Category Archives: Sovereignty of God

Acts 16:1-40 – Being lead by the Spirit

Context

While Paul and Barnabas worked well together in spreading the gospel to the north-west of Israel, they disputed over working together with Mark (formerly known as John). Barnabas and Mark sailed to Cyprus but Paul and Silas went through Syria and Cilicia.

Observation

Structure

  • 1-15 The Spirit leads them to Lydia (gathering gospel partners along the way)
    • 1-5 Paul picks up Timothy
    • 6-10 Paul is led by the Spirit and picks up Luke
    • 11-15 Paul meets Lydia
  • 16-40 The Spirit leads them to the Jailer
    • 16-18 Paul rebukes a spirit
    • 19-24 Paul is imprisoned
    • 25-34 Paul and Silas convert the jailer
    • 35-40 Paul escorted out of jail

1-15 The Spirit leads them to Lydia (gathering gospel partners along the way)

1-5 Paul picks up Timothy

“…a disciple named Timothy…” This young man would become a very close and invaluable partner in the gospel for Paul. He is mentioned in almost all of Paul’s letters (excluding Galatians and Ephesians and Titus), two of which were written directly to him. Timothy was regarded as a son, a brother and a co-worker in the gospel to Paul. His mother was a believing Jew while his Father was a Greek. There is no mention of his father’s faith but his mother and grandmother taught him well from youth about the scriptures (2 Timothy 3). Paul met Timothy while travelling and found a young man who was already growing steadily in the faith and in good regard in his neighbourhood. These are two excellent agendas for life: to grow in love for the Lord and be respected in the community – particularly when the latter flows out of the former. Luke 2:52 says that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

“…he circumcised him because of the Jews…” In light of the previous chapter, you may think this is a hypocritical decision. The point though is about being received by the Jewish community so that the gospel can be heard. The circumcision decision was not done for the purpose of religion. Remember 1 Corinthians 9:22 tells us to become all things to all people so that by all possible means (even circumcision) we might save some.

“…as they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles…” Even while Timothy had been circumcised, they intended to continue the encouraging message that life in Christ brings freedom and unity between Jew and Gentile.

6-10 Paul is led by the Spirit and picks up Luke

“…kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching…” Who knows how the Spirit did this. The means are not really important (or else we might be told) but when doorways are closed to the disciples, they regarded this as a sign from the Spirit of Jesus (v6 and 7). When some doors are closed, others are opened and one town that received the gospel as a result is Galatia – the church there would receive the Epistle to the Galatians – a book filled with gospel truths and a strong argument against staying with the law now that Christ has come.

“…concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel [in Macedonia].” This conclusion was reached after Paul had a night vision. Some people claim to receive words from the Lord like Paul did here. I don’t wish to dismiss things too quickly. But the practice overall is that we walk by faith in the knowledge of the word of God. This is the norm. To expect anything else as the norm or more common is to regard the books of the bible as average and common stories. In the first century, the gospel is fresh and the mission of God was to take the name of Jesus to the nations (Acts 1:8). Some areas had been restricted in the wisdom of God but others were opened and Paul was being lead by God to go to Macedonia.

“…we got ready at once…” Notice the pronoun ‘we’. For the first time in the book of Acts, it is written in the first person. Introducing Dr Luke to the story. He doesn’t make note of his joining in the mission and he comes in and out of the narrative without further attention (16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16).

11-15 Paul meets Lydia

“…we travelled to Philippi…of Macedonia. And we stayed…” Philippi is described as the major city of the area of Macedonia and we know that Paul founds a Christian church here which he will write to later in the New Testament. They stopped here since this is where God had directed them and this is where they planned. This is where the story unfolds and we meet Lydia.

“…to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer.” Interesting that they are further and further away from Jerusalem and the use of Synagogues is not as common. Fewer Jews means less money to build such things. But a river makes for a great meeting place to reflect on the creator. Remember that this is where the Israelite exiles met in Ezekiel – they were by the Kebar River and recall Psalm 137, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.”

