After they had Peter and John stand before them, they began to question them: “By what power or in what name have you done this?” (Acts 4:7 CSB)
Following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the number of believers in Jerusalem grew daily. But so did the opposition. The apostles were no more popular with the religious leaders of that day than Jesus had been. The same antagonists, just a slightly different target.
Acts 3 tells the story of Peter and John’s encounter with the lame man at the Gate Beautiful. The healing quickly drew the attention of others at the Temple, and a crowd gathered. It was a great preaching moment for Peter. It was also what stirred the wrath of the religious leaders, especially with so many believing in Jesus. The two apostles found themselves with a free night’s lodging in the local prison (Acts 4:3). The next day, they were questioned concerning by what power and in what name had they healed the lame man. Peter gladly used the opportunity to once again tell them about the power in the name of Jesus.
The religious leaders could not refute the man’s healing because he stood there completely whole. After conferring among themselves, the only plan of action they could devise was to give a stiff warning not to teach or preach in the name of Jesus again. They knew they were on shaky ground because the people all glorified God because of the healing. All they could do was make threats that they could not enforce.
What was the response of the apostles? It was not to cower in fear and hide their faith. Listen to their prayer. It is not one of defeatism. It is a prayer of determination. The apostles had no intention of quietly fading out of sight.
“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.” (Acts 4:29, ESV)
As we read through the Book of Acts, we find numerous instances of opposition and persecution of those who believed in Jesus. Many were imprisoned. Others, like Stephen, died for their faith. Many fled to other cities, spreading the truth as they went. Instead of thwarting the church’s growth, the persecution actually fueled it. It was unstoppable.
Many today also face persecution for the name of Jesus. Believers are still imprisoned, tortured, and martyred. Many of us suffer little more than a few rude comments about our beliefs, but the time may come when we will have to personally decide whether to give in or boldly stand up for our faith.
The apostles did not whine or complain about the trials they faced. Instead, they chose:
- To please God rather than man (Acts 4:19 and 5:29).
- To pray for increased boldness (Acts 4:29, Ephesians 3:12).
- To forgive and pray for their persecutors (Acts 7:60).
- To accept that suffering was part of the journey (Philippians 1:28-29; II Corinthians 12:9-10.)
- To find joy in their suffering (I Peter 4:13).
As we read the Book of Acts, we begin to understand that persecution and revival often go hand in hand. The Word tells us that even the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18). Instead of praying to escape persecution, we should ask God to use our trials to advance His kingdom. Perhaps Romans 12:12 (ESV) sums it up best.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
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