In Acts 4:23-31, the Apostle Paul’s friend and physician, Luke, says this:
“And being let go, they came to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said unto them. And they, when they heard it, lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, ‘O Lord, thou that didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David thy servant, didst say,
“Why did the Gentiles rage, And the peoples imagine vain things? “The kings of the earth set themselves in array, And the rulers were gathered together, Against the Lord, and against his Anointed”: for [truly] in this city against thy holy Servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy council foreordained to come to pass. And now, Lord, look upon their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest forth thy hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of thy holy Servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place was shaken wherein they were gathered together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
In this passage, Luke records the circumstances, content, and results of a prayer that the first church in Jerusalem prayed, following the Apostles Peter and John’s trial before the Jewish rulers because of the healing of a man crippled from his mother’s womb, and because of their preaching and teaching about Jesus at the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. It may be divided into 8 main sections:
- The Society of the Prayer
- The Spark of the Prayer
- The Solidarity for the Prayer
- The Sovereign of the Prayer
- The Scripture for the Prayer
- The Seriousness of the Prayer
- The Supplications of the Prayer
- The Solutions for the Prayer.
In the first part of verse 23, Luke records the society of the prayer. He says that, when the Apostles Peter and John had been released from their imprisonment at the hands of the Jewish rulers of Israel, they went to their companions, who were the members of the church in Jerusalem. Notice that the first people they went to after being persecuted was to their church.
In the second part of verse 23, Luke records the spark, or cause, of the prayer. Not only did Peter and John go to their church, but they reported everything that the chief priests of Judaism and the elders of Israel had said to them. What had they said? That the Christians were under obligation to stop speaking by the authority of Jesus. This expression of the hostility of the Jewish leaders was the reason that the church began to pray.
In the first part of verse 24, Luke describes the solidarity, or unity, for the prayer. He says that, when the church had heard that the Jewish leaders did not want anyone to speak by the authority of Jesus, they began to speak aloud to God with one voice. Notice the exceptional unity of this church, that they prayed at the same time with one voice because they had the same reaction to the news about the Jewish rulers.
In the second part of verse 24, and the first part of verse 25, Luke records a description of the Sovereign, or Audience, of the prayer. He says that the church addressed God as Lord, or Supreme Authority, who made the heaven, or space, the earth, the sea, and all that is in all of them, and was the One who, through God the Holy Spirit, and through the mouth of their ancestor, King David His servant, said what follows. Notice the characteristics of God that are described to Him in this prayer:
- He is the Supreme Authority over all authorities, all things, and all persons
- He made space itself, the fabric of the universe, including its stars
- He made the earth, the habitation of the only beings He created in His image
- He made the sea, the incomprehensibly large body of water, which covers most of the earth
- He made all that is in space, all that is on the earth, and all that is in the ocean
- He spoke through God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity
- He spoke through the mouth of a man
- He was served by King David.
From these facts, we may deduce that God is sovereign over all authorities, that He is sovereign over space, that He is sovereign over the earth, that He is sovereign over the sea, that He is sovereign over all that is in them, that He sovereignly works with His Spirit, and that He is sovereign over human beings.
In the second part of verse 25 to verse 26, Luke includes the Scripture for the church’s prayer. This Scripture is the words that God spoke by His Spirit, and through the mouth of David His servant, and records Him as asking why the Gentiles, or non-Jews, rage, and the peoples devise utterly useless and worthless things, which included kings, both Jewish and Gentile, taking their stand, and rulers gathering together against the Lord, or God the Father, and against His Anointed One, or Supreme Prophet, Priest, and King. This Scripture serves as the reason from God’s Word for which the church is going to say what they say, and is going to ask what they ask from God. They are quoting Scripture to God to glorify and praise Him for it before they ask Him to do things for them.
