Spurgeon, said that it was the reformer Melanchthon who first told the parable about a war between the wolves and the dogs.

The wolves were greatly afraid of going to war with the dogs, because they were vastly outnumbered.

The leader of the wolves (the alpha male???) sent out a spy to observe the dogs and report back.

The spy said that he found dogs everywhere, but there were very few mastiffs among them.

“There are dogs that can bite severely, but most of them were filled with bark but little bite.”

That was certainly good, but there was something even better:

He said, “When I saw them coming together and marching through town, they were all barking and snapping at one another.

It was quite clear that even though they hate the wolves, it seems that they hate one another even more.”

I am sure that both Spurgeon and Melanchthon were applying their parable differently than I am, but the principles are the same:

Unity within the Lord’s local church is very important.

In fact, I have heard messages from the early chapters of the Book of Acts,

Which have declared that unity was the key to the power that the church had in those days.

It’s sad to say, but I have probably repeated those things.

Although the harmony in the church was extremely important, after more reflection on the subject, I’m going to have to say that it was NOT the key.

That’s like saying that it was more important than the filling of the Holy Spirit, or the power of God.

But here is an interesting question:

Which came first: the presence and blessing of the Spirit or the unity of the church?

Was love and agreement between the brethren part of the criteria for the Lord’s blessing?

Or was the Lord’s blessing the reason that there was concord and harmony in the church?

Let’s think for a few minutes about the unity that we see in these verses.

Let’s consider first: its NATURE:

“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.”

The nature of that unity within the church was not that they had all things common.

By nature I’m talking about the essential characteristics and qualities of that union.

The root and nature of this wonderful situation was found on the inside, not the outside

It was in their hearts and souls.

What does it mean that they “were of one heart and one soul?”

When I asked my library that question, I was surprised that only one book even offered a suggestion, and it was kind of weak.

Patton Gloag about 125 years ago said that this was a proverbial expression, referring to the most “endearing friendship.”

He cited Plutarch who used these Greek words in just that way.

Then he said that “there were no differences of sentiment among them.

“This concord arose from their being comparatively free of all selfish aims: they sought not their own interest, but the interests of each other.”

I hate to disagree with Mr. Gloag, but the poor man was a Presbyterian and obviously there were several things that he didn’t understand about the Bible.

This is definitely talking about a lot more than “the most endearing friendship.”

I don’t think that this unity came as a result of their selflessness;

I think that there unity was the cause of their selflessness.

The Greek words for heart and soul are “kardia” (kar-dee-ah) and “psuche” (psoo-kay).

James Strong defines “kardia” this way:

“The centre and seat of spiritual life;

The soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavours.”

And “psuche” is: “the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, and aversions.”

If Strong is right, and I believe that he is, then the church was united SPIRITUALLY and EMOTIONALLY,

But it wasn’t an ethereal, other-worldly, mystical spirituality.

It involved their minds as well.

So what was the unity of the church all about?

Simply put, it was about the Lord Jesus.

But that meant that they were agreed about His deity, His eternality and His omnipotence.

They were agreed about the Lord’s impeccability and His holiness.

They were agreed about His sacrifice and the nature the atonement.

They were agreed that Christ is “the way, the truth and the life.”

In other words, they agreed doctrinally about the Lord as well as being emotionally linked thru Christ.

Their emotional unanimity was due to the fact that they were like-minded.

There are several words translated “like-minded” in the New Testament, but one of them is a derivative of “psuche.”

I believe that the nature of the harmony in the church at Jerusalem began with their agreement about the Lord and His salvation. It was rooted in Biblical Truth not in emotional relationships.

But it’s the MANIFESTATION of that harmony which most people like to focus upon.

And the first thing that they look at is the COMMONALITY of their PROPERTY.

“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,

& laid them down at the apostles’ feet: & distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,

Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

We’ve already had a lesson on this subject, so I won’t go into it in depth again.

Suffice it to say, again, that this wasn’t communism – Christian or otherwise.

When Barnabas sold his property and laid the money at the feet of the Apostles, it was totally voluntary.

There is a lot about this whole picture which I don’t understand,

Because the Lord chose not to reveal very much about it.

For example, we don’t know whose idea this was initially.

And we don’t know if there were any special circumstances which made this important at the time.

This was a unique church – were there unique circumstances which pleaded for this kind of response?

We don’t know the logic or the arguments that they used among themselves.

But we do know that it was an idea and practice that didn’t last very long.

We do know that the Holy Spirit did not make it a part of the Holy Cannon – the Scriptures.

We know that Paul didn’t tell the Ephesians to put this into practice, nor did the Philippians.

