It’s been a while since we looked at the Jerusalem church. I want to get back to their success. Their first key was being devoted to God. Now we are examining their unity. Acts 4:32 says the congregation was of one heart and one soul. We have also examined why unity is so important based on Philippians 1:29-30. Today, we continue our look by examining how we can have this unity in a congregation. Philippians 1:27-2:11 provides 4 Keys to Congregational Unity.
(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the twelfth post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)
One Heart, One Soul
One of the most important questions churches ask today is, “What is the difference between a strong, living church and a weak, dying one?” Articles are written, books are sold, conferences held, and speeches given, all trying to answer this question. Everyone has their model and plan for the way a church should be run. Christians and churches have been willing to pay big money to hear the answers men have to offer. We, however, can learn the answer without spending a dime. God wrote the manual for the strong, living church and if we simply follow it, we will be one.
No doubt, the strongest church we could study is the one in Jerusalem. Acts 4:32 provides the next key to their strength and success.
“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.”
Consider what some have said about this unity:
“Considering the large number of persons in this congregation, and the variety of social relations from which they had been suddenly drawn together, it is truly remarkable, and well worthy of a place in the record, that they were ‘of one heart and soul.’ The unity for which the Saviour (sic) had prayed was now enjoyed by the church and witnessed by the world. The most surprising manifestation of it was seen in that complete subsidence of selfishness which led one and all to say that the things which he possessed were not his own, but the property of all. This was … the spontaneous expression of the love of God and man which had taken possession of every heart” (McGarvey, J.W.; New Commentary on Acts of The Apostles; Gospel Light Publishing Company; Delight, AR; v I, p 79.).
“Rich and poor, learned and simple…Levites and Jews, were so united in Christ that all other distinctions were lost. Selfishness was gone for each loved his brother as himself. What each man had he held it not as his own, but as a steward of Christ for the good of all. … The ordinary worldly life seemed to have melted into the life of faith and godliness. Their wants were spiritual, their occupations were spiritual, they joys were spiritual. In this happy state, in the clear atmosphere of love, the great truths of the gospel shone out with marvellous (sic) brightness; the resurrection of Christ especially stood out in the lineaments of a distinct reality; and there was a rich glow of grace over the whole Church” (Hervey, A.C.; Pulpit Commentary; Eerdmans Publishing Co; Grand Rapids; 1950; v 18, p 128.).
This unity did not mean everyone knew everyone else, did everything with everyone else, or had directly helped everyone else. It meant they were of the same mind and not divided (I Corinthians 1:10), no one thought more highly of himself than he ought (Romans 12:3), they regarded one another as more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3-4), no one sought preeminence in the group (3 John 9), and they loved one another despite gender, nationality, education, background or socio-economic status (I John 4:7). They were one heart and one soul. As Lenski wrote, “As in a living body only one heart beats … It’s whole active life was one in thought, feeling and will” (Acts, p 186.)
How does a church develop and maintain this kind of unity? You can add your input by clicking here.
Come back next week. We’ll take a deeper look at this unity, why we need it, how to accomplish it based on Philippians 1:27-3:11).