In verses 27-28, the church expresses the seriousness of their prayer to God. In recognition of the fulfillment of the prophecies they have just quoted, they say that, in Jerusalem, Herod, ruler of the northern region of Israel, and Pontius Pilate, ruler of the southern region of Israel, along with other Gentiles and all the different peoples of Israel, gathered together against God’s holy Servant Jesus, whom He anointed, or covered with the power of the Holy Spirit to be the Supreme Prophet, Priest, and King, to do whatever God directly and purposefully determined to occur before time began. In other words, the opposition from the rulers of Israel that the church was experiencing was sparked when they opposed Jesus by arresting, persecuting, prosecuting, scourging, and crucifying Him. Therefore, they were in a serious situation, since they were followers of the One who had faced such universal and brutal opposition.
In verses 29-30, the church lists its supplications, or requests, of its prayer. First, it asks their Lord to take special note of the Jewish rulers’ threats for Peter and John. Second, it asks Him to give them, as His bond-servants, the plural form of doulos, meaning His slaves, the ability to speak His Word with all confidence, boldness, or outspokenness. Third, it asks Him to extend His hand to physically heal people through the Apostles, that the authority of their message as those directly sent by Jesus Himself, and as those who are eyewitnesses of Him before and after His resurrection, may be supported. Fourth, it asks Him that signs, or miracles that point to their divine source, and wonders, or the reaction of wonder from those who see the signs, will take place through the authority of His holy, or set apart, Servant, Jesus.
In verse 31, Luke describes the solutions for the prayer. He says that, after the church had prayed, the place in which they were gathered shook, they were filled with, or controlled by, the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak God’s Word with boldness, or confidence, clarity, and outspokenness. Notice God’s answers to their requests:
- He displayed His physical power, the same power with which He healed people through His Apostles, by shaking the place where they were gathered
- He filled them, or controlled them, with the Holy Spirit
- He gave them the power, through the controlling of the Holy Spirit, to speak His Word with boldness.
So, do you gather with a church that you can call your companions?
Do you talk to God with one accord with your church?
Do you recognize that the God to whom you speak in prayer is the Supreme Authority who made space and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, and who spoke through His Spirit and through men?
Do you talk to God about His Word, and praise Him for it?
Are you serious when you pray, and talk to God in a serious manner?
Do you recognize that God has determined everything that occurs by His own hand and His own purpose?
Do you ask God to do something about possible persecution against you, and ask, as His slave, that He give you the ability to speak His Word with all confidence and by the authority of Jesus, while He extends His hand to save and help people through His Word?
Are you being controlled by the Holy Spirit, and speaking God’s Word with boldness because God is controlling you by His Spirit, and giving you the ability to speak His Word with boldness, and He is doing this because you are keeping a good conscience, letting His Word dwell richly within you, and praying for boldness?
Do you understand why you need to depend upon Jesus as the Supreme Priest and God’s Supreme Servant? The Apostle Paul wrote about it this way:
“. . . I make known unto you brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-9
This is what the Apostle John said about the gospel in John 1:1-18:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. John beareth witness of him, and crieth, saying, This was he of whom I said, He that cometh after me is become before me: for he was before me. For of his fulness we all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
This is what Christ Himself said about the gospel:
“. . . God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:16-20
John the Baptist said this: “. . . he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on [stays directed toward] him.” – John 3:36
The Apostle Paul said this in Romans 2:4-16 and 1:18-32:
“. . . despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law: and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law; for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified; (for when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them); in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ.”
“. . . the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousnessof men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves: for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due. And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful: who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practise them.”
Speaking of those that practice sin, the Apostle Paul uses this quote:
“. . . There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God; They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one: Their throat is an open sepulchre; With their tongues they have used deceit: The poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness . . .” – Romans 3:10-14
This is my appeal to you, as written by the Apostle Paul:
“. . . we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20b-21
This is how you become reconciled to God:
“. . . if thou shalt confess [acknowledge] with thy mouth Jesus as Lord [Greek: kurios, or Supreme in Authority], and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him [depend upon Him]: for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [who He is, what He has done, and what He can do] shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13