Joel Elliott Mooneyhan
Unity Through Grace
Now 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. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
More than any of the gospel writers, Luke (who also wrote the Book of Acts,) concerns himself with Christ’s care for the poor, the marginalized, and outcast—and how the resurrection of Christ empowers the justice of God in the world. This theme carries over into the Book of Acts, as we will see unfold in this series.
This passage from chapter 4 revolves around the spirit of unity that existed among the earliest followers of the risen Jesus. It is the paradigm of the Christian concept of koinonia--fellowship with God and with other believers. It is more and more common in recent times to read this passage in light of 19th and 20th century political thought; in reality, the koinonia of the early Christians is nothing of the sort. The early Christians were so motivated by their faith in Christ and their care for one another that they voluntarily pooled their resources to meet the needs of the community. It was not forced, coerced, or even mandated. It was simply the natural response to the love of Christ and the needs of others.
The events of this passage take place in the wake of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended and thousands of people from all over the known world came to faith in Christ in a matter of weeks. People of every nation, every race, every station in life, all were unified under the name of Jesus and the proclamation of his resurrection.
The word for "grace" in v33 is the Greek word "charis," which refers to something that gives joy, delight, or encourages good-will and kindness. In this passage, charis is tied to the witness of the apostles to Christ’s resurrection. That is to say, the proclamation of the resurrection is what inspires true goodness in and through and between each of us— so much so that our motivations become increasingly focused on the well-being of others.
The good news of Christ changes us, causing us to think less often and less frequently of ourselves and more of others. When a community of people are gathered under the good news, it brings everyone together and lifts everyone up.
What strikes you most about this story? Have you ever seen this kind of charis in action or been on the receiving end of it? Why do you think Luke ties the proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection so closely to the idea of charis?
(This is the second part in an 8-week series called Can I Get A Witness? Come back each week as we walk through texts from the Book of Acts and listen online to the accompanying podcast, found here or on Spotify, iTunes, and SoundCloud.)