Acts: For the Cause of Christ #9

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #9

Title: The Church Prayer

Acts 4:23-31

Introduction:

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.

Conclusion:

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?

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #8

Acts: For the Cause of Christ

Title: Catch 22

Acts 4:13-22

Introduction:

After healing a crippled man and preaching Jesus as the Messiah in the Temple Peter and John were arrested and brought before the Highest Jewish court.  When asked about what had happened and why they were teaching, Peter turns the table and tells the Jewish Leadership that they are indicted in God’s court for rejecting the Messiah. What happens now? Well as we look at the next section of chapter 4 we find that the Jewish council didn’t know what to do.

1. Conferring on the verdict – vv13-17

The Sanhedrin were surprised how bold or how freely the Apostles spoke about the details of the Old Testament. At first glance they knew these men were not formally trained in any rabbinical school. After hearing them speak they knew these men were not ignorant, but they could tell that they were not trained in the normal way of the religious and theological elites. In other words these men only graduated from the Synagogue High School of Galilee. Then the council recognized Peter and John as men who had been with Jesus of Nazareth. Their association with Jesus gave them the ability to teach and preach. They graduated from Jesus’ Seminary and not the Temple Seminary.

There was clear evidence that a miracle had occurred as the healed man was standing there next to Peter and John. They could not say anything against the healing, they couldn’t say it wasn’t a miracle. The verb used for “had nothing to say” or “no reply” is used only one other place: Luke 21:15.

Luke 21:15 – Jesus has promised wisdom and words that enemies of the Gospel wouldn’t be able to refute or give a reply. In Acts 4 whether that was Peter’s speech in the council chambers or the healed man standing there is not clear, but Jesus provided for Peter and John.

What could the council do? They sent Peter and John out of the chamber to decide. They knew they had to stop the Apostles from continuing to teach and preach in Jesus name. They thought they had solved that “problem” by getting Jesus crucified, now they have His followers continuing to preach and doing signs and wonders in the name of Jesus. And this specific healing was obviously a miraculous event, it was visible and well-known, this healing pointed straight to God’s work.

As a side note, I wonder who described what happened here to Luke? Peter and John were not in the chamber and neither were any other Apostles. Could Paul have been in the chambers now? Could Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea be there? Maybe it was just gossip from the members of the Sanhedrin? Or did the Holy Spirit just give Luke special insight when was writing? Just an interesting note.

They decide not to deny or even respond to the healing, they just want to counter it.  They had to silence the teaching, since they couldn’t stop the news of the miracle spreading, they would try to stop the teaching from spreading. They decided to forbid the Apostles from teaching in Jesus’ name and threaten them. The verb for threaten often means to threaten someone with something. “If you don’t stop this now, so help me I’ll…” This is not as intense as the word used in verse 21, though it is the same root word. They were trying to intimidate the Apostles to stop teaching that Jesus is the Messiah.

2. Refusal to obey disobedient men – vv18-20

The Apostles were brought back in to hear the verdict. I wonder if Peter and John were praying that the Sanhedrin would repent. Whatever Peter and John were thinking or hoping when they were brought back in all they received were threats. The Sanhedrin probably threatened further arrests, maybe whipping and scourging, at the very least they probably threatened to expel them from the Temple and synagogues. But these men were now only Jewish by birth, not Jewish by faith.

The council ordered, this word is strengthened with “at all” near the end of the verse. The idea is an absolute prohibition to teach that God is working through Jesus.  The council is trying to stop any testimony of God working through Jesus spreading. They are attempting to silence and control the Apostles, they are doing damage control.

The response given by Peter and John implies that the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leadership, no longer represents God’s will or God’s way. These men were responsible for Jesus’ death. Now they are rejecting the chance to return to God’s will and accept Christ as Messiah and Savior.

They told the council that the council should decide whether Peter or John should listen to them or obey God. Peter and John knew they must obey God over disobedient men, disobedient leadership. Peter and John refuse to obey the order they were given by the ruling Jewish authority.  They are committing civil disobedience. Their reason for this is that they cannot stay silent. They must proclaim what they had seen and heard. They needed to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus. Civil disobedience as it is presented in Scripture is always presented as following a direct or clear command or teaching of God. Peter and Paul both discuss the authority the civil governments have over people. 1 Peter 2:13-17 – Peter is giving directives to Christians to honor and obey the government, for the Lord’s sake. Romans 13:1-7 – Paul is remind the Roman Christians to obey and honor the government. God established government, we should obey its rules and laws. We shouldn’t point to the exceptions given in Scripture as the normal thing. They are exceptions. If the government orders or commands you to do something that is clearly in violation of God’s Word then it is something to consider. The examples given in Scripture acted with respect and courtesy. They did not defy the law, just to defy the law. We should examine our hearts to make sure we are acting correctly and just trying to satisfy our own inner frustrations.

