As we read this passage summarising the actions and principles of the Church a few years after Christ's crucifixion, we must remind ourselves that it is still small, possibly ten thousand believers or so in total, that it was still vulnerable, facing growing opposition from the Jewish religious authorities and resting for its survival and growth on the leadership of the Apostles as they sought God's guidance and walked in the Spirit.
We have heard about a miracle which God did through Peter and John, but perhaps the greater miracle was the unity of the Church. We are told some amazing things about it:
1. They were all united in following Jesus. Keeping their eyes on Jesus both individually and corporately enabled them to move beyond the differences which were obvious to outsiders.
2. They used their possessions for the common good. I have heard of small primitive or island societies where this is a principle, but not large or wealthy groups. Not only did the believers talk a good talk, they walked the walk! We have an example given by Luke of Barnabas-who we shall hear more of-who sold land he owned and brought the money to the apostles. They believed in each other! All the thoughts we might have about whether that might encourage conversion for those with nothing or those greedy for more are reduced to nothing, because no one had anything they saw as theirs!
3. They respected the authority of the apostles. One of the most common issues in churches in the West today is a critical attitude to leaders, where congregations actively discuss whether the one they have selected is worthy of being called to the post which the church has called him or her. If we believe, as the Early Church did, that the Holy Spirit speaks through the gathered fellowship then surely God has called the person to the post!
4. They grew numerically and in spiritual wisdom and maturity because they put into place all that Jesus had spoken of before He died. They were irresistible to their neighbours and communities because they loved with all their hearts, especially other believers. They had a huge sense of responsibility for one another.
5. This one small paragraph answers many questions which are asked by committed Christians today. We are doing so little of what the Early Church did that it is hard to recognise any similarities even in the best-functioning churches!