Traditional communism is the common ownership of the means of production. The reference to communism in the book of Acts is having all things in common. “And all that believed were together and had all things common and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” To explain the kind of communism that the early church practiced it is necessary to understand the sense of brotherhood that the members of the Jerusalem Church had toward each other. It was not, to be sure, an arbitrary communism and bears little relation to communists of today but the principle on which it was based was communistic. They held jobs, bought and sold and made a profit on their earnings, much like you would see in an ideal social democracy. This was the spirit of Pentecost; the beautiful outpouring of unselfishness that was soon to be lost. It was the result of a spiritual oneness that should be an example to us today. On 2nd June, 2013 at Royal House of Grace International Church leadership session with Apostle Prince David ZillyAggrey, my pastor and the Chairman, Rivers State Christian Association of Niger and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria came this truth as espoused and taught by him.
It was not just altruism that was practiced in Jerusalem; the claims of the Christian family were recognized as of a higher order than the claims of the individual. This was for the relief of the necessities of the brethren, not just because they were in need and suffering, but because they were brethren. Of course many were in need but it was the power of the Holy Ghost in the hearts of the believers that prompted them to such selfless acts of charity – and it worked. “Neither was there any among them that lacked, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold. And laid them down at the apostles’ feet and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” The Essenes also practiced communism.Saint Benedict’s vision was a monastery with its fields and workshops that was self-contained and self-supporting. A monk was to think nothing as being his own property but all belonged to all. This ideal was a type of Christian communism like the apostles practiced. It was the early Christians in Jerusalem that Benedict cited for his precedent, all shared in the common stock. This same type of communalism still exists among the best Christian groups today. Upon arriving to America at Plymouth, the Pilgrims initiated communism and for seven years there was to have been no private ownership of land, and everyone was to have been fed and clothed from the common stock. It didn’t last long.
What the Jerusalem church practiced was a voluntary and democratic social communism. The representation of communism in the modern world is something entirely different. American society and capitalism in general has oversimplified the terms of independence and class struggle as being part of the red menace and demonized the social gospel to the point of starving the greater part of the world. The Communists however see capitalistic society as a 19th century bourgeois relic which is doomed to perish. The truth is that laissez faire capitalism and totalitarian communism is both anti-Christian. In case you are wondering, I’m a social democrat. Communism represents an obsolete point of view that lags a century behind the present situation and capitalism has always violated the precepts of Jesus and apostolic mandate.There is the communism that the church should not totally reject. A Christian who believes in the communion of saints and celebrates Holy Communion should not be against communism or communalism or community completely. Communism in an apostolic setting has some definite Christian potential but it will not include the atheistic tyranny of communist regimes of the past. The totalitarian type of communism that we have seen would not have been possible if the church had not rejected the social gospel in the beginning. The luke-warm church turned inward and became arrogant, above and beyond social service and accepted capitalism and free enterprise as the Christian god. They became rich, wanting for nothing and was blind to the avarice around them. If the love and brotherhood that was practiced in the book of Acts were a visible reality in the church of recent history, the right-wing puritan insanity that we see today would not have been possible, nor the third-world response in revolution to break the yoke of economic oppression.
To a Marxist, communism has solved the enigma of history. Communism is defined as a movement and consciousness of movement advancing towards the highest form of social organization. It settles the question of men and nature, existence and essence, freedom and necessity, individual and collectiveness. In theory and practice it solves all these questions and it is mindful that it solves them. With its criticism of oppression and expectations of a better world, Marxist communism started as a rational eschatology, in many ways akin to restoration prophetic ideals. With the appearance of Soviet communism, however, the rational and eschatological setting was discarded and only tyranny and atheism remained. Paul Tillich writes that “The Church did not hear the prophetic voice in communism and therefore did not recognize its demonic possibilities.”One for all and all for one is a good platitude but it hasn’t worked yet. Each according to his ability and each according to his need is a slogan, not a reality. On the one hand, communism is open and kind to all; on the other hand, it is exclusive and intolerant, even of its own people. The authors of the Communist Manifesto associated progress with violence. Aristotle writes that “No one, when men have all things in common, will any longer set an example of liberality or do any liberal action; for liberality consists in the use a man makes of his own property.” Emerson in his day wrote of communism. “A cruel kindness, serving the whole even to the ruin of the member; a terrible communist, reserving all profits to the community, without dividend to individuals. Its law is – you shall have everything as a member, nothing to yourself.”Although communism is practiced in the early church, it has been so maligned by totalitarian excess that it no longer reflects the apostolic mandates. Capitalism is however very easy to attack as being anti-Christian and the main god of the luke-warm materialistic church. They think that they are serving Jesus but it is their own lusts that they are serving. It is a lie that they have accepted that has prompted God to send them a strong delusion.
