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).
There is no new information in our passage. “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33). We are not astonished by the Holy Spirit’s power demonstrated in miracles, boldness, and unity. This power was expected and assumed after the fulness of Pentecost. We are not shocked by the presence of God’s power; we would be more shocked if the power were not present. After the early Church heard the threats of the Sanhedrin, they went to prayer. “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). The “power of God” summarizes this report.
Through the “witness to the resurrection,” the church grew and impacted the city of Jerusalem. Everyone experienced the presence of Jesus within the witness. The witness was not telling about, but experiencing again, the reality of Jesus, which brought effective life change to those who crucified Jesus. No one could ignore the power of God flowing through the witness. If a person embraced such a witness, they were changed forever!
Therefore, as we view our passage, we wonder why Luke repeated what, in essence, he had already said several times. Why does he waste the space trying to impress us with what has already gripped us? The value of the statement is not in its content but its location in the passage. Let me remind you of the opening verse of the paragraph: “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common” (Acts 4:32). It is a powerful statement of the early Church’s perspective on materialism. Luke continues this explanation but not in the next verse. He writes, “Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold” (Acts 4:34). In the following verses, Luke gives both positive and negative illustrations concerning this view of materialism. You must note the words “neither” and “nor,” which connects verses 32 and 34. Why would Luke separate these two verses with verse 33, which is our passage?
“And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” is surrounded by the early Church’s view of materialism, and we must see it in that light. The early Church’s generosity and their release of ownership of material things demonstrated the power of God’s Spirit! Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke communicated a spiritual truth. We do not demonstrate the power of God in isolation or apart from the interaction of human beings. The redemptive heart of God is redemptive through the human avenue. Redeemed humanity is the platform on which God acts to bring redemption to fallen humanity.
This truth is not new! A human being got us into the curse of sin (Romans 5:12); a human being must get us out of the curse of sin. The difficulty is that the redemptive human being must not be a part of the sin’s curse (Romans 5:18). God looked for a righteous human being, but He could not find one (Romans 3:23). So, God became Man! Through Christ Jesus, the Man, God’s redemptive heart, became active in our lives. Jesus, the Man, is the platform for the redemptive act of God toward humanity. Jesus extended redemption into the lives of the believers involved in God’s nature, and they became an extension of God’s redemptive heart. Therefore, Luke sandwiches the “great power” of God flowing through the “witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” within the practical arena of material things.
We must keep a proper perspective in this discussion. The focus is on the power of God, not on the activity of man. It is the power of God that redeems, transforms, and restores. If we lose sight of this, all is lost. But our passage reminds us that God chose to manifest this redemptive power on the platform of human lives. There are several elements, within the context of our passage, present in the lives of the apostles. Jesus, the Man, is the platform for the redemptive action of God toward humanity. Jesus extended redemption into the lives of the believers involved in God’s nature, and they became an extension of God’s redemptive heart. The first element is INTEGRITY! We see this portrayed in the positive and negative illustrations given by Luke. Barnabas sold his land and generously gave it to the apostles to use for the early Church. He became a “Son of Encouragement,” an avenue of the redemptive heart of God (Acts 4:36). Ananias and Sapphira sold a possession; they reported giving all the proceeds but kept back some for themselves. Their deceitfulness became an avenue of destruction and ruin in their lives (Acts 5:1-11). God demonstrates His redemptive heart through the person of integrity!
The second essential element is INVOLVEMENT! Total surrender, consecration, total commitment, yielded, death to self, or crucifixion all are words used to express this element.
The expression, “I do my part, then God does His part,” does not apply to involvement. I express the involvement element in “I have no part.” In other words, I have nothing to contribute. It is difficult for most people to grasp because we focus on “doing.” If language demands an expression of “my part,” doing nothing is required, not a focus on inactivity but on sourcing. I have no part in sourcing, the activity, and yet my involvement is necessary. The best illustration of this concept is “the hand in a glove.” Although this illustration may lack the actual saturation, integration, or merger of God and man in the activity of life, it does demonstrate involvement in the action without involvement in the sourcing. A glove is lifeless and useless; it sits without expression or movement; it has no energy or life. Suddenly a hand enters its existence and fills the glove. The glove begins to act with power in meaningful activity. How strong is the glove? It is as strong as the hand that indwells it! The glove does nothing and yet is involved in everything! The one need of the glove is that the hand fills it.
Our passage reveals the reality of the element. Everywhere in the context, there is assumed a complete involvement. Luke introduces our passage with, “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32), an expression of completeness. The main verb of this sentence is “were,” a translation of the Greek word “eimi” a term of “being” not of “doing.” It is an imperfect, indicative verb, describing a state of being that occurs in the past with no assessment of the completed state. In other words, it continues into the present. It is a state of “one heart and one soul,” Luke’s description of their “completeness.” Each person engaged completely in believing, and they linked with others completely involved in believing.
Their belief is a repeat of the “one accord” that erupted from their lives in prayer (Acts 4:24). Peter and John reported to the early believers the threats of the Sanhedrin. They responded in prayer, focused on the sovereignty of God! They experienced the resurrection appearance of their crucified Lord. His presence completely engulfed them through Pentecost, and they all prayed the same prayer. Complete beliefbrought complete unity, giving complete expression to their complete focus on the resurrected Lord.
