Acts chapter 4 is told in three movements - Peter and John questioned, The believers pray, and Sharing among the believers.
First, after having healed a crippled man in chapter 3, Peter and John have to answer for the council, "By what power or in what name did you do this?" Their answer, of course, is the risen Lord Jesus. What stands out most about this movement is the council's reaction in verses 13 and 14:
"The council was caught by surprise by the confidence with which Peter and John spoke. After all, they understood that these apostles were uneducated and inexperienced. They also recognized that they had been followers of Jesus. However, since the healed man was standing before their own eyes, they had no rebuttal."
The fact that Jesus had been bodily raised from the dead was unfathomable to the leaders, elders, and legal experts. They were still waiting for God to redeem Israel, not realizing that God had already done so through the saving work of Jesus Christ. It was also unfathomable that these followers of Jesus, who were far below their standards for education and religious leadership, were doing the very work the council themselves should have been doing - loving and healing people.
The council's response?
They threatened the disciples and "demanded that they stop all speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus."
This leads to the next movement - Peter and John return to their community and tell them all that had happened.
The disciples response?
They "lifted their voices in unison to God" in prayer. They prayed for God to stretch out his "hand to bring healing and enable signs and wonders to be performed through the name of Jesus."
God filled the disciples with the Holy Spirit so that they would speak God's word with confidence.
This filling of the Holy Spirit brings us to the final movement of chapter 4, and my favorite part, in verses 32 and 33:
"The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, 'This is mine' about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all." (emphasis mine)
I see a pattern for ministry, a model if you will, emerging in this chapter.
- God can use anyone He chooses for His good work in the world.
- The apostles, God's chosen instruments, were healing the brokenhearted and teaching in the name of Jesus, to the point that people demanded an explanation for what they were doing. (Shouldn't that be our objective? Shouldn't the face of Christ be so visibly portrayed in our actions, that people ask, "Why do you do these things?" We should then want to explain, "The love of Christ compels us.")
- The apostles' ministry is rejected. However, does that deter them? Are they discouraged to the point that they stop bearing witness to the risen Lord Jesus? No. In fact...
- In the face of rejection, they turn to the "power source" of their ministry - God.
- God is faithful to answer their prayer and fills them with the Holy Spirit.
- The apostles' powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus continues.
Put more simply, the model is:Tonight I was working on some music at the same time I was working on this blog. It is likely no coincidence that I was playing Holy Spirit, written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. Great song, with lyrics that will be my prayer this week:
- Love God, love neighbor.
- In the face of discouragement, pray for God to renew you, to fill you once again with the Holy Spirit.
- All of the above are to be performed with perhaps the most important element: Always in community, never alone.
Show Your power once again on earth
Cause your church to hunger for Your ways
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise
Lead us on the road of sacrifice
That in unity the face of Christ
May be clear for all the world to see.
Enjoy this video of the Gettys performing this song.