“…The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” A little reminder that it is not Paul’s persuasion but God’s pull to the gospel of grace. Many scholars have read the bible and discussed it thoroughly without seeing clearly that Jesus is Lord. It is with the mind and the Holy Spirit that we hear the good news and respond. Remember what Jesus said to Peter when he finally confessed that Jesus is the Christ, “Blesses are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matt 16:17)

“…her heart…” This is also a little reminder that the gospel ought to be felt. Tears of repentance, grief over sin, thankfulness for mercy and joy to be free.

“…When she and the members of her household were baptised, she invited us to her home.” Paul invited her whole household to hear and respond to the gospel. She accepted and the household presumably followed her lead. Paul and Silas and Luke and Timothy had no place to stay, but when the gospel found a home in someone’s heart, a home was opened to them. Once they were strangers but now, through faith in Jesus, they are brothers.

16-40 The Spirit leads them to the Jailer

16-18 Paul rebukes a spirit

“…a spirit by which she predicted the future…” Who knows what access the spirit world has to future events? Who even knows what access the Almighty has to it? That’s not to suggest that the future is out of his control or takes him by surprise, but can we ever resolve the coexistence of God’s sovereignty with man’s free will? The spirit was in a slave girl and her owners were profiting from her apparent skill. Paul did not know the future, nor did the Spirit of Jesus reveal it to him (except that he should go to Macedonia), but the Spirit of God will lead Paul to the ears of a jailer. We don’t need to know the future to be sure that God has the future under his control. We walk by faith and obedience.

“…he turned and said to the spirit…” For some bizarre reason, the spirit which turned out to be an annoying spirit, was proclaiming the truth that Paul and co were working for the Most High God and are here to show the way to salvation! At first, this might have amused Paul since it was the truth. But even the truth said over and over with no purpose can be counterproductive. Paul cast out the spirit in the name of Jesus – apparently not a spirit ion the side of Jesus.

19-24 Paul is imprisoned

“…her owners realised that their hopes of making money was gone…” The love of money will take many people to hell. Paul’s message of salvation was, to them, a message of poverty and ruin. And they hated him for ruining their livelihood. Their idol was greed and wealth and wanted nothing to do with Paul’s message.

“…the crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas…” Like some of the towns around Judea that rose up against Jesus, the apostle is up against crowd mentality.

“…and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.” So, they were locked up as public nuisances and found themselves with an audience ordered to be with them. God works in mysterious ways. Who could have planned for Paul to find his way to this jailer – but God worked all things out for good. Though the townsfolk meant their actions for evil, God intended it for good. They will still receive their condemnation for rejecting the gospel of life but their actions were used by God to bring the gospel to one who would respond.

25-34 Paul and Silas convert the jailer

“…praying and singing hymns to God…” The mission has come to a halt – or so it seems. Locked up in a prison cell with only themselves and a guard. Far away from their home church in Antioch where their friends would not know to be praying for their release. But Paul and Silas continued to trust in the Lord. Why not take the time to remind one another of God’s goodness and to praise Him from the heart. While many were safely sleeping in their beds, these missionaries were chained up, perhaps cold, probably uncomfortable, they were awake and praising God. We can’t help associate the earthquake as the intervention of God.

“…Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” This is the sort of question every Christian longs to be asked. It’s really the most important question. Is God real? Is the bible God’s word? Why does God allow suffering to go on? These are all very good questions too but ought to lead everyone to the first question: what must I do to be saved? This question, of course, is answered with, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Both the question and the answer are loaded with side issues and questions, for sure. But this is the heart of importance. John’s entire gospel is aimed at answering this question. Romans 10:9 explains that “if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The difference between heaven and hell is this one decision: do you believe in the Lord Jesus. Not simply that a guy named Jesus lived – but that he is Lord. He is your Lord. He is the Lord of all. This is the difference between life and death. Perhaps the jailer understood that the Almighty took care of Paul and Silas and also that the prisoners were not desperate to preserve their own freedom. He may have witnessed the power of God over nature as well as the power of the gospel in the lives of these two men. Whatever he perceived, he was struck to ask these two men about salvation.

