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Central To The Christian Way of Life

Central To The Christian Way of Life


Acts 4:32-37

32And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
33And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
34Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
36And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,
37Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 9:36-39

36Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
37And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
38And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.
39Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.

Philippians 2:25

Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.

1 Corinthians 16:13-16

13Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
14Let all your things be done with charity.
15I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
16That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.

This is the second aspect of Christian growth as we study what God’s Word says about Christian development. Last week we saw that faith and works go hand-in-hand, and today we examine some of those works: giving, serving and sharing.

A United States Army Reserve Chaplain’s motto was “Your needs, our mission.” This aptly fits what it means to grow in service.

We are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus), so that we might be His instruments of service to the world: “Your needs, our mission”!

This lesson begins by showing how the early Christian communities cared for one another.

Service is a key word for understanding what Christianity is all about as a way of life. Jesus declared that the greatest of His disciples are those who serve the most.

Matthew 23:11 (Jesus speaking)

But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

Service, or ministry to others, is central to the Christian way of life. As individuals, we have numerous opportunities to serve our fellow Christians and our fellowmen directly in ways that would be pleasing to Christ.

Read again Acts 4:32, above. The degree to which these people shared their material goods is quite remarkable. The reason they did it is that they were of one heart and one soul. They put into practice the commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This kind of love produces such generosity. They realized that all things come from God and are given to us to keep in trust for His use. Since all things truly belong to God, these believers shared with each other.

The Christians did more than just rob their “piggy banks” to give to others. They sold lands and houses and gave the proceeds to meet the needs. No one was forced to sell or give anything. The Scripture also tells us in:

1 Timothy 5:8

But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

That lets us know that God didn’t expect anyone to sell their home out from under them. Also the Scripture tells us in

1 John 3:17

But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

We must keep in mind their uniqueness. They are the only church in the New Testament of whom it is said, “They had all things in common.” They fed the hungry and clothed the naked. They sent missionaries to share truth.

In our day, many things fill the typical church budget. Such things are not wrong, but they must be kept in balance with human needs.

Jesus constantly challenged His audiences not to trust in riches. From earliest childhood we cling to personal property for security. The child throws a fit for his blanket or his pacifier; one child yanks away a toy from another child crying, “Mine, mine.”

Some adults promise to give liberally “when their ship comes in” yet with their present income, they fail to obey God through tithing and sacrificial giving. They expect God to trust them with much when they consistently prove they cannot be trusted with little. Sometimes we operate under the false assumption that the money or property actually belong to us in the first place.

Psalm 24:1 gives the correct assessment of all wealth:
The earth is the LORD’s, and all the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

We are but stewards of the wealth of this world. Even our wages or the money earned from investments ultimately belongs to the Lord. It is given to us to use for our needs and for eternal purposes. Jesus instructs us to put God’s Kingdom and His righteousness first.

Matthew 6:33 (Jesus speaking)

But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

The early church did this and were thus able to minister its new life in Jesus to the world, but this was not the modern Welfare Program. The apostle Paul, who clearly knew of the early days of the church, later wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 that those in the church, who refuse to work, should not be rewarded for their laziness.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-10

6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
7For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
8Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:
9Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
10For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

Acts 4:35

And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

The phrase “laid them down at the apostles’ feet” means that there was perfect trust in the character and the godliness of the apostles. Their leaders were filled with the Holy Spirit and knew how to properly provide from these funds for the needy among them.

The apostles did not take a salary or administrative cost from the proceeds. The financial gifts were used as directed by the Lord in providing for the needs of the Christian community.

This experiment of the early church didn’t last long. For one thing, most of the Christians were driven from Jerusalem by persecution, as we read in

Acts 8:1

And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Those who remained were reduced to such poverty as to require financial assistance from the churches scattered throughout the Gentile world. We are not meant to recreate the Jerusalem church, but giving to support the ministries of the church cannot flourish in the grip of a selfish attitude. The example of those early Christians was beautiful. One person cannot do what a dozen others can do, but if each Christian would obey Christ there would not be other Christians around us who are hungry.

In Acts 4:36, 37 above, we see that Barnabas was an excellent example of generosity in giving. He not only gave money; he gave of himself to encourage other people, so much so that this became an identifying feature of his character.

In Acts 9:36-39 above, the important aspect of this story for our lesson is Dorcas’ life spent serving others. She was a Christian seamstress whose love was shown in her work. Dorcas saw work as an opportunity for Christian service. Her work was not simply an occupation but a vocation, a calling.

Her work was associated with mercy. Her labor was done with the purpose of helping those who could not repay her. The early church had many who were poor. It was a community where hearts were made rich in the love of Christ, and they expressed that love in care of one another. Lack of money was compensated for by the incomparable riches of God’s grace and mercy. We read in

Galatians 6:10

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith.

Remember, maturity in Christian service includes three aspects:
1. Our attitudes and actions are to be framed in love.
2. Effective ministering requires planning, commitment and often hard work.
3. A mutual joy of spiritual refreshing comes to those who give, serve and share in the Name of Jesus.

The world is full of two kinds of people: the givers and the takers. The takers eat well, but the givers sleep well.

Christian service should always be thought of in terms of ministry, not in terms of slavish duty. If we do things for others out of a slavish sense of duty, they will not see the love of Christ in us, but when we do for others because we love Christ, they will recognize that we are serving Christ by serving them. When this happens, Christ is glorified by our service.

1 Corinthians 16:13-18

13Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
14Let all your things be done with charity.
15I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
16That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.
17I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied.
18For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.

The brief imperatives contained in this short passage are indicative of the kinds of qualities we need to really be helpful to other people. To help others by sharing the burdens of their troubles and concerns, we must be spiritually alert, firm in faith, courageous in spirit, strong in the Lord and guided by love.

The greatest service to the unsaved is pointing them to Christ. Am I doing that?

In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, in 1991, demolished areas of the Bahamas, South Florida and Louisiana, the media was filled with heart-warming stories of outside relief: organizations and individuals who contributed to the immediate and long-term efforts to rebuild lives, homes and towns.

The strength of that terrible storm and the late earthquakes are small compared to the power of sin to destroy a soul. Satan attacks people, families and society with his destructive lies.

Our care for people must include pointing them to Jesus…care for physical needs is important, but care for spiritual need is much more important. A house “lost” can be replaced, but a “lost” soul at death is “lost” for eternity.

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