Acts 2:44
And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(44) All that believed were together. . . .—The writer dwells with a manifest delight on this picture of what seemed to him the true ideal of a human society. Here there was a literal fulfilment of his Lord’s words (Luke 12:33), a society founded, not on the law of self-interest and competition, but on sympathy and self-denial. They had all things in common, not by a compulsory abolition of the rights of property (see Acts 5:4), but by the spontaneous energy of love. The gift of the Spirit showed its power, not only in tongues and prophecy, but in the more excellent way of charity. It was well that that inimitable glow of love should manifest itself for a time to be a beacon-light to after ages, even if experience taught the Church in course of time that this generous and general distribution was not the wisest method of accomplishing permanent good, and that here also a discriminate economy, such as St. Paul taught (2Thessalonians 3:10; 1Timothy 3:8), was necessary as a safe-guard against abuse. It was, we may perhaps believe, partly in consequence of the rapid exhaustion of its resources thus brought about, that the Church at Jerusalem became dependent for many years upon the bounty of the churches of the Gentiles. (See Note on Acts 11:29.)

Acts 2:44-45. And all that believed were together — Meeting as frequently as possible, even in the same place, and at the same time. Or, if this was impracticable, (their number being already, at least, three thousand one hundred and twenty, and in a few days several thousands more,) they probably assembled, as Dr. Lightfoot explains it, in several distinct companies, or congregations, according as their languages, nations, or other circumstances, brought and kept them together. And had all things in common — That is, such was their mutual affection and love to each other, that they chose rather to part with their property, whatever it was, than that any of their brethren should want; and accordingly they who had estates, or any other valuable possessions, sold them, and parted the price of them to all men — That is, to their brethren; as every man had need — Herein, it is probable, they had an eye to the command which Christ gave to the rich man, as a test of his sincerity; sell what thou hast, and give to the poor. Not that this was intended for an example, or to be a constant and binding rule to all Christians, in all places and ages; as if they were bound to sell all their property, and give the money arising from the sale in charity. For St. Paul, in his epistles, after this, often speaks of the rich and poor, as distinguished from each other; and Christ said, The poor you have always with you; evidently meaning that this always would, more or less, be the case among his followers. Indeed, the New Testament abounds with passages which plainly show that what now took place at Jerusalem, was not intended to be a general practice in the church of Christ. But the case was now extraordinary; and, as Dr. Doddridge observes, “peculiar reasons made this community of goods eligible at this time; not only as so many sojourners, who had come from other parts, would justly be desirous to continue at Jerusalem much longer than they intended, when they came up to the feast, that they might get a thorough knowledge of the gospel; but as the prospect, likewise, of the Roman conquests, which, according to Christ’s known prediction, were soon to swallow up all Jewish property, would of course dispose many more readily to sell their lands.” For they who believed Christ to be a divinely-commissioned teacher, must believe that the Jewish nation would shortly be destroyed, and an end put to the possession of goods and estates by the Jews in Judea; and in the belief of that, the converted Jews resident in the country wisely sold theirs for the present service of Christ and his church, before they were snatched from them by the enemy. It does not appear, however, that the apostles enjoined this upon any of them, as an absolute duty; for Peter tells Ananias,