“…he was filled with joy…” Oh I wish that we could perpetuate that feeling. If only the church – all of us – would perceive the joy that it is to know Jesus. Our faith is one of knowledge of the truth. We can speak with philosophers who wonder and say that we know God. We can speak with scientists who study and say we know who did this. We can speak with the lost and say that we know the solid rock who gives us freedom from sin. We can speak to those burdened by religion and say that we know the mind of God and his invitation to come and find rest. We can speak to those who have sold themselves to money and say that we know the God of hope who has prepared an inheritance for all who turn to Jesus and believe the good news. We can also talk to God, the one whom we know in truth, and we can ask him to fill our hearts with joy – the joy that comes by faith in believing.

35-40 Paul escorted out of jail

“When it was daylight…” Between midnight and dawn, a man had been delivered from darkness to light. An earthquake had taken place and a man’s whole household had been baptised in response to the good news that Jesus is Lord. A man who previously only knew the fear of his Roman authorities, now was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God. He had opened his home to the prisoners and apparently lead them back to their cell before morning. When the morning came, officers of the magistrate may have thought they were bringing good news to Paul and Silas to release them. But that is no news at all compared to the release of the jailer from his bondage to sin and death.

“…No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” The boldness of Paul makes me smile. An earthquake came and opened the doors for him to be free, yet he stayed. The jailer took him home and fed him and yet Paul and Silas returned to their cell before morning. Now they are given permission to leave and yet they want to demand their rights as Roman citizens. It’s quirky of Paul. But it illustrates his co-citizenship of earth and heaven. The gospel that he preaches is ultimately about right and wrong. If you are on the wrong side of Jesus you are in the wrong, so turn to him and be saved. He has been dealt with wrongly as a citizen of Rome and he chooses to make an issue out of this too. Sure, he could have dismissed it and gone on with his mission. But he has an opportunity here to declare that they are in the wrong! According to their rules, they have wronged him and they need to make amends.

“…they went to Lydia’s house…” This had become a base in Philippi for the believers and Paul encouraged them with the news of what had happened to him and Silas just as Peter encouraged the believers in Jerusalem after his rescue from prison by the hand of God. He undoubtedly let them know about the jailer and his family. When he left the believers, they supported him financially in his mission and even sent money to him when he was abroad (Philippians 4:14-16)

Meaning

Finding people and places to preach the gospel is as much a part of following the lead of the Spirit as it is setting an agenda and a plan. The plan will fail without the Spirit of God. But the plan must be to preach where the Spirit opens doors (or locks you in). The gospel itself is a work of the Spirit to open the hearts of the elect to respond. And our message must be directed to Jesus as Lord – this is the good news.

Application

  1. Discuss ways in which you have seen the Spirit of God directing you in your life? How have you been aware of this? What principals must we follow to know whether it is the Spirit of God or not?
  2. Our plans do get changed and it is important to understand the sovereignty of God in all situations. Bad events in life are also used by God for his good purposes. Do you have examples of this in your life? How might you see your current situations (today, this week, a specific function) as an opportunity to spread the gospel and to glorify God?
  3. Would you describe your life as full of joy for knowing God? Would you use the word joy at all to describe your life? Why or why not? Discuss.

Acts 12:1-24 – The church must be out of its mind to pray! (v5,9,15)

Context

The book of Acts is attempting to describe the spread of the good news that Jesus is Lord. The expansion of the gospel is taking place in many directions now, in Jerusalem and surrounding towns, to the north of Jerusalem as far now as Antioch, and to the south-west where Philip had baptised an Ethiopian.

