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 early Church, while experiencing persecution, embraced the challenge. Through prayer and surrender, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). In the next verse, Luke describes the unity of the believers (Acts 4:32). Every believer’s view of materialism affected their spiritual life, giving expression to “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). Then Luke inserts this verse, “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), to show a correlation between all of these facts. The power of their witness connected with the fulness of the Holy Spirit, and their unity centered on Jesus’ indwelling. The sense of abundant grace permeates all these elements.
Luke uses unique words to describe the preaching of the apostles. He highlights the attitude of the apostles toward their ministry. They did not see their witness as a career move, though this had not always been true. Two of the apostles tried to secure the right and left-hand positions in Jesus’ Kingdom (Matthew 20:20-22). They witnessed the Rich Young Ruler’s rejection of Jesus. All of them wondered what they would receive because of their faithfulness (Matthew 19:27), which proceeded with an argument about who would be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:1). Something happened to their perspective!
Luke writes, “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33). The main subject of this verse is “apostles.” The main verb is “gave.” The Greek word “didomi,” translated “give,” is theninth most frequently used verb in the New Testament (419 times). “Didomi” is the most common expression for the transfer of something to someone or something, making it available to the recipient. However, “didomi” is not the verb in our passage! The verb “gave” in this verse is the Greek word “apodidomi.” “Apodidomi” is a compound Greek word giving added emphasis, but it includes this standard word for “give” (didomi).
Luke now gives us insight into the apostles’ attitude as they ministered. “Apodidomi,” used forty-eight times in the New Testament, basically means “to give or to do something necessary in the fulfillment of an obligation or expectation.” The Greek word has the idea of debt, payback, or meeting an obligation. John used this word concerning the tree of life. “In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding (apodidomi) its fruit every month” (Revelation 22:2). This tree, in obligation to its nature, brings forth fruit monthly. The writer of Hebrews says the discipline of a father is unpleasant to the child. However, that discipline “yields (apodidomi) the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). The discipline of our heavenly Father is obligated to produce fruit in our lives, driven by the motive of righteousness. Other than these two occasions, “apodidomi” always refers to a person’s actions.
Paul stresses the obligation of a married couple to each other. “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due (apodidomi) her, and likewise also the wife to her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:3). Matthew uses this term seven times in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35). Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a king who settled accounts with his servants. He discovered one servant owed him $2,370,000. “But as he was not able to pay (apodidomi),” the king was going to sell him, his wife, his children, and all his possessions so that “payment be made (apodidomi)” (Matthew 18:25). The servant pleaded with the king for patience, “and I will pay (apodidomi) you all” (Matthew 18:26). The king granted forgiveness to the servant. As the forgiven servant left with his master’s forgiveness, he met a fellow servant who owed him $16.69. He grabbed him by the throat and yelled, “Pay (apodidomi) me what you owe!” (Matthew 18:28). The fellow servant begged for patience, saying, “I will pay (apodidomi) you all” (Matthew 18:29). The forgiven servant had no mercy but threw him in jail “till he should pay (apodidomi) the debt” (Matthew 18:30). Upon hearing of such a lack of forgiveness, the king turned the forgiven servant over “to the torturers until he should pay (apodidomi) all that was due to him” (Matthew 18:34).
All these accounts give us the intent of the verb. In our passage, Luke makes a statement about the apostles’ motive and attitude toward ministry. They constrained themselves as if obligated. The apostles felt their indebtedness, which required a clear witness of the resurrected Jesus, regardless of the Sanhedrin’s threats.
Obligation of Power
One aspect of the apostles’ obligation came from knowing the power of God in and through their lives. “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33). The subject of this verse is “apostles,” and the verb is the action word “gave” in the imperfect tense. This verb tense is the writer’s portrayal of action in the process that happened in the past with no assessment of the action’s completion. Their witness did not occur on a particular Sunday morning but was the consistent activity of their lives. It was not a memorized speech, the sharing of data, but was the constant expression of their lives. They not only proclaimed the message, but they were the message. The accusative of the sentence is “witness,” like the direct object in the English language, receiving the action of the main verb. Therefore, the action used to pay back their obligation was their witness. It was their repayment!
The opening phrase of the sentence is, “And with great power.” The power involved in their continual witness was “great (megas),” remarkable, beyond ordinary, magnitude, or extensive. It was supernatural! Luke attempted to describe the “power.” This “power” (dynamis) is dative in the Greek language. The indirect object is similar in the English language, indirectly receiving the action of the main verb and connects to it in some way. In our verse, “power” is a dative of means used to express the means of an action, differing from the dative of instrumentality. Our dative is not an expressing agency but the course of action, not the tool but the process. Something was taking place through the apostles that was beyond them. The demonstration and expression were beyond their ability and educational level. They participated in what God’s was doing. Therefore, their obligation was in the great privilege of inclusion in God achieving His will.
You have heard it said, “God has a plan.” Our lives will be changed forever if we embrace His plan. The Scriptures focus on this plan’s reality, and God wants to accomplish His plan through humanity. But this plan is narrower than “humanity,” the plan is you! You are the instrument God chose to move His resource through to accomplish His plan. You, the instrument, come under an obligation to the process. The list of preparations for your involvement in this process is enormous. God invested in you, carefully planned your destiny, made you unique with DNA, fingerprints, and physical looks like no other. Listen to the Psalm of David.
