Evidence of God at Work

Acts 4:32-37     |     Sermon Resources   |    19 January 2020


In an earlier sermon in this series we considered the “day by day” activities of the early church.  We saw that their activity fell into five categories—the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer, and witness.   In that sermon I encouraged you to make specific commitments in each of these categories with the big idea being that God brings change into our lives slowly over time as we put ourselves in the “way of grace” through these daily activities.

A lot has happened in the life of the early church since Luke gave that summary report of their “day by day” activity back in chapter 2.  In our passage this week he provides a new update on the church and focuses less on their activity and more on the fruit of that activity.

This should be a source of tremendous encouragement for us — to have a close view not just of what they did but in how God blessed it.  This is clear evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in their midst.  So what did that fruit look like?


#1 Great Unity

Luke reports that the full number of believers, which at last count was 5000 men alone (c.f. Acts 4:4), were of one heart and soul (v.32).  This is hard to wrap your head around isn’t it?  Over 5000 people were so unified that they are said to have had one heart and one soul?

What was that like?  Was there no cause for disunity in the early church?  Did it not make a difference if you were a rural rancher or a city dweller?  If you were rich or if you were poor?  If you were well-educated or illiterate?  If you were formerly a Zealot or a Pharisee or a Sadducee or even a Gentile?

We must conclude that the early church had the same fertile soil for disunity that we have today and yet there still existed great unity.  This is unmistakable evidence of the work of the Spirit.  This is the kind of unity that only the Holy Spirit can produce.  As we seek this unity today, we must remember to look to the source.  Often we do not.  We find some other way to forge our own unity.  I believe one of the greatest obstacles to real unity is settling for a false unity.

Where have you settled for your own false unity?  Where in the church do we settle for this? Where in your marriage have you settled?  Where in your other relationships have you settled?  The problem with the unity we forge in our own strength is two-fold.  It does not last.  It is not deep.

Luke paints a compelling picture for us of what that unity looked like.  It was not just a common attitude they had, it boiled down to even the stuff they had.  Remarkably, he tells us that no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own (v.32). This is not some early version of communism.  Notice that they still retained possession of their things as Luke tells us their stuff still belonged to the individual, but their attitude was that their stuff was not their own.

Wouldn’t you like to belong to a community like this?  The greatest grace we are given is to belong to the Lord and on top of that, he gives us the body of Christ to belong to as well.  What would it take for us at Cornerstone to experience unity and belonging like this?


#2 Great Power

The second evidence we have of the Holy Spirit’s work is the great power that was seen in the apostles’ preaching.  It’s one thing to preach, it’s another to preach with power.  Luke reports that with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (v.33)

But how did Luke and others know that there was great power in their preaching?  Was it because they were loud?  Was it because they preached with emotion?  Or with passion?  I am sure all of these things were true but that is not the measure of power in preaching.  Powerful preaching is measured not in the delivery but in the fruit it produces.  When you hear a powerful sermon, you don’t walk away saying, “Man, that really held my attention! Can’t wait to hear what he has to say next week!”  I mean, you might say that, but that is not the measure of powerful preaching.  Powerful preaching is measured in the change it produces.  Were people led to repentance?  Were they led to a deeper faith?  This is the true measure of powerful preaching.  And why is it powerful?  Because of the preacher?  No!  Because this is one of the appointed means God uses to manifest in his presence.  Preaching is powerful when it is used by the Holy Spirit.  And lest any preacher be tempted to pride by the way he is used by God, he ought to remember that the Spirit once spoke through a donkey (c.f. Numbers 22).

While the apostles were preaching with great power, Luke tell us that great grace was upon them all (v.33).  This was truly a great movement of grace.  This short statement from Luke explains everything else in the passage.  It is the basis for their great unity, the source for the apostle’s great preaching, and the cause of their great sacrifice.  It’s all of grace from beginning to end.


#3 Great Sacrifice 

Finally, we look at the great sacrifice the believers were compelled to make.  Not only did they not consider their stuff their own, but they were actually selling their lands and houses to provide for those who had needs.  In other words, this was not generosity that flowed from their surplus.  They actually sold stuff to be able to be generous.

One interesting point here is that they did not sell their stuff and give it directly to the needy but rather they laid it at the apostles’ feet who then distributed to each as any had need (v.35).  I am not suggesting that this is the only way for Christian’s to exercise generosity, but it is certainly worth noting that they funneled their gifts through the apostles.  For us this would look like bringing our gifts to the church and allowing the church to distribute as needs arise.  What a responsibility the church has then to make sure they are being faithful stewards of these resources. It is remarkable that as result of their sacrificial giving, Luke is able to report that there was not a needy person among them (v.34).

One of those who sold property to give to those in need was Joseph who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (v.36).  It would seem that this anecdote appears here as way to introduce us to Barnabas who will come into to play later in Acts and also to set the stage for what comes next – two individuals who sold property but were not completely honest.


Discussion Questions

  1. What are you doing to put yourself “in the way of grace”? What are you doing as a family – in your marriage, with your kids – to stand in the way of grace?
  2. What role does God play in bearing spiritual fruit in our lives? What role do we play in that process?
  3. Spend some time discussing the unity that the early church experienced. How deep was their unity?  What do you think was the cause of their unity?
  4. In the sermon Pastor Billy addressed 3 reasons we fail to experience unity like the early church: (1) We settle for a false unity. (2) We avoid difficult issues.  (3) We forge a unity out of our own strength.  Which of these 3 reasons is most applicable to you?  How so?
  5. What spiritual fruit has God been producing in your life recently as a result of your participation in the body of Christ?
  6. What sacrifices were the believers making in the early church? What would change in your life and in the life of our church if we really started living like the believers in this passage?