Sunday, September 16, 2007 -
Acts 4:23-30 - “When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them.  And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,  who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, 'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'—  for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.  And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,  while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus."
1) NOTICE FIRST THE NEED FOR A DEMONSTRATION OF THE POWER OF GOD IN THIS FALLEN WORLD - This whole story comes as a result of a miracle - a lame man healed back in chapter 3:1-10. The lame man is representative of the human need, the plight of our world. Here it becomes obvious there are needs that go beyond the reach of doctrinally sound religion. Notice, all sorts of people passed him as they were going to worship at the temple. Somehow we glimpse religion unaccompanied by the living power of Jesus. Such religion will never reach this lame man and will never transform today’s needy world.
2) THIS MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S LIVING TOUCH APPEARS RANDOM AT FIRST, BUT FLOWS OUT OF THE CHURCH’S CORPORATE PRAYER LIFE - Verses 31-33 - “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.  Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.  And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”
While following the miracle, these three verses also describe the ongoing results of that prayer meeting. We know from other passages in Acts that this wasn't just a shot in the dark prayer meeting. The early church was constantly together to pray. This was their first line of resource to the situations beyond the scope of their natural ability. In other words, this kind of meeting was built-in as a habit into the ongoing life of the early church. And it is clearly set up as a model and pattern for today’s church as well.
3) PETER AND JOHN GIVE THEIR ACCOUNT OF THE MEANING OF THE MIRACLE THAT HAD JUST TAKEN PLACE - This comes about in the first part of chapter four: Three truths stand out in verses 10-18:
a) First, the power experienced came from Jesus - 4:10-12 - “....let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.  This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." This is striking. The power of Jesus to save is linked with the power of Jesus to heal. This has almost been totally erased as a point of reference for today’s church. In this Acts account people would know Jesus was the “cornerstone”(11), not by taking the disciple’s word for it, but by seeing the living power of Jesus for themselves.
b) Second, it was obvious to everyone these men had been with Jesus - 13 - “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
I feel convicted by these words. It wasn’t just obvious these disciples knew something about Jesus. The people - people who as of yet didn’t even know Jesus - knew these disciples had been in the presence of Jesus. They carried Jesus with them, so to speak.
c) Third, there will always be resistance to the presence and work of Jesus in this fallen world. - 17-18 - “But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name."  So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”
Regardless of your religious beliefs these have to be some of the strangest words ever recorded. They prove the reality of the work of Satan in this dark age. “But in order that it may spread no further....”(17). So that what spreads no further? Healing? Wholeness? Joy? Life? “....In order that this may spread no further....” Where could that attitude of heart possibly come from? There’s only one reasonable answer - Satan. Wherever the cause of Christ is advanced there are and will be forces at work to squeeze the life of Jesus out of that situation, that individual, that marriage, that church.
4) STUDY THE REACTION OF PETER AND JOHN TO THIS OPPOSITION - Verses 23-24, 29 - “When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them.  And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them.... And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness....”
a) They went to their own companions - vs. 23 - “When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them.” They were so linked with their community of faith it didn’t even occur to them to face this situation alone. As we’ll see in the next point, the reflex reaction of these disciples was to link their situation with the prayer life of the rest of the body.
b) They lifted their voices to God - vs. 24 - “And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, ‘Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them....” We’ll look more at the content fo their corporate intercession in the next point. But notice now that this wasn’t just quiet, pious, inner meditation - “They lifted their voices together....”(24)
i) They were aware of the desperateness of their need.
ii) They were aware of the strength of their enemy. They weren't taking him lightly. They were putting all their energy into their intercession. Perhaps they remembered the way God told His people to shout around the walls of Jericho, not meditate around them.
iii) Finally, they were aware of the awesome power of God.
5) THEY FOCUSED ON THE POWER OF GOD IN CREATION - Verse 24 - “And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them....”The focus is God’s creational power and majesty. They didn’t just proclaim they believed in God the Creator. There is a knife-sharp difference between a belief in God that's theologically accurate (which is very important as a starting point for faith) and one that's prayerfully powerful. These early Christians were affirming their faith by proclaiming, "Lord, Your Power is greater than our enemies. We trust You to be greater than the nations and their leaders. We believe that through our prayers you can accomplish Your purpose even against this persecution!"
Then, as they prayed, they brought everything they knew to be true about God into their present situation - verse 29 - "And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness....” “And now Lord....” Those are the three important words. "Here's Your might in creation, but here's our situation today. And now Lord, we trust you to be the same God, doing the same things, right now!"