Yesterday, we found ourselves in John looking at John’s declaration, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” We observed that because of His fullness, we have received grace upon grace, and He has revealed grace and truth. As we follow the grace trail, we pick up next in Acts. Jesus has fulfilled the Father’s plan. He came back victoriously from the grave after three days, appeared to Mary, His disciples, and according to 1 Corinthians 15:6, He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus ascended before the disciples eyes into Heaven. Just before He left, He had instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit, which is where we find them as we approach Acts 2.
Jesus disciples, the women, His mother Mary and His brothers were all together in one place. They were gathered in Jerusalem in an upper room praying. All together there were about one hundred and twenty. When the day of Pentecost came, so did the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came in power, rested on each one in the room and they were filled with the Spirit of God. Peter stood up with the other eleven disciples and he preached a powerful sermon that was heard and understood by each in their own language. As if that were not amazing enough, apparently a very large crowd gathered because about 3,000 people accepted Peter’s message and were baptized that day. All of these devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, spending much time together, sharing meals and praying together. Our first example of grace in the book of Acts describes the early church this way:
“They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles. All who believed were together and held everything in common, and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need. Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NET)
The NET translation, along with a couple of others, uses the words good will when translating Charis to English; others tend to use favor. The impression we are given from the verses is that those who believed were of one heart and one mind; they had all things in common. They faithfully taught as Jesus had taught them and told of His resurrection. There was no one among them who was lacking. According to scripture, not only was this early church growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and in His teachings, they were genuinely caring for each other, getting along well and making a big impression on all the people around them. Acts goes on to tell us in chapter three about the healing of the lame man at the gate beautiful and a sermon at Solomon’s portico. Chapter four opens with the arrest of Peter and John. The priest and leaders of the temple thought they had solved all their problems by getting Jesus out of the picture. Now not only were his followers the twelve or the one hundred twenty; they had grown to over three thousand and continued to grow. This made the religious leaders very upset and here we find Peter and John in custody.
Peter and John went before the Sanhedrin and spoke. The Sanhedrin saw that the men, despite the lack of education and training were bold and smart and were amazed. They knew instinctively these men were with Jesus. They came to the verdict, no one could speak the name of Jesus again. These bold followers refused to back down, asking the leaders “is it right to obey God or man; you judge, but we must speak out these things we have witnessed.” They were threatened again and released. Peter and John reported back to the people all that had happened and they began to pray for boldness! No holding back in fear of the religious leaders here; they petitioned to the highest authority for boldness to continue His will and His work. They could have prayed for protection, but they prayed for boldness and an increase in healing and wonders. They didn’t shrink back.
In chapter four we are told: 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. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 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, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. (Acts 4:32-35 NKJV)
What can we learn about grace from their example? What united these people to not only live in harmony but to build this incredible early church? Could it be regular fellowship, sharing meals, and prayer? Is it having everything in common and helping those in need? Maybe it was time together in the temple? Did the resistance coming against them from religious leaders cause them to bond and become closer? I am sure all of these were contributing factors to their harmony and powerful growth. Perhaps the most powerful reason is found in their finding the one thing that can unite them, Jesus. I believe their uniting factor was their extreme dedication to Jesus, the empowering of the Holy Spirit and their willingness to both give grace to each other and ability to receive it back from one another.
May His grace abound so that we can give grace abundantly!