Q&A Forum: Socialism in Acts 2?

Someone challenged me that the believers in Acts 2 practiced socialism, showing that this is God’s ideal economic system for humanity. How can I answer him?

Socialism comes in various forms, as described in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to which you may wish to refer. One such definition of socialism is “a system of society or group living, in which there is no private property.” Or “a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state.”

Acts 2 seems to be similar to (a), in that they were a group of Christians who sold their private property and pooled the proceeds to live together in common, with respect to ownership and financial resources (Acts 2:44-45). Certain Anabaptist groups today seek to carry on this behavior and live in “a community of goods” on a colony, as a form of separation from the world.

However, there is no record that the practice of the believers in Acts 2 was commanded by God or taught by the apostles. It may have arisen from a sense that the Lord’s return was imminent and the private ownership of goods was therefore of no consequence. Or perhaps a pressing need existed for Jewish saints who may have been disinherited on account of faith in Christ. In the spiritual freshness of mutual love and oneness of fellowship, personal possessions were graciously shared in common.

As it happened, the Lord did not return immediately, and it became necessary for the Gentile believers in other parts to send financial help and practical relief to the poor saints of Jerusalem (Rom 15:26). No matter how big the pot of money may be at the start, if it is not replenished, it will eventually be depleted. Also, mismanagement of resources caused issues to arise (Acts 6), so the concept of “a community of goods” has in it certain disadvantages.

Later on, private ownership was in evidence as the church met for prayer in the house of John Mark’s mother (Acts 12:12). The Corinthians also had their own houses in which to eat and drink (1Cor 11:22). We conclude that the practice of believers in Acts 2 is not mandated for us today.

The second part of the assertion then looses its leverage. The Christian is not of the world, but is a stranger and pilgrim in it, as his citizenship is heavenly. Not until after the rapture and the seventh angel blows his trumpet is the cry heard, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15, KJV). Following the manifestation of Christ, an “ideal economic system” will be set up for a millennium of peace and prosperity. The people will benefit from their own work and labor (Isa 62:8-9), arguably the antithesis of socialism!

For clarity, 2 Corinthians 8:14 is also not teaching socialism. The equality Paul speaks of is between various assemblies sharing the burden of sending relief to the saints of Judea. In context, it is not addressing any form of earthly government today.