The story has bounced between Peter’s experiences and Saul’s experiences. We return to Jerusalem now and to Peter and the others. There has been a great explosion of faith since Acts 2 but also scattering of believers through persecution. Jerusalem was experiencing a time of strengthening and peace and growth (Acts 9:31). But then King Herod acts. This is the Herod who had arrested and beheaded John the Baptist. In Mark 14:1-12 we learn that Herod was aware of prophets and their public influence. We also learn that he is influenced by the whims of the people and of the moment.

Observation

Structure

  • 1-5 Herod’s attack and the church’s defence
  • 6-11 Peter is rescued by God’s messenger
  • 12-17 The church is astonished
  • 18-19 Herod executes his own soldiers
  • 19-24 Herod is executed by God’s messenger

1-5 Herod’s attack and the church’s defence

“who belonged to the church…” Once the followers of Jesus were called disciples, then believers, then people of “The Way”, and then Christians. Now, they are recognised as the church. This word means “gathering” or “assembly” or “congregation”. Many will use it to describe a building used for religion but it is undeniably used here to refer to the people gathering together for a common purpose. It is used as a synonym for all the previous titles given to the followers of Christ.

“Herod” – This is Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great. See ‘Context’ for more.

“Persecute” – The greek says something like: to mistreat in the hands of Herod. As the mistreatment of is aimed at the church, ie, a specific people group, it is persecution.

“James, the brother of John” – these are the two sons of Zebedee, disciples of Jesus. At the end of this narrative, another James, probably the brother of Jesus, is told of Peter’s rescue. This second James is likely the writer of the epistle by the same name.

“…death with the sword…approval among the Jews.” Most of the Jews who had turned to Christ had been scattered out of the area under Saul’s persecution. While there was peace in Jerusalem post Saul’s conversion, apparently many Jews still viewed the Christian church as a nuisance and abomination. Herod’s dislike or hate for the church was embraced by the Jews. The approval encouraged Herod to arrest Peter, the leader of the church.

“Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.” The Festival of Unleavened Bread is a seven day annual event amongst the Jews in preparation for the Passover. Both festivals are memorial celebrations of the Exodus, especially the night when God passed over all the houses marked by blood. This was the same festival coinciding with Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. Jesus had told Peter that he would die a similar death (John 21:18019). Perhaps Peter felt like this was the moment!

“…but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” This was the church’s line of defense – to take their concern to God and plead with Him to intervene. Against a King who has successfully executed one believer and assigned 16 soldiers to guard Peter, the church prays. Perhaps Herod conceived a remote possibility that the church would muster a rescue plan by force? But he did not expect a rescue mission from the Almighty!

It must be noted that the church prayed ‘earnestly’. I wonder if there really is a different type of prayer? Of course you can say that you’ll pray and you can throw a light-hearted suggestion to God for something (like someone to believe, healing to happen, peace to be reached). But if it’s not earnest prayer, is it actually prayer? Of course I need to answer yes. Prayer is prayer whether it is described as earnest or casual. These are just adjectives. But this verse describes the focus of their gathering – they desired for God to help Peter in some way. They prayed deliberately, decidedly, thoughtfully, intentionally. The actual word here means: eagerly, fervently, constantly. They were still together at the end of the rescue – still in prayer! (v12) And the answer to their prayers even took them by surprise! It is so good when God answers our prayers so vividly. And it is a shame that we don’t pray like this. Individually and as a body of believers, it would be good to cultivate our prayer habits.

6-11 Peter is rescued by God’s messenger

“Then Peter came to himself…” The account of Peter’s rescue is mixed with physical action and mystical illusion. On the one hand, Peter is physically struck by the angel in order to get him to wake up, he is ordered to dress himself and chains and doors are removed or opened. On the other hand, Peter doesn’t feel like it is really happening, the guards are mysteriously avoided, doors and chains are dealt with magically and the rescuer is an angel. It all happens, in Peter’s mind, as if it is a dream or a vision. But when he comes his senses, he sees that this has actually happened. God has answered the prayers of the church and intervened miraculously.

