And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And sold their possessions and goods.—The verbs throughout this description are in the imperfect tense, as expressing the constant recurrence of the act. The Greek words for “possessions” and “goods” both mean “property,” the former as a thing acquired, the latter as that which belongs to a man for the time being. Custom, however, had introduced a technical distinction, and “possessions” stands for real property, “goods” for personal. So in Acts 5:1; Acts 5:3; Acts 5:8, the former word is used interchangeably with that which is translated “field,” and in the LXX. of Proverbs 23:10; Proverbs 31:16, is used both for “field” and “vineyard.”
As every man had need.—The words imply at least the endeavour to discriminate. The money was not given literally to every one who applied for it, and so the way was prepared for more fixed and definite rules.
Possessions - Property, particularly real estate. This word, κτήματα ktēmata, refers properly to their fixed property, as lands, houses, vineyards, etc. The word rendered "goods," ὑπάρξεις huparxeis, refers to their personal or movable "property."
And parted them to all - They distributed them to supply the needs of their poorer brethren, according to their necessities.
As every man had need - This expression limits and fixes the meaning of what is said before. The passage does not mean that they sold all their possessions, or that they relinquished their title to all their property, but that they so far regarded all as common as to be willing to part with it if it was needful to supply the needs of the others. Hence, the property was laid at the disposal of the apostles, and they were desired to distribute it freely to meet the needs of the poor, Acts 4:34-35.
This was an important incident in the early propagation of religion, and it may suggest many useful reflections:
1. We see the effect of religion. The love of property is one of the strongest affections which people have. There is nothing that will overcome it but religion. That will; and one of the first effects of the gospel was to loosen the hold of Christians on property.
2. It is the duty of the church to provide for the needs of its poor and needy members. There can be no doubt that property should now be regarded as so far common as that the needs of the poor should be supplied by those who are rich. Compare Matthew 26:11.
3. If it be asked why the early disciples evinced this readiness to part with their property in this manner, it may be replied:
(1) That the apostles had done it before them. The family of the Saviour had all things common.
(2) it was the nature of religion to do it.
(3) the circumstances of the persons assembled on this occasion were such as to require it. They were many of them from distant regions, and probably many of them of the poorer class of the people in Jerusalem. In this they evinced what should be done in behalf of the poor in the church at all times.
4. If it be asked whether this was done commonly among the early Christians, it may be replied that there is no evidence that it was. It is mentioned here, and in Acts 4:32-37, and Acts 5:1-7. It does not appear that it was done even by all who were afterward converted in Judea; and there is no evidence that it was done in Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, Rome, etc. That the effect of religion was to make people liberal and willing to provide for the poor there can be no doubt. See 2 Corinthians 8:19; 2 Corinthians 9:2; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Galatians 2:10. But there is no proof that it was common to part with their possessions and to lay them at the feet of the apostles. Religion does not contemplate, evidently, that people should break up all the arrangements in society, but it contemplates that those who have property should be ready and willing to part with it for the help of the poor and needy.
5. If it be asked, then, whether all the arrangements of property should be broken up now, and believers have all things in common, we are prepared to answer "No." Because:
(1) This was an extraordinary case.
possessions, or of any chattels or movable estate, called here goods: but that they did not divest themselves of all property, appears in that we find soon after this, Acts 12:12, Mary the mother of St. Mark to have a house; and Lydia, after she was baptized, did not renounce any propriety in her house, Acts 16:15, but entreated St. Paul, and those who were with him, to come into her house, &c.
