Gospel Driven Generosity
We come now to a portion of Scripture where Luke sees fit to describe for us again the life of the church and the source of it. You may recall his description of the church in chapter two, when he says that:
“44 All those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
The infant church possessed genuine gratitude towards God, and from that flowed a joy unspeakable and a genuine generosity towards each other.
The church was not community for the sake of community. Their love for one another was not shallow or superficial. It was not artificial, contrived, pretended, forced, falsified, or feigned. It was not unnatural, but sincere. At this point, it was free from all pretense or deceit, and proceeded from genuine love for one another.
Such affection for one another was purely the playing out of their theology. From sound doctrine came sincere love. They put into practice what they knew of God and His graciousness towards them in Christ. They loved because He first loved them, and gave Himself for them by becoming their sin and suffering under the penalty that they deserved. As John says:
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 says:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
The message of the gospel is what drives genuine love and generosity towards one another.
On a very basic level, we are to love our neighbors as our selves. To do this is to fulfill six of the Ten Commandments. The Christian, however, is given a higher standard by which they are to love their fellow Christian. In other words, it is not merely a matter of a believer saying, “I will treat my brother or sister in Christ the way I want to be treated.” This is certainly good, and I firmly believe that if every person started to practice this very simple principle many of our interpersonal complications would dissipate. We as Christians, however, have been given an even greater standard to consider when striving to love other believers to the glory of God. It is not, “How do I want to be loved, so that I may love others that way?” Rather it is, “How does Christ love me, so that I may love my fellow Christian like that?” This is a very objective standard. This is the love we are called to with one another. Jesus says in John 15:12-13:
“12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
Such sacrificial love is being expressed in this text, and it is specifically being conveyed among the congregation of those who believed. The first thing we should observe is that this is not a description of the world, nor is it a description of the churches love for people among the world, though Christians should be good and generous neighbors. This is speaking of the whole number, the whole multitude, the whole assemblage of people who have been persuaded of the truth of Christ and placed their confidence in Him. This is a description of the life of the church.
As Luke says, this body of believers were of one heart and soul. This is to say that they were united in love and purpose. The heart denotes the center and source of all physical and spiritual life. The soul signifies the feelings, and desires, and affections, and aversions of a thing. The church was one just as Christ had prayed that it would be in John 17 requesting of His Father that those who believe:
“21 May all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”
The evidence of the church being of one heart and soul is seen through the manifestation of love. It is seen in the fact that not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.
As has been stated before, this is not a communist manifesto. This statement serves solely to highlight the selflessness of the body of people who were of one heart and soul. It emphasizes the greatness of their love. Not one of the claimed that anything belonging to him was his own. The believers were regarding one another as more important than themselves. They were considering the interest of others, and not their own.
One instance that Luke provides of this is that those:
“Who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.”
People freely gave of themselves for the well being of other believers in need because they understood that a church that is of one heart and soul suffers when but one of its members suffers. They were generous to such an extent that there was not a needy person among them all.
I believe we should understand by now that what produced this among the church were hearts and minds centered on the gospel of Christ. Luke says:
“33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.”
It is no coincidence, that when Paul speaks to the Corinthians about the greatness of generosity, and encouraging them to abound in it proving the sincerity of their love to other Christians, that he calls their attention to the grace of Jesus as is seen in the beautiful message of His gospel saying to them:
“That though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”
Grace abounded upon all the people in the church in Acts, when the Person and work of Jesus Christ was the focal point of the church. As they grew in the grace and knowledge of Christ, grace grew among them. Their deepening understanding of the great love of God towards them in Christ, resulted in a great outpouring of love towards one another in Him. Abundant grace was upon them all, and the proof was that there was not a needy person among them. The sincerely loved one another. No doubt, We are familiar with Jesus’ words:
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I believe that the words of Thomas Brooks best describe what we see here in Acts:
“Ah, were their souls fully assured that God had loved them freely, and received them graciously, and justified them perfectly, and pardoned them absolutely, and would glorify them everlastingly, they could not but love where God loves, and own where God owns, and embrace where God embraces, and be one with every one that is one with Jesus.”
Let us simply consider just a couple of reasons why we should be generous to one another:
- Everything we possess belongs to God and has come to us as a gift from His hand.
He says in Job 41:11:
“Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.”
It was He that said through the Psalmist:
“Every beast of the forest is mine…all that moves in the field is mine…the world and its fullness are mine.”
In Psalm 89:11, the writer says of God:
“The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours;
The world and all it contains, You have founded them.”
Moses said in Deuteronomy 10:14:
“14 Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.”
Yes, everything we possess belongs to God, and it has come to us as a gift from His hand. It was David who said:
“For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.”
“17 Every good thing given, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
We should be generous with one another because God has been generous with us in many ways so that we might be a blessing to others who call upon His name and rest in Him. Everything we have is a gift from His hand to be used for His glory.
