Sermon Passage: Acts 4:33
Sermon Commentary Notes
“And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33).
The word “indulgent” is a negative term for most of us. It alludes to a parent who allows their child to do as he pleases without consequences, which we call “spoiled.” No one approves of this and certainly would not accuse God of spoiling His children. However, let me quote the dictionary definition for indulgent, “having or indicating a tendency to be overly generous to or lenient with someone.” The word originates from early sixteenth-century French or Latin. The French verb “indulgere” means “to give free rein to,” which is not positive or negative.
If we take the positive view of the word, may we consider God “indulgent?” “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Is God’s love not indulgent? A standard definition of “grace” is “the undeserved blessings of God freely bestowed on man.” Every person in the human race knows the blessings of God. Paul declared Jesus the Creator of all things. Then He said, “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:17). “Consist” is translated from the Greek word, “sunistemi.” “Sun” means “together with,” and “histemi” means “to set.” Jesus is the creator, and He holds all things together, sustaining what He made! God maintains the universal order so that everyone knows the generous indulgence of God.
The indulgence of God sustains the order of society. The sinful state of man would destroy human life if it were not for God’s restraining power. Furthermore, God’s prevenient grace has intervened in the life of every person. God gives us a conscience to know the difference between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, justice and injustice, and the awareness that we are accountable to Him and each other! Does this not explain His indulgence?
How do we describe the indulgence of God in the forgiveness of sin? The reality of God’s forgiveness is a provision for every person, whether or not they embrace it. In the death of Jesus, God gave every person a position in Christ Jesus. We were chosen in Him, predestined to adoption as sons in Him, redeemed through His blood in Him, and accepted in Him (Ephesians 1:3-14). Thousands of people will ignore and reject their position; they will never know the full redemptive love of God. Why would God make such a provision knowing the mass rebellion of humanity? Does this not explain His indulgence?
Our passage reads, “And great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33), a statement of indulgence. The Biblical expression of God’s indulgence is grace, translated from the Greek word “charis,” a favor done without expectation of return. Grace is the free expression of God’s loving kindness to man, finding love the only motive in the redemptive heart of God. Luke presents two views of grace in our passage. Many biblical scholars relate our passage to the favor given to the early Church by the populace of Jerusalem, a valid observation, which the Sanhedrin was concerned about (Acts 4:17). The Sanhedrin did not dare punish the apostles because of this acceptance, so they threatened them instead (Acts 4:21).
However, there is another consideration. The “great grace” is directly connected to the apostles’ ministry and their witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Two indicators of this are the word “great,” connected to “power,” describing the witness, and “grace” experienced in the state of the witness. Another indication is the conjunction “and,” which generally would be a translation of the Greek word “kai,” but in our passage, it is the Greek word “te.” The Greeks used the conjunction “kai” when two ideas are connected, or one is the result of the other. “Te” is used to annex; it presents a fact that is not directly connected or resulting.
The “great power” in the witness of the apostles did not result in “great grace.” Instead, “great grace” was an additional fact we must understand in light of the “great power.” They knew the power because of grace. The state of grace is the platform on which God manifests His power. The Spirit of Jesus moved through the apostles as they proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus, a supernatural happening, beyond human ability, which controlled and influenced the proclamation of the resurrection. The apostles were not recounting an event, facts, or information. The resurrected Lord appeared to them, and they knew His presence. How or why did this happen? The “great power” was the platform of God’s grace.
“Great power” and “great grace” are paralleled in the passage. “Megas” is the Greek word translated “great,” referring to remarkable, or out of the ordinary, in degree, magnitude, or effects. The movement of God caused their effective, resurrection witness, not because of talent, faithfulness, dedication, or organization. They did not earn God’s movement in their lives, because His movement was a result of His grace. The early Church dwelt in a state of “great grace,” their platform for ministry. It is the same for us. Revival comes, people find salvation, and our society changes because of “great grace.” We must dwell in such a state!