(Acts 5:4,) that the possession he had sold was his own property before he had sold it, and that, after he had disposed of it, the price he had received for it was still in his own power, to have given, or not given, the whole or any part of it. But by this conduct, these first Christians manifested in a remarkable manner their firm faith in the declarations and predictions of Christ, respecting the calamities coming on Judea, their deadness to, and contempt of, this world, their assurance of another, their love to their brethren, their compassion for the poor, and their great zeal for the encouraging of Christianity, and the nursing of it in its infancy. The apostles left all to follow Christ, and were to give themselves wholly to the ministry of the word, and prayer; it was necessary, therefore, that something should be done for their maintenance; so that this extraordinary liberality was like that of Israel in the wilderness, toward the building of the tabernacle, which needed to be restrained. It is true the apostles, who wrought so many wonderful miracles, could probably have maintained themselves and the poor that were among them miraculously, as Christ fed thousands with little food; but it was as much for the glory of God that it should be done by a miracle of grace, inclining people to sell their estates to do it, as if it had been done by a miracle in nature. In the mean time, the gospel-word from their mouths did wonders, and God blessed their endeavours for the increase of the number of believers, adding to the church daily such as should be, or, as the word σωζομενους rather means, such as were saved — Namely, from the guilt and power of their sins, by believing in Christ.2:42-47 In these verses we have the history of the truly primitive church, of the first days of it; its state of infancy indeed, but, like that, the state of its greatest innocence. They kept close to holy ordinances, and abounded in piety and devotion; for Christianity, when admitted in the power of it, will dispose the soul to communion with God in all those ways wherein he has appointed us to meet him, and has promised to meet us. The greatness of the event raised them above the world, and the Holy Ghost filled them with such love, as made every one to be to another as to himself, and so made all things common, not by destroying property, but doing away selfishness, and causing charity. And God who moved them to it, knew that they were quickly to be driven from their possessions in Judea. The Lord, from day to day, inclined the hearts of more to embrace the gospel; not merely professors, but such as were actually brought into a state of acceptance with God, being made partakers of regenerating grace. Those whom God has designed for eternal salvation, shall be effectually brought to Christ, till the earth is filled with the knowledge of his glory.All that believed - That is, that believed that Jesus was the Messiah; for that was the distinguishing point by which they were known from others.

Were together - Were united; were joined in the same thing. It does not mean that they lived in the same house, but they were united in the same community, or engaged in the same thing. They were doubtless often together in the same place for prayer and praise. One of the best means for strengthening the faith of young converts is for them often to meet together for prayer, conversation, and praise.

Had all things common - That is, all their property or possessions. See Acts 4:32-37; Acts 5:1-10. The apostles, in the time of the Saviour, evidently had all their property in common stock, and Judas was made their treasurer. They regarded themselves as one family, having common needs, and there was no use or propriety in their possessing extensive property by themselves. Yet even then it is probable that some of them retained an interest in their property which was not supposed to be necessary to be devoted to the common use. It is evident that John thus possessed property which he retained, John 19:27. And it is clear that the Saviour did not command them to give up their property into a common stock, nor did the apostles enjoin it: Acts 5:4, "While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold was it not in thine own power?" It was, therefore, perfectly voluntary, and was as evidently adapted to the special circumstances of the early converts. Many of them came from abroad. They were from Parthia, and Media, and Arabia, and Rome, and Africa, etc. It is probable, also, that they now remained longer in Jerusalem than they had at first proposed; and it is not at all improbable that they would be denied now the usual hospitalities of the Jews, and excluded from their customary kindness, because they had embraced Jesus of Nazareth, who had been just put to death. In these circumstances, it was natural and proper that they should share their property while they remained together.

44. all that believed were together, and had all things common—(See on [1940]Ac 4:34-37). All that believed were together; not that they lived together in one house or street, but that they met (and that frequently) together in the holy exercises of their religion; and that manner of some, which St. Paul speaks of, Hebrews 10:25, to forsake the assembling of themselves together, was a sin not yet known in the church.

And had all things common; this was only at that place, Jerusalem, and at that time, when the wants of some, and the charity of others, may well be presumed to be extraordinary; and there is no such thing as community of goods here required or practised. Christ’s gospel does not destroy the law; and the eighth commandment is still in force, which it could not be, if there were no propriety, or meum and tuum, now; nay, after this, the possession which Ananias sold is adjudged by this apostle to have been Ananias’s own, and so was the money too which he had received for it, Acts 5:4. And these all things which they had in common, must either be restrained to such things as every one freely laid aside for the poor; or that it speaks the extraordinary charitable disposition of those new converts, that they would rather have parted with any thing, nay, with their all, than that any of their poor brethren should have wanted. And all that believed were together,.... Not in one place, for no one house could hold them all, their number was now so large; but they "agreed together", as the Arabic version renders it: all these believers were of one mind and judgment, as to doctrines, they agreed in their sentiments and principles of religion; and they were of one heart and soul, were cordially affected to each other, and mutually were assisting to one another in temporals, as well as in spirituals:

and had all things common: that is, their worldly goods, their possessions and estates; no man called anything peculiarly his own; and whatever he had, his brother was welcome to, and might as freely take, and use it, as if it was his own.

