Reading: Acts 4
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:31-35, ESV)
Reflecting and Thinking
The sermon of Acts 3 was interrupted by the Jewish authorities. The Jewish authorities understood the powerful message contained in the sermon-something we may easily miss as we read through 21st century eyes. The seizure of Peter and John did not stop the message. Many hearers believed and the number of believers grew (4:4). Peter's defense and declaration of Jesus as the power for the healing and the power for salvation impressed even the opponents. There is little to say when the man who has been healed is standing right there (4:14). Their only recourse was to warn and threaten Peter and John, because the people had obviously already been won over.
Peter and John returned to the group of believers, and their report and shared prayer yielded the results reported in verse 31 of our text above. The community was growing through bold proclamation, clear evidence of changed lives, prayer, the presence of the Spirit and sharing. The testimony of the apostles was empowered. Persecution was not an obstacle-it was a common enemy that brought the early church together and encouraged its growth.
What do you think would happen today if the church experienced severe persecution? How many would continue faithfully? How many would give up? Would persecution make the modern church stronger or weaker? How can today's church powerfully declare the resurrection of Jesus? If the church returned to an "on center" message of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, avoiding some of the peripheral issues that tend to surface, what do you think the result would be?
Heavenly Father, give us wisdom as we teach and proclaim your word. Help us to focus on the things that matter more than those that do not. Give us boldness in the face of difficulties; bring us to prayerful dependence on you. We pray that you will work in us and through us to help the church grow powerfully again. In the name of the resurrected Christ, Amen.