The Bible Answers Short Questions From Our Readers
Plain Truth Staff
"Is it true that the early Christians practiced Communism? I have heard some make this claim."
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). 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 passages cannot possibly be referring to Communism as we know it today. Communists hate God, the Bible, and anything having to do with religion. Let's understand what these passages 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 had received the 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 on, it became necessary for them — as well as for those who lived in the immediate area — to sell part of their possessions and goods. They had need of cash proceeds, both for themselves and their fellow brethren because many were remaining in Jerusalem longer than they originally intended. As is 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 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 passages. 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 implied they were giving ALL of it, but actually they kept back part for themselves. As a punishment for LYING. God punished them. When Peter rebuked them for this deed, in the process 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 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. For example, 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 was had in common. These facts PROVE that the early Christians did NOT practice Communism of ANY kind. The Bible simply does not teach Communism!
"Why is Rahab counted among the faithful? Isn't it plain that she committed a sin by lying in order to protect the two spies?"
God condemns lying under ANY condition. Read it yourself in Psalm 119, verses 29 and 163 — and in Proverbs 12:22 and Ephesians 4:25. God did NOT count Rahab among the faithful because of a lie! But, Rahab is mentioned in Hebrews 11 as being among the faithful. Why? Notice verse 31: "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed nor, when she had received the spies with peace." Notice! God counts her among the faithful because "she had — received the spies WITH PEACE." She knew God was working through the children of Israel (see Josh. 2:9-11), and according to the limited knowledge she had, she acted! She had FAITH that the Eternal God was the true God and that she would receive mercy if she showed kindness to His people! This illustrates God's great mercy on His creation. Even though we are not yet perfect, God will have abundant mercy on us IF OUR HEARTS ARE RIGHT and we act on the knowledge we have. Because God has mercy on us and knows our weaknesses, that does not mean God condones sin. We still must confess our sins and repent of them. God did NOT approve the lie Rahab told. She had to repent of that sin. The Almighty God could have protected His spies without her lie! But, because she received them with peace and looked to the God of Israel, she is accounted among the faithful and has been forgiven her sin.
"Why did Christ not mention all of the commandments when He told the young man, in Matthew 19:16-20, that obedience is necessary for salvation?"
Christ did not need to enumerate all of the commandments. His hearers knew the commandments and knew they were binding. All He needed to do was mention a representative portion of those commandments to show which set of commandments he was referring to as a supreme rule of conduct — so they would know He was speaking of the Ten Commandments of God, and not the commands of the Sanhedrin. Notice the commandments Christ did mention in this inspired scripture: "Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt nor bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." These are the last six — which explain man's duty to man. Christ's hearer needed to be reminded of the commandments dealing with his duty to his fellow men — the commands that tell a man how to love his neighbor! This rich young man's refusal to use his great wealth to help his neighbors (Matt. 19:22) proved he did not love his neighbor. Notice, now the ones He did not mention directly! "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor serve them. Thou shalt not rake the name of the Eternal thy God in vain. Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord Thy God." This does NOT mean it is all right to worship other gods, curse, and break the Sabbath! The Jews understood this. Jesus inspired James to write that we must keep every point of the law — not just one or two, or even half of them! He that offends in one point is guilty of all! See James 2:10. To break any of the Ten Commandments is to be guilty of sin!