A year-long series of weekly essays re-imagining the Reforming Church. This is not a scholarly effort, crafting neither an ecclesiastical nor a theological system. Rather, it is simply a futurist’s snapshot – it is how I imagine the church proceeding forward through the next decades in the tradition of the Reformation.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:2
There is a short paragraph (Acts 2:43-47) describing the nameless economic system of the early church. The key verses read, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (NRSV Acts 2:44-45). I have heard this verse dismissed out-of-hand as a failed system of economic reality. Perhaps this critique was a critique of Communism’s economic system which most fundamentally does not allow for private ownership of property.
Of course, Luke, in penning the Acts of the Apostles was only describing life together in the early church. He was not attempting to articulate an economic system. And yet, this verse remains impossibly difficult to interpret considering our national (USA) myth steeped in Capitalism and its vitriolic push back against Socialism and Communism.
In another story, penned by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10) is a curious tale. Ananias and Sapphira conspire to hide some of their assets from the Apostles with sobering results. Clearly, Ananias’ and Sapphira’s decision contravened what was apparently an established practice in the early church (Acts 4:32-37). Common ownership for the good of all was becoming the norm in the early church. Barnabas, who becomes more prominent in Luke’s story of the early church, first comes to light in these verses (4:36-37) selling a field and giving the proceeds to the Apostles.
It is confusing when reading the tale of Ananias and Sapphira. Was it okay to personally own land? While owning the land was there an obligation to commit it to the common good? Was it mandatory to give all the proceeds from the sale of land to the Apostles? Apparently, yes! If the intent was to further establish as normative in the church common ownership, what happened? If this practice continued what evidence is there? How long was it practiced? Why is it not still practiced?
The context of the Reforming Church is in a world with vast resources quickly evaporating from 99% of the world’s population. It is for this reason, that the Reforming Church turns its attention to the practice of the early church.
In Acts 2:42 the Greek word koinonia describes life together among the Followers of the Way of Jesus Christ. The Reforming Church critically appropriates koinonia.
To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever!” – Romans 16:-27