44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
Verses 44-47 are often misunderstood today as supporting the concept of communism.
Now all who believed were together,
Verse 44 explains the nature of the fellowship the early church experienced as one of unity. They were unified in doctrine, spirituality, and practical matters. They were “together” in these things.
and had all things in common,
The new church decided to voluntarily give up their possessions to launch a new movement (Acts 4:34-37). There was a great sense of unity in the church.
and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
In the first century, believers needed to pool their possessions because society cut them off. Religious Israel cut Christian converts off from trading and other functions in the community. Early believers experienced class rejection. There is no indication that giving one’s goods to others was mandatory.
The problem of Ananias and Sapphira was not that they had to give what they had but that they lied to the Spirit in saying they gave all (Acts 5:3,4).
The Greek tenses (imperfect) indicate that believers sold their property according to the need they found among believers in the church. They did not sell their property in one fell swoop. Neither did anyone force them to sell their goods.
Having things common is voluntary, contemporary, and discretionary in biblical parlance.
The early church’s practice of sharing possessions and goods with others was not communism because it was voluntary. Communism forces people to share what they have by compulsion. The distribution to others was not as it is in communistic philosophy, but they met the needs as they came. They were not a commune. Some in the church lost their way of feeding their families because of religious persecution. They were believers who thought of the material needs of their brothers and sisters.
Although believers shared what they had, many still owned their own houses (Acts 5:46). Some sold their houses to meet the needs of others. The selling of their houses was voluntary (Acts 5:4). Those who sold their houses showed immense generosity motivated by their love for the Lord.