Acts: For the Cause of Christ #9
Title: The Church Prayer
After the Sanhedrin had heard what Peter and John had said, they sent them out to discuss the verdict. They knew they needed to stop the teaching of the Apostles, but they could not deny the miracle, they were in a catch 22. The Sanhedrin then threatened John and Peter to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, however the Apostles told them they had to obey God, even if they could not obey the council. The Sanhedrin threatened them again and released them.
The passage we are looking at today is the final scene in the account that started in 3:1. Chapter 3 and the final third of chapter 4 all seem to be specific examples of what was described as Church life in 2:42-47, and this passage is the example of prayer.
The Report – v23
Peter and John were released, apparently with the healed man as well (he is not mentioned again), and went to their own. We don’t know where they were meeting or the size of the group they met with.
The term “their own” is referring to the community of the church, however it is possible that this is in reference to the rest of The Twelve, the rest of the Apostles. However, Scripture is unclear if The Twelve is ever gathered away from the rest of the community in these early chapters of Acts.
The expression of the term “their own” presses how the early church saw themselves as a community of supportive friends. Once there Peter and John give their report and tell the others everything the had happened, and what the Sanhedrin had done and said to them.
The Prayer – vv24-30
The community turned immediately to prayer. The group prayed in one voice. They were all seeking God’s help for their mission. The phrasing in Greek shows that it is likely that a single person was praying aloud as the rest of the group, or congregation, prayed along silently as the leader spoke. A more direct translation of this phrase would be “in one mind they lifted their voice”. So we see a singular voice, but everybody, the whole group assembled, is praying the same thing at the same time. They are seeking God’s strength and his will they know God is stronger than their enemy.
The opening address in their prayer uses the word Despota. This word gives us our English word despot. This word shows God’s lordship or His sovereignty. The Greek word does not have the negative connotation of our English word despot. This word is often used to show the master and slave relation either between man and man or man and God. This term is often tied with a qualifier, and here in our text, it is God as the Creator. Since God is the Creator of everything He has the right to be master of His creation.
Here the prayer cites Psalm 2 verses 1 & 2, this was the basis for their petition and their request. They see this psalm as fulfilled by what Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles and the Jews did to Jesus in verse 27, and God’s plan on being fulfilled in verse 28.
Most Jews would read Psalm 2 and see the opposition being entirely Gentile, the tone of the this prayer explicitly includes both Jew and Gentile. The opposition shown to Jesus now extends to his followers.
In verses 25 through 27 there are words that link between the quoting of Psalm 2 and the explanation that is given in verse 27. The terms Gentiles, peoples, assembled together, and Messiah or anointed link verses 25 and 26, where they quote Psalm 2, to verse 27 and show who God’s enemies are.
The term “Gentiles raged” links verse 25 to 27 with the term “Gentiles” in verse 27. The verb for “raged” generally referred to “spirited animals” like horses before a race.
The phrase “peoples plot futile things” links “peoples” to Israel in verse 27. The idea we get from this phrase is that the peoples are attempting to do something to God’s Messiah which is futile and empty, they are attempting to stop God’s plan.
The term “Kings” refers to Herod Antipas, the term “rulers” refers to Pontius Pilate and the council. These terms also relate to the people that Herod, Pilate, and the council represented, as opposing God’s Messiah and His way.
Verse 27 and 28 explain the quoting of Psalm 2:1-2.
They refer to King Herod Antipas. We should note that only Luke talks about Herod’s role in Jesus’s trial in Luke 23:6-12. We remember that Pilate was pressured by the Jewish leadership, but allowed Jesus to be crucified. Human rejection of Jesus is part of God’s plan and the activity of his hand, which is His will and power. The young Church knew there will be opposition to God’s will, how will they face it? They will not obey the opposition, but they pray for boldness to speak God’s truth.
They begin their requests first with an appeal for God to look at the opponents threats and seek God’s justice. They seek only for God to notice the threats and not to spare themselves or crush their opponents. Verse 29 asks God to “consider the threats” of the opposition other translations say “look upon the threats” the verb for look upon is used one other place in the New Testament, that is Luke 1:25 where the Lord looked on Elizabeth and took away her shame for being barren.
The second request of the Church was that they would proclaim with boldness or confidence the word of God. They call themselve slaves or bond servants. This is a different word used in verse 27 and 30 in reference to Christ as the servant of God. For slaves to speak freely or with boldness is strange. The term for speaking with boldness is the idea of a free citizen having the right to speak. In that Greek and Roman culture slaves did not have that right. But they were slaves to God and had the freedom to speak what He had commanded them. Using the word slaves here points back to the beginning of their prayer by addressing God as master or sovereign. They sought God’s Will and asked him to continue to validate the message they spoke with further signs and wonders in the name of Jesus the holy servant of God.
God’s Answer – v31
There are 3 evidences of God’s response.
The place they were assembled at Shug Like An Earthquake. Shaking is an unusual sign of confirmation in Acts 16. Use an earthquake to free the persecuted but here he uses it to show that he has heard the prayer of the church.
The Believers were filled by the Holy Spirit. this feeling was the enabling to speak. this was not a second baptism or a second indwelling like we saw in Acts chapter 2 This Feeling was specific to the request the Believers gave for boldness.
They spoke the word with boldness. This refers to the churches speaking of God’s word through Jesus. the oral message about Jesus can be called God’s word because the message about Jesus is from God and describes God’s work. their goal to be enabled to speak was met.
The early Church was met with opposition for the first time. They knew they had to obey God’s command, so they turned to God in prayer.
When you are faced with difficult situations or what is your response?
When we feel anxious or nervous about sharing the Gospel or taking a stand for our convictions, we should take comfort in the fact that the Apostles themselves had to pray for boldness to speak in the face of opposition. Do you pray for boldness?