Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common.

And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

                                                            Acts 4

It’s true that when God saves us, he saves us one-at-a-time. He deals with us personally, as individuals. He leaves the ninety and nine in the wilderness and comes out seeking each of us as if each were the only one he had. And all through eternity God knows us and loves us by name.

But once God has found us and put us on his shoulders, what does he do with us? He brings us back to the fold and puts us in with the others. It's not a matter of losing our identity in that great big herd of sheep. It's not as if we now become merely a number in the crowd. But we soon discover that we never really come to life and fulfill our purpose until we find our place in there with the others.

Human life was never meant to be lived alone. God sets the solitary in families. Even the shepherd---when he found his lost sheep---called his friends and neighbors together to rejoice with him. It's a lot more joyful than rejoicing alone. And when the woman found her lost coin, she didn't celebrate in secret. She called her friends and neighbors together to rejoice with her. When you have a feast, you want people to feast with you. You don't want to gobble it all down in secret. When you have a burden, you want someone to share it with you. You don't want to go dragging the weight of it all through your life alone.

The life of the believer never really amounts to very much, so long as they are floundering out there all alone. The believer only really catches fire when they have found unity in the Spirit of God with other believers.

Blessed as it was when the Shepherd found you, lifted you to his shoulders and began to carry you home, it's a thousand times more blessed, when He finally places you in that sheepfold with the others---when he puts you in the fellowship where you belong. For some of us it takes a long, long time until we finally find our place with the other believers. Sometimes it's years before we really experience that power which is found nowhere on earth but in the Body of Christ.

In fact, most professing Christians still don't realize that the power of Christ is vested in the corporate life---in this thing he calls his Church. Indeed, very few churches have known the power that flows is when the disciples, as a body, begin to take on the attributes of their Master. We may say that a certain man is Christ-like or that a certain woman has a Christ-like spirit. But the church is not "Christ-like," it is the Body of Christ. The individuals taken together and functioning together and praying together take on a Christ-likeness as a fellowship that individuals alone never have. There is power in the Body thousands of times beyond that which any individual has in herself/himself alone.

But merely taking a number of people who call themselves Christians and assembling them together in a building and calling them a church does not make them the Body of Christ. To be the Body of Christ there has to be a unity among them that runs deeper than the fact that they all belong to the same denomination, or all like a certain kind of doctrine or worship.

"All them that believed were of one heart and of one soul"

It's a unity like the unity of the human body. As the hands and feet, the eye and ear are ruled by a single mind, subject to a single will, so the members of the Body of Christ are organized not around some human head, but by one divine Spirit. We may have differences in our likes and dislikes, differences in our understanding of scripture, but if we are really subject to the sane Spirit, there will be unity among us.

This church is the Body of Christ and will have the unity and power of Christ, if the members of this body are really members of Christ---if their spirits are really subject to the Spirit of Christ, if they are doing the will of Christ as they are being shown.

You are not a free-lance disciple. There is no such thing. You are a disciple set in the Body with other disciples. And if you function in the Spirit of Christ, you function in the Body.

But what about all those strange people I got thrown in with? Why do I have to put up with the irritation, the ingratitude, the thoughtlessness of some of these people who claim to be believers?   I’m still waiting for an apology from Nancy for the way she hung up on me.  

Didn’t you know that the Body of Christ is a School of Forgiveness? Can’t you see that the Master has thrown us all together to teach us patience?  

For all our flaws we are still one in Him.  In Him we are of one heart and one soul.

And you are in the Body not just when you are in the gathered assembly, but twenty-four hours a day, everywhere you go. You are part of the Body when you are on your job, when you are eating your dinner, when you are on vacation. Day and night you are part of the Body, either fulfilling your function, or dragging things down.

Notice that the commands in the Sermon on the Mount  are in the plural, not the singular.

"Be ye therefore merciful, as your heavenly Father is merciful. Not "be thou" -- "be ye."

Judge not and ye shall not be judged. (plural) Condemn not and ye shall not be condemned. (plural) Forgive and ye shall be forgiven. (plural)

This is the Shepherd talking, not to that one poor lost sheep out there, but to his flock, his Body on earth. He calls us to live this fantastic life, not as isolated spiritual freaks, but as a body, as one.

The reason so many of us are having trouble living this way out there on Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning is because we still haven't caught on to the fact that we are not alone out there. We are part of the Body. And we have power out there in the world greater than any individual man could ever carry, because though we may be miles apart from each other, we are together. We are one. We are held in unity by the one Christ.

When you were baptized, you were baptized alone---by name. It was a death and a birth wrapped in one. And death and birth are always solitary experiences. But in the Breaking of Bread we are not alone. We are gathered around the table of our Lord. We eat bread together that comes from a single loaf---his flesh. We drink wine which comes from a single cup---the cup of his blood. This meal is a sign that we are no longer split and fragmented and divided and separated by these ridiculous human walls. We are absolutely and forever members one of another in Christ Jesus. We are all part of Him. We all fit into Him. We all draw our life from Him. And we function in this Body at His command. So Jesus tells John to do one thing and Peter to do another. And Peter is wasting his time questioning the Lord about John's job. It is none of Peter's business. Let Peter do Peter's work. "Follow me, Peter, and let John go where I send him."

So I may be sent in one direction, and you may be sent in another. I may be given this gift, and you may be given that. But your gift and mine both come from the same Messiah. As you exercise your gift, I am with you. As I exercise my gift you are with me. We may be alone physically. But we are never alone any more. We work together, no matter where we are or what we do.

In the world out there  people are held together by other things. Men and women function in harmony in a business corporation because they are held in unity by money. Mr. Smith does what Mr. Jones tells him, because Mr. Jones controls his salary. Fear holds people together. Where there is danger, a flood, a fire, a war, people who could never get along before now function like a smooth machine. Hatred holds people together. When a million men have a common enemy they hate with hatred stronger than death, they become as one man. They can paralyze a nation or destroy it.

But we are held together in a different way. We are held together and made one in a unity that smashes through the very gates of death by the Spirit of the living God: the Spirit of Christ.

Today and in the days ahead, the Spirit of Christ will be making us conscious of our unity as we have never been conscious of it before. Notice how often he is speaking to us now, not with the word, "Thou," but with the word, "Ye." "You together. "all of you." "Be ye therefore merciful … Judge not and ye shall not be judged." And just as these commands are addressed to us together, so they are obeyed by us together.

Whenever we gather at the Lord’s Table, let's remember that we are the Body of Christ, individually members of it, members of one another. And as we disperse, let's remember that the Christ who is in us all---in all who love him---has sent us forth as one to proclaim his Kingdom, to deliver his gospel, to do his wonders. And we are not alone. We are with him, and in him with each other. And a power mightier than any one person could ever have is moving within us all.


And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common.

And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

                                                            Acts 4

May the Spirit of God give us this unity. So that with one mind and with one mouth we may glorify him, and manifest his grace to all whose hearts are crying out for a sign of the living God.