Being a community, Acts 4:32-37 & Philippians 4, April 7th 2024

Being a community, Acts 4:32-37 & Philippians 4, April 7th 2024

Big Sky So big sky thinking – wide Dutch / Friesan skies. The wide lens view.

Church is growing.

Thousands in it.

Spirit has been poured out on Pentecost – so we are looking not only at Spirit filled Christians and what they can look like, but we see what a Spirit filled community is looking like. The new community received the Spirit as a community, we see the new creation in a community life and not only individually.

What has come before – earlier in chapter 4 – has been the first serious persecution of the church – Peter and John were arrested, interrogated – by the same people who crucified Jesus – and they are told not to speak about Jesus again.

So the question is how will the community respond. They turn in prayer – first part – and Luke gives us an update – they remain united.

It is easier to be united when all is well and going well; yet now the stakes have gone up – Jesus had a few years before he was brought before the Sandhedrin, these apostles have only had a few months at most.

In Acts 2 he had said: ‘’all the believers were together and they had everything in common; selling their possessions and goods they gave to anyone as they had need. Every day they met together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes…’’

When things are maybe not going so well, how does the community react?

He repeats this strong sense of unity. In the midst of persecution, pressure from the Jewish leaders, in the midst of increasing diversity – remember this is a young church that has exploded in size – and the description is the saints are ‘’one in heart and mind.’’

One in heart and mind.

One in heart and mind. At the heart of this community is a deep unity. There had arguments between the apostles at times, especially over who was important or would have important roles in the future.  Jesus had corrected them.  Now, the apostles are a unified group.  This unity is reflected or has spread to the wider church.

It has been said that when leaders are united, it helps the members to be united.

One in heart and mind – an image of comprehensive unity.  John Wesley – the great English preacher from c18th put it this way : ‘’their loves, their hopes, their passions joined.’’

Could it be said that was this only something from the early months of the church, an ideal period?

Paul present this ‘’oneness’’ as an aim for every church down through every age. 

Let’s hear some of his words:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Phil 2.

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15.

We noticed how this unity showed itself practically – ‘’no one claimed that any of his possession was his own, but they shared everything they had.’’

Then we read ‘’ With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and much grace was upon them all.

And then Luke returns to the topic in v32 of sharing and says ‘’there were no needy persons among them.’’ And shares how the community gave practically.

This verse seems sandwiched into a description of community life. It can feel out of place.

Consider this. As Luke tells us about the early church community, he is saying that the community life, was never an end in itself.

The early church community was a vibrant community and as with each vibrant church community, a vibrant church community is a community in mission.

The maintenance of the community was not the main concern, it was to be a witnessing community which, as a result of this focus, received ‘much grace.’

The church did not lose its priority of evangelism, despite the growth, the persecution or the good times it enjoyed. Acts 1 begins with the call to witness, and in every chapter of Acts 1-28 – including when Paul is on a ship in the Mediterranean –  there is something said or some example shared about evangelism. As Aijth Fernando put it – ‘’this first church history textbook is essentially a history of evangelism.’’

The second point to make from this ‘sandwich verse’ is of course answered prayer – persecution came, the church gathered and prayed and asked God ‘’enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness, Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’’ It says the place was then shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God boldly.’’

And we see that prayer answered – in v33 – with great power – which is what they prayed for…

One in heart and mind.

All Saints we often say – all ages, all sorts, all backgrounds, all nationalities, all are welcome here.  That already says there is a lot of diversity here and we want there to be lots.

Another acronym is SHAPE. Each of us has a SHAPE.

S – for Spiritual Gifts

H – Heart – our passions, strong interests

A – Abilities / taught and natural

P – Personality – extrovert introvert, talk it out, or think about it inside before speaking, goal or process

E – Experience of Life.

We each have a SHAPE and it is unique.  Again, what an incredible amount of diversity there is in this community…  The challenge is, in the midst of that diversity, to seek that unity of one in heart and mind, than allow the diversity to become a reason for disunity.

But what when disunity comes, what steps can we take. How can we move towards that oneness.

Well for that we want to move off Acts to Paul and Philippians 4 seeking wisdom.

Philippians is called the letter of joy. Joy is mentioned or referred to 16 times across it.

So it is surprising to read what we hear.

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Okay, from what we can gather. Paul as you know is in prison in Rome.

An argument has arose between two key women in the church – Euodia and Syntyche. They had worked with Paul in ministry and mission.

This was causing much pain and difficulty in the church.

It is serious enough that Paul – does here what he seldom does elsewhere in conflict settings – he names names – as Gordon Fee points out, living in a media saturated culture as we do, naming the guilty is normal – Paul rarely mentions names, bar in greetings and about people sent to him or who send greetings (just see 1 Corinthians with all the disputes how rarely he says any names) and about visitors he has had. But extraordinarily here he names the two women.

Paul felt able – due to his closeness to the community – he calls them his joy and crown, the ones he loves – he can be direct and seek to address it.

