A Confident Witness for Jesus (Part 2)
Sermon Text: Acts 4:23-31
Sermon Theme: You too can be a confident witness for Jesus when you know the Scriptures and pray to the God of the Scriptures.
Christ’s followers do best in company, provided it is their own company. It encourages God’s servants, both in doing work, and suffering work, that they serve the God who made all things, and therefore has the disposal of all events; and the Scriptures must be fulfilled. Jesus was anointed to be a Savior, therefore it was determined he should be a sacrifice, to make atonement for sin. But sin is not the less evil for God’s bringing good out of it. In threatening times, our care should not be so much that troubles may be prevented, as that we may go on with cheerfulness and courage in our work and duty. They do not pray, Lord let us go away from our work, now that it is become dangerous, but, Lord, give us thy grace to go on steadfastly in our work, and not to fear the face of man. Those who desire Divine aid and encouragement, may depend upon having them, and they ought to go forth, and go on, in the strength of the Lord God. God gave a sign of acceptance of their prayers. The place was shaken, that their faith might be established and unshaken. God gave them greater degrees of his Spirit; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, more than ever; by which they were not only encouraged but enabled to speak the word of God with boldness. When they find the Lord God help them by his Spirit, they know they shall not be confounded, Isaiah 1:7.
(From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)
- What is the power of the rulers before the great Lord of earth and sky? “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it and is safe!” Here, then, is an example worthy of imitation. In every perplexity and danger, let us call upon God in prayer, and cover ourselves with His omnipotence. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear.” The lesson is that the mighty hand which fabricated all this is pledged to defend the Christian from evil. The storm of persecution was raging around the new church, hence the prayer in Acts 4:24-30. The danger is appalling; but God is near; and His people take refuge in His almightiness. These rulers must either be saved by that Jesus whom they had crucified, or they must perish forever. The name of Jesus is given to men of every age and nation, as that whereby alone believers are saved from the wrath to come. But when covetousness, pride, or any corrupt passion, rules within, men shut their eyes, and close their hearts, in enmity against the light; considering all as ignorant and unlearned, who desire to know nothing in comparison with Christ crucified. And the followers of Christ should act so that all who converse with them, may take knowledge that they have been united with Jesus.
- And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:13-15)
- What is the dominant theme in your prayers before the Lord? God’s sovereignty in the new church was the declaration at the outset in their address to God (cf. Revelation 6:10 and the description of Christ in 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 4). The Greek word despotēs denotes “absolute ownership and uncontrolled power,” especially that of a master over a slave. Compare Luke 2:29 where “your slave” (in the Greek) answers to it, as here “your slaves” (again in the Greek) in Acts 4:29. The same “despot” word is used of the gods in classical Greek, but the creator of the heaven and the earth and the sea is no “despot” as they often were. His rule is absolute, but never exercised in the absence of wisdom and love. Nor is it restricted to the act of creation. He is the Sovereign no less in human affairs: “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35). For we can take comfort from the knowledge that such opposition to the name of Jesus had been foreseen and whatever we accomplish is whatever God’s hand and purpose predestined to occur. Predestined is from proorizō (Romans 8:29-30; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:5) and means “to determine beforehand.” It reminds us that God is the supreme historian who wrote all history before it ever began. Having done their worst, they merely succeeded in fulfilling God’s eternal plan (cf. Acts 2:23). As the psalmist expressed it, “The wrath of man shall praise Thee” (Psalm 76:10).
