Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
In Acts 2:44 it says of the early church, “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” Everything in common? Really? I understand hyperbole, but this seems like a gross generalization. After all, even Jesus’ apostles were a motley crew of different interests. Take Peter, he was a fisherman by trade and he really liked fishing on top of it. He even fished when he was stressed or confused or bored; the Bible records that he even fished after Jesus’ resurrection:
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing (John 21:1-3).
Peter’s default setting was fishing. But what about Matthew? Matthew isn’t in this scene because fishing probably wasn’t his scene. He was a former tax collector; and Scripture suggests that he was probably more interested in partying. Right after he was saved by Jesus, Matthew and his crew held a party for the Lord and the Bible recorded it because it was sort of scandalous at the time:
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” (Matthew 9:9-11).
Or what about Simon the Zealot? Zealots wanted the violent expulsion of Rome from Israel; but considering they were a sect, I doubt that everyone was quite that extreme.
Let’s put this in a more modern context: I’m married and like rock & roll and pro wrestling. Do you have these things in common with me? Maybe, but probably not. To be sure though, it is impossible that you and I will have everything in common. No wonder the modern church is so divided, right?
But wait, we already established that even the core apostles were very different people. So what’s going on in Acts 2:44? The Holy Spirit explained to me that everything is Jesus. That is to say: Jesus is the only thing that’s important, and is therefore everything. John 1:3 teaches us, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Everything was made by and for Jesus. Jesus also went on the record stating, “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Revelation 1:8). Saying that he’s the alpha and the omega means that Christ is the beginning and the end; that covers pretty much everything.
So then, what divides the church? James 4:1 suggests an answer; “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” According to this, it could be said that we put other things ahead of Jesus and therefore our selfishness drives us apart. The Acts 2 church put God first in everything, going even as far as selling their stuff: “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need” (Acts 2:45). That’s pretty hardcore. Can we be that hardcore today? Perhaps, but it’s really difficult. If it’s not our stuff it’s our relationships going before Christ, if not relationships it’s pride; but none of that is Jesus. In fact, probably the thing we have most in common is that we all put stuff in front of the Lord instead of the other way around.
So how do we give up everything without…y’know, giving up everything? That I’ll leave for the comment section to figure out. We’re all in this together, and so our solutions should also be together.