Thursday, August 18, 2022

Was Acts 2 44_45 just a misguided experiment in socialism by the early church? I don’t think so but many Christians do.

 Was Acts 2:44-45 just a misguided experiment in socialism by the early church? 

I don’t think so but many Christians do. 

by Donna Diorio

This week I read a short piece by a Christian minister whose Facebook posts have really been blessing me. This one by Garris Elkins, “You'll Own Nothing and Be Happy” was on the money in my view—with the exception of one point.  I do not agree that in Acts 2 the early “church” was experimenting with socialism but soon gave that up.
     I've heard that before, like when I returned to faith and to church in 1983. It is apparently a common Christian way of explaining what was really going on in Acts 2. Like the Word of Faith preacher I was listening to in 1983, many misunderstand the point or what was happening and why it is important to us to get it right today instead of dismissing it as the Apostles leading in a wrong direction.  
     Garris Elkins is an anointed prophetic minister, but it is misinterpreting what the account is when he writes
that "people coming to the temple and giving their money, products, and personal property to the apostles to dispense to those in need. It sounds great until you realize the dispensing of those goods was not by force, but by the exercise of the free will of the donor. While the experience of Acts 2 was a noble experience, it did not last long. Persecution soon came and dispersed the Church across the globe enabling her to fulfill the Great Commission."
     I have been writing about what was really going on there since God first began to show me these things in the first years of the 1990's. I recognize there is a timing to Christians getting the revelation. That is obvious to me seeing so many believers who are entirely devoted to God continuing to miss it. Even when it is explained clearly, still there remains a blindness to the truth of these matters.
     There is no intention to pick on Garris Elkins because many other Christian leaders, prophets included, share the same understanding, but here are the issues I contest:  The first misunderstanding in what Garris wrote is that AFTER THESE THINGS "Persecution soon came and dispersed the Church across the globe."
     The persecution was already there and that's why the "people" - in reality the Jewish believers in Jesus - were bringing their wealth to the Apostles. It was to pool their resources for the care of the whole body of Messiah in existence at the time of Acts 2. It was BECAUSE of persecution that they did this, not some kind of misguided exercise in socialism. It was spiritual family helping spiritual family, not some "noble experience" or socialism experiment. It was the recognition among the Jewish believers that they had to stand together and help each other. If one suffered, in reality all suffered. This was not going to be a faith where only the wealthy or the well to do were going to be able to survive.
     God is going to develop the care of the Israeli Messianic Jews even more so through the ministry of the Apostle Paul, in his writings and his life. It is no coincidence that Paul himself was at first a Jewish persecutor of the Jews who followed Yeshua in faith. In his last trip to Jerusalem, where prophets were coming out of the woodwork to tell Paul he would be arrested and placed in chains if he kept going, he kept going. He was compelled by the Spirit to set an example to all of the gentile churches he had founded. He wrote about this mission to nurture the care of the believers in Israel in his letters to the churches. They were to take up offerings in each of the churches and he would deliver them to the apostles in Jerusalem, It was for the distribution of the persecuted body of Jewish believers in Israel. It was not favoritism of Jews and it wasn’t an experiment in socialism, it was by the command of God on Paul’s life to establish the example that would be needed in the last days. These days we are living in.
     What better man could God have picked for this mission? Before he became the Apostle Paul, he was a fierce persecutor of Jewish believers in Jesus in Jerusalem. Saul held the coats of those who stoned the first Jewish martyr
 of the faith. Then years later as he was pursuing Jewish believers fleeing Jerusalem to Damascus, God intervened by revealed the Messiah to him. Saul had been blinded to the truth that Yeshua was Israel's Messiah, but God showed Saul he was persecuting the body of Israel’s Messiah on the earth. What he had failed to recognize after years of religious training God showed him in a supernatural experience that would change him for life. It is what God is going to do to countless other Jews, and in fact, He has already begun to do so.
     The Collection for the Poor in Jerusalem | In Acts 11, after Barnabas had retrieved Paul from Tarsus, brought him to Antioch to minister the Gospel with him, after one year a Jerusalem prophet came who spoke by the Spirit that a famine would be coming on the whole world. In response to Agabus' prophecy, "Then the disciples, each according to his own ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they did by the hands of Barnabas and Saul."
