THE COMMUNION OF THE SAINTS
SINGLENESS OF HEART
By Martyn Lloyd-Jones
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking
bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and
singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people.
And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
The central error of modern thinking, surely, is that today men and women
imagine they have the right to decide for themselves, anew and afresh, what
Christianity is, what the church is, and what her message is. This is not only
presumption, it is unutterable folly, because we are dealing here with
something that is historical. Today is Palm Sunday. Why do people call it
Palm Sunday? It is because it is connected with certain facts of history. The
message of the Gospel is not a philosophy; it is not just a teaching amid
many other teachings. It is based upon facts: the fact of Palm Sunday, the
fact that this person, Jesus of Nazareth, rode on the foal of a donkey and the
people crowded around Him, shouting, “Hosanna!” And further, the fact of
the trial and the scourging and Christ’s death upon the cross on Good Friday
and His burial in the tomb, followed by the Resurrection.
These are facts of history, and the church came into being as the result. So if
we really want to know what Christianity is and what the Christian church is,
then in common honesty there is, I repeat, only one thing to do, and that is
to go back to the record.
So we have been considering the account in Acts 2 of these early Christians.
The words and expressions used here were not chosen at random. They were
inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself. And we have here the marks and
characteristics of the true Christian. The moment men and women become
Christians, these are the ways in which they show it. And we come now to
one of the most interesting: “They . . .did eat their meat” not only with
“gladness” but also with “singleness of heart.”
This most important statement means, first and foremost, that these
Jerusalem Christians were all of one mind, that they were experiencing a
wonderful unity. “Singleness of heart”! Their hearts, as it were, were melted
into one another. It is a description, then, of the company, the society, of
these believing people looked at in general. Our Lord had prayed that His
disciples might be one, even as He and His Father were one (John 17:21),
and here they were giving expression to this oneness. They had different
temperaments, different backgrounds, different upbringings. They differed in
almost every conceivable way, and yet they were all melted into one in this
The New Testament constantly emphasizes that great truth. The apostle Paul
was particularly proud of it. He was called to be the apostle to the Gentiles.
Though he had been a narrow and rabid Jew in his old life, he now said,
“There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian,
Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:11). All are one in
Christ Jesus, and that is amazing. The Christian church, when she functions
truly as the church, is the greatest phenomenon the world has ever known. It
is the only thing that ever can unite people.
The world is disunited. We see groups and classes and divisions. But in the
true church, all are one, “Singleness of heart”—melted into one in Christ
Jesus. This is astounding. Here in Acts we are given a picture of what the
world will eventually be like when Christ comes back to reign, having
conquered all His enemies, to set up His glorious kingdom. “Singleness of
heart”! A day is coming when wars shall cease. But this will not be the result
of human organizations. They will never come to anything: “Ye shall hear of
wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6). Politicians and foolish idealists
constantly claim they will produce a state in which there will be no war. They
never will. But Christ will put an end to war when He returns. He will reign
from shore to shore, and there shall be “peace. . .as a river” and
“righteousness as the waves of the sea” (Isa. 48:18) over the whole universe
and cosmos. What we see here in Acts in embryo will someday be world
But the question that arises is: Why were they thus manifesting this great
unity? And the answer is that they showed this “singleness of heart” because
each one of them separately had a single heart. Each one had been made a
unit, had been unified. This is one of the most remarkable things about the
Gospel, and it is one of the greatest characteristics of the Christian life. Our
Lord said, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single,
thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body
shall be full of darkness” (Matt. 6:22-23). There is this same expression—“if
thine eye be single.” What does our Lord mean by that?
It is a great principle that when men and women believe the Christian
Gospel, the main effect it has upon them is to unify their life, to make them
“single.” Men and women apart from Christ, outside the life of God, have
double vision. They do not see things properly. They do not see them unified.
They do not see them steadily and as a whole. What Christianity does is get
rid of the complications and produce an essential simplicity.
I can show you in general as well as in particular that the effect of
Christianity is always to simplify, to make single. We see it in the history of
the Christian church. Here is a lyrical picture of the church at the beginning.
The believers went at first to the temple because they had been brought up
to do so, and it was available for them to have their meetings. But that was
supplemented by their meeting together in one another’s houses—“breaking
bread from house to house.” And we read in the epistles about “the church
that is in their [Priscilla and Aquila’s] house” (Rom. 16:5), and so on. That is
Christianity as it was at the first. We, of course, inevitably tend to think of
the church as some great institution with buildings, and people dressed up in
robes, and pomp and ceremony and processions. How different it has all
become from what we find here in the second chapter of Acts.
