ACTS 4:23-31 SEPTEMBER 18, 2016
“GOD IS IN CONTROL!”
A huge crowd was watching the famous tightrope walker, Blondin, cross Niagara Falls one day in 1860. He crossed it numerous times- a 1,000 foot trip 160 feet about the raging waters. He not only walked across it; he also pushed a wheelbarrow across it. One little boy just stared in amazement. So after completing a crossing the tightrope walker looked at the little boy and asked, “Do you believe I could take a person across in the wheelbarrow without falling?” The young lad said, “Yes sir, I really do.” The man then told the boy, “Well then, get in, son.”
It is one thing to have knowledge that a thing can be done. Yet, it is another matter to be able to trust your life to another. Many Christians believe in the sovereignty of God. Yet are we willing to put our faith into practice by trusting God to take care of us no matter what? In this passage we can see the deep trust and confidence the early church displayed.
Peter and John were told by the religious leaders of their country to stop talking and preaching about Jesus. They also received threats urging them to abide by their commands. A normal human response would be to consider obeying the demands of the Sanhedrin. It would also be normal to begin worrying about all of the possible scenarios they might be facing. They might call a meeting and start brainstorming different ideas and then hopefully come to a consensus on what to do next. This is what Peter and John did, right?
Acts 4:23-24 (NIV) “23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 4 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.” The disciples had learned from Jesus to go to the LORD in prayer. It is important that we look at this prayer.
Luke records that “they raised their voices together in prayer to God”. It was common practice to express agreement by saying “amen!” This practice is a good tradition that continues to this day. It is an indication that the group was of one mind as they prayed. Acts 4:23-24 (NIV)” 4 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”
The group addressed God as “Sovereign Lord”. The Greek word used here is not kyrios, but “Despotes”, from which the English word despot originates. The meaning of the word was usually used for the relation of a master to his slave. The NIV and the ESV both translate the word as Sovereign Lord. When you add the other descriptive words we see that God is in complete control of all of creation, of all things. God is more powerful than humanity, which he created. In their prayer they quote from Psalm 2. It is always appropriate for us to use scripture when we pray and make requests.
The early church saw the prayer of David in Psalm 2 being fulfilled in reference to how Jesus was treated by the nations. Acts 4:25-28 (NIV) “25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” The believers knew that the plan of God could not be thwarted by any plots or actions of the nations and their rulers. The church found great comfort in knowing that God’s plan was unfolding just as God determined before the world began. They knew that God was Sovereign!
There has been opposition to God’s plan from the time of the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. Yet Jesus came at the time of God the Father’s choosing. Jesus was opposed throughout his ministry and was even mocked by the authorities as he hung on the cross. But God used their evil actions and brought about good to those who believe. The church proclaimed their trust in God in their prayer.
Notice what the church did not ask for God to do for them. They did not ask for wisdom, or protection, or for favor with the authorities. Acts 4:29-30 (NIV) “29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” The disciples knew what Jesus had commanded them all to do. Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) “18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The disciples asked for God to give them boldness in proclaiming the Gospel message. The disciples were most concerned with obeying the command of Jesus to make disciples of all nations. What about us? Is our greatest concern that we be faithful as evangelists?
The second request was for the ability to “heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” This request fits in with their first request. The disciples were just told to stop preaching about the resurrection of Jesus or they would be punished, so they ask for healings and miracles as it provides them with the opportunity to preach the good news when people are amazed at the miracles. The disciples also remembered what Jesus had promised them. John 14:12-14 (NIV) “12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
We often desire that God would answer us with a sign that He has heard us. Acts 4:31 (NIV) “31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”The disciples knew their bible. Exodus 19:18 (NIV) “18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently.” Isaiah 6:4 (NIV) “4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” God often indicated his presence by shaking. God was pleased with their prayer and requests and immediately gave them what they asked for: boldness.
The disciple’s actions and trust in God challenge us to trust the Sovereign Lord and his eternal plan. We should also gather together often to join in prayer for the boldness to evangelize our friends, neighbors, and family. To God be the Glory!
Let us pray.