Yesterday we saw Peter and John before the Sanhedrin and the Sanhedrin’s response to their teaching, preaching and healing in the name of Jesus, a man they themselves had played a part in condemning to death. But we also saw Peter and John’s response to this attempt to stop the spread of the message of Christ. And today we are going to see how the rest of the believers responded to this threat from the “political” leaders of their day.
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.—4:23-24
The disciples returned to the group of believers. The response of the believers to the news was a Scripture-saturated prayer meeting. They address God as Sovereign, a term that appears frequently in the Greek Old Testament and emphasizes the rule of God. They underscored God’s sovereignty by a further description of God as creator.
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?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.’
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. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.—4:25-28
In their prayer, the believers cited Psalm 2 and identified Pontius Pilate and Herod as the hostile kings and rulers of the psalm. Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one whom the leaders aligned themselves against. However, the actions of these rulers were a doomed rebellion.
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
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.—4:29-31
Given the context, the requests of the believers are startling. First, in the midst of hostility, they did not ask for personal safety. Instead, they asked God to “consider” the threats against them. Second, they asked for continued boldness to evangelize their country. Third, they asked God to grant signs and wonders to confirm the message. Even though their enemies were powerful and could be violent, the overall concern in the prayer is the spread of the gospel. When the prayer was finished, the place of the meeting was shaken. Shaking the building was the palpable manifestation of the Spirit. Filling the disciples was the individual manifestation. God answered their prayers as they boldly proclaimed the gospel in a hostile environment.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.—4:32-37
A common characteristic among the believers was generosity. Personal property was available to all so that none were needy. This may allude to Deuteronomy 15:4-8, where God’s blessing results in none being needy. The new community was fulfilling the mandates God gave to Israel. Barnabas’s example of generosity is note as exceptional. The name Barnabas is likely built off the Hebrew or Aramaic word for prophet. Luke translates he name as “son of encouragement” or “son of exhortation,” which probably indicates Barnabas’s skill as a preacher. And the generosity of Barnabas is going to serve as a stark contrast to the greediness of the two people we will meet tomorrow as we move into Acts chapter 5.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
1 Chronicles 11:1-12:18, Acts 28, Psalm 9:1-12 and Proverbs 19:1-3
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