Acts Chapter 4
The Persecution of the Early Church:
(Read 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. From this chapter onward Luke illustrates the persecution the church went through. 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 prison until the next day. The next day Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin. People were amazed at the boldness of the apostles though they were uneducated and common people. The rulers asked the apostles “By what authority have they 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 God raised him from the dead. Peter quoted Psalms 118:22 to support his statement. “The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone”. Jesus, the one whom they despised now is glorified and is seated at the right hand of God. Jews stumbled over the rock and when they rejected their Messiah (Romans 9:32). But those who have received Christ, He is the precious cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-8). Though facing persecution, Peter and John boldly proclaimed the gospel. Many felt guilty when they heard the gospel. The Gospel never comforts our conscience. Our conscience has to be awakened before being forgiven. People need to know forgiveness and salvation can be found only in Christ. Jesus is the only Savior. Many believed in Christ and the number totaled about five thousand men. Eloquence in public speaking is not necessary to witness Christ but the power of God. Our failures are not barriers to witnessing Christ. When we witness, we glorify God all the more. Pray that God would give you divine insight and power to share the gospel to others. Only the gospel can rescue sinners from eternal judgment.
Jesus Christ is the Only Way to God:
(Read Acts 4:12-15)
Though apostles were told not to speak in the name Jesus, Peter boldly affirmed that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). They could not disobey God or deny what they have seen. When a sinner is saved, God expects from him submission, obedience, and loyalty to him. Salvation is more than deliverance from sin and its consequences. It means wholeness to our spiritual health. Only Jesus can heal the sickness of sin. Jesus continues to transform our lives as we yield to him. Once we experience this transformation, we cannot but speak of Jesus to others. We become the witnesses to the reality and power of the gospel. The preaching of the gospel is what creates and sustains the church of Jesus Christ. God desires that all should be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). This speaks of God’s nature and His gracious heart. God does not delight in the death of the wicked. Many people cannot believe that there is only one way to get saved (Acts 4:12). Jesus would not have to die if people could be saved by good work. His voluntary and substitutionary death on the cross clearly shows that there is no other way we could be saved. Those who reject His offer 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. (Acts 4:13). They did not have any formal training. The way to know God is not by intellectual ability but spiritual receptivity of the truth. We must understand and assimilate the truth before it settles into our hearts. Until our minds are open and yielding, we will not be transformed (Romans 12:2). Once apostles were hiding behind the closed door. What made them bold and effective witnesses? They received the Holy Spirit. When we are filled by the Holy Spirit our lives will be changed. Jewish leaders realized that they were with Jesus for three years. They were the eyewitnesses of his life and ministry. They were influenced by his teaching and prayer life. They placed their confidence in Christ and not in their own abilities. Peter and John relied upon Jesus to guide them and help them through difficulties. To experience the power of Jesus in life and ministry, we must depend upon him. Many believers live in fear. Fear has many faces and can be devastating. People fear about their health, future, and death. Fear can master us, deceive us, and even destroy us. The Bible tells us over 365 times, “Do not be afraid”. David said, "When I am afraid, I will trust in the Lord" (Psalms 56:3). To believe in Jesus is to believe in the supernatural. Pray that God would give you the boldness to witness Christ to others. Christians cannot be silent witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Most Powerful Name:
(Read Acts 4:16-22)
The Council threatened the apostle that they should teach no more in the name of Jesus. This is Satan's strategy to 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 Thessalonians 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, “Whether it is right to obey you rather than God, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). Apostles respected the authority of the council but obeyed the Lord (Romans 13:1). They used their arrest as an 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. Satan always will bring opposition to hinder us from sharing the gospel. Pray for those who are being persecuted and use them for the advancement of the gospel. The preaching of the gospel is what helped the church to grow. Christians cannot be silent about the gospel of Jesus. Pray that God would use you powerfully for the defense and advancement of the gospel.
Prayer for Boldness:
(Read Acts 4:23-37)
As soon as Apostles were released, they went to other disciples and reported what the chief priests and the elders had told 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 (Acts 4:24). It was also a scripture-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 asking 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” (Roman 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 (Acts 4:31). They preached the gospel with boldness. The disciples enjoyed unity and singleness of purpose in their prayer and ministry (Acts 4:32). Though persecution was severe, the message of the gospel continued to mature believers. They believed that what others intend for evil, God will work it for their good and for his glory (Genesis 5:20). The ultimate example is the crucifixion of Jesus. Persecution unites believers and produces a community of love. 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 2 Corinthians chapter 8-9. Those who have been impacted by the grace of God will show mercy to those who are in need. Ask God to deliver you from every form of evil and brokenness in the world. We serve a powerful Savior who defeated Satan, Sin, and death.