Why has the church developed into an institution? There is only one
answer—people have done all that. They always make everything
complicated. That is one of the tragedies of the hour, is it not? We have great
problems, but in trying to solve them, we create fresh problems. Have you
not noticed how government is becoming increasingly complicated? I am old
enough to see the extraordinary development in complexity. Someone sets
up one office, then has to set up another to look after that one, and another
to look after the second, and so we get a bureaucracy and do not know
where we are.
And that has happened in the life of the Christian church as well. The whole
thing has become almost unrecognizable in terms of what we read in this
second chapter of Acts. At the end of the Middle Ages, we see the Roman
Catholic Church—such pomp and ceremony, with the Pope claiming political
as well as religious power, and the Vatican becoming a state. True
Christianity has almost become lost, and the people simply went one to this
priest, and one to another. No one knew God; nobody had assurance of
salvation. Everybody was relying upon payments of money for favors and
blessings. The whole thing had become so involved and complicated that
ordinary people had no idea what Christianity meant.
And then came the Protestant Reformation. What did that do? It went back to
the New Testament, back to the Acts of the Apostles, and Christianity
immediately became much simpler. And Puritanism took this further, saying
that even the Reformation had not gone far enough, that it had carried too
much of Rome with it. Puritanism asked, “Where in the New Testament do
you find all these other things? No, no, they must go.” That was Puritanism
purifying, making Christianity single. And the great Evangelical Awakening of
200 years ago did exactly the same thing.
The Gospel always gets rid of complications. It says that God’s way is the
way of singleness of heart, the single eye. Complications are man’s doing;
simplicity ever characterizes the true Gospel.
But look at this in the case of the individual. The unbeliever’s life is a
complicated life. Sin always introduces complications. This is all to be seen in
Genesis 3. What a delightful, simple life Adam and Even were living before
they fell and rebelled against God. The Garden of Eden was called Paradise.
There was no need for government there. There was no need of all this great
machinery to deal with problems and difficulties—they were nonexistent.
When the man and woman lived life as they were meant to live it, in
harmony with God, it was essentially simple. But the moment they sinned,
they were in trouble. They had sinned against God, and now when they heard
the voice of God, they had to run and hide. They did not know what to do.
They could not face God. They needed protection. Already the complications
Then, because of their sin, they were driven out of the Garden and had to
earn their bread by the sweat of their brow. We read about Cain starting to
build cities. This was the beginning of civilization with all its complications.
Sin makes life complicated and difficult because it divides our lives into
sections. WE no longer have a unifying principle. Do you not see that in life
today? Human beings are the most contradictory creatures on the face of the
earth, on one side brilliant in their achievements, and on the other so often
despicable in their living. Mastering the elements, they are unable to master
themselves. They arrive at knowledge and understanding of great mysteries
away up in the heavens but often live like beasts and worse. What is the
matter? There are warring elements and factions within them.
We have all found this out from experience. The apostle Paul expresses this
problem perfectly in Romans 7, where he talks of this duality that is in us:
“To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not”
(v. 18). “For I delight in the law of God after the inward mean: but I see
another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind” (vv. 22-23). That seventh chapter of Romans is the most profound psychological
analysis of man without God and without Christ that has ever been written.
Paul says in effect, “I am at least two I’s. There is an I that wants this; there
is the other I that wants that.” He looks at these warring elements in his
personality, and he does not know what to do and cries out in despair, “O
wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?” (v.24). That is the effect of
sin—complications, divisions, warring elements. But the moment people
believe the Gospel, singleness comes in—“singleness of heart.” Order is
brought into the life. A principle is introduced that governs everything. Life is
The psalmist looked forward in prophecy, and he, too, saw something of this.
You will find it in Psalm 84:5. The King James Version renders this, “in whose
heart are the ways of them,” but a better translation is, “in whose heart are
ways.” When men and women become Christians, a “way” is put into their
lives. There is a unifying principle, singleness enters, and the complications
begin to disappear. That is what happened to all these people in Acts 2.
This is something that is given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to do
it. He said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it
more abundantly” (John 10:10). “As people are,” he said in effect, “they are
only existing. They do not know what life is. They are nothing but a
conglomeration of factions. They do not know what it is to live. They do not
have a unified view of life and a life that is itself unified. I have come that
they might have it.”
So how does our Lord do this? How does the Christian life become simple and
single? First of all, this principle is introduced in the mind. The first thing
people discover when they become Christians is that there is only one thing
that finally and ultimately matters, and that is their soul. Look at the world
today. Look at the thinking people. Read the more intelligent journals and the
books that come out dealing with the problems of society. I do not want to
say a word against them—these are absolutely essential. Government and
order are appointed by God. “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom.
