Why 1 is Bigger Than 2
February 10, 2019
Pastor Jeff Struecker
How many of you have been to an orchestra? My guess is that if you went to the orchestra before the program started, you probably sat down and listened to the orchestra tune. Now, if you think back for just a second, it’s almost painful to listen to all of those different instruments doing different things when they start to tune and start to prepare themselves for the program. In fact, I was doing a little bit of research. Orchestras tune to a very specific note. It’s called the “A four forty” note. Here’s something fascinating. It’s the oboe that generally orchestras will use to tune off of. So, I was trying to figure out why the oboe. I mean, there are lots of different instruments in an orchestra. Why this instrument? Most people think it’s because this is the instrument least affected by the weather, least affected by the temperature, and least affected by the humidity in the room. This instrument is constant, so this note is almost always constant. If you’ve ever heard an orchestra tune, it’s almost painful to listen to.
You know the church is a lot like an orchestra. People come from all different walks of life. Some of them are kind of like the brass, some of them are like the strings, and some of them are like the percussions. When they’re playing separately, it’s almost painful to listen to. But, when they start to work together, when they start to make the notes harmonize with one another, a church becomes very powerful. It’s almost impossible not to stand up and to take notice when you hear all of those different instruments working together in perfect unity.
Most of you are probably familiar with this famous phrase that the Three Musketeers used to say: “All for one and one for all”. Did you know that’s how it’s supposed to work in a church? Lots of different people from lots of different backgrounds come together, and they’re all working in union with one another. They’re all working together. When all of us are working for oneness, a church becomes very, very powerful with the Gospel and making disciples.
What we’re going to do for the next few moments is look at an incredible picture of unity in the Bible. This is an Acts chapter four. I want you to pay close attention to what I just said because I used the word unity. Notice I did not say uniformity. Uniformity means we all dress the same, we all talk the same, we all act the same, we all vote the same. That’s not what the Bible is describing today. That’s, in my opinion, false unity. It’s this shallow veneer that doesn’t really represent deep heart and mind-level unity. The Bible is going to describe something much bigger than uniformity today. It’s going to show us what it looks like when God’s people start to act with unity and start to really become one.
I’m going to show you some Bible math. This Bible math doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So, parents if you teach this to your elementary children, they’re probably going to get held back this year, but check this out the way that it works in the Bible: One is bigger than two or two hundred or two thousand. When God puts his family together, he wants oneness. He’s longing and looking for unity. Today we’re going to see an incredible and powerful picture of unity. It’s found in the book of Acts chapter four. As a church we’re studying through the book of Acts. Today we’re going to start in verse thirty-two, but before we even open up there, I want you to see what the Bible tells us about this one verse. In Acts 4:32 you see people who start to open their hearts up to one another. When they start to open their hearts up to one another, they start to open their lives and their fortunes and everything that they own with one another. This is one of the most powerful verses in the New Testament as it describes the church.
I. Open your heart to each other
Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common.
To understand this entire group that you’re reading about in the book of Acts chapter four, you have to think about what we’ve already heard from this book of the Bible. We’ve already heard that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus’s followers. They were moved with great power and a crowd from all over the world from different countries speaking different languages, heard the Holy Spirit impact these followers. Five thousand believers came to faith in Christ that day. Just in this chapter alone, thousands more have come to faith in Christ. We’re talking six thousand, eight thousand, or ten thousand Christians in one city in Jerusalem are having total unity with one another. This is a miracle because I’ve often said, “When your church starts to get big like five hundred or six hundred people, you’ll often have seven hundred opinions in the room.” The reason why is because about a hundred of you in this room have no idea what you think or what you believe, and some people have two or three opinions. Everybody walks in the room with their own opinions and their own ideas. It’s really, really hard to have this kind of unity.
How is this possible? Well, verse thirty-two tells you God was doing a miracle in their midst, and that miracle was in their mind and in their heart. They started to open their hearts up to one another. All of a sudden, the guy from another country or the person that speaks a different language started to become a whole lot more like them than unlike them. This is a powerful miracle. The reason why they’re able to share their possessions and the reason why they’re able to share everything that they owned with one another is because they’ve already opened their heart up. It’s not hard now to open up my checkbook, open up my possessions, and everything that I have. It’s yours, if you need it.
Don’t go out and tweet this today because I don’t know this is how it happened; the Bible doesn’t tell us, but what I kind of think went on in the first century church in Acts 4:32 is that the believers started thinking to themselves, “You know what? I’m going to die one of these days, and I’ve never seen a U Haul following a hearse, which means all of the stuff that I own is going to go to my children and grandchildren anyway. So, I might as well just go ahead and give it away right now while I’m still alive to the family of God. I might as well just give it away today to the people who really need it, instead of hoarding it all for myself and keeping it until the day that I kick the bucket and then somebody else gets it.” They started freely, generously giving away everything that they owned.
