Church of God, New World Ministries

Bible Q & A

Q. Is it true that the early Christians practiced Communism? I have heard some make this claim.
 
A. There are two passages in the book of Acts which when taken out of context and isolated, are sometimes thought to condone Communism.

The first passage is this: “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men as every man had need” (Acts 2:44-45).

The second reads, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common” (Acts 4:32).

Notice these verses carefully. They do not say what some have assumed. The first point is that the people spoken of in the Book of Acts believed in God, that they prayed, and that they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31).

This fact alone is sufficient to prove that these verses cannot possibly be referring to Communism as we know it today. Communists reject God, the Bible, and anything having to do with religion.

Let’s understand what these scriptures do mean. Notice the theme of the first few chapters of Acts. The account involves the coming of the Holy Spirit on the annual Holy Day called Pentecost.

There were multiple thousands from throughout Asia Minor, Egypt, Rome and elsewhere gathered together at Jerusalem to observe God’s festival of Pentecost (Acts 2:5-11). As all these believers who received God’s Holy Spirit gathered together, they were united in a bond of Christian love and fellowship perhaps never before known.

As many of those who came from a distance stayed in Jerusalem longer than they originally intended, it became necessary for them to sell part of their possessions and goods. They had need of cash proceeds to pay the expense of this lengthened stay. As it stated in Acts 4:32, there was such a feeling of unity in dealing with common problems, that no man said or reckoned in his own mind that his possessions which he personally owned were solely his own. Rather, he voluntarily used his possessions in such a way that they would fill the needs of the group as well as himself.

A man’s property still legally remained his own, but he did not say it was his own. Instead he treated his own personal property as if it were common property.

That the early Christians did not pool all their resources and goods can also be proved by other scriptures. In Acts 5:1-11 the very next chapter is the story of Ananias and Sapphira who had a piece of property they wished to sell in order to give the proceeds to the Church. They said they were giving all of it, but actually they kept back part for themselves, God punished them for lying.

When Peter rebuked them for this deed, he explained the legal relationship existing between these two people and their property. He said, “While it (the property) remained, was it not thine own? And after it was sold, was it (the money) not in thine own power” (Acts 5:4)?

There is no Communism here. These early Christians were capitalists they owned property! The property as well as the money when it was sold belonged completely and totally to Ananias and Sapphira to do with as they willed. They could spend it, or contribute it. If contributed, it was a voluntary, freewill offering.

This is a far cry from Communism as it is practiced today, where each individual’s property is confiscated and the proceeds are distributed by a single person or a small committee or party.

A final point to remember is that the New Testament makes frequent references to the rich and the poor in the Church, (See I Tim. 6:17-19; James 1:9-10). The believers at Antioch were instructed to give, each “according to his ability” (Acts 11:29), when a collection was taken for the “poor saints” (Rom. 15:26) who were suffering a drought in Jerusalem. Such distinctions would have been impossible if all property were had in common.

These facts prove that the early Christians did not practice Communism of any kind. The Bible simply does not teach Communism!
 
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