13:1). But let us make no mistake here: They are never ordained by God to
solve the problem, but only to keep the problem within limits. And they
cannot even do that. Today’s problems can only be solved by the message of
the Gospel, which tells us that there is only one thing to examine, only one
thing to investigate.
The trouble with people who are not Christians is that they begin to examine
this problem piecemeal. One says, “I must examine that.” Another says, “no,
it is this.” There they are, setting up commissions of inquiry, subcommittees,
and more subcommittees. But they never arrive even at an understanding of
the problem, let alone a solution. And this is where the Gospel is so different
from every other teaching. It comes immediately to the center and says,
“There is only one thing that matters—it is your soul.” I have often quoted a
sentence from Shakespeare that is the perfect introduction to the Gospel at
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
What is it that is wrong in me? It is that I have not realized the importance of
the soul. Here is the key and the center of everything.
The story about our Lord in the house of Martha and Mary illustrates this
well. We read that our Lord went to a village where
…a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet,
and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much
serving, and came to him and said, Lord, dost thou not care that
my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she
help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her…
Here is the essence of the Gospel, and this is what Jesus says to any
troubled, unhappy, defeated soul:
Martha, Martha, thou art careful [anxious] and troubled about
many thing: but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that
good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
“Martha,” our Lord said in effect, “the trouble with you is that you are
distracted—you are trying to do this and that. You have invited Me into your
house, but now you are concerned about giving Me a meal instead of
listening to what I have to say. Martha, you are divided. Mary has a single
idea. One thing is needful, and one thing only.”
Our Lord was constantly saying this. Listen to Him on another occasion:
“What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own
soul?” (Mark 8:36). This is the tragedy of the twentieth century, the age of
encyclopedias. What knowledgeable people we are! How ignorant our
forefathers were! They did not know what we know. Look at all our vast
scientific knowledge, our learning, our books, and the lectures on the
television and radio—what amazing people we are with all the information we
Why do we fail then? What is the matter with us? And that is the answer:
What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world of knowledge and wealth
and everything else but lose his own soul? Our Lord emphasized this from the
beginning, in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Enter ye in at the strait
gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction,
and many there be which go in thereat” (Matt. 7:13).
There Jesus is not only talking about morals but about thoughts. If you want
to know a single-eyed life, if you want this essential simplicity that
characterizes Christianity, you must start with the mind, and in this way you
enter in at the narrow gate.
This means, in the first instance, that, as our Lord says, “Except ye be
converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom
of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). Or, as the apostle Paul puts it: “Ye see your calling,
brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not
many noble, are called” (1 Cor. 1:26). If you want to learn how to live, says
Christ, come to the strait—the narrow—gate. This means recognizing that
nothing matters but what God can do in your soul. Forget all your learning,
all the lore of the centuries, and all that you regard as wonderful; none of
that will help you. You can be brilliant in philosophy, wonderful in music and
in art and in many other respects, but what is the condition of your soul?
And that is what happened to the people listening to Peter on the day of
Pentecost. Oh, they had their interests, and they talked about them, but as
they listened to Peter they came to the realization that only one thing
matters. They said, “What does it matter what I think about the Roman
government or about my wealth or learning? When I am on my deathbed,
nothing will matter to me except God and myself and the relationship
between us.” That is the way in which our Lord simplifies everything and
produces this singleness of heart.
And this is still the truth. The world is busy with its learning, but there is still
only one fundamental question we need to face, and it is: “How can I stand
before God?” The world and its kingdoms are passing away: “Change and
decay in all around I see.” Every day I get a day older, and I know that the
time is inevitably coming when I shall be alone with God. So the Gospel
simplifies the problem, does it not? It tells us that all the teeming problems in
the world have arisen directly because men and women have lost the right to
be face-to-face with God and are sinners in his sight and are thus under
condemnation. Do you know that it all comes to that? Alcoholics Anonymous
meetings, marriage guidance councils—so many groups are being set up to
deal with this and that problem. But if men and women were only right with
God, we would not need any of them. All the problems would be solved
because they all stem from this evil that is in humanity as a result of a wrong
relationship to God. That is why the Gospel talks about singleness of eye and
singleness of heart—this great principle of unification.