I contend that what you’re reading from the Bible today is impossible without the Holy Spirit of the living God because you and I are naturally, inherently selfish. It is a product of sin. All of us came into this room affected by sin. One of the things that sin does is make us naturally selfish. We want what we want, and we think about ourselves and can only sometimes think about others. John 17, the longest recorded prayer that Jesus prayed in the Bible, was a prayer for the unity of his church. He said, “God, I’m about to leave. I’m going to go back to heaven to be with you. God, I know these people. They’re selfish people. They need your help, God, because without your help they will not become one. They need supernatural help in order for this church to be one.”
Last week I asked you to be a spiritual warrior, to engage in a spiritual battle with me. Now, today I’m going to give you a very specific prayer request. If this is your church home, will you start to pray with me? For the last several months, I have been on my face before God. I feel stronger than ever in my life a spiritual battle is raging in this church right now. I am absolutely convinced that Satan himself is trying to divide the leadership of this church. There is disunion and disharmony among some of the leaders of this church. I have been begging God to give us unity. The Chattahoochee Valley needs to see a church that is united with one heart and one mind. Now I’m going to ask everybody in this room, would you pray with me that God would make us unified behind the Gospel and to make disciples? That’s the thing that we’re united under.
The church in the book of Acts opened their hearts up to each other. When they open their hearts to each other, they just started to naturally notice, “Hey, that sister over there, she has a thing that she needs, and maybe I can meet that need. That guy over there, he’s got a problem, and maybe I can help with that problem.” When you start to open your heart up, then it’s just natural you’re going to start to notice some needs that somebody has, which is exactly what the Bible says happens next in Acts chapter four.
II. Notice each other’s needs
33 With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. 34 For there was not a needy person among them because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need.
This is spectacular what you’re reading in the Bible. -this kind of cooperation, this kind of unity, this kind of meeting each other’s needs in a radical and a very powerful way. Verse thirty-three uses a word that cannot be interpreted anywhere else. This is dynamite kind of power, super natural kind of power that only can be attributed to the Lord. In other words, it’s not the disciples that are doing this. In fact, the language from the Bible today is saying to us, when the church started to act like this, the people of the community were saying, “It’s not the apostles. It’s not the messengers. It’s the message that has great power. It’s not the apostles, but it’s the apostles’ teaching that was going forward with great power, great grace.” Lives were being radically changed because brothers and sisters who were united under the same Father started to pray for each other. They started to pray with each other. Then they started to partner with each other and started to really meet the needs of each other. That’s what you’re reading at the end of chapter four of the book of Acts.
I can’t tell you how many people have hinted to that. “Jeff, I want so bad to be in a church like this where people sell their land and their houses, and they distribute to people in need.” Do you know that I have never met a person who says I want to be the guy who sells the house? They always want to be the guy who gets something from the person who did sell their house but not to be the guy who sells their house. This church is saying, “I see a need. I can meet a need, and this may require me selling the family farm. If that’s what it takes, I’m going to meet somebody’s need. I’m going take care of my brothers and sisters in the faith because they’re my faith family. They’re closer to me than my own family.”
As the church, we push this a lot. We’re asking you to get plugged in and start doing life with somebody else in our church. We call this getting into a LifeGroup. You may be thinking to yourself, “Why are you guys so hung up on this LifeGroup thing? What’s your deal?” Well, the truth is that it is in LifeGroups only that people can really realize what your needs are and start to really meet those needs. We’re not going to recognize that thing in this room, but when you get people together in living rooms or in LifeGroup rooms around the campus, folks will recognize your needs. They’ll meet your needs. They’ll start a minister to you in very real, very practical ways.
In fact, I’ll give you this example. See this single sheet of paper up here? This sheet of paper represents the person in this room who’s not connected in any really meaningful way to some kind of LifeGroup around here. When life starts to get hard and you need help, you don’t have a deep relationship that you can reach out to. So, those problems just become overwhelming. When you put one sheet of paper up against three hundred or four hundred more sheets of paper or even thirty or thirteen sheets of paper and those problems start to happen, no matter how hard you try, you can’t rip that stuff because it’s solid. It’s part of the bigger family, part of the bigger LifeGroup, part of the bigger community of faith. A lot of you in this room may feel like that single sheet of paper, and what you need is other brothers and sisters who will come alongside you and minister to you.
The last thing that I want you to hear from the Book of Acts is something you can’t miss because it is such a big deal that a guy’s name is literally changed. Today a major character from the book of Acts shows up, and his name is Joseph. He is so encouraging to other people that the church changes his name and says, “Let’s just refer to this guy from now on as Encourager. That’s the name that we’re going to give this guy.” Joseph becomes Barnabas, who is a huge player in the book of Acts.
