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Sunday, 6 February 2022
and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. Acts 4:35
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
The previous verse showed the state of life among the disciples when there was the practice of selling lands or houses and bringing the proceeds of such things that were sold. This verse now will tell what becomes of that money, saying, “and laid them.”
The verb is imperfect and should read, “and were laying them.” Luke is giving the account as if it is ongoing. One can think of people, from time to time, coming forward and laying these things down. It is not just, “Oh, this happened and then it was done.” It is more like, “Well, from time to time they were coming, and they were laying them down.”
The word “them” is inserted for clarity, but it is an acceptable insertion that speaks of the proceeds themselves. One would assume this was in the common currency and minted, for the most part, in silver. Other metals were used, but silver was the standard at the time. So, one can think of a bag of silver – of whatever amount – being brought forward as an offering. In this manner, they are laid “at the apostles’ feet.”
The meaning of this is symbolic and figurative, but it probably still literally happened. One can think of royal subjects coming forward to make an offering to a king, of devotees coming forward to make an offering to a priest, of students making an offering to a teacher, or of a diplomatic procession coming forward to offer to a greater nation’s representative.
Each is coming to offer something to one in a higher position, and they will place the offering before the receiver, on the ground at his feet. In the case of the king or teacher, he is the final recipient. However, for the priest or the ambassador, they simply receive the offering on behalf of the one they represent. Thus, this is an offering to the Lord through their apostles, or “sent ones.”
The meaning of the act is that of authority. The place where the foot is represents that which is under the authority of the person. This is seen in Exodus 4 when Zipporah circumcised her son and touched the foreskin to the feet of the one standing there –
“and Zipporah takes a flint, and cuts off the foreskin of her son, and causes [it] to touch his feet, and says, ‘You [are] surely a bridegroom of blood to me.’” Exodus 4:25 (LST)
Although many translations insert Moses’s name, saying, “Moses’ feet,” this is not what is being conveyed. Rather, it was to the Lord’s feet that it was taken, demonstrating His authority over the matter. To get a fuller understanding of such symbology, a short (but limited) study will help you to see this. See Deuteronomy 11:24, Psalm 110:1, 2, and Revelation 10:2. Scripture, however, has a multitude of such examples.
With this beautiful imagery understood, it next says, “and they distributed to each as anyone had need.”
The authority of the proceeds was transferred from the previous owner to those who are the Lord’s designated representatives. From there, they were allowed to do with it as they saw fit. As needs arose, they would be evaluated and tended to.
Life application: Acts 4:34 and 4:35 are a good set of verses to, once again, highlight the need to understand proper context, and to remember and consider whether a verse is descriptive or prescriptive. For example, the same people who demand that you must be baptized in order to be saved and receive the Spirit would never say, “You must sell everything you have and put it at the feet of Mr. XYZ.”
And yet, we are dealing with the same group of people (Israel without a single Gentile yet introduced), the same context (early church as it develops and without any New Testament epistles), and the same figure of authority who has led to this point (Peter). The disconnect in thinking is astonishing.
When someone tells you that you must do some particular thing described in Acts, be ready to explain to him why his thinking is flawed. Explain what determining the context first means, and then explain why what is being claimed is based on a descriptive passage where nothing is prescribed.
If that person is still adamant about his stand, ignore him. Almost nobody lives in a communal society today, and of them, it is surely not the habit of the people to sell their possessions and lay them at the feet of the leader. If that is going on, you can bet it is an abusive cult that has swallowed up those who are involved in it.
Rather than everyone relying on everyone else to survive, we are to work with our hands, tend to those things the epistles tell us to, and live out our lives in anticipation of the life that is truly life, and which still lies ahead of us now.
Lord God, help us to think clearly concerning Your word. Give us instructors who will lead us in sound instruction, who will make us hungry for You and Your word, and who will not lead us down strange paths that do nothing to solidify our walk with You. To Your glory. Amen.