Now the people in Acts had come to that. But, thank God, it does not stop at
merely isolating the one question that matters. Christians have not only been
brought to see the one problem that confronts them—they have also found
the one and only answer, and this is what, if I may say so, I rejoice in at
times more than in anything else. Christians are people who are no longer
seeking—they are people who have found. They are no longer swayed by
different views and ideas and schools of thought. They are no longer waiting
on tiptoe for a book that is to be published next week that they are assured
by the publishers will be of great help. No, they say, “I’ve got it. I’ve already
Christians have found the answer: It is in this one blessed person, Jesus
Christ. There is no other answer. The seeking and the questing and the
striving and the searching have come to an end. They know that Christ is the
Son of God. He is the one who brings us to God. And we have already seen
how Christ brings us to God by Himself taking the punishment for the sin that
separates us from a holy God.
Have you discovered this? Have you got singleness of mind? Or are you still
looking, searching, reading about other religions, reading about this or that
latest cult? Come to Christ! Did He not say, “I am the light of the world: he
that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”
(John 8:12)? So “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of
Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). Then you will have an answer: You will have a
singleness of mind and of understanding, and this knowledge will be a
central, controlling principle in your whole outlook upon life. What a
wonderful thing it is to have a view of life that can take in all the
contingencies, to have all your questions really answered, to have the singles
that comes to the mind of a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But this same singleness affects the heart also: “with gladness and singleness
of heart.” Here is an end to the old restlessness and lack of peace. What a
terrible thing such a lack is. We have all known this, have we not? You
remember that famous, often quoted statement of Augustine—and it can
never be repeated too frequently: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our
hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” The whole universe
cannot satisfy us. We can have wealth in abundance, we can have
possessions and learning, but they will not give peace and rest of heart.
Listen to a hymn written by Gerhard Tersteegen and translated by John
Thou hidden Love of God, whose height,
Whose depth unfathomed, no man knows
I see from far Thy beauteous light,
Inly [inwardly] I sigh for Thy repose;
My heart is pained, nor can it be
At rest, till it finds rest in Thee.
‘Tis mercy all, that Thou has brought
My mind to seek her peace in Thee;
Yet, while I seek but find Thee not,
No peace my wandering soul shall see;
O when shall all my wandering end,
And all my steps to Thee-ward tend?
Have you not known something about that restlessness? The world cannot
satisfy us. Why not? Because “God has put eternity in the heart of man”
(Eccles. 3:11, Revised Version). Thank God, human beings are too big and
too great to be satisfied by anything in this world. That is why those
sociologists and others who say that people will be happy if they are given
good houses are insulting human nature. You cannot be satisfied with a
house. Everyone deserves a decent house, but you can have a mansion and
be miserable. The heart is restless, longing, yearning for something that ever
eludes it. The whole world is looking for the quiet heart, the rest, the peace
that the world can neither give nor ever take away when it is truly given by
When men and women come to Christ, the restlessness goes. Listen to Philip
Doddridge, expressing it from his own experience:
Now rest, my long-divided heart,
Fixed on this blissful center, rest:
With ashes who would grudge to part,
When called on angels’ bread to feast?
This is what had happened to these early Christians. It all went away—that
old restlessness, that feeling that they wanted something else, that there is
always a fly in the ointment, that there is no final satisfaction, no real peace.
Now they were no longer divided within themselves as to what they
ultimately wanted. Now they had peace because they had “singleness of
Our Lord expounded that fully in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Ye
cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24). That is the whole trouble with
most people, with all people, indeed, who are not in Christ—the divided
heart. They feel they must serve God, and yet they want to serve mammon.
So they worry, saying: “What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or,
Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (Matt. 6:31). They worry about what will
Perhaps your heart is divided and distracted, and you cannot sleep, and you
have to take more sleeping pills, and then you need a stimulus to enable you
to live the next day. You are divided. You are a mass of contradictions, and
you do not know what you want. You think you want to travel—you feel new
sights and scenes are what you need. But you travel around the world, and
still your heart is as restless as it was before you left home. That is because
the human heart is lusting after various things. It is divided within itself. It
does not know what it needs. So there is this conflict: “God and mammon;
heaven and earth; time and eternity. Which shall I live for?” We do not know
which is most important. All of that is done away with in Christ.
Furthermore, the heart is restless and divided because of self. The ultimate
cause of all this heart-restlessness is self. I set myself up, and that means
casting somebody else down. There is conflict, jealousy, envy, despising,
hatred, ambition, desire—what a terrible business it all is! The heart is
divided against itself. But the moment men and women come to Christ, they
get a single heart. It all happens in Christ, and they are able to say:
Object of my first desire,
Jesus crucified for me.
Charles Wesley says the same thing. Here was a man like ourselves who
knew all about the restlessness and the division and the conflict and the
seeking and the searching for a heart at rest and peace and a firm ground on
which to place his feet. This went on for years, but at last, in a very simple
way, he just believed this message and was able to say:
Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find.
