Reading through the book of Acts in the New Testament, I ran across a statement about the Church that is unique and somewhat mysterious. The English Standard Version puts it this way, “And with great power, the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:33)
It is easy to read quickly and never notice these words, and for years that is what I did. The passage says, “and great grace was upon them all.” What does that mean?
Well, the English translations all seem to handle it a little differently. The New International Version of 2011 is “grace was powerfully at work.” The New American Standard Bible is “abundant grace was upon them all.” Still others have translated it as “great favor.” The passage is most literally rendered, “grace, the great, was upon them.”
So what does it mean? Most scholars suggest two explanations. First, God was doing great things for the Church physically, and they saw it as a work of grace above the cross of Jesus. Second, the people saw what was happening in this community, and not only was God showing his grace, but the local people looked on them with favor. After those two ideas, there is no general agreement.
Whatever was going on in the Church and the lives of those believers was something above the typical experience of grace. I am thankful for what we have in Jesus, but I long to experience God’s gift in a genuinely great way, as they did.