PLUG IN - TOGETHER
If there is one thing we can learn from the Early Church as described in the Book of Acts, it is that we should believe and have as our personal resolve that 'we were created for community'.
God designed it that way and the early Church demonstrated it. We were made to have intimate relationships, to serve people lavishly, to share the stuff that we have, to build into the lives of the people around us, to have people to whom we can entrust the secrets of our hearts, and to laugh, praise, pray and cry with other human beings.
But, the weird truth about human beings is that, while we long for community, we also run from it. We struggle with conflicting desires. On the one hand, we desire to be close to one another, and on the other, we want to hold others at arm's length. We have learned to be suspicious of other people's motives and we fear being burned, so we erect barriers. These barriers effectively insulate us from one another, becoming an impediment to true community in the Church and ultimately our spiritual growth.
Jesus prayed in John 17:22-23 that we might be one even as He and the Father are one. He prayed that His Church would walk in unity.
In this article, we will see three timeless principles that can help us experience the same depth of unity today that God desires for us.
1 A mystical (spiritual) unity
Acts 4:32 NIV starts, "All the believers were one in heart and mind ... ." When the Holy Spirit of God took charge of the lives of these believers on the day of Pentecost, among the first things that happened was that He produced a mystical (spiritual) unity among them. They were experiencing a oneness, a unity which they could never have produced on their own.
They were one with each other because they believed and placed their faith in Jesus. They made a decision to do so together in community with one another. It continues in the last part of verse 32: "No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." Those things which had divided them now faded away into insignificance. It was a unity of faith, emotions, and will. They were willing to acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and all the other believers as their family. If we, as the Church of Jesus Christ, are ever going to express the unity of the Spirit, we must not only desire to do so, but we must decide to do so.
2 A ministerial unity
These people were not only one in spirit, but they were one in purpose. And their purpose was to preach the Gospel to everyone. "With great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all." Acts 4:33 NIV.
Everywhere we see miracles in the book of Acts, they are in the context of spreading the gospel ... purpose. As we are purposeful, the power of God will manifest. As we exercise what God has given us, He gives us more. There is nothing quite like a church that is united in purpose. Unity in terms of our ministry produces an even greater sense of community among us. That is why it is so important to move from a mystical unity of spirit into a practical unity of purpose. We are a community that has been given a job to do. We must decide that we are going to give more than our spare time to the work; that we will be supportive, involved, active participants in the task God has called us to.
3 A material unity
"There were no needy persons among them. For, from time to time, those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." Acts 4:34-35 NIV.
This was a spontaneous expression of what God had done in their hearts. Their unity led them to voluntarily and joyfully share with others. They valued people over possessions. This is something that was born from within, not imposed from without. They cared, and so they gave. People who are truly surrendered to Christ reflect their commitment in their giving. If Jesus Christ has our hearts, He has our bank accounts as well. If He doesn't have our wallets, He doesn't really have our hearts.
We, too, can become people who make a difference in this world. We can enjoy the unity of the Spirit, the power of God, and effective ministry as we allow Christ to live His life through us. Do these three principles resonate within you? Do you value and live by them?