Luke mentions three ways in which these early believers shared Christian fellowship: practical fellowship for those in need, fellowship in public worship, and fellowship in homes. We will think about the practical aspect today.
One of the interesting features of the converts on the Day of Pentecost is that they came from different parts of the world, although no doubt many of them would also have been from Jerusalem. After their experience on that day, it is clear that the visitors remained in Jerusalem for some time before returning home. Their temporal needs had to be met, and one way by which this was done was by the disciples selling their possessions and sharing with those in need.
Their experience is a reminder that God in providence can bring about situations in which practical help has to be provided. Suddenly a group of believers find themselves having to care for another group of believers who are in need. The period of need may be long or short. When such situations occur in everyday life, they are regarded as hindrances to normal life, distracting people from their normal pattern of life. In total contrast, when such circumstances occur in a church or to a church, they are opportunities for fellowship provided by the heavenly Father.
Practical fellowship is evidence of brotherly love. This is a basic point, yet it is one that we can often forget. The apostle John reminds us: ‘But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:17-18). Because these believers had been affected deeply by the love of God, they gladly shared with those who were in need.
Practical fellowship alos reveals what we think of Jesus Christ. On the Day of Judgement, the needs of God’s people are one of the items that will be considered. In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus says these profound words: ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ If Jesus came before my eyes and I saw that he needed a meal, I would give him one. He does come before my eyes whenever I see a Christian in need. My response to that believer tells me how much I would do for Jesus Christ.
Of course, we are not to assume that every need is financial. In fact, most needs that we will encounter among God’s people in our society will not be categorised under this heading. There are countless numbers of other needs that can be met – loneliness, fear, distress, sorrow. Practical fellowship is a mark of the people of God. It is a reminder that we should move around with our eyes alert to possible needs, and a heart resolved to meet those needs.