All of the intentions of the government and the religious enemy have been thwarted by God. Everything was stacked against Peter. But God was against the will of men in this instance.

12-17 The church is astonished

“John, also called Mark.” This new character becomes very significant in the early church and the work of God. He became a travelling partner with Saul and Barnabas (v25), he was a cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10), remained in service of the apostles and described as a son to Peter  (1 Peter 5:13). He is recognised as the writer of the gospel in connection with Peter.

“You’re out of your mind!” It’s amazing how Peter’s arrival was met with doubt. They had been praying for God to act but even this was beyond their expectations. The episode of the arrival of Peter is comical. But when they realised that Peter was saved, they celebrated and sent word to James to encourage and relieve him too. Our Christian growth will include a growing confidence in the ability of God to act. He will not always give us exactly what we ask, but when we pray fervently for things that God has promised to do, we must dismiss the temptation to doubt He can do it!

“It must be his angel.” This could be understood as Peter’s spirit (like Matthew 14:26) or as a guardian angel of Peter’s (see Matthew 18:10 and Hebrews 1:14).

“But Peter kept knocking” – He didn’t intend to go in and stay with the believers in Mark’s home since he immediately “left for another place” (v17). But he was intent on showing his brothers and sisters that he was alive and free and that James be told as well. Peter’s persistent knocking may remind us of the persistence needed sometimes in prayer. This is a shallow link, I know, but his unstopping approach is paralleled by the unstopping prayer of the church. It’s a small illustration of persistence when the initial prayers are not answered, don’t give up.

18-19 Herod executes his own soldiers

“no small commotion…thorough search…cross-examined…” The aftermath of the escape was extreme. With no answers found, Herod executes the guards. Perhaps his only explanation was that the guards were hiding the truth from him. How else could the escape be explained? It reminds me of when illnesses are mysteriously removed – unexpectedly – but doctors will just shrug their shoulders rather than concede that someone divine has intervened. Herod knew that the Christian church was surrounded by stories of miracles – even an empty tomb. But rather than examining the truth and conceding Jesus as Lord, he orders and execution on his own men.

19-24 Herod is executed by God’s messenger

“…because Herod did not give praise to God…” These verses describe the unique way that Herod the Tetrarch died. Although he was bringing a kind of unity in the region, according to these verses, he did not rebuke the people for praising him as a god. He had been exposed to enough of the work of God to know better and this was the final straw. A messenger of the Lord struck him down. He wasn’t instantly killed but bizarrely he was eaten by worms and died.

It’s a fitting conclusion to this section which began with Herod’s attack on the church. The church had prayed for the situation with Peter. Not only was the prayer answered by delivering Peter to freedom but it was further answered by delivering Herod over to death by worms!

Meaning

The church might appear out of their mind to pray – but we would be out of our minds not to!

Application

  1. Prayer of course! Prayer must be understood as a request or plea to the Almighty to take action. It is not a demand or a ‘name it and claim it’ practice. But neither is it a social pleasantry aimed at closing a Christian gathering or wishing someone good luck. When we pray, we enter the council of the Lord our God and we ask him to save, to restore, to renew, to protect or to reveal. Christians have turned their life to Christ and admit that God is supreme over their lives, which they are failing to live properly. Prayer is this faith speaking. The community of saints must be a community of prayers. If we are to be a “Christian community devoted to maturing in Jesus”, then let us devote ourselves to prayer!
  2. Reflect on your prayers and consider what you pray for. Do you bring to God the things that you believe he would want you to want?
  3. Pray for the persecuted church. opendoors.org.au, vom.com.au, and barnabasfund.org are three ways to be informed in your prayers – to pray specifically.

