In Acts chapter four the disciples were praying to God to grant them boldness to preach the gospel in the face of serious opposition from the religious establishment. In answer to their prayer, God sent the Holy Spirit in mighty power upon them (Acts 4:31). Immediately it is recorded that the believers were led to pool their resources so that all the needy had their needs met and their poverty alleviated. The coming-in power of the Spirit inspired not merely spiritual renewal, but also social revolution. Our text draws an important connection between the fullness of the Spirit and the impulse to minister to the poor and unfortunate. This is the Acts connection. The Spirit created a new attitude toward possessions and a new sensitivity to human need. Religion was more like dynamite than opium. It brought people to the place where the haves were willing to share with the have-nots.
The church today needs to consider the Acts connection carefully. One of the most serious charges against it is a lack of ethical credibility. The church seems more like the mirror image of Western capitalism than it does the new community God meant it to be. The quality of our discipleship has been called into question. And if the charge is true, we have to fear, in addition to secular criticism, the very judgment of God. Jesus made it terrifyingly clear that a person does not get to heaven by professing his name but by obeying his word, the fruit of genuine faith (Matthew 7:21-23).
Ours is a world in which the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Wealthy nations like America are like a Shangri-la in a global slum. Famine threatens entire continents. Multitudes subsist in the Third World on less than a dollar a day while we in North America need comparatively huge amounts to support our plush lifestyles. Our text in Acts 4:31-35 speaks to this problem of great urgency and offers a unique and potentially effective solution.