I’ve been chatting to some members of the Twelve Tribes community. It’s a global organisation with small self-sufficient communities around the globe. Each member gives up everything they own, leave families, and change their names to a Hebrew one when they join. They would consider any Christian outside the Twelve Tribes as not saved, because they haven’t fully committed to being part of the community. I’m looking into this again as I know someone who is now seriously considering joining them, having been persuaded by the Twelve Tribes’ reasoning, and I want to ensure she has considered scripture fully before she commits to something that looks very difficult to leave, that is also based on erroneous teachings and is what I would describe as a cult group.
They base their arguments on the following proof texts:
John 14:15 If you love me you will keep my commands.
Acts 2:45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Acts 4:32-36 Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. For there was not a needy person among them because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need.
They mesh these verses together and argue that by not selling our possessions and property, we’re not being obedient to Christ’s commands. I think the story of Ananias and Sapphira withholding some land and being judged for it is an affirmation in their eyes of this teaching that to be truly saved, you must sell everything. It’s not difficult to see the flaws in these lines of reasoning.
I’m preparing to continue my conversation with them and my friend who is interested in joining them, but I wanted to get other people’s thoughts on the wider context of the Acts passage in preparation.
For example, in verse 45, it says the new believers" sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need." Then in verse 46, it says "Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. "
This implies they hadn’t all sold their property and still had houses in which they’d meet. In addition, the study notes in The Apologetics Study Bible says that “this experiment did not last long due to contribution/distribution problems (see chapters 4-6)”. I’m finding it hard to see the direct example of distribution problems, unless the Ananias & Sapphira story illustrates a greater reticence amongst genuine believers to sell all their property and possessions.
I’m trying to build a more solid argument that these stories in Acts are merely descriptive of the early believers, and that even then this practice died out, but that it’s not prescriptive for all believers today, and that it’s certainly not what Jesus had in mind when he said that those who obey his commands are his true disciples. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this that they’d be willing to share, or commentaries referencing this discussion?