3. Being released – vv21-22

We don’t know how the Sanhedrin reacted other than offering more threats. The word for threaten here is the same root word as in verse 17, only with more intensity. They threatened the Apostles but could do nothing else.

They released Peter and John. The news of the healing was spreading and the people were glorifying God for the healing. The idea here is that the healing was nothing the Sanhedrin could punish Peter and John for, so they released them with some threats about teaching Jesus as the Messiah. The Sanhedrin were in a catch 22. They wanted nothing more than to silence the Apostles, but could not deny the miracle.

The healing gets one more highlight here from Luke, right at the end of the account. We are told that the man was over forty years old. This kind of healing at that age is not as likely, this in itself shows the Power of God behind the miracle.

Conclusion:

There has always been, and there will always be opposition to the gospel. The Apostles knew their commission. To preach Christ crucified. They knew there could be and would be danger from the Jewish leadership, these were the same men that opposed Christ. But they knew that for Christ they could withstand anything opposition could bring. This was the beginning of formal opposition to gospel and church of Jesus Christ.

We have brothers and sisters all over the world that are facing great persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. Are we willing to step outside our comfort zones to share the gospel with friends and family? Are we willing to invite someone to church?

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #7

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #7

Title: Arrest and Indictment

Acts 4:1-12

Prayer: Lord, as we come to this passage, help us to grow bold in Your Gospel. Help us to say as song says, “Christ we proclaim, the Name above every name; For all creation, every nation, God’s salvation through the Son.”

Introduction:

Last week we saw the healing of a man crippled from from birth. vv 1-10. This healing was not through Peter or John’s own power. This was done by Jesus’ power. We then saw Peter’s second recorded sermon in Acts vv 11-26. Peter address the crowd and explains that the miracle was done by Jesus of Nazareth. Peter used the Old Testament to prove Jesus is the Messiah. What happened next? This week will start chapter 4 and see what happened next. We start to see Jewish resistance to the new community in formal way.

  1. Annoyance and Arrested vv 1-4

Temple officials break up this impromptu teaching session. Who was there?

Priests – these men were part of whichever group or division was serving in the temple during this rotation. The priests were divided into 24 sections and rotated weekly for service in the Temple (Lk 1:5,8).

Temple Captain – This man was the head of the levitical police or temple guards. The Romans allowed the Jews to police the Temple themselves. The Captain was a member of the High Priest’s family and his authority was 2nd only to the High Priest in the Temple complex.

Sadducees – They were one of the Jewish religious parties. This group was very rationalistic, they denied supernatural concepts of angels or other spiritual beings as well as future bodily resurrection (Acts 23:8, Mt 22:23; Mk 12:18; Lk 20:27). At this time the High Priest and his family were part of the Sadduce party, so they had a lot of influence at the Temple.

Why arrest Peter and John? Peter and John were teaching and proclaim the resurrection. Whether this just about Jesus’ resurrection or that the resurrection will came because of Jesus we don’t know for sure; it depends on how a preposition is interpreted from the Greek. Jesus’ resurrection alone would validate the idea and undermine the Sadducees philosophy and standing. Christ’s resurrection was key to the apostolic teaching and foundational to Christian doctrine (1 Cor 15:12-19). This large crowd created a disturbance or a commotion. This teaching session was large, unannounced, presumptuous and led by two unknown men. They were arrested and held overnight. Not sure where they were held, if there was some area in or near the temple to hold them or if there was a public jail to hold them overnight. It was too late to bring them to trial. It was too late to bring them before the whole Sanhedrin. It was illegal to hold a judicial meeting during the night, though this law was blatantly ignored when they tried Jesus.

What was the result of the sermon? Though they could bind the Apostles, God’s Word cannot be bound by men. Many of the crowd heard and believed in Jesus as the Messiah. This increased the Church’s number to 5000 men. The wording here is only referring to men and not the people in general. This is also the last time Luke gives a specific number for the church.

Preaching the Gospel can ruffle feathers, but the Word of the Lord will not return void. You may only succeed in planting or watering the seed. The Lord knows who, how and when someone will accept salvation, He gives the increase. Our job is proclaim the gospel.

2. Apostles on Trial before the Sanhedrin vv 5-12

Who was there? The following morning Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin. This may have been the whole Council of 71 men. The council served essentially as the Jewish Supreme Court. This was a mix of Sadducees and Pharisees. Though at this time a lot of the power resided with the Sadducees. Their council room was probably in the temple complex.

