Monday, February 11, 2008

Acts: The Self-Identifying Church (4:32-5:11)

This is a difficult passage to absorb. At first glance, the church comes off as some sort of early communist society. However, it is never presented as prescriptive. Sure the church held all things in common, but Peter tells Ananias that, in fact, all his property was his to do with as he pleased. More is said here about the nature of church than about property.
The church here is such a closely bonded group that they became a sort of family. No one went without necessities because they all took care of each other. Whatever other aspects go into defining what church is, the self-understanding of fellowship, more than just a gathering of people, must be in place. Some people today try to redefine church to include a group of Christians and non-Christians alike that is loosely together on some sort of journey of exploration and discovery. This is far too nebulous a definition. Beyond the obvious conditions of regenerate membership and regular gathering, a simple self-awareness of “belonging” seems to be a given for a church to be a church.
The other important aspect of this passage is the danger of trying to deceive God and His church. The sole motivation behind Ananias and Sapphira’s deceit was to make themselves look great in the eyes of the community. God alone deserves glory and He is a very jealous God. When we do things to bring glory or praise to ourselves, we are treading on very dangerous ground indeed.
In the end, the only reason to redefine church would be so we could claim to have started groups that were not in fact what we claim them to be. This would be a pursuit of something that may not be a desirable goal.

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