So how to move forward. Paul suggests here some things to consider.

1.Paul’s primary focus in on the relationship than on the issue. The tone is, it is about a restored relationship. Paul knows what the issue is. Yet he does not state his views here. His focus – and the focus of the church he teaches – the relationship is more important than who is right or wrong or whose view is better etc.  Most likely the context suggests this is over the gospel – a ministry and mission matter.

2. Agree with each other in the Lord. He says ‘to agree with each other’ is the same language we heard earlier from Phil 2:2 

then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

He points back to his teaching about Christ – ‘’in the Lord’’ – means remembering how Christ humbled himself, he served us, and so ‘’in the Lord’’ means humbly looking out for others in the community. To look to the example of Christ and let that be the guide in how they are acting towards each other.

3. Paul appeals to others to help. This is a responsibility not of the senior leader he says. I ask you ‘’loyal yoke fellow’’ help these women – this could be an anonymous individual, yet also, the tone of the letter, focusing on ‘’you as a companion’’ could point to that he means the whole congregation. This is not only a council matter, wardens matter, or a senior clergy matter, this is Paul appealing to the whole congregation to help sort it out. To help these two women to face up to their difficulties.  Jesus when preaching about values declared – ‘’blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.’’ Ian Coffey asked  – ‘’when tensions and disputes arise, as we known for pouring oil on the troubled waters, or tipping petrol onto the roaring flames?’’

4. Paul knows he needs to raise this. He has prepared the ground through earlier teaching. It must have been thought provoking for the 2 women and perhaps those on ‘’ their sides’’ to have listened to Paul sharing about Christ’s example to the needs of others first. He grounds the conflict resolution in the gospel.  Paul shows the importance of timing to address or raise issues. And he shows being a peacemaker or peace builder does not mean ignoring important problems or brushing them under the carpet.

5. Paul has mentioned Clement, he mentions these two women, he points at others in these verses. They are his co-workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. He points to who they are – in the book of life, what unites is greater than what divides. Yet his language of team – co workers – Paul was very gifted yet Paul was always happy to work with others. Co workers – it reminds the two ladies they have worked together before in the past, they do need each other now. Conflict between two people can take a position that you are not missed or needed. They are co-workers. They need each other.

Paul – on relationship than the issue; agree in the Lord – have the same mind as Christ; others to help restore the relationship; he does not avoid the issue; no one man shows, Christians need each other.

Differences of opinions will inevitably arise, breakdown in relationships do not need to…  Paul gives some teaching on moving back towards oneness in heart and mind.


We have spent a lot of time on those first couple of verses. For a few minutes we focus on the remaining verses, in Acts 4:32-37.

The unity – one of heart and mind – is not just in feelings or in small groups, it is shown in practical care and giving. Some of this giving – land, houses – it was a great sacrifice to give. Barnabas as a levite did not normally have land, it something he would probably not have again. He gives sacrificially.

Critics could say – this is Christian communism.  

But there are differences here. The giving – as Christian giving – is always voluntary.

It was not required as being part of this community.

People did not have to give in this community. It flowed out of the care, love and unity for those in need.

Private ownership is still possible. People chose what to sell and when.

It is quite possible that some in this community were living out what John the Baptist had taught in Luke 3 – if you have two tunics, give one away etc.  Where they had extra and they saw people in need, they sold…

It is also helpful to note that there are 5 verbs here used which are imperfect tense – ie it was a continual activity. Ie it was not, at the start of the church people sold and gave, and never again. It happened again and again as there was need in the church community.

It was a mark of the early Christian community. So when we read in Acts 11 of the church in Antioch, Luke tells us of the giving they do when they hear about a famine to come across all of the Roman Empire – including Antioch. They will be affected by the famine, but they send money to support the church in Jerusalem. They gave themselves to the Lord in their giving and then they gave to those in need. It flowed out of their unity, love, and care.

Giving takes many forms. There is financial giving and we give thanks for all the giving towards this renovation project. How all the needs were provided and more.

All Saints is a church which depends on your giving – we are self sustaining – we do not get support from the Church of England – you have a Grant, but we do not get grants from England or elsewhere…

Perhaps as someone new to All Saints, you would like to know more about giving to ASA – David is our treasurer and Iwan our assistant, they can answer questions, give advice.

But we give through other means. We said SHAPE.

We give to this community through offering our Spiritual Gifts;

we offer to this community our passions and heart – do you have a heart for children and young people? ;

we offer to this community our Abilities – taught, natural – as many of you did in our Renovation process and klusdagen;

we offer to this community our personalities – to listen, to care, to visit, it takes all sorts … finally we offer to this community our life experience – things you have seen, learned, done that can be part of your giving…

we always give in his name for his glory for the benefit of others.


Spirit filled community, growth, young church. Under pressure. Facing growing persecution.

They were still one in heart and mind, despite the growing diversity and challenges this all brought.

They remained a community with a mission.

And one way their unity was reflected in their giving.

Shall we pray.