We have already discovered how this affected their view of materialism. Luke records, “Neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own” (Acts 4:32). The completeness of their surrender is evident. It was not a spiritual belief that had no expression in the physical. The spiritual and the physical came together in these believers as the Spirit of Jesus completely overwhelmed them. Perhaps this is the most verifiable evidence of their completeness.
The Rich Young Ruler realized he was not complete. He thought there was maybe one more thing he should do. Jesus told him that if he wanted eternal life, he must keep all the commandments. The young man quickly assured Jesus he had kept the commandments since his youth. So, what was it that hindered his completeness? His question was, “What do I still lack?” (Matthew 19:20). Jesus’ answered, “If you want to be perfect (complete), go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21). Although the Rich Young Ruler’s walked away sorrowfully, the early Church demonstrated their completeness by surrendering their materialism.
We can see this completeness in the negative and positive illustrations Luke gives following our passage. Barnabas becomes an illustration of complete involvement. He sold his land and brought the money to the apostles for the purpose of ministry. Because of his generous spirit, they named him, “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). The negative illustration is heartbreaking. Ananias and Sapphira destroy and bring death to their lives, a direct result of incompleteness in their involvement, although they said they were involved. They did the same activities as the other believers. Even in the realm of materialism, they sold their possession and brought the money to the apostles (Acts 5:1). They gave an appearance of completeness, but they were incomplete, holding back part of the money for themselves. They lied and were not completely involved in truth. Instead of showing God’s power through them and giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, they demonstrated death.
When does the power of God display itself on the stage of our lives? God manifested His power on the platform of the apostles’ lives, containing the element of “complete involvement.” God ceases to demonstrate His power the moment this platform was not present. Christianity is never a part-time participation. We can never contain God’s power by keeping a schedule of activities at church. God displays His power in complete involvement of the complete life. Jesus is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all!
Core of Involvement
If we only have a surface view of the involvement of the early Church, we might get confused. These believers were involved in spiritual disciplines. Prayer was a consistent activity of their gatherings (Acts 4:31). They focused on proclaiming the Scriptures in boldness (Acts 4:31). There were many miracles, signs, and wonders, which they prayed would continue (Acts 4:30). They were consistent in evangelism, affecting their world and transforming lives in the power of Jesus’ name. Our passage reveals their change in focus concerning materialism (Acts 4).
Although all of these issues are present and of value, they are not the core of the early Church’s involvement. Our passage gives us their focus, “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33). The core of their involvement was “the Lord Jesus,” giving witness through the miracles, signs, and wonders. Their bold proclamation of the Word verified Jesus. There was power manifested in their witness, but it was because of this Person! We cannot sidestep Jesus; He is never secondary. There is no substitute for His Presence.
The context of our passage will verify this truth. Listen again to the early Church’s prayer: “For truly against YOUR holy Servant Jesus, whom YOU anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatever YOUR hand and YOUR purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to YOUR servants that with all boldness they may speak YOUR word, by stretching out YOUR hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of YOUR holy Servant Jesus” (Acts 4:27-30). Carefully note the pronouns! The core of their involvement is with Jesus, and they will not deviate from this involvement.
One of the battles the early Church fought with the Jewish Christians was their desire to add to Jesus. They followed the apostle Paul from place to place, proposing that His message about Jesus was right but not complete. They wanted to add specific Jewish laws to Jesus to make it complete. The Gospel message would not tolerate such an addition. The core of their involvement was Jesus alone, also valid for today. The message is not Jesus plus counseling, Jesus plus church attendance, Jesus plus the sacraments, Jesus plus Scripture reading, or Jesus plus being good. It is just Jesus! Each of the additions has its place, but they are not our focus. Jesus is our total involvement. Other things only have value because of Him!
When does the power of God display itself on the stage of our lives? It only happens when Jesus is the core of our involvement. We must not mix anything else with Him. Christianity is not a mixture; it is a single ingredient; it is Jesus! He is the platform on which God displays His power, and changes our world!
Certainty of Involvement
The context of our passage is the statement concerning “those who believe” (Acts 4:32). We might conclude that the early Church was simply in agreement about specific theological facts. They witnessed the crucifixion and the resurrected Jesus, and these events thoroughly convinced them. Therefore, their involvement in the events of the past caused their belief. Did they develop a doctrine around these events and persuade others of this belief system? That was not the case!
The event that decided the matter was Pentecost. The living Jesus came back from the dead and now lived in them. They did not proclaim an event, theology, or information; they presented a Person. The Person of Jesus Christ lived in them and caused the certainty of their involvement. We have defined faith or belief as “invoking the activity of the Second Party!” It is the consistent attitude or response of a person who refuses to be sourced by the first party (themselves). Jesus captured them; He moved in their lives; they merged with Him. Jesus was not a belief system, although they believed in Him. He was not a fact but a reality of their lives. They merged with Jesus until moment by moment He sourced their lives. They thought like Him, felt like Him, and had His desires.
When does the power of God display itself on the stage of our lives? It happens when we have a spiritual and physical involvement with the living Person of Jesus. The merger involvement is the platform for His display, not a performance, but a moment by moment interaction. We do not focus on events such as preaching or miracles, but we allow the power of God to flow through us, producing the essence of our lives. We have “sonship” living! We have the DNA of God’s presence and produce His image. What a wonder!