Was There Some Sort of Communism Practieced in the Early Churches?
January 20, 2009 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org)
The following is from the Advanced Bible Studies Series “The Book of Acts,” which is available from Way of Life Literature.
“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).
Does Acts 2 describe some sort of communism or communalism in the early churches?
First, we observe that it was not coerced but was done of their own free will. Compare Acts 5:4, where Peter said to Ananias and Sapphira of their possessions, “Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?...”
Second, the situation in Acts 2 was a special one that necessitated a special practice. Many of the new converts from other parts of the world stayed in Jerusalem and needed assistance by the church.
Third, there is no mention in the rest of the New Testament of any other church that practiced this.
Fourth, wealthy believers are mentioned in the epistles and are not rebuked (e.g., Philemon). They are addressed in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 and are not told to sell everything they have. They are told, rather, that God gives us things to enjoy but that we are also responsible to share what we have with others.
Fifth, the Bible teaches the right to the private ownership of property. This was assumed in the Law of Moses, which forbad stealing and coveting that which belongs to another (Ex. 20:15, 17). Thus, the poor do not have the right before God to take from others just because they are needy. To do so is to commit the sins of coveting and stealing. The Bible gives men the right to private ownership of property, but it does not give them the right to be greedy and selfish.
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