What’s more, not even Peter refers to it in his epistles either, even though he was there in Jerusalem while it was being practiced there.

There is no reason to believe that we are expected to live this way today.

But that commonality of property certainly did give evidence of the church members unified hearts and souls.

Remember that there were over 8,000 members in the Jerusalem church by this time.

I think that unanimity among 80 people would require the miraculous power of God, but 8,000 people?

I think that there were other evidences of their church unity and harmony as well.

For example, there was the PRAYER that we studied last weekend.

I know that we very often point to one of the men in the church & ask him to lead us in community prayer.

I know that he is supposed to pray on behalf of us all as a group.

But I also know, unfortunately, that usually there is very little thought or preparation put into that prayer,

And I suspect that very often there is very little attention put into that prayer by the rest of us.

I don’t believe that either of those things was true in regard to the prayer of verses 24-30.

Those people were united in prayer.

Thirdly, they were united in their MESSAGE.

“And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”

It is one of the anomalies of the ministry that the pastor can feel led of the Lord to preach a message or a series of messages,

And half the congregation be thoroughly blessed message after message,

But the other half of the congregation leave, saying that the Pastor’s messages are repetitious, shallow and lacking in spiritual nutrition.

Agreement on the messages? Somewhat rare.

The Apostles were united, and apparently the church was in agreement with them that the message needed by that generation in that hour was the message of Jesus’ resurrection.

I think that there is information in v. 33 to which some of the primitive branches of Christendom need heed:

Doesn’t the verse say that although great grace was upon all the church,

Yet, the Apostles were the only members who were publically preaching?

This doesn’t mean that the members were not witnesses to their friends and families, but the verse isolates the Apostles as the primary spokesmen.

The unity of the church could be seen in their message, their prayer life, their sharing and in GRACE.

“And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”

This is how John Gill explains last statement: “And great grace was upon them all;

Not only upon the apostles and ministers, but upon the whole church:

And which may be understood either of the large gifts of the Spirit of God, which were poured out upon them, and plentifully bestowed on them;

Or of the gracious protection of God over them, preserving them from the rage and malice of men;

Or of that grace and favour which they had among thee people in common;

Or of that charity, liberality and beneficence, which were among them, which sense is confirmed by what follows;

Though it may be all these senses may be taken in.”

What is the theological definition of “grace”? Grace is the unmerited favor of God.

What were the members of the church experiencing? God was abundantly blessing them.

Can we say in what specific ways?

Well, I wish that we could, but everything that John Gill or David Oldfield might say would speculation.

And it could very well be that some were being favored by God in some ways, while others were being blessed in other ways.

Through the liberality of some, the oil and meal barrels of the poor were not becoming empty.

That occurred miraculously in the Old Testament, and it was somewhat miraculous here as well.

Some of the members were being powerfully used to bring others to the resurrected Christ.

Yes, they were still being preserved from fire and sword.

And some of the members were watching their spouses and other relatives changing from wicked to wonderful.

The Lord chose not to tell us in what ways his great grace was experienced by these people.

But a part of the unity of this church was seen in the fact that God’s grace was touching everyone.

Remember, “grace” is not a word to be applied to salvation only.

And again, what was the CAUSE of this ecclesiastical unity?

Of course it was the Lord’s grace.

But I think that we can see a human element in this equation.

“And the multitude of them that BELIEVED were of one heart and of one soul.”

As should be true of everyone of the Lord’s churches, the members were all believers.

I know that sounds like a stupid statement.

We are Baptists and therefore we believe in a regenerated church membership.

A part of the evidence of regeneration is found in a person’s repentance before God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Of course these people had believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

But let me ask you: does verse 32 say that they had were believers – in Christ?

Sure these people were trusting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross,

But I think that their faith didn’t stop there.

They not only were saved by faith, but they were living by faith.

They were living in dependence upon the omnipotent God, who so loved them that He sent His only begotten Son to save them.

They were believers, accepting the truth of God as it was revealed to them through the Apostles.

Each of the miracles that they were seeing and hearing about strengthened their faith exponentially.

And as each member grew closer to the Lord by faith, they grew closer to one another.

Their love for the Lord was evidenced by their love for one another.

Their faith in the omnipotent and beneficent God, motivated and enabled them to sacrificially give of themselves to the work and to one another.

So it seems to me that the human element to the unity of the church in Jerusalem was their faith.

The divine element was the Lord to Whom their faith brought them ever nearer.

But they grasped the Lord by faith, and in doing that they moved closer to each other.

This is an area where any church has the potential of emulating them.

But this is also an area where nearly every church is deficient.

“Lord, we believe, help thou our unbelief.”