     Why did they send donations to Israel? Why didn't they just take up a donation for their own city, or their own region? Because the famine would be more acute to the persecuted followers of the LORD in Israel. They were ostracized from their own people because of faith AND they were the birthplace of the shared faith in Yeshua/Jesus. It was a recognition of the reality that we Jews and Gentiles in Messiah are of one body, and we owe it to each other to help each other. Those who have more minister to the need of those who are persecuted for the faith.
     When Barnabas and Paul arrive in Jerusalem to give famine relief before it happens, it was during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Herod had just killed James the brother of John, and "because he saw that it pleased the (unbelieving) Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also." (Acts 11:26-12:3) The whole ekklesia (congregation, often translated church) in Jerusalem were reeling and in fervent prayer for Peter.
     Paul views this with the understanding of a former persecutor of believing Jews. The Holy Spirit is speaking to him— through the prophetic warning of famine that brought him to Jerusalem in the first place and also through the persecution that brought death to one of the apostles. Peter was released from the threat of death by a supernatural act of God. When it was over, Paul left Jerusalem beginning to understand that God was commissioning him for a specific purpose. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, but his purpose toward the Messianic Jews was no less significant! He was to establish among the churches by his own example of sacrificial care toward the body of Jewish believers in Israel. It was going to be a necessity that the Gentile Christians embraced the Israel Messianic Jews family.
     Look carefully at the letters to the churches Paul wrote after that experience in Jerusalem, and you will find him urging the churches to take up an offering that would be delivered “to the poor.” This was not the generic poor, but a direct reference to the poor at Judea. That's also how the council of apostles told them in Acts 15 to tell the churches, to remember the poor. The poor in Israel are the believers in Israel. There is a temptation to chalk up this remembering of "the poor" to a non-specific "poor" rather than "the poor at Judea." It is God’s plan to unite Jew and Gentile in Messiah, and this is going to be a major way He does that.  
     If we look at the context of Paul's use of the phrase "the poor" in scripture, we see that in four out of six uses of the phrase, "the poor," Paul is clearly referencing the poor of Judea, and one is a reference to himself. (Ro 15:26, 1 Cor 16:1, 15; 2 Cor 9:1; and 9:12-13). He is crystal clear in who "the poor" are in Romans 15:26-27. The issue he was addressing of the collection being taken among the churches becomes even sharper in focus: "For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things."
In 2 Corinthinians 8, Paul again urges the Church at Corinth to continue in the giving, saying, "It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have."
In this 8th chapter of 2 Corinthinians, Paul address many issues surrounding the collection. How some gave generously even out of their own poverty. "Brethren, we make know to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”
Paul spoke in the same chapter to the Corinthinians, "I speak not by commandment, but by the occasion of the diligence of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. . .And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you. . . .For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, and that their abundance also may supply your lack--that there may be equality."
Paul was not merely referring to financial abundance in one group supplying for financial lack in another as need fluctuated between the churches. Paul surely must have seen that the need for relief among the Jewish believers in Israel would remain unchanged until the time that "all Israel shall be saved." Was there any other potential? There was not and there is not still to this day. As long as the Messianic Jews in Israel remain a minority in Israeli society, there is a need for the Gentile churches to prove the sincerity of their love through the ministry of financial contributions for relief.
     So the Acts 2 "church" made up entirely of Messianic Jews who received and followed Yeshua as the Messiah were not experimenting with socialism, they were doing what was required for the body of Messiah to survive becoming social outcasts because of their faith. Believe me, if they had not banded together to care for each other, we Christians would not be here today because if they were unable to survive, we would never have come to faith. This is the debt that Paul refers to that we owe - and we still owe that debt! "For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things."