The sharing of one’s resources was often a tangible expression of unity in the early church. The generosity described in the early chapters of the book of Acts continues later with Paul’s inviting the churches he has established in Macedonia and Achaia to make a contribution for the poor in Jerusalem (see Acts 11:27-30, Gal. 2:10, Rom. 15:26, 1 Cor. 16:1-4).
That gift becomes a tangible expression of the fact that churches, consisting mainly of Gentile believers, care and love their brothers and sisters of Jewish heritage in Jerusalem. In spite of cultural and ethnic differences, they form one body in Christ and cherish together the same Gospel. This sharing with those in need not only reveals the unity that already existed in the church but also strengthens that unity.
Read 2 Corinthians 9:8-15. What does Paul say will be the results of the generosity revealed by the church at Corinth?
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The experience of unity in the early church shows us what can still be done today. Unity, however, did not happen without intentional commitment on the part of all believers. The leaders of the early community saw it as their ministry to foster unity in Christ. As love between husband and wife and children is a commitment that must be intentionally fostered every day, so is unity among believers. The unity we have in Christ is both encouraged and made visible in a number of ways.
The obvious elements that fostered this unity in the early church were prayer, worship, fellowship, a common vision, and the study of God’s Word. Not only did they understand their mission to preach the Gospel to all nations, but they also realized that they had a responsibility of love and care toward each other. Their unity manifested itself in their generosity and mutual support within their own local fellowships, and more broadly, between church communities, even if long distances separated them.
“Their benevolence testified that they had not received the grace of God in vain. What could produce such liberality but the sanctification of the Spirit? In the eyes of believers and unbelievers it was a miracle of grace.” – Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 344.
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In what ways have you and your church experienced the benefits of generosity toward others? That is, what blessings come to those who give to others?
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