Principle of Possession
“You cannot be an expression of grace unless you have grace.”
Our passage gives validity to this principle. There was no way to measure the indulgence of God in the lives of the apostles. They experienced three years of “on the job training” with Jesus. They knew the Divine flow of grace daily through Jesus to the multitudes around them. Jesus was the expression of God’s grace to them. From all the people of Israel, Jesus chose these twelve to be the inner circle of grace recipients. If Jesus based His choosing on qualifications, these men were least. But grace is the word that is consistently used by Jesus to qualify the Kingdom person. In comparing the Kingdom person to John the Baptist, Jesus said, “But he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11). The “poor in spirit” are the same as the “least” (Matthew 5:3). In the Jewish culture, these apostles were indeed the “least,” yet they received the blessings of an indulgent Father.
Luke expresses this principle of grace in the broader context of our passage. Peter and John knew the grace of God ministering through them at the Gate Beautiful. A lame beggar, crippled from birth, asked them for money. In Jewish culture, he was far beyond the concern of God, prohibited from any redemptive interaction with God. He could not enter the temple or make sacrifices because he did not meet the religious requirements. He was unworthy. But God is an indulgent Father who cares about such people. Peter said to the lame beggar, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). Is it not the grace of God bestowed on one who is unworthy?
However, the lame beggar was not the only unworthy person in the miracle. Peter was unworthy in ways beyond the beggar. He knew and believed in Jesus, yet denied Him three times in the crisis hour. His unfaithfulness is paramount in his record. He had no right to be included in the grace of God! But Jesus is an indulgent Father who forgives the worst of us. The grace of God flowed through this unworthy apostle because he knew God’s grace in his life! A crowd gathered to see the healed beggar. Peter recognized they were attributing the miracle to him and was horrified at the thought because he was a recipient of the same grace. He responded to the crowd, “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk” (Acts 3:12)? As Peter proclaimed the “great grace” of God through Jesus, God healed the lame beggar.
The leaders of Israel burst through the crowd to arrest Peter and John. After a night in jail, the leaders forced the apostles before the Sanhedrin, the 70 most powerful men in Israel. Peter and John were not on the educational level of these leaders. The political power of the nation did not rest in their decisions. Who were they to instruct the Sanhedrin? Yet, these influential leaders marveled at the boldness and strength of these unworthy Galileans. They “perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men” (Acts 4:13). But they recognized Jesus through them! Is this not the indulgence of the gracious Jesus pouring out His grace on and through the unworthy?
It is happening again in the city of Jerusalem. The apostles, having experienced the grace of an indulgent Father, yet ministered this grace to others. Grace is the “principle of possession.” If you are a recipient of grace, you can minister in grace, the platform for all ministry. Education, intelligence, or talent are not the basis of ministry. When one beggar, who has found the bread of life shares with another beggar, where to find bread, then we know ministry! The depth of your brokenness is the depth of your ministry. In the awareness of your need, you discover the wonder of meeting the needs of others. There is no ministry in arrogance, cockiness, and self-sufficiency. Because God envelopes us in grace, we can minister grace! Always acknowledge His grace; live in the boundaries of His indulgence.
Principle of Proclamation
“You cannot have grace unless you are an expression of grace.”
We cannot minister grace to others unless we experience God in our lives. Our experience cannot be from the past but must be a present-tense awareness of grace. Grace cannot be a theological concept but must be the wonder of our life in awe of the abundant indulgence of God. Grace is the platform for ministry. However, it is also true that we cannot continue to experience this unmerited favor unless we are willing to share it with others. Grace always has a purpose. While God focuses His love on us, He looks beyond our lives to others He wants to communicate the same love. Personal grace experiences are always the platform for ministry. If we will not share this grace with others, personal grace diminishes.
