By Dr. Terry Kirby
Senior Pastor, Alpha Baptist Church, Morristown
When Jesus was arrested His closest followers, including the apostles scattered. Peter was accused of being one of Jesus’ followers and denied Him three times. The only followers of Jesus that are mentioned at the cross are some women. The lone exception to that is found in the Gospel of John which mentions that John was there. At Jesus’ greatest moment of need, the men Jesus had invested Himself in for three long years vanished. They were hiding in the upper room, the location of the first Lord’s Supper, not knowing what to do.
After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to His followers on several occasions including the Ascension. Matthew’s Gospel records the famous command of Jesus called The Great Commission. Jesus gave all of His followers, present and future, instructions to make disciples in all the nations. These encounters with Jesus and Pentecost gave the Apostles and the other followers of Jesus great courage and power to be fearless in the face of opposition. In the coming days they would need it.
The events surrounding Acts 4:23-31 demonstrate how this new found courage was needed. Peter and John had been preaching with great success and were arrested. They were threatened and commanded to stop preaching. Peter took the occasion of his arrest and inquiry to preach the gospel message that Jesus saves to all of the officials gathered. His audience was amazed at his words and confidence. Later, both Peter and John were released from prison and given another stern warning not to preach.
In Acts 4:23-28 the reunion of Peter and John with the other followers of Jesus is recorded. After everyone had heard their story of preaching, prison and release, the gathering broke out into a spontaneous prayer of praise. The one who spoke this prayer is not specifically named, but the text states that “they” raised their voices. It would be safe to assume that the one who voiced this prayer was not Peter or John but a grateful church member. This powerful prayer declares God’s great power. This prayer quoted Psalm 2:1-2, a psalm that recorded God’s victory over the enemies of King David. The church’s prayer recorded in Acts 4:25-26 declares that the enemies of Jesus will meet the same fate as David’s. The prayer continues to describe the specific enemies of Jesus and how their defeat was God’s plan. This Psalm reminded the church gathered for prayer that the battles that they have faced and will continue to face will be in the hands of God and not man. This truth gave this fledgling church great confidence.
The church continued their prayer in Acts 4:29-30. The focus of the prayer takes a dramatic turn. After praising God for His victory over the enemies of Jesus, the people asked for continued victory over these enemies as the apostles and others continue their mission to make disciples of all the nations. Their specific request is for boldness. Are these the same people who hid after the crucifixion? Instead of wanting to hide again after this arrest and release they want boldness to confront these adversaries again. Their second request was for the power to perform healing, signs, and wonders in the name of Jesus. The church wants the world to know that there is power in the name of Jesus.
The final verse in this passage records God’s response to their passionate prayer. God shook the place where they were gathering. God also filled them again with the power of the Holy Spirit. A critical note ended this passage; they continued to speak God’s message with boldness.