Bible Studies For Life
When Opposition Strikes Session 13 29 NOV 15
ACTS 4:23 “They” being Peter and John in Acts 4:19-22. The authorities were (Acts 4:5-6 RSV) "On the morrow their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family." These authorities could not find enough Jewish Law violations to hold Peter and John considering the obvious miracle they performed in the eyes of many credible Jewish witnesses and of the healed man.
ACTS 4:24 “They” in this verse are “their friends” in verse 23. These friends offered a prayer of thanksgiving for the sovereign power of God, not a prayer for deliverance from further opposition. The prime petition in this prayer is for boldness (vv. 29-30). The Hebrew for Lord was used of the absolute relationship of a master to his slaves (1 Tim. 6:1-2). The disciples were placing themselves in that position as slaves of their Lord. This, of course, was contrary to what Jesus proclaimed in (John 15:14-15 RSV) "You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." Were they praying to Jesus as Lord or God [the Father] as Lord? If the Father, they were still in error because of what Paul declared in (Gal 3:26 RSV) "for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith." And in (Gal 4:5-7 RSV) "to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir." So why do Christians call themselves slaves when Jesus and Paul are so clear they are not slaves? We are not slaves to our Abba Father!
Dr. Herschel H, Hobbs in his Studying Life and Work Lessons, April-June 1975, page 78 wrote “For they "kept on glorifying God" because of what had happened to the lame man. Their actions probably were also encouraged by the helpless position of the rulers whom they privately despised. The masses of people love a winner. Christians and churches will gain more public favor by grappling with difficult problems than by running from them. Many chinches deliberately decide to remain in difficult places of ministry because the need is so great. For instance, churches in the inner city must work twice as hard to get the same results. Churches are needed throughout a given area. But a church should never run away from an area because the work is hard. Many inner city churches are merely holding their own may be doing an even greater work for the Lord than others with rapid growth in easier situations.”
ACTS 4:25-28 These verses show the Jerusalem church was made up of Judaizers. Judaizers believed a Gentile had to become a Jew before Jesus would accept them for salvation. Their prayer noted a lineage to David as a reason to hear their prayer. They referenced the Old Testament prophecies that Jesus would die as part of the plan for the Messiah. Dr. Hobbs, page 79 wrote “Though bold defiance of the Sanhedrin, they apparently had great concern to the future of their work. They knew only too well what this group had done to Jesus (see vv. 27-28). Now for the first time this infant church felt the hand of persecution directed at it. What would be the church's reaction to such? After rehearsing in prayer what the Lord's enemies had done in the past, they gave their answer.”
ACTS 4:29-30 They asked that they, as bond slaves, be granted boldness to witness while the apostles continued to perform miracles. Dr. Hobbs, pages 79 wrote “The Sanhedrin had thrown down the gauntlet in hate. The church picked it up in prayer.” Dr. Hobbs analyzed their prayer and found four points [pages 79-80]:
“First, they called upon the Lord to take note of the threat made against them. Of course, the Lord already knew about it. But these words placed their further words in context.
Second, they prayed, not to be spared the situation, but to be helped in it. They asked for boldness to continue obeying the Lord’s commission. The word “grant” translates an aorist imperative of the verb “to give.” They did not command God. The imperative expresses their sense of earnestness and urgency. The verb tense adds to this. “Give boldness, and do it now.” They greatly needed this immediately.”
“Third, they prayed for God's power in their work as would be evidenced by God's hand being stretched forth to heal. Note the second reference to God's "hand" (see v. 28), suggesting his power. The verb -"to heal" means to heal by miracle as in the case of the lame man. It was this healing that started this series of events. They did not regret it or its consequences, Rather they said, in effect "Do it again, Lord!"
Fourth, they prayed for other miracles to be done "through the name of thy holy child Jesus." The words "signs and wonders," joined with "heal," denoted all kinds of miracles. "Signs" denotes evidence that God is in this work. "Wonders" means works of wonder or works causing people to wonder. All of these were used by Jesus. They were not meant merely for public display, but as evidence that God was in his work. These things attended the work of the apostles for the same purpose. Since Christianity was an infant movement, the lost needed visible evidence that it was of God.”
ACTS 4:31 Their prayer was answered and they were “fully influenced” [Greek for the wrong English translation word “filled”] by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Dr. Hobbs, page 80 wrote “This may read, "And as they were praying." Before they ceased praying God granted their petition…. It seems to have been confined to "the place in which they were gathered together. "”
One wonders why God responded to a group that had such wrong theology. Dr. Hobbs gave one major reason above “Christianity was an infant movement.” The other is the infant churches were the only remaining mission organization God had to spread the gospel. The Church had replaced Israel upon the ascension of Jesus. So God gave them latitude for a time, as He had done with Israel. Look how long God worked with Israel. Once the Jerusalem church conference of Acts 15 happened, the Jerusalem church became a non-player because they continued to be a Judaizer church. The Gentle churches took over as doctrinal and missionary leaders.
ACTS 4:32 The phrase “all things were common property” is often misunderstood. This was not communism. This display of Christian charity did not abolish the right of personal property. Such community of goods was not compulsory but voluntary, as a way of eliminating need among them. However, this probably led to a greater need for support later when some sold all they had and gave to the common treasury. As the Jews and Roman society increased their abuse of Christians, many could not get a job or sell their goods. We have to be careful on how we apply what they did to our situation today. Paul never instructed to give all you have. He did write (2 Cor 9:6-7 RSV) "The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
ACTS 4:33 This shows the impact upon the apostles who “with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”
Dr. Hobbs ended by writing in pages 81-82: “The opposition is still here. But Christians must never give in to it. The world may win a battle now and then. But ultimate victory is with the Lord’s people…. For any church the opportunity and adversaries are always there. Both should be reasons for staying on the job for the Lord.”
This is what Jesus meant when he prayed (John 17:15 RSV) "I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one."
This kind of Christian fellowship is about a Prayer of Constancy and Bold Confidence to/in the Father as He is our Dear Father, as sons and daughters who want to please our Abba Father. (1 Thess 5:17 RSV) "pray constantly," which is better read without ceasing. (Heb 4:16 RSV) "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." God the Father is the one on that Throne of Grace. Let us not be like this infant church, but the like a mature church Paul taught and worked to build.
Certainly we should help each other but each need is a personal and local situation that must be treated in a specific and loving manner. And God wants to and will help. But He no longer provides manna as of old. But He will work out the most good He can in the situation we have gotten ourselves into.