- Picking up in our study of Acts, previous in chapters 3 and 4 we saw Peter and John heal the lame man who was sitting at the beautiful gate of the temple complex. The Jewish leaders arrest Peter and John because they preached that this miracle was performed through the power of Jesus Christ, whom the Jewish leaders had killed. The Sanhedrin, the ruling power over the Jewish people, threatened Peter and John and commanded them to no longer preach in the name of Jesus. Peter and John respond that they must obey God rather than obey the words of men.
- The Sanhedrin was unable to do anything at this time to the apostles besides threaten them because the people were glorifying God from the miracle that had been performed. There was no basis upon which the Sanhedrin could detain Peter and John. This is where we pick up in the scene as we now read Acts 4:23-37.
I. Boldness To Trust God (4:23-31)
A. Reporting to their own
- Once Peter and John were released, they went back to their own company and reported all that had happened to them and all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. As we saw last time, it is not unreasonable to think that when the scripture says the chief priests threatened Peter and John that they threatened the loss of their lives. Now Peter and John are recounting their arrest and the threats that were made against them. The Sanhedrin has repeatedly warned them to no longer preach and teach in the name of Jesus (vs. 18). How frightening it must have been for the rest to hear what had happened to Peter and John. This same Sanhedrin had arrested Jesus in the middle of the night, held a kangaroo court, turned Jesus over to the Romans and had Him killed. Now, the Sanhedrin has turned its attention on the disciples of Jesus.
- It is evident that the company of believers were unnerved at the hearing of what had taken place to Peter and John. In verse 24 we read the response of the company when Peter and John complete their story. Carefully notice how these disciples respond to what the Sanhedrin has done, for their response is not the response I believe most of us would have expressed.
- First, the whole company turns to God in prayer, noting the power and authority of God in this world. The company recognizes that this is the fulfillment of what David spoke in Psalm 2. Notice their great faith by quoting this psalm. They are saying that what leaders of the Jews and the Romans are doing is vain and worthless. They have gathered themselves against the plans of the Lord and will fail. In verse 27 we see that the disciples apply this psalm to Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel as the ones who have stood against God. The Anointed is the holy servant Jesus. Yet all of what has happened thus far has been according to God’s plan, determined from the beginning.
- Second, in verse 29 the company of believers ask the Lord to look upon their threats and grant the disciple boldness to continue to speak the word of God and perform miracles, as was performed on the lame man. After praying this, the place was shaken, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they continue to speak the word of God boldly.
B. Trusting God
- There is much to be impressed with from what has taken place in these verses. But I want us to see the boldness this company of believers had to trust God. Do not focus on the boldness that God offered them once they prayed. Rather, look at the boldness these Christians had to trust God to take care of this situation.
- The disciples have their lives on the line if they are going to continue to serve God by speaking and teaching His name. The disciples do not pray that God remove these evil leaders so that they can safely continue teaching and preaching. The disciples do not give up and declare that they have done all they could but now it is against the law to preach Jesus. Instead, they prayed to God and left it in His hands.
- Do you and I would have the boldness to trust in the Lord to the degree that in the fact of threats of death we would rely upon God to take care of us? Or would we be simply frantic? I am impressed that these disciples, while certainly shaken by the news Peter and John report, request boldness and ask God to look upon these who are foolish enough to stand against the plans of God.
- There is at least one stated reason why the disciples were able to have the boldness to trust in God. They realized that God was in charge and realized that God would be victorious. Their prayer begins by stating that God has all rule and authority and is creator of all things. When we remember that God is in control, then I no longer have to trust in myself nor worry about what may or may not happen. I can know with confidence that everything is in the hands of the creator of this world. He has more power and more knowledge than I have to deal with any circumstance we may find ourselves.
- We must also realize, as these disciples realized, that no one can stand against God and prevail. The disciples had no need to fear Herod, Pilate, the Sanhedrin, or any other persecutor because plotting against the will of God is vanity. There is nothing more futile in life than to plan against God or live without God. We can have boldness to face the trials and tribulations of life when we have the Lord on our side. We can have boldness to speak about God because in the end no one will stand against the Lord and His Anointed. I believe the question of the psalmist, as quoted in this text, is worthy of our consideration. Since God is all-powerful and almighty creator, why do we conspire and rage against God? Why do we plot futile and vain things? If we are not planning and working according to the purposes of God, we are wasting our time and our lives on this earth. Realization of this fact gives us boldness to stand against those who stand against God.
II. Boldness To Be United
A. The scene
- In verses 32-35 we read more about the unity of the multitude of believers in the first century. The end of verse 32 sums up well the nature of the believers, "they had everything in common." The first century Christians shared all that they had with one another. Notice all that is described in this text that these believers had in common.
- First, they were of one heart and soul. The believers were joined together relationally. Their hearts were joined together where there was a deep care and concern for each other. Their lives were joined together. They were not mere acquaintances who met together on Sundays. They had a joint participation in each others’ lives.
