“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.”
~ Acts 4:31
When I read the book of Acts, I am often moved by the faith and obedience of the early church. Through incredible persecution, they met together, prayed together, encouraged one another, and shared the Gospel with others. In many instances, the miraculous would take place, and the power of God would be on display because of their active faith and obedience.
The passage of scripture above is taken from a larger story. The Apostles Peter and John stood before some of the most powerful men in Jerusalem, Annas the High Priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, all of whom had religious authority in the region. After Peter’s bold declaration of the Gospel, these men warned Peter and John not to proclaim the Gospel, not to proclaim Jesus Christ, again. The Apostles stood their ground, boldly proclaiming, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). This statement could’ve been the end, but it wasn’t.
Once dismissed from the council, Peter and John didn’t go back to work as usual. Surprisingly, the first place they went was to their friends. They told them the situation and what the High Priests had said. The response of their friends was bold. They didn’t walk out with signs to boycott the religious leaders, they didn’t use political pressure to force them out, nor did they incite violence against the leaders. They prayed.
Their decision to stop and pray showed very clearly that these were a people who understood what Paul would later write, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). What could a few people do against some of the most powerful people in Jerusalem? They could do nothing themselves. HOWEVER, they knew someone who could empower them to do what they were called to do. Peter, John, and their friends turned to the Lord to accomplish His purposes and His plans as they did the work they were called to do.
Their prayers began with “Sovereign God,” attributing to Him sovereignty and control over whatever would happen next. They remembered God as their creator and recounted what David said regarding the rulers and leaders of his time:
“Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.”
Recognizing that their situation was the same as their Patriarch David, they then prayed:
“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
It was in this moment that God shook the ground, and the Holy Spirit filled them with the courage, the boldness, and the grace to continue to share the good news of the Gospel around them despite the risk of punishment or death.
Friends, now is our time to prove to ourselves and the world around us that we are powerless, but we serve an all-powerful (Omnipotent) God whose will is going to be accomplished. I pray that He would use us, His people and His church, to proclaim the good news of the Gospel with those around us, and that His Holy Spirit would move in our hearts to give us that courage. There is so much we could learn from this passage, yet so little room in this blog post. Remember that in and of ourselves we are weak, helpless, and incapable of doing what we are called to do. Good thing because we’d probably fail miserably anyway. WE NEED GOD TO INTERVENE, and He will only do this when we come to the end of ourselves and, in all humility, approach God. HE is strong enough, HE is capable, and HE supplies our every need to get the job done. We are all called to the high calling of sharing the Gospel with others. When the going gets tough, and you think you can’t, remember this…
God, your God, is with you.
Pastor Chris <><