Great Grace Was upon Them All
Luke again (2:42-47) mentions the strong fellowship (koinonia) that existed among those of the church in Jerusalem, referring to their sharing of everything they had. We are told that the “full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” We note again that this sharing was voluntary as we shall see tomorrow with the judgment of Ananias and Sapphira. But though it was voluntary, the “full number” engaged in this sharing, such that no one called anything his own and no one was needy among them.
How did they come by such charity? How were they able to sell lands and houses and bring the proceeds to the apostles’ feet for distribution? It seems so “radical,” to borrow an overused term of our day, and so “over-the-top.” Well, the answer may lie in a sentence that stands out in the middle of this paragraph which seems quite out of place: “And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” What I mean is: Luke was writing about their sharing of their goods among themselves, and then he writes this line, and then he goes on about this practice among them again. A “Comp 101” teacher might strike this sentence as unrelated to the rest of the paragraph.
But it is completely related and stands exactly where it should. Luke is telling us that it was because of the word of God that the apostles were preaching – the resurrection of Jesus Christ, repentance, faith, his return, in short, the gospel – that was the reason that “great grace was upon them all.” They were not possessed by their possessions, but instead were possessed by grace, and thus were willing to part with their possessions for the cause of the Kingdom. When one is possessed by grace, the things of this world fade from view. Such a one is so heavenly-minded that he has finally become of earthly good. And so grace is the foundation both of our salvation and of our ability to minister to and give ourselves freely to others.
The passage mentions Barnabas as an example of such grace-filled living. This will be instructive for us as we next turn to the sad story of Ananias and Sapphira. “Barnabas” was his nickname for “son of encouragement.” What a testimony! We need more encouragers. So many are hurting because of sin and brokenness. To whom might you be a “Barnabas?”