The Scriptures consistently emphasize this principle of proclamation. Jesus proclaimed the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon communicated the principles of the Kingdom established in Jesus. The premise is one of a merger with Divine nature. We are poverty-stricken, “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). If we embrace this helplessness, He will fill us with Himself (Matthew 5:4). God creates a new creature called the “Kingdom person,” a merger between God and man. Such a merger is a state of grace; an indulgent Father resources His helpless creation producing a new level of righteousness. But it is not just about being right; it is about being redemptive.
Jesus used the illustration of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Matthew 5:38) addressing the issue of fairness. The punishment should match the crime. A person should receive what they deserve. But this standard is not the heart of an indulgent Father. Jesus wrote, “But I tell you not to resist an evil person” (Matthew 5:39). God made it clear in the Scriptures that we are to resist evil. But how do you feel about the person who expresses evil? Jesus gave four examples to illustrate such a person. An evil person slaps you on the right cheek (Matthew 5:39). The purpose of the slap is not to cause physical harm, but to insult you. Will you live in the grace of an indulgent Father who reached into your life repeatedly, though you insulted Him? Will you be the extension of God’s hand to the person insulting you?
The evil person wants to take advantage of you financially for his benefit (Matthew 5:40). Will you be the extension of God’s hand in his life? Will you live in the grace embracing you, though you have taken advantage of God’s blessing again and again? Someone demands that you go one mile with them in service (Matthew 5:41). Will you live in awe of the truth that an indulgent Father walked by your side during your rebellion? An evil person wants to borrow from you, taking advantage of you (Matthew 5:42). You are to live in the grace of the forgiveness of debt you can never repay.
If we refuse to extend the grace we are given, we will cease to experience its benefits. The Sanhedrin threatened the members of the early Church. But the grace of an indulgent Father through Jesus was so great in their lives, they could not heed the threats. They continued to share the grace of Jesus to their world. If they did not continue to give “witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,” they would no longer experience the grace of the “great power” in which they lived. If we do not express grace, it will deteriorate.
Principle of Proportion
“You cannot express grace except to the degree grace is given.”
We must return to the parallel between “great power” and “great grace” (Acts 4:33). The Greek word translated “and” connecting the two statements is “te,” not used to connect two equal ideas or one thing resulting from another. It is an “annex.” The main building has an annex. It may look similar to the main building, but it serves an additional purpose. In our passage, the main building is, “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33). Luke focused on the ministry of the apostles. As they witnessed about the resurrection, the resurrected Lord began to move. The power of Jesus’ Spirit brought reality to everything the apostles said about His death and resurrection. Information and theology became living fact, a reference to the main building.
The main building is power, and the annex is “great grace!” Grace has the same proportion as the power. Their demonstration in ministry directly related to the movement of the indulgent Father in them. Think of it as the main building and the foundation of the building. The strength of the foundation determines the height of the main building. The ministry of the apostles was in direct proportion to the indulgent Father’s embrace. There is “great power” because there is “great grace.”
Again, consider Peter’s experience of the Father’s indulgence. How could he face the resurrected Lord? He boasted of his faithfulness, saying, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You” (Matthew 26:35). His failure overwhelmed him. How could this failure not overshadow any future relationship? Everyone would always see His position in ministry in light of his denial. But he encountered the indulgent resurrected Lord! Such grace flowed from Jesus; there were no walls. Jesus enhanced Peter’s ministry, not diminished it. The “great grace” produced “great power.”
We do not place a premium on failure, for we are all equal in this area. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). If it took the death and suffering of Jesus to redeem me from sin, and the same death redeems you of yours, are we not equal in our sin? The indulgent Father extended “great grace” to us all. Perhaps the difficulty lies in our embrace and acknowledgment of His grace. God challenges us to embrace His grace. Anything else is a direct affront to His indulgent heart! Any reliance on talent, education, personality type, or tradition nullifies the “great power” for ministry. The power in ministry is directly proportionate to the measure of grace active in our lives. Oh, to be the instrument of an indulgent Father bestowing His grace on all!