26 April 2019

Acts 4

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
‘“the stone you builders rejected,
    which has become the cornerstone.”
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.’
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’
21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
The believers pray
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 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. 25 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?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.”[c
27 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. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’
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.
The believers share their possessions
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there was no needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 4 records a prayer (verse 24-30) following trying circumstances. Peter and John healed a crippled man in the name of Jesus and incurred the wrath of the Jewish leaders. The Sanhedrin might utter warnings, threats and prohibitions, even try to silence the church; but their authority was subject to a higher authority still. They too are answerable …

… to the God who ‘made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them (verse 24).’ God pre-existed all and is the source of all things. He made it and He owns it … this is HIS world! Nothing happens outside His sovereign rule … He prescribes what He prescribes and permits what He permits to fulfil His plans and glory. And we are accountable ultimately to this God alone … not to men, whoever they are or however powerful they are.

… to the God who ‘spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant (verse 25).’ Having established His presence in and through creation, God speaks (Genesis 1) … whether to Adam and Eve or the Patriarchs; or through the Prophets and Kings (David) to Israel; or, in these last days, through the Living Word (Jesus) to the disciples; and now through the Written Word (the Bible) to you and me. Our God is not mute like the idols but is a speaking God. So we can know Him and relate to and with Him.

… to the God who ‘had decided beforehand [what] should happen (verse 28).’ Even though the nations rage, peoples plot in vain and the kings and rulers conspire – seen ultimately in the conspiracy between Jews and Gentiles to kill Jesus; nothing catches God by surprise. Even though they were expressing their own rebellious impulses and doing what they wanted to do; they were doing what God’s power and will had decided beforehand should happen! Even when we do exactly what we want to do … somehow, within our personalities and circumstances and choices and actions, we work out what God decided beforehand should happen!

This is our God … the God who makes and speaks and decides! That’s why we can have great confidence not just to pray to Him but to pray with boldness and confidence – He made us and cares for us; He knows us and loves us; and He will always choose for us what is for our eternal good and His eternal glory!

Prayer: Sovereign Lord, help us to recognise You as both the Creator God who rules and reigns over all things; but also as the personal and loving Father who longs for relationship, who cares for us and who knows what we need before we ask. Help us to remember that nothing happens unless You have decided beforehand it should happen. Make us mindful of this especially when things don’t go as we think they should. Help us to seek You in those times to see how, even then, You are working for our eternal good and Your eternal glory. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.