The way the early church shared and had common stewardship of all things is what I call "Level 3 Unity." Click here for my last article on this topic.
44 All who believed were together and had all things in common.
45 they sold their property and goods and distributed them to all, according to their need.
The third question for Level 3 unity:
1. How can the church enter in/rise to Level 3 unity?
Level 3 unity cannot be accomplished naturally. I.e.: communes, socialism, legalism, etc.; all man's attempts are counterfeit.
It must be accomplished by the power of the Spirit in willing hearts:
2 Corinthians 5:14: "The love of Christ constrains us ... [to do all things that are God-directed].
So why is there so little evidence of Level 3 unity in many parts of the body of Christ?
This Scripture, in which Paul rebuked the local body for their selfishness, gives a clue to the problem:
2 Corinthians 6:12: "You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections [open wide your hearts to us.']
This is the problem and the answer!
If we choose voluntarily to open wide our hearts to our (church) family members and be willing to bear their burdens even when it is not convenient, our affections (acts of agape love) will no longer be restrained toward our brothers and sisters in the church. This is definitely not doable in the flesh. It can only be accomplished by the Spirit in those very open hearts.
In yet another instance of Level 3 unity, the Macedonian church specifically reflected the demonstration and presence of agape:
2 Cor 8:2-4
... "how in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty overflowed toward the riches of their generous giving. For I bear record that according to their means, and beyond their means, they freely gave, begging us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of ministering to the saints."
In this case, tremendous ordeals of affliction produced both poverty and tremendous joy in the Spirit. The result was Level 3 unity with their distant brothers in Christ in sharing their all with the Corinthian believers.
So, in answer to the question of how can the church rise to/attain Level 3 unity, we conclude that Level 3 unity can be established in the church either of two ways, by:
- [voluntarily] Believers "opening wide" their hearts to their (church) family (2 Cor 6:12), or by
- [involuntary] External afflictions upon the church body, which produce open hearts ready to share all (2 Cor. 8:2).
Next time. we will consider the last of the four questions about Level 3 unity: What responsibilities do church pastors and clergy have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in His work of unity at Level 3?
Louis Posthauer is the executive director of Hunters of the Harvest Ministry. He has been actively involved in the local church for more than 37 years and currently serves as a lay leader and teacher at Living Word Church of the Nazarene in Houston. For more information, visit huntersoftheharvest.org.
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