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Monday, February 13, 2012

One Heart and Soul

One Heart and Soul

"Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet." Acts 4:32-37

ONE HEART: kardia (the heart; figuratively, the thoughts or feelings or the mind; by analogy, the middle); from kar (heart)

Kardia literally is the organ that pumps blood through every part of our body. The organ's crucial importance to the body probably resulted in "kardia" becoming the word for thoughts and feelings, what we now think of as our mind.

"Heart" describes that part of our being that generates thoughts, attitudes and desires:

"What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander...This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me...Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart...As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience." (Matthew 15:18-19; Mark 7:6; Luke 2:19, 8:15)

Words and actions generally result from the thoughts and desires in our heart, although it is certainly possible to lie and pretend, living false to the thoughts and desires truly within us.

The Jews listening to Peter preach Christ were "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37). The early believers lived together in Jerusalem, having all things in common, sharing food together with "glad and generous hearts" (Acts 2:46). Satan filled the heart of Ananias with a desire to lie (Acts 5:3). Stephen rebuked the Jewish leaders for being "stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart" (Acts 7:51).

Most importantly, the heart is that part of us which provides trust and dependence upon Christ:

"The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved...so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." Romans 10:8-10, Ephesians 3:17 (ESV)

Luke described the Christians in Jerusalem as having one heart. This cannot mean they all had the exact same thoughts and desires, as if they were robots or clones. They certainly dressed differently, spoke differently, preferred different foods, lived with different families, loved different husbands and wives. Rather, having one heart refers specifically to their belief about Christ.

Luke's declaration focuses on "those who believed." With the heart being the center of thought and desire, concerning Christ, all the believers had the same thought and desire. They depended upon and lived according to the same faith: Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour. Every Christian in Jerusalem owned the same, great Treasure:

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Luke 12:34 (ESV)

"The eunuch said, - See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized? - Philip said, - If you believe with all your heart, you may. - And he replied, - I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." acts 8:36-37

"For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, - Let light shine out of darkness - has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 (ESV)

"That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Colossians 2:2-3 (ESV)

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body." Colossians 3:15 (ESV)

The Christians were united in their thoughts and desires towards Christ. They were of one heart.

Luke also describes the Christians in Jerusalem as having one soul.

"Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul." Acts 4:32 (ESV)

ONE SOUL: mia (one or first) and psyche (breath or by implication, spirit); from psycho (to breathe, voluntarily but gently)

"One soul" literally means breath, and it implies the spirit of a person. The Bible often uses another word for spirit:

PNEUMA: (a current of air, breath or spirit, the immortal soul of a human)

We can see the inter-connectedness of heart and soul here:

"The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

SOUL: psyche, "thoughts"

SPIRIT: pneuma, "intentions"

HEART: kardia: "heart"

The soul and spirit of a person are closely connected and can both be included in "the heart" of a person. In this verse, "psyche" refers to the thoughts of a heart, and "pneuma" refers to the intentions of a heart.

THOUGHTS: enthymesis (deliberation); from enthymeomai (to be inspirited, to ponder); from en (in position) and thumos (passion, as if breathing hard); from thyo (to rush, as if breathing hard; to sacrifice or slaughter)

INTENTIONS: ennoia (thoughtfulness or understanding); from en (in position) and nous (the intellect or the mind)

Peter used the word "psyche", implying the process of deliberation or pondering, the passion of thinking or feeling.

Concerning faith in Christ, the Christians in Jerusalem were united in their thoughts and desires, which were motivated by a common passion: Jesus is Lord and Savior.

The center of a person is their "heart", through which their "soul" and "spirit" work. The "soul" produces thoughts which originate from the understanding of the "spirit".

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Estimate the number of churches in our small town, those churches with members who claim Christ as Lord and Savior. Multiply the number of churches by an average membership, perhaps 100 or so. How many Christians possibly live in our town? Were you Luke, writing about the Christians in our town, would you describe them us as having "one heart"? Why or why not? Is the state of Christian unity in our town glorifying to God? What opportunities is God providing for building up Christian unity in our town?

The most visible result of having a common heart and soul concerning Christ was generosity and compassion.

"No one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common...There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need." Acts 4:32,34-35 (ESV)

The Christians in Jerusalem had "all things in common".

COMMON: koinos (shared by all)

"Koinos" referred to anything touched or used by many people. Unwashed hands were described as "koinos":

"Some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed." Mark 7:2 (ESV)

Peter himself later experienced a moral conflict when it became clear to him that Jesus wanted him to stop regarding some foods as "koinos", or unclean:

"Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: - Rise, Peter; kill and eat. - But Peter said, - By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. - And the voice came to him again a second time, - What God has made clean, do not call common.” Acts 10:9-15 (ESV)

The writer of Hebrews rebuked those who reject faith in Christ as something unclean and common:

"How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned (koinos) the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?" Hebrews 10:29 (ESV)

Paul, however, took pride in calling our faith common:

"To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior." Titus 1:4 (ESV)

"Koinos" meant something dirty or unclean only when it was describing something touched and used by many people. The underlying meaning of the word was not based upon dirtiness, but upon the sharing of something with others.

The Christians in Jerusalem were moved by a single heart-felt motivation: "Jesus is my Lord and Savior, and all I have is from Him, given to me to give to others."

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is this an unrealistic situation for today? What parts of this unity could we begin doing in our town? Is it okay to regard some things as personal, not meant for others to use, regardless of need? How is "need" to be measured and verified?

Joseph Barnabas, "son of encouragement", sold a field and brought the money to the apostles (Acts 4:37). Earlier, Luke explains that many wealthy Christians sold their property, bringing the proceeds to the apostles for distribution.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What benefit is it to give a small group of leaders the power, and the responsibility, to distribute charitable donations given by others? Why not simply publish a list of the needs, and ask individual Christians to do the right thing? What policy and practices should we as a church be following as we collect and distribute donations?

We skipped over an important element of generosity:

"With great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all." Acts 4:33 (ESV)

Luke credits the power and grace behind intense generosity as being a result of the apostles "giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus". Powerful preaching was also referenced in an earlier verse:

"They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness." Acts 4:31 (ESV)

TESTIMONY: martyrion (something evidential, evidence given); from martys (a witness, a "martyr")

"Martyrion" is first seen in the New Testament, describing a leper healed by Jesus:

"A leper came to him and knelt before him, saying - Lord, if you will, you can make me clean. - And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying - I will; be clean. - And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him - See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” Matthew 8:2-4 (ESV)

"Proof" here is the same Greek word, martyrion. Convincing evidence of supernatural healing required the healed person to offer a gift at the temple and allow the priests to see for themselves a healed body.

Jesus warned His disciples about the power, and the danger, involved in being a witness for Him:

"They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death." Luke 21:12-16 (ESV)

Paul later emphasized the same power, hinting also at the danger, for all believers who witness of Jesus:

"I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge — even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you — so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ...Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God." 2 Timothy 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4-8 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Look back at the passages quoted from Luke 21, 2 Timothy 1, and 1 Corinthians 1. What things are involved or required for successful witnessing of Jesus?

  • Persecution
  • Wisdom from Jesus
  • Betrayal
  • Enriched speech and knowledge
  • Spiritual gifts
  • Hope in Christ
  • Boldness
  • Suffering
  • The gospel
  • The power of God

Image provided by qthomasbower, Creative Commons License