We should, therefore, give cheerfully and generously according to our own ability knowing that God can give us everything we need, so that we may always have enough both for ourselves and for giving away to other people. As Paul says:
“12 For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality— 14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; 15 as it is written, “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.”
- They way we treat other believers is the way we treat Christ.
Jesus is inextricably linked to His people. He is united to the believer. He is in the Father, they are in Him, and He in them. One of the greatest passages which demonstrates this is found in Jesus’ teaching on the final judgment when He comes in His glory, and all the nations are gathered before Him. He places the non-believing goats on His left, and the believing sheep on His right. He then goes on to say in Matthew 25:34-40:
“34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”
The believer is inseparably joined with Christ, so the way we treat other Christians is equivalent to the way we treat Christ. This is why Christ delivers both encouraging and terrifying words in Mark 9:41-42:
“41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.42 Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”
The reason the severity is because of what Jesus said prior:
“37 Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”
Jesus is untied to His people. The believer is more than just the image of God, they are a dwelling of God. As Paul says to the believers in Corinth, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” He says to them:
“We are the temple of the living God; just as God said,
‘I will dwell in them and walk among them;
And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean;
And I will welcome you.
18 “And I will be a father to you,
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”
Says the Lord Almighty.’”
We should be generous to one another because Christ indwells His people. The way we treat each other is equivalent to the way we treat Christ because His life is bound up with believers. Truly, to the extent that you do something for a believer, even the least of them, you do it to Christ.
Gifted for the Benefit of His Bride
May we also remember that Jesus has not merely given us an abundant life free from the penalty and power of sin, but He has immersed us into His body and given each of us a Spiritual gift for the benefit of His bride. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says:
“7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
1 Peter 4:10-11 says:
“10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Romans 12:4-9 says:
“4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”
We are all, as Paul would say, “baptized into one body…we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” We are Christ’s body, which possess many members, but is still only one body. God has placed each one of us in the body just as He desired.” He has so composed the body, ”so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” As Ephesians 4:12-16 teaches, He has gifted His people:
“12 For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
We have been gifted by Jesus for the benefit of His bride in love. May we remember the words of the Puritan, Nathaniel Vincent, who once said:
“O love! How much want is there of you in the Church of Christ! And how much does the Church feel for this want! It groans, it languishes, it dies daily because of your absence. Return, O love, return! Repair breaches, restore paths to dwell in, edify the old ways and places, and raise up the foundations of many generations.”
One Heart and Soul
The infant church was of one heart. There was not a needy person among them because abundant grace was upon them all as they fixed their gaze upon the living Lord.
The question is, are we of one heart and soul? Is their abundant grace upon us all? Are our eyes fixed on the Author and finisher of our faith? Do we care for one another, not merely in the way that we want to be cared for, but in the way that Christ cares for us? Do we possess and display genuine generosity toward each other? Do we truly love one another, because He first loved us? Are we walking in love?
Such love for one another requires humility. True humility is cultivated in a person whose mind is fixed on the gospel. It draws one to regard others more important than themselves for the model is Christ Himself, who did not come to be served, but to serve by giving His life as a ransom for many. As Jesus says, whoever, therefore, wishes to be great must be a servant, and whoever wishes to be first shall be a slave of all. Recall Paul’s words to the Philippians when he said:
“1Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
It is John who says in his first epistle:
“We know and, to some extent realize, the love of God for us because Christ expressed it in laying down his life for us. We must in turn express our love by laying down our lives for those who are our brothers. But as for the well-to-do man who sees his brothers in want but shuts his eyes—and his heart—how could anyone believe that the love of God lives in him? My children, let us not love merely in theory or in words—let us love in sincerity and in practice!”
“15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 …show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”20 …faith without works is useless.”
May we consider the One who was rich, yet for our sake became poor so that we through His poverty might become rich. May we be of the same mind toward one another, maintaining the same love, untied in spirit, intent on one purpose, regarding one another more important than ourselves. May abundant grace be upon us all and may there not be a needy person among us as we draw ever nearer to God and faithfully live to the praise of His glory.
 Acts 2:44-47
 1 John 4:11
 Matthew 22:39
 John 17:21-23
 John 13:35
 Psalm 50:
 1 Chronicles 29:14
 2 Corinthians 9:8-9
 2 Corinthians 8:12-15
 1 Corinthians 6:19
 2 Corinthians 16:16-18; Cross Reference Exodus 29:45;
 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
 1 Corinthians 12:20,27
 1 Corinthians 12:18
 1 Corinthians 12:25
 Ephesians 4:12-16
 Mark 10:45
 Mark 10:43-44
 Philippians 2:1-8
 1 John 3:16-18; J.B. Philipps New Testament
 James 2:15-20