“For You formed my inward parts,
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them”(Psalms 139:13-16).
The same reality is not only in His preparation involvement, but in His consistent concern and participation to fulfill my destiny. Think of the intimacy expressed in these words: “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31). We are indebted to God for His planning, fulfillment, and empowerment of the plan. If we pride ourselves in integrity and payment of what we owe, here is a debt worthy of payment. Do we stagger under the weight of such debt? Will it not take an eternity of giving “witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” to even contribute to the deficit? Are we not extremely obligated? Dare we flippantly live as if we are self-made? Do we have the right to simply live for ourselves, achieving our desires, and reaping what we sow? The investment of God into your life demands a sense of obligation. Paul was correct when he said, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Obligation of Person
The obligation is a fundamental truth! Our passage begins with, “And with great power.” The obligation rests within this “power.” We discovered it is a dative of means, compared to a dative of instrumentality. Therefore, the “power” is not a tool or agency by which the witness takes place, but the process or activity of resource within the instrument of the apostles.
The Greek word “ischus” means resource, focused not on the action or ability of that resource, but upon the resource. For instance, the omnipotence (ischus) of God is great! The statement does not address what God is doing but calls attention to God’s mighty omnipotence. The Person of God contains the resource of power! The Greek word “dynamis” describes the action or result of that resource, the Greek word in our passage translated “power.” The action of God’s resource moved through the disciples and empowered their witness of the resurrection.
The apostles, instruments used by God’s moving resource, were under obligation to repay with their witness. However, the obligation is to the Person (ischus) from which the movement comes. God never gives us His power apart from Himself. Our passage proceeds with the awareness of “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 fullness of the Spirit of Jesus was their obligation!
We highlight the reality that Jesus does not give us anything apart from Himself. Everything is in His person. He does not provide us with happiness; He is our happiness; we derive happiness from His person! He does not provide us with peace; He is our peace. He does not give us strength; He is our strength. God placed in Jesus every good thing He wants for us. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). While I am responsible for the resources and blessings I have, I am much more accountable to the One who is that resource! I am a debtor to Jesus!
Since we are honest people, should we not pay our bills? People of integrity meet their obligations. While we are conscious we can never repay Jesus, there is a growing awareness we must allow the action of His person to work through us. Our obligation is not in giving a witness for Him; our obligation is to allow Him to reveal His person through us. We must not become ministry driven; we must become Jesus driven! We must not become program focused; we must become alive with His Spirit. We must not be satisfied with the warm feelings of accomplishment; we must be hot with the embrace of His person. Our obligation is to love Him as He loves us! His embrace will activate circumstances in our lives, generating the “witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” He is our obligation.
Obligation of Propriety
The apostles’ witness, shown through their lives and declared through their voices, was the payment for their obligation. “And with great power” (Acts 4:33), is the focus of the obligation. The “power” (dynamis) is the active, flowing resource of God that moved through the apostles. They were God’s instruments for the flow. The redemptive plan of God included the merger with God’s nature, capturing their lives. God’s nature flowed rivers of living water through them, giving an amazing demonstration of the resurrected Lord’s presence, the privilege of participation. However, the resource is not something the Spirit of Jesus gave them. The flow of this power is the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of the resurrected Lord. Jesus came to fill them, and the initial filling happened at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). He lived within them, and people were able to see the Person of Jesus in and through the actions of the early Church (Acts 4:31). They were living in the influence of Jesus and were obligated and indebted to Him. Everything about them that was good, holy, and productive was dependent on Him. “Neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common” (Acts:32). Their indebtedness to His presence was extreme, affecting their attachment to material possessions! This indebtedness is the nature of the case, propriety!
A sense of indebtedness drove Paul. He cried, “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise” (Romans 1:14). The Greek word “opheiletes” is translated “debtor,” which means “debtor, one under obligation.” The scope of his indebtedness reaches every person. As a Jew, he includes the Gentiles in those to whom he is indebted, to every individual regardless of status. The next verse says to what he owes. “So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also” (Romans 1:15). The Greek word “houto,” translated “so,” means “thus, in this way.” To pay my debt, I must, with all my being, give witness to the Gospel, Jesus! It is the nature of the case.
Paul made a case for his ministry when he wrote to the people of Corinth. Those who have a ministry live off that ministry. “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar” (1 Corinthians 9:13)? He gave other examples such as the shepherds who tend the flock of sheep drink the milk of the flock (1 Corinthians 9:7). But Paul said that he took nothing from the ministry. “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16)! The Greek word “ananke,” translated “necessity,” means “the state of being absolutely required,” expressing the idea of inward compulsion. This statement relates directly to our passage (Acts 4:33). Notice that Paul’s view of material things was dominated and shaped by his indebtedness. Jesus flowed His resource through Paul, capturing him and creating an obligation that affected his materialism. It is the nature of the case.
We pride ourselves on being honest people! Let us pay our debt, far more than our energy or resource can produce. Do we fill the obligation? Can we freely express the wonder of Jesus’ resource (dynamis)? Does Jesus capture us?