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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 2 - Verse 45

Verse 45. And sold. That is, they sold as much as was necessary in order to procure the means of providing for the wants of each other.

Possessions. Property, particularly real estate. This word kthmata refers, properly, to their fixed property, as lands, houses, vineyards, etc. The word rendered goods, uparxeiv, refers to their personal or movable property.

And parted them to all. They distributed them to supply the wants of their poorer brethren, according to their necessities.

As every man had need. This expression limits and fixes the meaning of what is said before. The passage does not mean that they sold all their possessions, or that they relinquished their title to all their property; but that they so far regarded all as common as to be willing to part with it IF it was needful to supply the wants of the others. Hence the property was laid at the disposal of the apostles, and they were desired to distribute it freely to meet the wants of the poor, Ac 4:34,35. This was an important incident in the early propagation of religion; and it may suggest many useful reflections.

(1.) We see the effect of religion. The love of property is one of the strongest affections which men have. There is nothing that will overcome it but religion. That will; and one of the first effects of the gospel was to loosen the hold of Christians on property.

(2.) It is the duty of the church to provide for the wants of its poor and needy members. There can be no doubt that property should now be regarded as so far common as that the wants of the poor should be supplied by those who are rich. Comp. Mt 26:11.

(3.) If it be asked why the early disciples evinced this readiness to part with their property in this manner, it may be replied,

1st, that the apostles had done it before them. The family of the Saviour had all things common.

2nd. It was the nature of religion to do it.

3rd. The circumstances of the persons assembled on this occasion were such as to require it. There were many of them from distant regions; and probably many of them of the poorer class of the people in Jerusalem. In this they evinced what should be done in behalf of the poor in the church at all times.

(4.) If it be asked whether this was done commonly among the early Christians, it may be replied, that there is no evidence that it was. It is mentioned here, and in Ac 4:32-37; 5:1-4. It does not appear that it was done even by all who were afterwards converted in Judea; and there is no evidence that it was done in Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, Rome, etc. That the effect of religion was to make men liberal, and willing to provide for the poor, there can be no doubt. See 2 Co 8:19; 9:2; 1 Co 16:2; Ga 2:10.

But there is not proof that it was common to part with their possessions, and to lay it at the feet of the apostles. Religion does not contemplate, evidently, that men should break up all the arrangements in society; but it contemplates that those who have property should be ready and willing to part with it for the help of the poor and needy.

(5.) If it be asked whether all the arrangements of property should be broken up now, and believers have all things in common, we a prepared to answer—No. For,

1st, this was an extraordinary case.

2nd. It was not even enjoined by the apostles on them.

3rd. It was practised nowhere else.

4th. It would be impracticable. No community where all things were in common has long prospered. It has been attempted often, by pagans, by infidels, and by fanatic sects of Christians. It ends soon in anarchy, and licentiousness, idleness, and profligacy; or the more cunning secure the mass of property, and control the whole. Till all men are made alike, there could be no hope of such a community; and if there could be, it would not be desirable. God evidently intended that men should be excited to industry by the hope of gain; and then he demands that their gains should be devoted to his service. Still, this was a noble instance of Christian generosity, and evinces the power of religion in loosing the hold which men commonly have on the world. It rebukes also those professors of religion—of whom, alas! there are many—who give nothing to benefit either the souls or bodies of their fellow-men.

{*} "goods" or, "Substance" {c} "parted them" Isa 58:7; 2 Co 9:1,9; 1 Jo 3:17

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