Summary: Exposition of Acts 4:23-31 about the reaction of the early church to persecution by going to prayer and God answering in a mighty way
Text: Acts 4:23-31, Title: God-Approved Prayer, Date/Place: NRBC, 8/19/07, AM
A. Opening illustration: 9 out of 10 American say they pray, 8 out of 10 say they pray regularly, 6 out of 10 say they pray daily, even 2/3 of unchurched people say that they pray…
B. Background to passage: After the healing of the lame man at the gate called beautiful, after the sermon in the temple colonnade that brought hundreds to a God-glorified Christ, after a night in prison and much threatening never to speak or teach in the name of Jesus again, and after their bold proclamation that there is no other way to heaven but Jesus and that they can’t help but speak in the name, the authorities released Peter and John because of the people and not being able to find a way to punish them. And so what we have here is the gut reaction of the early church to its first round of persecution. And even though it was physically an easy round, the stakes were high and the battle lines had been drawn. This is the longest prayer in Acts.
C. Main thought: And so in our text today, we will get the next installment in the account which centers around the reaction of the early church to these things: they turn to God in prayer!
A. Reason for prayer (v. 23-24)
1. I don’t know what your first experience with persecution was, but this was theirs. They spent the night in prison for preaching Christ and were warned that the punishment would be worse if they did not cease immediately. So the bible says they came back to “their own.” This word meant an intimate group of people that were committed to Christ and committed to them. There was a small group of their close friends in the church that they came back to and reported all that had been said and done in the proceedings. Luke then tells us that their initial reaction was to pray, corporately. They raised their voices in a chorus of supplication toward God. And not just random prayer, but unified, focused, powerful prayer. They didn’t wait on prayer meeting; they stopped what they were doing and prayed. This indicates that this was their custom, their regular practice, and their first thought.
2. Phil 1:27, Acts 1:14,
3. Illustration: “I don’t have to outrun a grizzly. I just have to outrun you!” “one of the hardest things to break into in this world is a close-knit small Baptist church,” “it is impossible to imagine the members of the church of Jerusalem not gathers together to pray…congregational prayerlessness ought to be just as unimaginable for us in our own churches.” “…well the only thing that we can do is pray…”
4. In our day of cell phones, emails, and instant messages, and huge technological advances in communication we are no closer to each other. In the church should exist close relationships based on Christ and salvation. Would you say that there are people within this body or your that you are committed to on a Christian level? We also must guard against those relationships and groups being so tight that there is no room for new believers. We must always be open to discipling, encouraging, sharing our lives with new people that come to Christ or come to our church. As a side note, the closer the fellowship between to individuals or within a church, the stronger, more focused, and more effectual their prayer will be when they agree and pray together. How long sometimes do we wait to pray? How many times do we say we’ll pray, then don’t? How long does it take for us to get around to praying? Or to soliciting others that are committed to you and to Christ to petition God together? Do we even see a need for it?
B. Reminder in prayer (v. 24-28)
1. Jesus in his model prayer said “hallowed be Thy Name.” This is the beginning of the content of the early church prayer, which Luke probably intends to be a model. They spend four verses reminding themselves and proclaiming to God who He is. They spent twice as much time exalting as they did asking. In their current situation they took great confidence in the Sovereignty of God. They addressed as “Sovereign Lord,” an unusual title for God only used about six times meaning Absolute Master. They took comfort in God’s power and right to rule as Creator, in His sovereignty to prophesy and foreordain not only the events of Christ’s life and death, but their own. They quoted David about how that God knew and foreordained that the nations would rage against Christ. But, they knew that if God was in control, obedience even if it resulted in death was going to honor Him. And they acknowledged the perspective that the rage of the nations and of the Jews was not directed against them personally, but against God and His Christ.