This week, we’re continuing to look at the showdown between the Temple elite and the apostles, recorded in Acts 4. (You’d best start with part one on Thursday if you’re just joining us.) They were arrested and warned not to keep speaking about Jesus, but because the crowd had seen the miraculous healing, the authorities were effectively powerless to stop them. We pick the story up where they’ve just been released.
The apostles pray
As soon as they’re released, Peter and John go back to the rest of the believers and tell them what happened. Their first response? To high-five each other over their impressive rhetoric and bravery? No.4:24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”
They recognise that they’re still alive because God’s in control of the world. After all, he created it.4:25-26 “You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.’”
Quoting Psalm 2, they remember that God has always protected his anointed one – he’s always looked after the people who do his work. Whether it was king David, or Jesus:4:27-28 “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.”
God has always vindicated his message, and his messengers.
So in light of that, they pray for boldness to continue to trust that God will be with them:4:29 “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”
And by the way, if you could back up our boldness with a little bit of special effects, that’d really help:4:30 “Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
No worries, says God:4:31 “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
And they go out and do their job, backed up by God. Or to put it another way, they receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them, and they are his witnesses in Jerusalem. After telling the rather chilling story of Ananias and Sapphira (in which God’s power is again at work, backing up the apostles), here’s how Luke summarises it:5:12-16 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
To think about
How often do we remember to pray when God has worked miraculously through us?
How often do we pray for more boldness (as opposed to less opposition) when it comes to sharing the gospel?