Luke here gives his readers a further description of the church in Jerusalem. His first was in Acts 2:42-47: ‘And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.’
This second description repeats several of the features found in the previous sketch of church life – he mentions powerful preaching by the apostles and the harmony between the members. The main feature on which he wishes to focus, however, is the practical care that the members had for one another.
Before he relates the sad story of Ananias and Sapphira, Luke takes the opportunity of introducing to his readers an individual who will play an important role in the future development of the church – Barnabas. Those who are familiar with his involvement will know that he lived up to his nickname, ‘son of encouragement’.
Luke also gives us other clues about his background. He points out that Barnabas was a religious man, a Levite, who served God in this capacity. But he had discovered that religion, even a God-given religious ritual, in itself was not enough to give him salvation from his sins.
Further, Barnabas seems to have been a wealthy man, for although he lived in Cyprus he also had land in Jerusalem which he sold and gave the proceeds for helping the needy in the church. He knew that his riches could not bring him satisfaction by themselves, but now that he was a Christian he was able to use his riches in a satisfying way – helping those in need.
This is a reminder that the new life in a Christian is revealed in embracing things less and embracing people more. Luke is informing his readers that Barnabas was a commendable Christian, one on whom others in the church could rely (which is an obvious essential quality of leadership). He is in stark contrast to Ananias, whom we will think about tomorrow.