The Persecution of the Early Church: Acts 4:1-11.
Acts chapter 4 marks the first persecution of the early church. What made the early church so dynamic was their commitment to follow Christ wholeheartedly. The Sadducees and high priests were angered at the preaching of apostles and were violently opposed to the teaching of resurrection. They arrested Peter and john and put them in the prison until next day. But many believed in Christ and the number totaled about five thousand men. From this chapter onward, Acts gives the account of conflict between the religions and the church. The next day Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin. People were amazed at the boldness of apostles though they were uneducated and common men. The rulers asked the apostles “By what authority they have healed the lame man?” Then Peter filled with the Holy Spirit said that this man was healed by the name of Jesus whom they have crucified but whom God raised from the dead. Peter quoted Psalms 118:22 to support his statement. “The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone”. The Jesus, the one whom they despised now is glorified and is seated at the right of God. Jews stumbled over the rock and rejected their Messiah (Rom 9:32). But those who have received Christ, He is the precious cornerstone (1 Pet 2:4-8). Peter proclaimed the gospel boldly though he was facing persecution. Eloquence in public speaking is not necessary to witness Christ but the power of God. Pray that God would give you insight and power to share the gospel to others.
Jesus Christ is the Only Way to God: Acts 4:12-15.
Peter immediately took the opportunity to preach to the crowd. He boldly affirmed that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ (4:12). Salvation is more than deliverance from sin and its consequences. It means wholeness and spiritual health. Only Jesus can heal our greatest malady of sin. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). God desires that all should be saved (1 Tim 2:5). This speaks of God’s nature and His gracious heart. God does not delight in the death of the wicked. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man, because He is both God and Man. Christ gave Himself as a ransom for all. Those who reject His offer of forgiveness cannot be saved. The members of the council were amazed at the boldness of Peter and John. They could not explain how “Uneducated and untrained people could speak with such authority. They realized that they had been with Jesus” (4:13). Once they were hiding behind the closed door. But when the risen Christ appeared to them and received the Holy Spirit, their lives miraculously changed. Many believers live in fear. Fear has many faces and can be devastating. We fear for our health, failure, tragedy and death. Fear can master us, deceive us and even destroy us. The Bible tells us over 366 times, “Do not be afraid”. Jesus is the answer to every fear we face (Psalm 56:3). To believe in Jesus is to believe in the supernatural.
The Most Powerful Name: Acts 4:16-22.
The Council threatened the apostle that they should teach no more in the name of Jesus. They thought that this would render the church ineffective. The disciples placed their confidence in the risen Savior. The miracle was only a context for Peter’s message and not the proof of the resurrection of Christ. Satan can perform miracles and deceive people
(2 Thess 2:9-10). Miracles are no substitute for the Word of God. Satan fears the witness of the church more than anything else. Peter refused to be intimidated by the threats and said “Is is right to obey you rather than God, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (4:19-20). Apostles respected the authority of the council but obeyed the Lord (Rom 13:1). They used their arrest as opportunity to witness Christ. The proclamation of the gospel is God’s method for evangelism. The persecution of the church helped the growth of the church. The Council threatened the apostles and let them go. The thing the enemy try to defeat the church is to get us, not to share the gospel. Pray for those who are being persecuted and use them powerfully for the advancement of the gospel.
Prayer for Boldness: Acts 4:23-37.
As soon as Apostles were freed, they went to other disciples and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. They rejoiced together and prayed to the sovereign God. This is one of the great prayers recorded in the Bible. This prayer was born out of their need of boldness for witnessing. There is a sense of urgency in this prayer. Our prayer should be need-oriented and not casual. It was a united prayer-meeting led by the Spirit (4:24). It was also a scriptural based prayer. Prayer is not telling God what to do but making ourselves available to God to accomplish His will in our lives. It is not persuading God to move things on our way or overcoming God’s reluctance. They prayed in faith for God’s divine power to serve God and not for easy living. They prayed to the “Sovereign Lord”. He is the maker of all things and has control over the universe. They believed that Satan cannot stop the sovereign purposes of God. They believed that Christ’s death was according to the predetermined council of God. Since Jesus reigns and rules, there is no need to fear. “If God is for us who can be against us” (Rom 8:31). The faith in the sovereign Lord gave them courage to serve the Lord. They did not ask for protection but for power to preach the Word. When they prayed, the place was shaken and they were filled with the Holy Spirit (4:31). They preached the gospel with boldness. The disciples enjoyed unity and singleness of purpose in their prayer and ministry (4:32). Though persecution was severe the message of the gospel continued to matured believers. They cared for one another. Generosity is the mark of people who are impacted by the grace of God. Barnabas, who was impacted by the love of Christ, sold a field and gave the money to the apostles. Barnabas means, son of encouragement. The principles of Christian-giving are outlined in the second Corinthians chapter 8-9. Those who have been impacted by the grace of God will show mercy to those who are in need. Do not hesitate to ask God to deliver you from every form of evil and brokenness. He is our merciful Lord.