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A Week Later - Gleanings from Acts 4 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Josh Winslett   
Saturday, 04 July 2015 13:54

It has been just over one week since we saw the disappointing, historic ruling by the Supreme Court on same sex marriage. Reactions to this ruling among Christians have been widely varied. The two most predominant reactions that I have seen are complacency and anxiety filled with aggression. It is greatly disappointing that some disciples are completely apathetic, some even supportive, of the ever growing acceptance and normalization of lifestyles that the Bible explicitly condemns. Yet it is equally disappointing that many turn to aggressive anxiety while adopting a demeanor that is not Christ-like at all. Neither reaction should be the standard for the believer in Christ. Sadly, this often seems to be the case. Please take no offense to this observation. There are certainly those who have calmly drew closer to God during these events, but the above observation is the most evident reaction in our culture.

 

Over the past week most people have seemed to go back to business as usual. Most that were angry have calmed, and those that were apathetic have continued in lukewarmness. There are some that are still focusing on the issue, but even a great majority of those are focusing an unhealthy amount on politics. So how should have Christians reacted last week? How should believers be acting a week after the fact? To answer these questions let's look at the book of Acts chapter 4. The first opposition that the apostles encountered after Jesus' ascension was in Acts chapter 4. Like all parts of the book of Acts, we can glean a lot from the wisdom of the first century church. As we look at this chapter let's review their initial reaction to resistance and threats, ongoing reaction, and how it applies to contemporary Christian.

 

 

Their initial reaction to resistance and threats

 

Peter and John fresh off the day of Pentecost had healed a lame man at the front of the temple. Just as Christ found resistance from the Jewish religious leaders, his disciples would also see aggression by those to whom felt their authority threatened. The frustration of the Jewish leaders is that Peter and John taught the resurrection of the dead by Jesus Christ (v2). The Jews first sought to entrap the apostles in their words by getting them to confess Christ. Remember the fact that they had not too long ago crucified Jesus. Then they began to threaten them to no longer teach the gospel of Christ. What was the reaction of Peter and John?

 

1) They boldly proclaimed Christ. They did not hide were their allegiance lied. This should be a principle followed in more than just troubled times. Whenever we are asked of our life and times we should boldly proclaim glory to God. Not luck, our own ability, or any other. Christians should boldly claim our allegiance and source of blessing, even when it seems strange to an ever growing post-Christian culture. But also notice that they did not react with a rebellious mob mentality, or even a political platform. Their message was simple. Their message was Christ. (v8-12)

 

2) They answered according to their conscience. When threatened to not preach Christ, they answered boldly that they could only do what their own conscience compelled them to do. They must obey God rather than man. Notice that they basically said that they must CONTINUE to do what they were already doing. Sometimes people who have never speak much about Christ will boldly proclaim the gospel simply because they were told not to preach it. This is an improper attitude. Whereas we should be thankful whenever Christ is preached (Phil. 1:18), preaching Christ solely from a rebellious attitude is not expedient or Biblical. We should preach because we are in love with Christ and his gospel. Just as the Psalmist wrote because he could not contain from speaking about the beauty of the wedding (Psalms 45 – a prophecy of Jesus Christ), we should speak of Christ because we are overflowing with his goodness. (v19-20)

 

Now I would add that the detractors of the gospel could speak no evil of the deeds done by the apostles (v16). This should teach us that our way of life should complement the gospel we preach. They may hate our words, but they can't question what they gospel has done so powerfully to our life.

 

 

Their ongoing reaction

 

How would you feel after leaving such a event? What would be your first actions? I fear that most would react with anger, scheming the next political move. Maybe getting on social media while venting through arguing and passive aggressive posts. You may possibly even go the exact opposite direction and become less caring because persevering seemed too hard. I pray that neither is found in our lives. The initial reaction of Peter and John was to take it to the church and pray. Very often prayer is treated as a last resort. Dear reader, if you have nothing left but prayer then you have everything you need. Church and prayer may be compartmentalized in our secular culture but it was the entire life of first century Christians. When Peter's life was being threatened in the 12th chapter of Acts, the church gathered together to pray. There is power in a ministry that prays, but there is power in the ministry when a church prays. You may ask, why is prayer so vitally important? My simple answer, because prayer relies on our only true strength. When we pray we are submitting ourselves to the authority of God. We are telling God that we cannot continue without his help. In the face of what would begin the martyrdom of Christian disciples, the church met to pray.

 

Lets also notice how they prayed.

  • The lifted up their voice in one unified effort. (v24)
  • The began their prayer by acknowledging God's greatness and mighty power. (v24)
  • They then quoted scripture. They quoted Psalm 2 and connected it with its New Testament fulfillment (v25-28). This may seem strange to the reader. Why would they quote the Bible to God? He certainly knows his own word, right? 1) We are told to come boldly to the throne of grace (Heb 4:16). There is no more bolder of a way to come to God than through quoting his word. Moses interceded for the children of Israel in this fashion. I exhort all who are reading this to apply this to your prayers. Pray, “Dear Lord, your have promised to never leave us nor forsake us, please do not forsake us.” Pray, “Dear Lord, you have promised to revive those who are of a contrite heart, please revive us.” 2) The church prayed in this fashion to parallel God's powerful overruling victory with their current situation. Just as God overruled those who sought to destroy the Son of God, they prayed that the same power would be given to the church during this time of persecution.
  • Their prayer was not self serving. My prayer life is often selfish at best. Instead of praying for their own safety, freedom, or infringed rights, the church prayed that the gospel would continue to be preached with boldness. Their focus was not in a political platform or in self serving hedonism, they were focused on the kingdom.
  • They prayed that the gospel would come with signs and wonders. We as Primitive Baptists believe that  the apostolic gifts ceased during the first century and passing of the apostles. Those gifts were a sign for those living in the first century (Acts 2:16-21) and given by the laying on of the hands of the apostles (Acts 8:18). No apostles exist today so those signs are no longer in existence. Though we do not believe that those signs and wonders still exist, we most certainly believe in miracles and the power of the gospel. They not only prayed that the gospel had free course, but they also prayed that it would be attended by proof and power.

 

 

Final application

 

God answered their prayer immediately by shaking where they were assembled and filling them with a greater measure of the Holy Ghost. It seems strange but this persecution fueled the resolve and tenacity of the early church. They continued to speak the word with boldness. The full effect of resistance was actually a stronger fellowship one with another and great grace being poured out among the assembly.

 

I posed a question on my Facebook page last week asking if the national outrage by Christians would lead to greater worship attendance, Bible reading, and prayer. It has been a week since the ruling. Most people have calmed down. Other distractions have again gained preeminence in our mind. I gently exhort you to remember the emotions you felt last week and to not fall back into a complacent routine.

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 04 July 2015 14:56
 


 


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