The Holy Community

In its preoccupation with heart attitudes, Luke’s portrait of early Christian koinonia is a discomforting challenge to economically-comfortable Christians, relentlessly probing our motives. When confronted with another person’s need, is our first impulse to help or to edge away? To find a way to meet the need or to find an excuse for avoiding involvement? When brothers and sisters are in need, the normal response of people touched by God’s Spirit is to share together as members of a family do. How normal is the evangelical church today? Luke sums up the result of the Christian’s sense of family partnership, “there was not even a needy person among them (Acts 4:34).” His words deliberately echo the Lord’s ancient promise of blessing toward Israel, if Israel were to prove faithful (Deut. 15:4-5), “There will not be a needy person among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to inherit as your portion. If you listen intently to the voice of the Lord your God to keep and to do all these commands that I am commanding you today.” This promise assured Israel of God’s blessing and material prosperity if Israel proved faithful to the Lord and His Law. Israel disobeyed and received a curse rather than blessing, but now God’s promise of a blessing that erases want is coming to fulfillment in the church, not through abundant harvests but through open hearts. The fulfillment of God’s promise through hearts turned inside out – from protective selfishness to risky liberality – is a more marvelous work of God than ample rainfall and bumper crops from Palestinian soil would have been. The practical koinonia in the church is the fruit of the Spirit who removes the curse, making dry ground fertile once again.

– Dennis Johnson


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