Acts 4:1-31 – No other name

Context

The church is growing in number and in excitement. People are flocking because of the convincing message of Jesus as Lord, because of the resurrection, and because of the signs and wonders shown through the apostles. Peter has preached publically on two occasions now, attracting great interest in Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He and John performed a miracle in Jesus’ name by instructing a lame man to walk. He showed his trust in the name of Jesus by jumping to his feet and walking. Peter told the crowd that Jesus is the prophet like Moses who everyone needs to listen to.

Observation

Verses 1-4

Peter and John had been preaching near the temple where the lame man was healed. The Priest, the Sadducees and the temple guards appear to have all come out of the temple area to hear the comotion and deal with what was troubling them. Ie, the events of Chapter 3 were all outside where they were.

What exactly disturbed them? Was it the teaching about the resurrection? Was it about Jesus being the source of the resurrection? Was it that the apostles were simply teaching anything? The rest of the story seems to show that it’s the name of Jesus that they are unhappy with.

It was evening. The healing of the lame man happened at about three in the afternoon. They’d been teaching around the temple for a number of hours. The events of that afternoon were not quiet and small and blown out of proportion over time – it was big and eventful and went on for a while. The lame man was still with them right to the end. Note 3:11, 4:14.

Another 2,000 people were added to the church that day.

Peter and John were placed in prison. It seems to be a Jewish prison instead of something organised by the Roman soldiers who are not present. When you collect all the details from this paragraph, it seems that Peter and John were still preaching and those in the temple who were not interested in becoming followers came out with security to see what was happening. They then heard what was being preached, didn’t like it and put the preachers in lock-up until they could work out what to do with them.

Verses 5-7

All the “kings horses and all the kings men” came to sort out what was happening! Anyone who was important in the Jewish hierarchy were gathered to discuss what to do.

Their issue: what name did you do this? They don’t debate what has been done, but they want to know where they got their power from. Not a completley stupid question. If they answered something like: the Dark Lord! then we’d happily see them be thrown back in prison or told to stop!

Verses 8-12

Their answer is: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! The miracle was all Jesus. He is the foundation stone that has been rejected. He is the only name we need to bother with because salvation comes from him and him alone. Did I mention Jesus?!!

Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. We might ask, wasn’t he already filled with the Spirit? Yes he was. This is an example of the Spirit enabling a servant for a specific task. The Spirit lead Peter’s speech to say exactly what he should say. Remember Luke 12:11-12!

What exactly is the church being singled out for? An act of kindness on a lame man? No! The problem the rulers have is with Jesus and the teaching about him.

Compare 4:10 with 3:15; 2:22-24 – Peter’s sermons have a very familiar focus and it is to do with Jesus Christ and the resurrection. It is very significant that the emphasis in all of this is the resurrection and not the cross itself. This is not that Peter thought nothing of the cross – no – he knows that the cross is significant (2:38, 3:19, 4:12). Peter knows and preaches that salvation from sin is what it’s all about – but the emphasis is on the resurrection because this is the proof that Jesus is Lord! Although the rulers rejected him, God raised him from the dead.

“No other name” – it may be obvious to us but there is no other religion or faith that people can rely on except the faith in Jesus. He is it!

The trouble is that Jesus can be rejected and this is what the Psalm 118:22 quote refers to and it is what is happening from the rulers. The name of Jesus is being dismissed and rejected.

Verses 13-17

This is an amazing paragraph. Look at what the rulers find astonishing and compare that with what they think is just notable! They were astonished that these “ordinary men” had such courage! But when they talk about the miracle of the lame man they simple “could see the man who had been healed…there was nothig they could say.” What about “Wow! How did you do that! That’s amazing!” And then they described the miracle as a “notable sign.”

They cannot deny that this miracle has happened but they are determined to stop it from spreading. If I was a lover of religious ceremony and that was the sole motivator of my participation with God then I might also think that we don’t want any more of this miracle business and certainly not entertain further conversation about resurrection in Jesus name. We’d definatley have to put an end to any further talk of restoration and blessings through the seed of Abraham so that our way of life was not interupted!

