05 SHARE

ARE YOU AN INDIVIDUAL OR DO YOU BELONG TO A FAMILY?

Acts 2:42–45 (ESV) — And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 

The picture of the early church can look very different from the church that we experience today in the West. In the West, we tend to approach church much like we do educational institutions: we gather together, we learn, we apply, and we leave. The picture that Jesus painted was very different. He went so far as to say that our families are no longer defined by who your earthly parents are, but by your obedience to the will of the Heavenly Father (Matt. 12:50, John 1:11-13, Gal 3:26-29).

Galatians 6:10 (ESV) — So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Q1

Biblically speaking, the church is not a gathering of religiously-minded individuals; the church is a household, the church is a family. What does that comparison mean to you?

 

Core Text: Acts 2:42–47

Acts 2:42–45 (ESV) — And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

As a child in a biological or adopted family, you have no choice but to be a part of the family. Your role in the family began at birth or adoption and you didn’t get a say in it. The only choice a child really has is their level of commitment to their family. So it is with the church. Your role in the household of faith began the day you accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. Once you were born of the Spirit of God, you entered a new household. The only question is how committed to and integrated you become in this new, spiritual family.

 

Q2

How have the sharing of your life, your things, or the Gospel been limited compared with the extent of sharing depicted in Acts 2:42-47? When have you experienced the church acting like family? Is the church life as depicted in Acts 2 appealing to you? How so?

 

Q3

Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-26. How does the comparison of the church to a body compliment the church’s identity as family? Practically speaking, how do we communicate “I do not belong to the body” through our actions, words, or habits, whether we intend to or not? Though we would never say this directly to another person in the church, what is the way that we communicate to one another “I don’t need you”?

 

The Tell: Witholding

On his final night with the disciples Jesus exhorts his disciples to love one another. 

John 13:34–35 (ESV) — A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

Love cannot be experienced from a distance, at least not Christ-like love. It doesn’t work, inspire, or encourage the household of faith when we hold back. 

Love is, by its very nature, close, personal, sacrificial, and lavish. That is why God’s greatest act of love was the sending of his son Jesus (John 3:16). We know that we are struggling to embrace Christ-like love, when we find ourselves overly concerned with protecting our lives and our resources, avoiding commitments. Self-protection causes us to withhold, preventing the growth of a healthy, interdependent family.

TWO DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO THE CHURCH

Let’s look at two different stories strung together in Acts 4:33-5:1-11. The contrast between these two approaches is stark, producing remarkably different results.

BARNABAS

Acts 4:33–37 (ESV) — And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

 

Q4

In Acts 4:36-37 we are first introduced to Barnabas “the Encourager.” What did Barnabas do to encourage his new household of faith?

 

What became of Barnabas? 

Look up the following verses and see the role Barnabas continued to play in the household of God: Acts 9:27; 11:22; 11:30; 13:2; 15:37. 

 

ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA

Acts 5:1–11 (ESV) — But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

 

Q5

How do Ananias and Sapphira participate differently from Barnabas in the church family? In 5:3, what does Peter say is the cause of them withholding a portion of their proceeds? What was the result of Ananias and Sapphira’s deceitful withholding? In what ways have you been encouraged by the generosity and commitment of others?

 

The Remedy: Share Generously

The solution to withholding is sharing. The more we share our lives, our stuff, and the Gospel, the more interdependent and integrated we will be in this new heavenly family, called the church. 

THE EXTENT OF OUR SHARING

The examples of Ananias, Sapphira, and Barnabas deal directly with money, but the extent of sharing goes well beyond finances. Sharing in God’s family extends into three distinct categories:

1. Share your life (1 Thess. 2:8; Heb. 10:24-25, Matt 12:50) – Shared life isn’t about how long you have been attending the same church, whether you believe the same things as another person, or share the same life stage. Shared life is about transparency, vulnerability, and a shared commitment to Jesus. A shared life includes people of all ages and cultures.

Are you vulnerable in small groups, or do you carefully craft the image that others have of you? Do you share your story of faith and listen intently to the stories of others? Do you go out of your way to participate in the activities and mission of your local church? 

2. Share your things (Acts 2:44, 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8, 1 John 3:17) - Are you generous about investing your money in kingdom work? Do you see yourself as manager of God’s resources to spend lavishly on the building of kingdom, or do you still view the contents of your checking account as your property?

2 Corinthians 9:7— 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

3. Share the Gospel (1 Thess. 2:8, Col. 1:28) – Do I proclaim the truth boldly to those whom God has placed in my church family? Do I take responsibility for speaking truth and intervening in the lives of others, or I do restrict my spiritual responsibilities to my own family? 

 

Q6

In what ways have you been sharing life with your family of faith? What changes need to take place so that you become more integrated in the heart and life of the family of God?

 

Q7

What’s wrong with giving money under compulsion (cf. 1 Cor. 13:3)? How does remembering who God help you to have a generous attitude (James 1:17, Rom. 8:32)? When does focusing on the recipient help you give cheerfully? How does trusting God’s promises (Luke 6:38, 2 Cor. 9:6) make you a cheerful giver?

 

Q8

In what ways are you withholding your things from the family of faith? What changes need to take place so that the things God gave to you are invested in the work and mission of God’s church?

 

Q9

In what ways are you withholding the Gospel from the people God has surrounded you with? What changes need to take place so that the proclaiming the Gospel to others is an integral part of your life?

 

We Reap What We Sow

2 Corinthians 9:6–12 (ESV) — The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully... He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

It might be that your experiences with church have felt nothing like “Family.” But Paul makes it very clear that when we give abundantly, we receive abundantly. Maybe the reason we don’t experience the communal reality of the early church is because we’ve sowed for independence and reaped isolation in return. 

 

Q10

What role does the body of Christ play in your family life? How might God be asking you to take steps as a family towards more generosity and sharing?

 

 

The Challenge: Share a Meal

Call somebody in the church that you don’t know very well and invite them to coffee or a meal. Ask them about their testimony, when they became a Christian. Ask them how you can pray for them.

 

Optional Message Resources:

 
 
 
 
Creekside Church