Rulers – these were religious figures or priests with seniority

Elders – these were civic leaders, Tribal chiefs or family heads

Scribes – these were the men who studied and interpreted the Law.

Other specific people that were there were:

Caiaphas – He was the current High Priest officially during this time and was the High Priest the entire rule of Pilate in Judea (14-36 AD).

Annas – He was the previous High Priest and the father-in-law of Caiaphas. He was the patriarch of the High Priestly family and so was still called the High Priest.

John – This might be the son of Annas knows as Jonathan in history, he would become High Priest after Caiaphas.

Alexander – We do not know who this is, but it is likely he is part of this High Priestly family.

They had to examine ant teacher after a miracle to validate if the teacher and teaching were of God or leading the people away from God. This is based on Deuteronomy 13:1-5. They ask Peter and John to explain. This question, however, suggests that the leaders of the temple knew they had not given their approval to Peter and John to act or teach in the Temple. The literal translation of the question would be, “What power and authority gave this right to you?” With greater emphasis at the end with “to you”. They knew they hadn’t given Peter or John the authority, and in their view it was theirs to give or not to give.

The Spirit enabled the testimony of Peter. Peter’s answer comes from the power and authority of God, as the Holy Spirit again fills him. He will declare what and by Whom they did what they did. Peter’s remarks summarizes the themes of Chapters 2 and 3. He starts by reminding them that a “good deed” had been done to a crippled man. The term good deed refers to a service that is generally met with a reward instead of a court case.Peter takes the opportunity, led by the Holy Spirit, to declare Jesus before the leaders of the Nation. He knows that this is important if they give a verdict. The verdict would be on behalf of the whole nation It would influence the nation’s view of Jesus. Peter makes it clear that Jesus of Nazareth, whom this body of leaders condemned and had crucified was vindicated by God’s raising Him from the dead. The healing work was done through God’s Chosen One. They brought Peter and John into court and then Peter tells them that there is an indictment against them in God’s court. There is a cost for rejecting God’s Chosen One.

On a side note one wonders where is Joseph of Arimathea (Lk 23:50-51) and Nicodemus (Jn 7:50-51; 19:39-40) during this trial?

Peter uses Psalm 118:22 to make his point about the rejection of Jesus and God’s vindication of Jesus as Divine Design. Jesus used this verse in reference to Himself in Mark 12:10. Jesus was rejected by the same council of men. Peter is not quoting directly, as he added a few terms.

“By all of you” or “‘you builders” – this makes the leaders responsible for the rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.

The term used for “rejection” is not the term used in other NT quotes of this Psalm. This term literally means “scorned”. God used the what was rejected and vindicated it. God then used the rejected stone as a key part of His building. Peter is showing Jesus as the Living Stone as he uses the same verse in 1 Peter 2:4-8 where he explains Christians as holy people. Eph 2:11-22 Paul uses similar language to explain the universal church to the Ephesian believers.

The basis in the Psalm is the righteous rejected king. In Psalm 118 the enemy was nations opposing Israel. Here Peter shows the opponent is the Jewish Leadership

Peter is showing that Jesus is the only way, the only means of obtaining salvation. No one had better access to God’s way and revelation than the Nation of Israel. He goes on to say that there is no other name under Heaven with this power. Jesus is “the” name for salvation. There is no other person or god to turn too. The term salvation here in verse 12 is used in the full, spiritual sense. The visual illustration of the healed man supports the term salvation as a picture of deliverance. The healing points to the deeper reality.

The nation of Israel had the opportunity to accept their Messiah, but the Leadership rejected Jesus. God still wanted His chosen people to accept Jesus as the Messiah. That hasn’t changed in 2000 years. Though now the Gospel is open to every person, Jewish or not, Jesus is the only way to be saved.

Conclusion:

Christian remember, preaching the Gospel can ruffle feathers, but the Word of the Lord will not return void. You may only succeed in planting or watering the seed. The Lord knows who, how and when someone will accept salvation, He gives the increase. Our job is proclaim the gospel.

God sent the Gospel to the Jew first, then to the rest of the world. Jesus was and is the only way to God. The only way, the only name by which we must be saved.

If you have questions, or the Holy Spirit is burdening you with something, or you have any other decisions please don’t wait, find me afterward if you need too.

“Lord as we now turn our focus to the Lord’s Table, help us to come away from this passage able to say, “Let it be my life’s refrain: to live is Christ, to die is gain; deny myself, take up my cross and follow the Son.”