The first letter of each of these points is an acrostic. What’s it spell out? The church is one in the book of Acts. In Acts chapter four the church has great power because the church is united.
III. Encourage each other
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas (which is translated Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Now, if you are wondering a little bit about this guy, we need to explain something about Barnabas because he becomes a major character in the rest of the book of Acts. First of all, the dude’s name is Joseph. He’s a Levite, which may not seem like a big deal right now, but that means his job was to minister to the church. It also means he probably didn’t grow up as a believer of Jesus. He probably became a follower after Jesus’s death and resurrection. The other thing that’s interesting about this is he comes from this island called Cyprus, which is today off of the coast of present-day Turkey. This means he’s a foreigner who came to Jerusalem, was introduced to Jesus, and the church welcomed him in as another instrument, playing in perfect harmony with all of the other instruments.
Joseph was so radically changed by the message that he takes a field that he owns, sells it, gives the money to the church and says, “Do with it whatever needs to be done with it. Take care of people with this money.” Now, this is kind of interesting, because if you’re thinking, “Hey, Jeff, I’ve been reading the Bible lately. In the Old Testament, doesn’t it say that the Levites are not supposed to own land? How come this dude owned land if he’s a Levite?” Well, I don’t know. I do know by the time that you get to the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament, this is common practice. Apparently, that the Levites have broken the rules and already started to own land. Something, perhaps God’s Holy Spirit, prompts Joseph, “You know what? I’m going to sell the family farm. I’m going to sell the house that’s on Cyprus. I’m going to take the money, and I’m going to drop one hundred percent of it in the offering plate. I’m going to minister to people, and I’m going to meet the needs of people. I just want to encourage people.”
Bar means son of and Nabas means encouragement. For the rest of his life people just call him an encourager. He’s so much of an encourager, people like to be around him. They call him Son of Encouragement, like his daddy made him an encourager. That’s how much of an encourager this guy was. It was a huge impact on the church, and Barnabas will become a major player through the rest of the book of Acts. We read about him for the first time today in Acts chapter four.
What I am inferring from the Bible today is this kind of unity, this kind of oneness, can’t happen by accident. In fact, Jesus says it this way in John 13:35 “When I am lifted up, when I am the center of the church, all manner of men and women from all different walks of life will be drawn to me” Toby Mac was right. When love is in the house, the house is packed. When Jesus is the center and they’re not unified around some other false uniformity and they really get serious about honoring him, it brings great strength, great power to the church. If you’re single and isolated and walking out your faith by yourself, Ecclesiastes 4:12 says you’re vulnerable. You can be attacked. But where there are two people, there is strength. And then, interestingly enough, Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “A cord of three strands is not easily torn into two, not easily ripped.” What God wants is his church to be a strong, powerful witness for the Gospel. I am convinced this can’t happen any other way than God’s Spirit moving in the hearts of his people and reminding us we all have one Father that makes us all brothers and sisters. If we will get united behind our one Father, we will start to become united to one another as well.
We live next to the Chattahoochee River and have the Whitewater rapids. I think it’s the perfect example of what you’re hearing in the Bible today. When a boat goes through the Whitewater rapids, if everybody is pulling on the oars together, they just shoot right through those rapids. But notice what happens when you don’t pull on the oars together. Notice what happens when we’re not working together. Pretty soon, you start to get wrapped up in the rapids of life, and the boat tips overs. This is what happens when the church isn’t working together, isn’t pulling together, isn’t working in harmony or unity. The boats that are working together cruise right through those rapids, the boats that don’t work together will end up tossing and turning and bouncing up and down and probably end up getting flipped upside down. The church that works together is a powerful, strong witness in its community. But let’s just be honest. We’re not fooling anybody. The church that doesn’t work together, people recognize that, too.
I want to give you some practical steps if you’re sitting there thinking yourself, “Okay, Jeff, I get it. I’m supposed to do this. I just don’t know how.” I’m going to give you five very practical ways that you could do this.
Practical ways to build unity:
Invite someone over to your house this week.
Ask an older person to mentor you.
Look for areas that you have in common with someone different from you.
Compliment someone this week.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you someone in need.
• I’m ready to become one with Jesus. Today, I turn from my sin and to him for the first time.
– I need to connect deeper with other Christians. Contact me about how I can get involved in a LifeGroup.
+ I will encourage someone from our church this week.
- What is the most encouraging than anyone has ever said to you?
- What makes Christians able to open their heart to one another despite our differences?
- Why does it take God’s grace to create unity in a church?
- Read John 13:35. Why is unity so attractive to people outside the faith?
- Is it possible to have unity in heart with someone whose values are different than you? Explain your answer.
- What displays the unity of a church to the people in a community?
- Pray for unity in Calvary this week.