Acts 2:44–45—Did early Christians practice communism?

Problem: Some have inferred from the fact that these early Christians “sold their possessions” and had “all things in common” that they were practicing a form of communism. However, even the Ten Commandments imply the right to private property, forbidding one to “steal” or even “covet” what belongs to another (Ex. 20:15, 17).

Solution: There are several reasons to believe that this passage does not teach an abiding form of Christian communism or socialism. First, these passages are not prescriptive, but are simply descriptive. Nowhere does it lay this down as normative. It simply describes what the believers were doing.

Second, so far as the text indicates, the system was only temporary, not a permanent arrangement. They apparently stayed together in Jerusalem, since that is where the Holy Spirit had descended and the first great turning to Christ had occurred. The necessities of living together away from home occasioned this sort of common arrangement.

Third, the communal arrangement was voluntary. There is no indication in the text that this was a compulsory arrangement. It was apparently simply a temporary and voluntary convenience for the furtherance of the Gospel in those early and crucial days of the Christian church.

Fourth, the selling of property and giving of money was only partial. The text implies that they sold only extra land and other possessions, not that they sold their only place of residence. After all, they all eventually left Jerusalem, to which they had come for the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), and went back to their homes which were scattered all over the world (cf. Acts 2:5–13).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.