“And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” Acts 4:33
Here we are in the midst of Pentecostal scenes; nor need we regret to linger. In such scenes, it were well for us all, whether ministers or members, whether individuals or churches, to constantly live, think, pray and preach. This text follows the account of the wonderful prayers offered by the Church after the liberation of Peter and John, and of the grand shaking which followed the prayer, and the blessed union which the holy influence from heaven produced among the members. The Apostles were now specially qualified for their mighty enterprise, and therefore, “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”
I. Notice the Great Fact to Which They Gave Testimony.
1. This fact was of essential importance in the Christian scheme.
All the great events of our Lord’s history are of vast importance, both in themselves, or per se; and in their relation to each other. What would the death of Christ have availed if He had not also risen from the dead? We want, not only a Christ to atone by dying for us, but one who shall ever live to make intercession for us. “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.” The birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the intercession of Christ, resurrection of Christ, the ascension of Christ, the intercession of Christ, are all essential to the grand scheme of redemption by Christ. Each has its own intrinsic importance, and all combined in the economy of salvation have a relative and infinite value. Christ Himself always insisted on the resurrection as a proof of His Messiahship and Divinity; so did the Apostles and Evangelists. And wherever the Apostles went, they preached Jesus and the resurrection. There, resurrection showing Him to be what He professed, and what they believed Him to be; and proving Him to be the Son of God, the Saviour of sinners, the first-born of every creature, the first-fruits of them that slept and the judge of quick and dead.
2. The Apostles were witnesses of the resurrection.
They had seen the Lord after He rose from the dead—they were at divers times and places, eye-witnesses of the fact; hence they were prepared, everywhere, to vindicated the doctrine of His resurrection, and to say, what we have seen and heard, with confidence we tell. The two who saw the sepulchre, the two who journeyed to Emmaus, the eleven in the upper room, the twelve when Thomas saw and confessed, the five hundred brethren referred to in I Corinthians 15, had such evidence that could not be gainsaid or resisted.
II. The Character of Their Testimony.
“With great power,” etc. There are two or three senses in which the expression “power” here may be understood.
1. It may refer to the miracle they wrought: for they were endowed with qualifications necessary to working miraculous cures, and even raising the dead. Some critics understand this power to be meant.
￼2. The power may mean the unction, the energy, the extraordinary influence of their ministry. They were filled with the Holy Ghost, and wisdom, and “much people” was added to the Lord.
3. The power may refer to their marvellous success. Signs and wonders attended their ministry. Great grace came on the people; and glorious results followed. And how gratifying it is to know that if we cannot raise the dead, or cleanse lepers, we can bring dead souls to life, and cleanse, by the Word and Spirit, those who are filthy, debased, diseased, and desperately wicked. God helping us, we may achieve moral marvels still in this blessed work.
III. The Abundant Grace With Which They Were Endowed.
Great grace was upon them all.” It is not very clear whether the “all” refers only to the Apostles, or also to the disciples generally. The context seems rather to favor the latter idea, but the general opinion is in favor of the former.
1. Great favor from heaven was on them. They had many tokens given them of the Divine presence and approval.
2. But “grace” is used in more than one sense, and may signify the effects or results of the grace or favor of God.
3. It is also allowable to read the words as having reference to the favor with which the people received the Apostles. Crowds flocked to hear them; numbers were saved under their labors; and great excitement, popularity, publicity, notoriety, attended their works.
- Let us learn to give great prominence to the fundamental doctrines and facts of Christianity. The atonement, the resurrection of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, repentance, justification by faith, and entire sanctification need to be constantly preached and prominently upheld.
- Let us remember that the success of our labors depends not only on what is preached, but very greatly on how it is preached. Let us seek by prayer in the closet, to be endowed with power in the Church. Let us also cultivate the happy art of believing for success—present, obvious, and distinguished success.
- Let us all, and always, mind to have great grace—the grace of humility, of patience, of charity, of faith—if we would have great success. We must lighten by our lives, as well as thunder by our preaching, if we would witness signs and wonders in the name of the Lord. O for more holiness, more faith, more directness, more power, and more success.