A healthy economic democracy is the only thing that can defeat atheistic international communism and capitalistic greed. It reformed Europe in the 19th century but in America even the issue of a national health care plan for our people is considered too socialistic to be taken seriously. Just think of the many ignorant Christians that consider political activity in the Church as subversive activity. Look around you at conservative faiths that think that liberality and a planned economy are of the communist sort. Robert McAfee Brown takes this on as well: “Any one opposed to the state is automatically branded a communist.” Then what of the Christian communism that we find in the book of Acts? It is much more than communism, because it is the altruism of charity. It is done out of a pure heart, a dedication and obedience to the apostolic mandate and a sincere desire to serve God and be part of a sanctified body. It is the motivation of a supernatural principle to provide for the needs of others. It transcends self-interest, selfish family values and the desire to get rich. Unfortunately in a world ruled by the avarice of Satan’s people worshiping mammon, it just won’t work. Only when we as a Christian society can build upon a foundation with Jesus as the chief cornerstone will the Kingdom come and social justice reign supreme.
In conclusion, Apostle ZillyAggrey posit, and charge the Christian community to imbibe the communist spirit of the apostolic order that brethren will come to the church with extra clothes, shoes, foodstuff and other essentials to give to other brethren in need at the end of service, to the extent that no one in the church will lack. He reason that Russian communism failed because they took God out of it and replaced it with self and greed with capitalism that create class that some and many churches are practicing today, church ownership by General Overseers, special seat, cassock, titles and recognition of the rich while the ordinary Christian brethren are excluded from enjoying certain privileges in the Church.The foregoing principles furnish motives for Association. They develop in a larger partnership the same attractions that draw and bind together a marriage partnership. A Community home, where love is honored and cultivated, will be as much more attractive than an ordinary home as the Community outnumbers a pair.These principles also remove the chief obstruction to Association. There is a strong tendency to crossing love even in marriage. Association inevitably increases this. A confederation of contiguous states with custom-house lines around each is sure to be quarrelsome. The only way to prevent smuggling and strife in such a confederation is to abolish customs-house lines from the interior, and collect revenues by one customhouse line around the whole. The Shakers avoid this stumbling block, but they sacrifice the life of society in securing its peace.
Association to be valuable must be not mere compaction of material but community of life. A congeries of loose particles cannot make a living body; ~o more can a congeries of loose double particles. Just so in Association individuals and pairs as well as all larger combinations must be knit together organically and pervaded by one common life. Association of this kind will be to society what regeneration is to the individual, a resurrection from the dead. Bible Communism, as this kind of Association may properly be called, demands the surrender not only of property and conjugal interests but of life itself to the use of the whole. If this is the “grave of liberty,” as the Fourierists say, it is the grave of the liberty of war, which has done mischief enough to deserve death; and it is the birth of the liberty of peace. In Bible Communism excessive labor will be done away. Labor is excessive or not according to the proportion between strength and work. Bible Communism increases strength by placing the individual in an organization which receives life from its source and distributes it with the highest activity. It reduces work by reducing the needed amount of food, raiment and shelter. As society becomes vital and refined, drawing its best nourishment from happiness, the grosser kinds of food, especially animal food, will go out of use, and the fruits of trees will become staple. Woman’s dress will be simple and beautiful and nearly the same as man’s. Buildings too will be more compact, and much labor now expended in accommodating egotism and exclusiveness will be saved.
In Bible Communism labor, no longer excessive, will become naturally attractive. Loving companionship will contribute to this result. When the partition between the sexes is taken away, when fashion follows nature in dress and vocation, men and women will mingle like boys and girls in their employments, and labor will become sport.We can now see our way to victory over death. Reconciliation with God opens the way for reconciliation of the sexes. Reconciliation of the sexes excludes shame, and opens the way for Bible Communism. Bible Communism increases strength, diminishes work, and makes work attractive. Thusthe antecedents of death are removed. First we abolish sin, then shame, then the curse on woman of exhausting childbearing, then the curse on man of excessive labor, and so we arrive regularly at the tree of life. Gen. 3.The men and women who are called to usher in the Kingdom of God will be guided not merely by theoretical truth, but by direct communication with the heavens, as were Abraham, Moses, David, Paul. This will be called a fanatical principle. But it is clearly a Bible principle, and we must place it on high above all others as the palladium of conservatism in the introduction of the new social order. We hereby notify all that we neither license nor encourage anyone to attempt the practice of this theory without clear directions from the government in the heavens. No movement in these matters can be made safely in the way of imitation, or on the mere ground of acquaintance with the theory of the new order. Other qualifications besides theory are required for the construction and handling of a locomotive, and much more for the management of such tremendous machinery as that of Bible Communism. Whoever meddles with the affairs of the inner sanctuary without true spirituality securing inspiration will plunge himself into consuming fire.
Dr. Lewis Akpogena