Verses 18-22
The Rulers: Stop it!
The Apostles: No!
The Rulers: We’re warning you!
The Apostles: OK, we’ll let our people know but they’re not going to listen to you when God has clearly spoken!
Verses 23-26

When Peter and John are released and tell the church what has happened this brings the church to pray. By “church” I mean the people who had joined with the apostles to follow Jesus. The count at the moment is 5000! So what we are getting from Luke is likely to be a snapshot of what people were saying. How Peter and John communicated with so many people is not clear – they may have gathered together at the temple courts, or in an open space, or communicating to groups through their networks. The specifics are not important, the key is how the followers responded to the threats – they prayed.

Their prayer acknowledges God as the creator of all and then continues to declare how foolish it is for people to try and rise against him.

The theme of the prayer is taken from scripture. I love how their prayers model for us how scripture guides and informs our requests to God.

Also, the theme of the prayer is about who’s the boss. God is referred to as Sovereign Lord – a double reference to God’s rule over everything. He is the boss and sovereign king. The prayer then engages with the challenge God has with the rulers of this world. And completes with the disciples asking God to show his power and might.

Verses 26-28

The quote from Psalm 2 is used to describe exactly what is happening now – the leaders banding together against the anointed one (Jesus) and it is used to reflect on how the rulers treated Jesus. What is happening to the disciples is reflective of how Jesus was treated (John 15:18-21).

Herod and Pilate and the people of Israel are a band of unlikely coworkers. But because of the name of Jesus, they worked together to conspire against Jesus.

The anointed one. This is the equivalent to “the Messiah” or “the CHRIST”. All have the same notion: God’s chosen king. All the rulers will band together to take down the one true king.

Verses 29-31

I love this bit! The prayer has moved from adoration (v24) to understanding (v25-28) and now to supplication – they come to request action from God.

What they ask for is twofold: 1) that God enable his people to speak with boldness and 2) that God continue to heal and show signs and wonders. They are calling on God to s how his strength and power against these puny kings and rulers! Bring it on God! Just notice that they pray for God to work more healings.

The prayer is immediately answered – but not quite what was asked for. Part A was granted in that they were aided by the Spirit to speak boldly the word of God. Part B however was answere by a sign that God is powerful – but more healings are not granted.

I love it because it points to God’s priority in having his word spoken and not for the church to grow through miraculous healings. He doesn’t remain silent in the powerful signs category though. The place where they were meeting was shaken. This was a sign directed at the prayers. It’s like God replied, yes, I am powerful and I want you to keep preaching the word. Keep speaking in the name of Jesus.

Verses 1-31

The name of Jesus is important to this whole section. It’s what got the disciples into trouble. It’s what they were threatened to stop preaching. It’s what God empowered them to continue to speak with boldness. It’s the name that the nations band together to reject and hate. It’s the name that is the only name by which all men can be saved.

Meaning

The believers receive the same rejection that Jesus experienced. Teaching in the name of Jesus will result in those who believe (v4) and those who reject and refuse his kingship. People will see Jesus the King and people will see Jesus the problem.

Application
  • There’s no sure fire way of growing God’s Kingdom. The same technique will produce believers and unbelievers.
  • At the root of sin is the rejection of the true King.
  • A great response to persecutin is to pray.
  • We pray for God’s help because it is his kingdom, his gospel and we depend on Him for growth and boldness.
  • Religion in general is inoffensive. It may seem foolish (as the leaders of the temple showed with their response to the miracle) but it is often not offensive.
  • It’s Jesus name that calls believers or calls persecution.
  • Nothing has changed in this world. Persecution still exists. See opendoors.org.au for information about the persecuted church around the world.
  • Clearly we can pray for boldness to talk about Jesus into our world.
Prayer for the week
Sovereign Lord, you have created us and shown us your anointed King, Jesus. Help us to tell the world that Jesus is Lord. Help us to tell the world that salvation comes from Jesus and only him. Give us boldness and strength, commitment and perseverance to praise your name in all the world. Amen.