- When facing persecution, do you pray for it to decrease or for the Lord to empower you to serve Him through it? Is your Christian courage dependent on biblical praying grounded upon the sovereignty of God? Those who “met together … against … Jesus” (Acts 4:27) represented in human terms a considerable force. Nevertheless, they were under God’s sovereign control. He turned their anger to his own ends (cf. Psalms 76:10), for they only did what he had decided beforehand should happen (cf. Acts 2:23; Acts 3:18). There may be incidents in the Christian life hard to bear, but there are no accidents, for “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). They did not ask to be spared hardship, but only for courage to face it and to keep on speaking the message with great boldness (Acts 4:29). This was tantamount to their saying, “Thy will be done.” Courage it would seem came no more easily to these people than to us. Peter and John had indeed shown boldness before the Sanhedrin, but to maintain their courage they were dependent upon the Holy Spirit whose gift it was (cf. Acts 9:17; Acts 9:27). They would certainly need it, for the servant is not greater than his Lord (John 15:20), and if the Lord is the Suffering Servant, they could expect nothing less than to suffer with him (cf. Colossians 1:24; Hebrews 13:12-18).
- If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: “No servant is greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: “They hated me without reason” (John 15:18-25).
- How easy it seems to depend upon our own resources; but how futile in our moral character? Man’s character is made up of habits, habits are made up of acts, and acts start from principles which lie at the foundation. But the principles are not Divine. They are selfish, not benevolent; carnal, not spiritual; atheistic, not godly. All these are “wood, hay, stubble,” and cannot last. This will be fully realized in the final history of the world. Christ whom the world had rejected, will be the subject of every thought, the spirit of every system, the spring of every activity, the sweetness of every pleasure, the glory of every distinction. He shall be all in all. What a terrible discovery for Christ’s rejecters!
- Why begin with creation in our prayers? Why remind God of what he had done? Because creation remains foundational to every other doctrine, and it certainly demonstrates the sovereignty of God, the very foundation for this prayer (cf. Acts 14:15; 2 Peter 3:1-14). For this Creator whom the believers addressed in Acts 4:24 is self-revealed. Since we cannot test creation by scientific methods which deal only with repeatable events, it must be understood by faith (Hebrews 11:3). Furthermore, faith in a Creator demands a recognition of his involvement in his world (Roman 1:18-20). Most people have little difficulty dealing with a Creator, a vague concept accepted by many who have no faith in Jesus. It takes quite another step to recognize that the Creator has personally revealed himself and therefore made his creation responsible for what he has said. Not only did the Sovereign Lord create the world, but he controls suffering—both of Jesus and now of his people. Human leaders may deliberate, but God ultimately determines destiny. Like these early believers, we need to understand that the self-revealed Creator who sent his Son to earth to die and rise again for our salvation will give us the courage we need to carry out whatever ministry he places before us.
- Have we asked ourselves why we should teach or disciple others — especially the children and young people? Let us see that we can give a good reason for our work, both to ourselves and also to others. It is well for us again and again to question ourselves as to the real motives and, as far as we can predict them, the probable results of our actions. Let us see that we can give thoroughly satisfactory answers to questions about whose real meaning there can be no possible doubt. Questions such as these, Why do I teach in the Sunday school? Why ought I to teach or disciple? What should be the reason for and the object of my instruction? Don’t let us be satisfied with merely general and indefinite answers, such as, “Because it is right,” or “Because it is known and admitted to be a good work.” The real answer should be of this kind, “It is most important that these children and these young people should have a thorough knowledge of the life and words, the example and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. They should be taught to seek for and be guided by His Spirit, they should be prepared for the many temptations they will meet in the world. The conscience must be made tender and able to discern between good and evil. The will must be strengthened so that they may be able to persevere in that course of life which they perceive and know to be right. Moreover, since the conflict upon which they will enter will be of lifelong duration, it is most important that they should be trained to live a disciplined life; that they should be taught that the Church, besides being a school, is also an army, the members of which should lead disciplined lives; that they should learn that a means and a method and a safeguard is provided against all forms of temptation by means of this discipline.” [W. E. Chadwick, MA]
- Why is a belief in the death and resurrection of Christ so vital to our faith?
- Why should we spend as much time praying ‘after an incidence’ as before it?
Instructions for saving audio file…
To save audio to your local disk, click on the SAVE button above, then use the right mouse button on the AUDIO (MP3) and finally click on Save Link As to specify the target directory.