Discuss the communalism experiment in Acts of the Apostles. How successful was it?
The Book of Acts, the fifth book in the New Testament, deals with the development of the early Christian church and some of the issues it faced. In the fourth chapter of Acts, the author suggests that the early Christians had practically eliminated poverty because people who owned property or homes were selling these things and then taking the money and giving it to the apostles, who, in turn, were giving money to anyone who had any sort of need.
Unfortunately, not everyone was distributing the profits from these sales in accordance with the established ideal. In the opening of Acts 5, we are told about a husband and wife, Ananias and Sapphira, who sold some property that they had. Unfortunately, Ananias did not give all of the money from the sale to the apostles, but kept part of it for himself. The apostle Peter, however, somehow knew that Ananias had held back part of the money and when Peter accused Ananias of this, the consequences were dire:
"When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died" (Act 5:5; NIV Translation).
A few hours later, Ananias' wife came and Peter questioned her about the sale price for the property. Sapphira's lie about the profits from the transaction had the same result:
"At that moment she fell down at his feet and died" (Acts 5:10).
Thus, the early church's experience with communal living had its good and bad moments. Overall, it seems to have been a success. There are, however, exceptions to any rule.