The way the disciples were living (4:32-35) wasn’t communism, for communists are not “of one heart and of one soul.” They were able to live so unselfishly because they were filled with the Spirit (2:4) in a way that controlled them to where they couldn’t sin (I Jo. 3:9). That’s the only way a “multitude” of 8,000 families could live this way for long. He was the common denominator that helped them live that way
This wasn’t supposed to happen till the kingdom (Jer. 32:37-40; Ezk. 11:1-20) but God was giving them a taste of kingdom powers (cf. Heb. 6:5).These verses confirm that the Spirit was the common denominator that enabled them to live that way.
The reason the Spirit was causing them to live this way was they were heading into the Tribulation that would have come if God hadn’t interrupted His prophetic program for Israel with the dispensation of the mystery. In the Tribulation, believers won’t be able to buy food without the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:17), so the Lord told these men to pool their resources to get through that terrible time (Lu. 18:22).
Compare that to how men are preparing today, those who don’t know that we’ll be raptured before the Antichrist is revealed (II Thes. 2:1-8). They’re not selling all and giving the proceeds to the church so others can survive the Tribulation. They’re hoarding up supplies so they can survive
They had the “power” to work miracles of healing (4:33). Their “great grace” was the grace of giving (cf. II Cor. 8:1-7).
We see this giving pictured when Ahimelech gave David food (I Sam. 21). David said the Lord saved him through Ahimelech (Ps. 34). Since David was on the run from Saul at the time, who was trying to kill him, that’s a type of how God will feed believers who will be on the run from Antichrist in the Tribulation, who will be trying to kill them.
God always provides so His children don’t “lack” for the basic necessities of life (Acts 4:34), but how He provides changes dispensationally. For instance, men had no lack when God gave them manna (Ex. 16:18). But today we have to go to work not to lack (I Thes. 4:11,12), like Adam did (Gen. 3:19). But these men weren’t going to work, they were “daily” in the temple (Acts 2:46).
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help other believers. Acts 4:35 says “distribution” was made, and our apostle says we should be “distributing to the necessity of saints” (Rom. 12:13). That doesn’t mean we should sell all we have to distribute to them, for that would be a burden, and Paul doesn’t want us burdened (II Cor. 8:13-15). But the reason he quotes Ex.16:18 there (v. 15) is to say that if we help one another the way he suggests, God can meet the needs of others through us as effectively as He did through Moses and the manna.
Why’d Luke single out Barnabas (Acts 4:36,37) as an example of someone who did what he was talking about? He was a “Levite” who depended on the tithes of the Jews, which were scarce when they weren’t walking with God. And we know they weren’t walking with God here for they just killed His Son. And since they were paying taxes to Rome too, they had even less money to tithe. So Luke’s point is: even poor Levites like Barnabas trusted God enough to sell all they had.
People won’t live like this in the kingdom, though. They’ll have to plant and reap (Amos 9:13) and they’ll own things again (Micah 4:4 cf. Acts 4:32). They’ll get back the lands they sold in the Tribulation, as we see typified when they got their lands back in the year of jubilee (Lev. 25:10).
But when God interrupted His prophetic program and the kingdom didn’t come, the ones who had no lack became “poor saints” (Rom. 15:26). But God still made sure they didn’t lack by having Paul take up a collection among the Gentiles for them as they asked (Gal. 2:10).
The reason God described how they were living in Acts 2:42 -45 is that the context there was how to get saved (Acts 2:38) and selling all was part of how they got saved (Lu. 18:18, 22). Here in Acts 4, the disciples have cited Psalm 2 (4:25, 26) to show they knew the Tribulation was near, so here the context is how to survive it, so he describes their lifestyle again.
Video of this message is available on YouTube: Communism or Common Denominator? – Acts 4:32-37