{13} And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

(13) Charity makes all things common with regard to their use, according as necessity requires.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 2:44-45. But (δέ, continuative) as regards the development of the church-life, which took place amidst that φόβος without and this miracle-working of the apostles, all were ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό. This, as in Acts 1:15, Acts 2:1, is to be understood as having a local reference, and not with Theophylact, Kypke, Heinrichs, and Kuinoel: de animorum consensu, which is foreign to N. T. usage. They were accustomed all to be together. This is not strange, when we bear in mind the very natural consideration that after the feast many of the three thousand—of whom, doubtless, a considerable number consisted of pilgrims to the feast—returned to their native countries; so that the youthful church at Jerusalem does not by any means seem too large to assemble in one place.

καὶ εἶχον ἅπαντα κοινά] they possessed all things in common, i.e. all things belonged to all, were a common good. According to the more particular explanation which Luke himself gives (καὶ τὰ κτήματαεἶχε, comp. Acts 4:32), we are to assume not merely in general a distinguished beneficence, liberality, and mutual rendering of help,[139] or “a prevailing willingness to place private property at the disposal of the church” (de Wette, comp. Neander, Baum garten, Lechler, p. 320 ff., also Lange, apost. Zeitalt. I. p. 90, and already Mosheim, Diss, ad hist. eccl. pertin. II. p. 1 ff., Kuinoel, and others); but a real community of goods in the early church at Jerusalem, according to which the possessors were wont to dispose of their lands and their goods generally, and applied the money sometimes themselves (Acts 2:44 f., Acts 4:32), and sometimes by handing it to the apostles (Acts 5:2), for the relief of the wants of their fellow-Christians. See already Chrysostom. But for the correct understanding of this community of goods and its historical character (denied by Baur and Zeller), it is to be observed: (1) It took place only in Jerusalem. For there is no trace of it in any other church; on the contrary, elsewhere the rich and the poor continued to live side by side, and Paul in his letters had often to inculcate beneficence in opposition to selfishness and πλεονεξία. Comp. also Jam 5:1 ff.; 1 John 3:17. And this community of goods at Jerusalem helps to explain the great and general poverty of the church in that city, whose possessions naturally—certainly also in the hope of the Parousia speedily occurring—were soon consumed. As the arrangement is found in no other church, it is very probable that the apostles were prevented by the very experience acquired in Jerusalem from counselling or at all introducing it elsewhere. (2) This community of goods was not ordained as a legal necessity, but was left to the free will of the owners. This is evident, from Acts 5:4; Acts 12:12. Nevertheless, (3) in the yet fresh vigour of brotherly love (Bengel on Acts 4:34 aptly says: “non nisi summo fidei et amoris flori convenit”), it was, in point of fact, general in the church of Jerusalem, as is proved from this passage and from the express assurance at Acts 4:32; Acts 4:34 f., in connection with which the conduct of Barnabas, brought forward in Acts 4:36, is simply a concrete instance of the general practice. (4) It was not an institution borrowed from the Essenes[140] (in opposition to Grotius, Heinrichs, Ammon, Schneckenburger). For it could not have arisen without the guidance of the apostles; and to attribute to them any sort of imitation of Essenism, would be devoid alike of internal probability and of any trace in history, as, indeed, the first fresh form assumed by the life of the church must necessarily be conceived as a development from within under the impulse of the Spirit. (5) On the contrary, the relation arose very naturally, and that from within, as a continuation and extension of that community of goods which subsisted in the case of Jesus Himself and His disciples, the wants of all being defrayed from a common purse. It was the extension of this relation to the whole church, and thereby, doubtless, the putting into practice of the command Luke 12:33, but in a definite form. That Luke here and in Acts 4:32; Acts 4:34 expresses himself too strongly (de Wette), is an arbitrary assertion. Schneckenburger, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1855, p. 514 ff., and Ewald have correctly apprehended the matter as an actual community of goods. Comp. Ritschl, altkath. Kirche, p. 232.

τὰ κτήματα] the landed possessions (belonging to him). See v. 1; Xen. Oec. 20. 23; Eustath. ad Il. vi. p. 685. ὑπάρξεις: possessions in general, Polyb. ii. 17. 11; Hebrews 10:34, and Bleek in loc.