And he meant what he said. It is all there. Everything is in Christ. There is
nothing further that we can desire. He will satisfy your every need, whatever
your need may be. In Christ we are “ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.”
He is with you in every respect and in every circumstance.
Once men and women really know Christ and His salvation, they are given a
final satisfaction. Let the world rob them or mock them, let the world spit
upon them as it spat upon their Master, it makes no difference.
Man may trouble and distress me,
‘Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me,
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
The world may rob them of everything, but Christ remains. So the apostle
Paul was able to say, “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor
angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).
Again, when he was an old man in prison in Rome, Paul heard a rumor that
the emperor Nero had decided to put him to death at any time. How did Paul
write about it all to the Philippians? He said in effect, “It’s all right. Don’t be
worried about me, ‘For to me to live is Christ’ (Phil. 1:21). Christ is life to me.
He is as much life to me in this prison cell as He was when I was free, out
and about, traveling across continents preaching His glorious Gospel.” Yes,
“To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…having a desire to depart, and to
be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:21,23). “They…did eat their meat
with gladness and singleness of heart.” Christ was there in their thoughts and
was giving them full and complete satisfaction.
Finally, the need for singleness applies also in the realm of the will. What is
our aim? What is our motive? What is our object and purpose in life? There
are millions of people who are unhappy because they have the wrong
aims—to cut great figures, to leave their names on the pages of history, etc.
But “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” said Shakespeare. There is
nothing that so troubles a man or woman as worldly ambition—muddle and
confusion in the realm of motives and ideas.
But the moment someone believes in Christ, that person has singleness in
the will as well as in the mind and heart. Each Christian has one great desire.
It is, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the
fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any
means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Phil. 3:10-11). That
was the apostle Paul’s sole ambition—“that I might know him.” Anyone who
knows anything about Christ gets consumed by this great passion.
Count Zinzendorf saw it. He said, “I have one passion; it is he; it is he
alone.” Oh, to know Him who is life indeed, who so loved me that he came
from heaven and suffered all that He suffered in this world, even death on
the cross, that I might live! Oh, that I might know Him and live to His glory!
Once you are imbued with this ambition, the whole of your life is
revolutionized in that it becomes simple. Listen to Tersteegen again as
translated by John Wesley:
Is there a thing beneath the sun
That strives with Thee my heart to share?
Ah, tear it thence, and reign alone,
The Lord of every motion there!
Then shall my heart from earth be free,
When it hath found repose in Thee.
Take my will, and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Francis Ridley Havergal
That is the prayer of Christian men and women. They have singleness in the
realm of the will. They have one idea, one desire, one motive, and that is to
live to His praise who has died for them and opened the gateway of heaven
to them. The whole of life becomes simple; the program becomes a simple
one. John Wesley said, “I have become a man of one book,” and in a sense
that is true of every Christian. Have you discovered that all the books in the
world cannot help you unless you know this? This one aim will bring you to
one book. It will bring you to one person, to one death, to one resurrection,
to one hope, all in Christ Jesus. Here is the explanation of the singleness of
heart of the Christian. This tells us why Christians are able to say:
O for a heart to praise my God,
A heart from sin set free,
A heart that always feels Thy blood
So freely shed for me.
So there remains one question: Do you have this singleness of your mind, in
your heart, and in your will? The world knows nothing about it. The world is
typified by Martha—cumbered, distracted, rushing about, fussing, and
missing everything. The Lord of glory is there, and there she is, busy. He has
not come to eat—He has come to teach. Have you sat at His feet as Mary
did? Is this your prayer?
O that I could forever sit
Like Mary at the Master’s feet.
Be this my happy choice.
My only care, delight and bliss,
My joy, my heaven on earth be this,
To hear the Bridegroom’s voice.
It really comes to that. Are you rushing about madly, intellectually,
emotionally and in the realm of will, seeking satisfactions that you never find,
seeking knowledge you cannot attain unto, divided and distracted and weary
and tired? Listen to the invitation of this blessed Gospel. Emulate the
example of the people who “gladly received his [God’s] word” as preached on
the day of Pentecost by the apostle Peter. Listen to the Lord’s words spoken
to Martha: “One thing is needful,” and one only.
So stop rushing about, stop reading, stop arguing. Take your seat with Mary
at the Master’s feet. Listen to Him, and He will say to you, “Come unto me,
all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke
upon you, and learn of me…and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt.
Taken from Studies in the Book of Acts, Volume One: Authentic Christianity, by Martin Lloyd
Jones, Copyright © 2000. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News
Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois, 60187. This material is not to be electronically transferred.
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