16. Motivation by Unity

Motivation Meditations in Acts : 16 : Motivation by Unity 

Acts  4:32    All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.

Unity is a rarely understood concept and its value grossly underestimated. Many of us can quote the psalmist’s famous, How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” but perhaps forget the end of that – “For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” (Psa 133:1,3b) Unity brings God’s blessing.

We’re not quite so quick to remember Jesus’ request of his Father: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (Jn 17:20-23)  Our unity, according to his prayer, comes from being one with God and Jesus and thus one with each other, but it is clearly more than that; it is supposed to be visible unity so that the world will see and believe in Jesus (twice he says it!). Is our lack of unity one reason that so often the world does not believe?

The apostle Paul also obviously understood this when he wrote, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 15:5,6) There is it, that by having one heart and one message we may glorify the Father.  He also saw this as the work of the God-given ministries to the church (see Eph 4:11-13).

Now all this is an introduction to what we find in our verse above: “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” That is unity when everyone thinks and feels the same! And just in case you thought this was a purely academic thinking, Luke adds, “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.”   This had very practical outworkings, for a few verses on we find, “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” (v.36,37)

This same Barnabas became a man of great influence: “News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.” (Acts 11:22-26) Such was his stature that he was sent by the church at Jerusalem as an emissary to the church at Antioch where he was part of a great effort bringing many to the Lord. He is also the one who brought Saul (Paul) into the fold of the church and to acceptance by the church.

So maybe we should not be surprised at his actions here, earlier in the book of Acts, but it was the sense of unity, harmony and purpose in the church at that time, we suggest, that promoted or motivated Barnabas to sell a field that he had and give the money to the church, the first recorded act of philanthropy. But our emphasis is on this sense of unity that prevailed and brought about this action. When this sense prevails in the church, there is a sense of wellbeing that releases people to feel secure and good, and out of that there flow acts of love and goodness. Yet even when that atmosphere prevails, it still needs men and women of faith to step out and do those acts of love and goodness. The truth is that there will be others in the church who, unlike Barnabas, do things for other motives, wrong motives even (as we’ll see in the next meditation) despite this beautiful sense of unity that prevails.

What we might suggest is that when it does prevail it motivates people to act, and in the plethora of actions that flow forth, some may be good and some not good. Yet unity, we are told in the Scriptures, brings forth the blessing of the Lord and lets the world see the reality of His work in us. Unity, we have said, allows people to feel secure and where there is faith, it encourages people to step out in their faith and do things they might not otherwise feel able to do. For these reasons, therefore, we should be doing all we can, as those in the local church, to come in harmony with the Holy Spirit and bring about a unity that is not merely internal, but which is expressive, felt and observed. Quite a challenge in the day of individualism in which we live!

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