and parted them to all men; that were of their society, not to others:
as every man had need: the rich sold their estates, and divided them among the poor, or gave them such a portion thereof as their present exigencies required. This was done by Jews, and by Jews only; who, when they embraced the Gospel of Christ, were informed that the destruction of their city, and nation, was at hand; and therefore they sold their estates before hand, and put them to this use; which was necessary to be done, both for the support of the Gospel in Judea, and for the carrying and spreading of it among the Gentiles: but is not to be drawn into a precedent, or an example in after times; nor is ever any such thing proposed to the Christian churches, or exhorted to by any of the apostles.And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Acts 2:45. τὰ κτήματα … τὰς ὑπάρξεις: according to their derivation, the former word would mean that which is acquired, and the latter that which belongs to a man for the time being. But in ordinary usage κτήματα was always used of real property, fields, lands, cf. Acts 5:1, whilst ὑπάρξεις was used of personal property (=τὰ ὑπάρχοντα in Hebrews 10:34). This latter word, to, τὰ ὑπάρχοντα, was a favourite with St. Luke, who uses it eight times in his Gospel and in Acts 4:32. No doubt κτῆμα is used in LXX for field and vineyard, Proverbs 23:10; Proverbs 31:16, but the above distinction was not strictly observed, for τὰ ὑπάρχοντα, ὕπαρξις, are used both of movable and immovable property (see Hatch and Redpath, sub v.).—ἐπίπρασκον: all three verbs are in the imperfect, and if we remember that this tense may express an action which is done often and continuously without being done universally or extending to a complete accomplishment (cf. Acts 4:34, Acts 18:8, Mark 12:41), considerable light may be thrown upon the picture here drawn (see Blass, Grammatik des N. G., p. 186, on the tense and this passage): “And kept getting … and distributing to all, as any man [τις] [not ‘every man,’ A.V.] had need”. See Rendall, Acts, in loco, and on Acts 4:32, and Expositor, vii., p. 358, 3rd series.—καθότι: peculiar to St. Luke; in Gospel twice, and in Acts four times, ἄν makes the clause more indefinite: it is found in relative clauses after ὅς, ὅστις, etc., with the indicative—here it is best explained as signifying “accidisse aliquid non certo quodam tempore, sed quotiescumque occasio ita ferret,” quoted by Wendt from Herm., ad Vig., p. 820; cf. Mark 6:56, Blass, in loco, and Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 142 (1893). Grimm renders καθότι ἄν here “in so far,” or “so often as,” “according as”. Spitta refers Acts 2:45-47 to the Apostles only, but to justify this he is obliged to refer Acts 2:44 to his reviser. Hilgenfeld brackets the whole verse, referring it to his “author to Theophilus,” retaining Acts 2:44, whilst Weiss also refers the whole verse to a reviser, who introduced it in imitation of St. Luke’s love of poverty as indicated in his Gospel. But by such expedients the picture of the whole body of the believers sharing in the Apostles’ life and liberality is completely marred.45. And sold their possessions, &c.] For the money which resulted from such sales would be the most convenient form in which their bounty could be bestowed on those who needed it.
as every man had need] Better, according as any man had need. We gather from this that the first converts kept their homes and things needful for themselves, but held the rest as a trust for the Church to be bestowed whenever need was seen. This is an earlier stage than that in which the money was brought and put at the disposal of the Apostles.Acts 2:45. Κτήματα, possessions) lands and houses: ch. Acts 5:1; Acts 5:8.—ὑπάρξεις, their goods, effects) viz. of a moveable kind.—ἐπίπρασκον, they sold) The direction of the Lord, Luke 12:33, “Sell that ye have, and give alms,” spoken a short while before to the disciples, and applying to all times, was especially applicable to the time then being. [So afterwards, at the destruction of Jerusalem, they had nothing to lose: and their all was in the meantime laid out to the best account. The impending calamities of the time move the more prudent, not to parsimony, but to liberality. Ecclesiastes 11:2, “Give a portion to seven and also to eight, for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.” Jam 5:3.—V. g.]—διεμέριζον, they parted or distributed them) The Passive, διεδίδοτο, division was made, ch. Acts 4:35. The multitude was from time to time increasing. The dividers of their goods were believers themselves; the apostles; the seven deacons.—αὐτὰ, them) all things in common, even the money from the goods which were sold.—καθότι, according as) not as in the societies of the world, where each receives from the common fund according to the magnitude of the share that he has contributed, not according to his need.
 Therefore, whilst at first they shared their goods (διεμέριζον) with all, subsequently, when the numbers of believers were large, a division was made on a more systematic plan.—E. and T.Verse 45. - They sold for sold, A.V.; all for all men, A.V. ; according as any for as every, A.V.
Possessions in general; movables.
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