αὐτα] it, namely, the proceeds. The reference is involved in the preceding verb (ἐπίπρασκον). Comp. Luke 18:22; John 12:5. See generally, Winer, p. 138 [E. T. 181 f.].

καθότι ἄ τις χρείαν εἶχε] just as any one had need, ἄν with the indicative denotes: “accidisse aliquid non certo quodam tempore, sed quotiescunque occasio ita ferret.” Herm. ad Viger. p. 820. Comp. Acts 4:35; Mark 6:56; Krüger, Anab. i. 5. 2; Kühner, ad Mem. i. 1. 16; and see on 1 Corinthians 12:2.

[139] Comp. also Hundeshagen in Herzog’s Encykl. III. p. 26. In this view the Pythagorean τὰ τῶν φίλων κοινά might be compared with it (Rittersh. ad Porphyr. Vit. Pyth. p. 46).

[140] See Joseph. Bell. Jud. ii. 8. 3 f. The Pythagoreans also had a community of goods. See Jamblich. Vita Pyth. 168. 72; Zeller, p. 504. See, in opposition to the derivation from Essenism, von Wegnern in the Zeitschr. f. histor. Theol. XI. 2, p. 1 ff., Ewald and Ritschl.Acts 2:44. πάντες δε κ.τ.λ., cf. Acts 3:24, all, i.e., not only those who had recently joined, Acts 2:41.—ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ, see note on Acts 1:15; here of place. Theophylact takes it of the unanimity in the Church, but this does not seem to be in accordance with the general use of the phrase in the N.T. =ὁμοῦ, ἐπὶ τὸν αὐτὸν τόπον (Hesychius). Blass points out that ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ demands ἦσαν, and if we omit this word (W.H[130]) we must supply ὄντες with ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ, as ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ εἶχον could not stand (W.H[131]). The difficulty raised by Hilgenfeld, Wendt, Holtzmann, Overbeck, in this connection as to the number is exaggerated, whether we meet it or not by supposing that some of this large number were pilgrims who had come up to the Feast, but who had now returned to their homes. For in the first place, ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ cannot be taken to mean that all the believers were always assembled in one and the same place. The reading in [132], Acts 2:46, may throw light upon the expression in this verse καὶ καιʼ οἴκους ἦσαν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό, or the phrase may be referred to their assembling together in the Temple, Acts 2:46, and Acts 5:12 may be quoted in support of this, where all the believers apparently assemble in Solomon’s Porch. It is therefore quite arbitrary to dismiss the number here or in Acts 4:4 as merely due to the idealising tendency of the Apostles, or to the growth of the Christian legend.—εἶχον ἅπαντα κοινά, “held all things common,” R.V. Blass and Weiss refer these words with ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ to the assembling of the Christians together for common meals and find in the statement the exact antithesis to the selfish conduct in 1 Corinthians 11:20-21. But the words also demand a much wider reference. On the Community of Goods,” see additional note at end of chapter.

[130] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

[131] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

[132] R(omana), in Blass, a first rough copy of St. Luke.44. were together, and had all things common] With the words of the angels still in their ears (Acts 1:11), “This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven,” the disciples were no doubt full of the thought that the return of Jesus was not far distant. Such an opinion spreading among the new disciples would make them ready to resign their worldly goods, and to devote all things to the use of their brethren. For so the spreading of a knowledge of Christ could be made the chief work of the whole body of believers.[44. Παντες, all) though sprung from entirely different nations. At what a wide distance, alas! we are removed from that unity in the present day.—V. g.]Verse 44. - Were together (ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό; see Acts 1:15, note, and above, ver. 42). Had all things common. Just as the Transfiguration gave a passing glimpse of the state of glory, so here we have a specimen of what Christian love and unity in its perfection, and unchecked by contact with the world without, would, and perhaps some day will, produce. But even at Jerusalem this bright vision of a paradise on earth was soon troubled by the earthly dissensions recorded in Acts 6; and the Christian community received a timely lesson that things good in themselves are not always practicable in an evil world, where sluggish virtues require the stimulants of bodily wants to draw them out and strengthen them, and where hypocrisy often claims the kindly offices which are due only to disciples indeed. Common (κοινὰ)

Compare fellowship, Acts 2:42.

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