know me, my name is Will Bradley, and I attend Shoreline Church just a few blocks away. Pastor Adrian at Faith-Way church told me Pastor Bud was looking to invite speakers to encourage you all in the direction of growth and revitalization, as several churches in our area are very wisely doing. I really credit that awareness to Pastor ad to you. Also that you let Adrian yell - I mean preach here.
I am not a pastor, and I’m not a missionary - I am an IT professional, I went to Christian college to develop and learn to use business skills for the kingdom. I love problem solving and teaching, and I’m here because my heart is to see the Church in our corner of New England united in Christ and thriving. As someone who has been part of both older more traditional church and in two church plants, I have perspectives you may not have heard before.
When Pastor Adrian guest speaks here, he probably yells, you can’t sleep through his sermons, ever. I don’t yell, but I want this to be as useful for you as possible, so if I ask questions and ask for participation, please don’t hesitate to speak up, ok?
Ok, so let’s quickly recap Luke’s story in Acts so far.
Luke lays out the plot of Acts very simply in Acts 1:8
Acts 1:8 ESV
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
This is our basic outline of the book of Acts. Jesus’ blueprint for Church growth was inside out - from Judea and the Jerusalem temple, to the diaspora and Samaria, and finally to the Gentiles. We here today are “the ends of the earth”.
By reading the Gospels and Acts up to this point we have learned that:
The spread of the Gospel (John 17:20-23) depends on being “one” as Christ and the Father are one. We must remain united with Christ.
Before his crucifixion Christ also promised He would leave us with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus rose, and ascended to heaven the apostles were filled with the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2).
They began to speak in the languages of foreigners and heal the sick. And they also did this crazy, unprecedented thing:
Acts 2:44–45 ESV
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Now from here on to the end of the New Testament, this radical kind of sharing, n with miracles, becomes a practice throughout the ancient church. To us this sounds very radical, and maybe even monastic, like monks would do this, but no average Christian. This generosity played an important role in the spiritual healing ministry of the Church, and evangelism.
Our key text today zooms into this practice, in a real life scenario that Luke records to make a very difficult but critical point.
Please join me in prayer over our time together, and then let’s read our passage.
Let’s read:
Acts 4:32-5:16 “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But a man named Ananias...”
In the 1940s, there was a luxury ocean liner called “Queen Mary”. The owners transformed it into a troop transport. Troops were piled into rooms on bunks, and rooms that slept two before now slept 8. The beautiful dining hall became a grimy mess hall for troops. Lots of people made radical changes to their life and to their businesses to support the war effort. In those war years, People were giving up what they valued greatly before the war, in order to attain a greater victory for the future.
This is something like what Jesus taught us in a very sharp parable, in Matthew 13:44
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
The simple logic here is that you would be foolish not to sell your measly plot of farmland, or your house, for a treasure no one knows exists but you. To the outsider you are trading everything you have for one field, but to you you are gaining a much greater treasure.
There is no use for a luxury boat in a world with no safe harbors. If the enemy wins control, it is total and absolute defeat. You must commit everything you have in that kind of situation - and that is what Jesus wants us to know about wealth and Heaven. There is no exchange rate between earthly and heavenly treasures. Life with Christ surpasses all things in value. All things.
This is also why Luke recalls Jesus saying, “It is more blessed to give than it is to receive” (Acts 20). Heaven is so beautiful, Christ so valuable, that we are are better giving everything away for not just us to find the treasure, but for others to receive that treasure too.
This is why the first generation of believers “had everything in common”. The meeting of one another’s needs advanced Jesus’ kingdom. This is wartime generosity.
The Holy Spirit began this work in chapter 2 and as the church grew in number so did its healing and giving impact.
Pivot: The Spirit-led generosity on display in chapter 4 is what makes the second half of our passage so appalling.
For You:
For Me:
For We:
A friend of mine at work often points to the hypocrisy of the church in history - wars, Catholics killing Protestants, and Protestants killing Catholics, slave holders who claimed to be Christian - and he is not alone when he sees these as reasons to steer clear of the Church or doubt its authenticity. Within the Church during the past decade, various sexual scandals and questionable use of money to buy things from expensive Jordan’s to private jets, has young people in the Church asking a lot of critical questions of church authorities and missions.
Logically we can say that our failure to live up to Jesus does not make Him any less powerful or worthy, yet in reality these events sow not only doubt but divisions in the Church.
I looked this up, and I found at least 6 marketing research studies done since 2018 that agreed that Gen Z highly prizes authenticity in others, especially leaders. This is a sometimes misplaced, but really a helpful instinct.
If we try to have a foot in both fields, we will set ourselves up for heartbreak and disenchantment, and if a church community does what Ananias did, they can make Church a heartbreaking and disappointing place to be.
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