Acts 4: The Order of Things

Notes

  • (3) How wonderful it is to live in an era and nation where we can speak about Jesus without having to worry about being arrested. I wonder, though, how long it will last.
  • (4) I find it amazing that, even as Peter and John are being hauled off in custody, people were convinced and believed the gospel in spite of the threat to their freedom, safety, and even lives. Why is it that we assume that no one will listen and/or believe, and we obsess about the trivial threats that we face today?
  • (7) I find it amazing how this interrogation unfolds. Everyone in the room knew what Peter and John had done. It was a matter of fact. The rulers and co. wanted to know how and why – on whose authority – it was done. People can’t deny real ministry, legitimate miracles. They can only ask how and why they were realized. Our job is to respond as Peter in vss. 8ff.
  • (13) A critical note here: the rulers and co. recognized that Peter and John were unschooled, ordinary men. These rulers had studied for years to obtain their positions; Peter and John demonstrated more power and understanding than they had ever had. The rulers had no choice but to recognize – take note – that they were Christ-followers.
  • (16-17) The world cannot deny real ministry and miracles. In fact, they don’t want to. But they will do anything they can to silence the gospel because it’s not what their itching ears want to hear.
  • (18) Is this not the attitude of the prevailing authority today? Do your ministry and miracles. Meet our needs and entertain us with the supernatural. But don’t tell us about Jesus. The world is eager to take advantage of what the Church and believers have to offer, but loath to hear anything about the Christ who compels and enables the ministry.
  • (19-20) Oh, that more believers – myself included – would adopt the mentality of Peter and John! Threaten us all you want; we will not be quiet about the Christ who saved us and would save you, too!
  • (22) The full extent of the miracle was that the healed man had been unable to walk for more than 40 years. In that single instant, he had to learn to walk like a baby, except in a man’s body!
  • (25-28) Without denying the power that the Sanhedrin had to make life difficult for them, the disciples recognized that God’s power far superseded that of the earthly authority. They had the power to make laws and govern people; God had created the heavens and the earth. Oh, that we would focus on that truth more than what petty consequences might come of sharing the gospel!
  • (29-30) When was the last time I prayed a prayer like this?
  • (31) When it is truly our fervent prayer that God would use us as His mouthpiece to deliver the gospel message, God will move.
  • (32-35) The aftermath of their prayer is significant: The Church was united in its singular commitment to effective ministry and evangelism and generous to share whatever they had with each other. In return, God granted power – both ability and authority – to witness, and resourced the body to meet the needs present.
  • (36-37) Enter Barnabas. Such a humble introduction for a man who would have a truly profound impact on the future of the Church. I find it amazing that, already, the focus is starting to shift from the apostles and leaders of the church to the regular people, who would be raised up as the ministers of the Church. Leaders are important for casting vision and setting direction, but it is the people who truly accomplish things for the Lord.

Application

What an afternoon. After a quiet morning, Peter and John had found and taken an opportunity to minister and were subsequently hauled off to appear before the authorities to explain who they were working for and just what they were up to. Several hours later, when they were finally released, they clearly understood that, while meeting needs and doing miracles were perfectly fine, attributing them to Jesus would not be tolerated. Even without details, the threats of the Sanhedrin were clear.

And yet, the disciples never wavered for a moment. Even as they realized that the Sanhedrin and its allies had the power to make life difficult and more for them, their prayer focused on the power of God. He created the heavens and the earth. He strengthened David to stand resolutely against those who plotted against him. He orchestrated the whole of history and human events to effect His redemptive plan. And no conspiring of earthly forces could undo all of that. The disciples focused on God’s ability and authority, which far surpassed anything that the Sanhedrin could claim, but the most important part of the prayer was yet to come.

You see, had they only marveled at the power of God, and never done anything in response, the Sanhedrin would have won, and with them, Satan. As important as all of the first 28 verses of Acts 4 are, then, I believe that it is in verse 29 that the real action begins.

Despite the blatant threats of the Sanhedrin, the disciples prayed – with an earnesty that will become apparent in a moment – that God would enable them to speak the gospel with boldness and continue to perform healings, miracles, and wonders. In other words, they prayed that they would still be able to minister effectively.

This, however, was no ordinary prayer. So often in our day and age, we pray words which are, on the surface, similar to those uttered by the disciples so long ago, but do we really mean them? Do we really intend to go out and minister effectively? Do we really aim to proclaim the gospel for all to hear, regardless of the ramifications we might face in return? I would submit that it was the disciples’ intention to continue in all of these things which prompted God’s response in verse 31 and beyond. What other explanation can there be for the fact that God moved in such power then that the room was shaken, while so often in our churches today, the same prayer results in absolutely nothing? God does nothing because we don’t really mean to do anything.

So here’s the challenge of Acts, chapter 4. Don’t let your “burden for souls” be just a bunch of words. Resolve, even before you pray for God’s power, that you will witness boldly and minister effectively. Notice the emphases there. You will do this. When it comes to evangelism, God’s will is abundantly clear (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). Our witness, though, must be more than some sheepish suggestion that people might follow Jesus, if they feel like it, someday. It must be a bold proclamation that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and choosing to do anything – to follow anyone – else will result in eternal catastrophe. And our ministry must be more than huddling in our pews or offering a few token dollars, a couple of urgent prayers, etc. It must be an unconditional, unqualified, unreserved – in other words, no-holds-barred – effort to meet the needs in the community and lives around us through the power of God through Jesus Christ.

I love how Acts 4 ends. The church is united in its singular resolve to witness and minister, and its members are generous to share anything that they have with anyone who needs it. And in response, God grants the church the power that they have to have to witness and minister, and He resources them so that no one is missing anything that they need. And as a result of these things – their commitment and His equipment – combined, we have people raised up like Joseph (called Barnabas later) who will literally change the world.

God responded with such power that the room in which the disciples met that evening shook. The world was changed. And it was all because they were resolved to witness and minister, regardless of what the world would throw at them. We must pray with the same resolve today.

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