34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. 36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Nor was there anyone among them who lacked [the poor];
No one lacked basic needs because of the commitment of the entire church to support those who “lacked.”
for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them,
Giving lands and houses was more sacrifice than giving a portion of one’s income. It was a liquidation of their assets. This does not imply that all believers sold all they had, because some still owned houses later in Acts (Acts 12:12). Their giving was strictly voluntary (Acts 5:4).
and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,
Christians did not transfer ownership of their goods but gave them for use without reservation; the church immediately used the property to benefit those in need.
and laid them at the apostles’ feet;
Congregants laid their offering at the apostles’ feet. Apostles had the authority to distribute the offering. Their giving manner was not haphazard.
and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
The church based the distribution of goods on need.
And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement),
Joses, or Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, was named Barnabas by the apostles. The reason for the name was that he encouraged others.
Shortly after Paul’s conversion, Christians viewed him with suspicion because he had persecuted believers as a Jewish leader. Barnabas interceded for him, showing the church that his conversion was genuine (Acts 9:26f). Barnabas was with Paul in early missionary expeditions (Acts 13:2f). Both Barnabas and Paul represented the ministry to Gentiles at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15). Later, when Paul refused to take Mark on a missionary enterprise because he defected from the team on an earlier trip, Barnabas took Mark on a missionary journey with him (Acts 15:36-39). He also interceded for Antioch believers (Acts 11:20-24). Barnabas did this as a “good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:24).
a Levite of the country of Cyprus,
Barnabas was a Levite from the island nation of the Mediterranean. Levites officiated in the Temple but were subordinate to the priests. They did not offer sacrifices and could not enter the holy place.
A Levite could not own land in Israel, but Barnabas was from Cyprus, where he was allowed to own land.
sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Barnabas followed the pattern laid out in Acts 4:34-35. He sold a field and then placed the proceeds at the feet of the apostles for their distribution.
Christian ministry is strictly voluntary.
The argument in our passage is not communism but individual Christians meeting the needs of fellow believers. They never pooled all their possessions. The argument of this passage is not communism because (1) their giving was entirely voluntary and (2) many continued to own property (Acts 12:12).
All Christian ministry rests on voluntarism from free will. People who serve in a local church due to obligation miss the essence of serving the Lord. Serving Him is a matter of love for Him and appreciation for what He has done for us. Christians know they are only stewards of God’s possessions (2 Co 8:1-5).