- Second, "no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own." Not only were the believers joined together in heart and soul, but they were also joined together financially. They were willing to take care of another and help the believers who had need. Nothing was held back, but possessions were sold to help take care of these believers.
- Third, they were joined in the grace of God. Through their belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and their obedience to the will of God, these believers experienced the grace of God in their lives. We have a commonality in Christ that we can share with one another. There is no deeper connection than the spiritual bond and foundation we have with one another.
B. Boldness to unite together
- It is not an easy step nor a simple step to become united together to the degree that we read about these first century Christians becoming unified. It is easy to simply give the friendly "hi" and "how are you" salutations to one another on a weekly basis. But we have a greater challenge to become united together in heart and in mind, such that we can say that we have all things in common with one another. What prevents us from being joined together like these Christians?
- Lack of time together. One of the first problems we encounter is that we are not spending enough time together. We cannot get to know each other by talking to each other a couple minutes a week as we pass through the doors. We need to attend every service so that we can grow together and be joined together. I know I am more closely knit with those who I see on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and Friday night, than I am with those who I only see on Sunday morning. We not only need to meet together for our schedule worship hours, but we also need to make time together for time to socialize.
- Lack of trust. We need more time to socialize together so we can begin to trust one another. We do not trust mere strangers. It takes time to build and cultivate friendships. Only time together and thoughtfulness while together can help bring down the walls and barriers so that we can begin to have all things in common.
- Lack of desire. I think another we do not meet this New Testament example is because we do not want to be like them. We are perfectly happy doing our own thing, keeping our own schedules, and worrying about ourselves to have to deal with working out being with other people. We are too busy and too tired to want to be joined with other people. Sometimes we just want to be left alone instead of wanting to be joined together.
- But we are reading about a group of Christians that became a family together, sharing in all things and having all things in common. It requires boldness on our part to open ourselves up so that others can get to know who we really are. It requires boldness for us to open up our schedules to spend time with other people when we would rather just stay at home and rest. It requires boldness to open our homes and have people into our lives where we show an acceptance and love for each other. God has not allowed us to become closed off from the world or from our brethren. Let us be sure to do more to facilitate our need for fellowship together so that we can become a model for Christianity as these Christians were in the first century.
III. Boldness To Encourage
A. A man named Joseph
- As we draw to the close of chapter 4 we read about a man named Joseph. However, the apostles did not call him Joseph, but rather "encouragement." Barnabas was a Levite from Cyprus who also sold a field and laid the money at the apostles’ feet. We are not told in this passage the reason why Joseph was called "encouragement." We do not get to hear any of his encouraging words.
- But we must marvel at the fact that this man clearly made it his mission to be an encouragement to those around him. Encouraging was the model of his life, so much that no one called him by his given name anymore, but simply called him the son of encouragement.
B. Boldness to encourage
- I would also like for us to consider the boldness that is required to be a man like Barnabas. It takes boldness to take it upon ourselves to be ones who will be an encourager of the saints. We take the low road when we become nags and knit-pick at each other. We are like the world when we question people’s motives, try to find faults, and look to tear others down.
- It takes a true Christian to not give into the ease of murmuring and complaining and instead becoming an encourager. Instead of seeing faults and using the fault against, see the fault and help them overcome the fault. What a difference our relationships would experience if we used our weaknesses to help each other instead of hurt each other. Why do we think it is our duty to find out what other people’s problems are? Why do we think it has been given to us to find faults with others and begin to swirl problems and difficulties?
- Why will we not be like Barnabas and try to help the person excel and become a better Christian? We show great boldness and true faith in God when we help people overcome obstacles rather than become their obstacles. We act cowardly when we would rather talk to others about the weaknesses of others rather than go to the person and help him or her do better where they are failing.
- All of us need courage put into our lives. I do not think there is anyone here who would say they do not need encouragement. So let us be those kinds of people who will put courage into one another. Let us look to build each other up and not tear each other down. Let us look to help and find fault. Let us do good to others even when they have wronged us.
- There are three areas of boldness that we see in the closing section of Acts 4. We must first begin with having the boldness to trust in God. We cannot help others and be disciples of God when we have not put our full reliance upon God. Trust in God to carry you through your trials and difficult circumstances. Jesus told us that we have no reason for worry when we put our faith in Him.
- Second, we need to have the boldness to have all things in common with each other. God did not leave us to be by ourselves and do God’s will. He has commanded us to meet together and be joined together so that we can grow as individuals and as a congregation. We must dedicate ourselves to lower our defense and not creating fences that keep each other at arm’s distance.
- When we do that we can become the encouragers that God wants to be. We can be like Barnabas who saw the good in others and tried with all their might to help others reach the goal of spiritual maturity in the Lord. Let us not be cowards who find faults, but have the boldness to encourage each other to do better.