One in the Spirit
“Have a good week!” isn’t a “one in the Spirit” wish for members of the congregation as they leave and head their separate ways. It assumes no contact for seven days. That’s not what Jesus had in mind when He commanded us to love one another (John 13:34–35).
The idea of “oneness” dominates Acts 4:32. From 1964 to 1973, John Wooden’s UCLA basketball teams were NCAA champions nine times. Those he coached sacrificed personal glory for the good of the team. Jesus’ faithful followers do the same.
The early Christians had all things in common (verse 32). They held their possessions loosely. Sharing with one another was part of their new identity as members of Christ’s body. That same selfless sharing powered their witness (verse 33).
The Holy Spirit inspires a giving lifestyle. Beginning in verse 36, we read about Barnabas. He sold his land and delivered all the proceeds to the apostles to help meet the needs of the Christian community. He was an open channel for the Holy Spirit’s “giving away” ministry.
Churches could benefit from more people like Barnabas and fewer like Ananias and Sapphira. Ananias and Sapphira sought praise while holding back some of the money from a land sale. They didn’t have to give away all the proceeds. The problem was that they pretended to do so. God judged them severely because lying destroys the foundation for trust (Acts 5:1–11). We’re like them when we want others in the church to think we’re better than we really are. Commitment to others brings with it certain risks.
William S. Rainsford was invited to preach for 25 minutes to over 2,000 people, including 250 clergymen and bishops. He stuttered and stammered for five or six minutes. He didn’t deliver a single clear sentence. He sat down humiliated. After the meeting, the great preacher Philip Brooks invited Rainsford to preach for him the next Sunday morning. That was their first meeting. Rainsford said, “Was it any wonder I loved him?”
To live a fruitful life on earth and receive great rewards in heaven, encourage and maximize others. That’s what Barnabas and Philip Brooks did. You can too! You encourage others when you share your doubts and fears along with your victories. Others often identify better with your defeats and struggles than with your successes. You aren’t Saint Never Sin, the Divine. I’m not either. No sense pretending. Let’s be real.
Acts 5:12–16 describes a church in action that only the Holy Spirit’s working explains. Willpower can’t sustain a “giving yourself away” lifestyle. The early church demonstrated deep commitment to Christ and other believers. They were one in the Spirit. Great churches always have been. It isn’t easy. Not much worthwhile ever is.
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