Brothers and Sisters, what an amazing thing we read in our text, God the Holy Spirit demonstrates his presence with an earthquake. I believe that this was not catastrophicall but rather a gentle quake only in the place where these believers gathered.
In this text e are reminded of several events in our redemptive history: Mt Sinai shook – as evidence that God was present. The door posts of the temple in Isaiah’s vision shook – because God was present. The ground shook at Christ’s resurrection because God was present, working the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Put it together: the ground shaking, a house shaking are indications that God is present. In our text as well, God the Holy Spirit demonstrates His presence with the gentle earthquake.
But do we ever see such demonstrations today in our churches; after praying do we have the feeling of the presences of God in our midst, like these believers? Or are we second grade Christians compared to the first centaury Christians? Or maybe we are always guilty of quenching God the Holy Spirit?
It is almost the same with what we read in Acts 2, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
Again, I ask the question; why we do not see such demonstration of the Holy Spirit today as with the first centaury Christians. Maybe it is different here in Pretoria, but in Nellmapius we do not experience such demonstrations. Even though we sing clapping our hands and at times standing and even dancing in our worship, we never experience the out pouring of the Spirit of God as did this first Christians.
There are those who openly say that we still need the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But I say this is the greatest error of all. It is true that the Holy Spirit revealed himself to first century believers in a unique way, but that does not mean that we do not have the Holy Spirit. This can not even make us second grade Christians, because there can never be such.
Dear Congregation the most powerful tool of God the Holy Spirit is proclamation of the word and not super natural signs. The latter is important; as we will see later that these Christians prayed for that but it is the proclamation of the Word we hear about as we come to our text.
I preach to you:
God the Holy Spirit answers the prayer for the proclamation of the gospel
- The reason for this prayer
- The way the prayer started
- The main request and its answer
The reason for this prayer
Brothers and Sisters, Boys and Girls and Yong People, our text actually starts in chapters 3, were Peter and John are going to the temple for prayer. There they met a man who was crippled from birth and he asked them for money. It is very surprising that this man did not ask them for cure, it seemed that he long gave up on that and had accepted the crippled condition. Peter said to him, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." The man was healed at that moment.
Then we read the following about this man who is just been healed, “He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him,” (Vs. 8-10).
Then Peter took this opportunity to preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. While Peter was preaching we read in chapters four the following, “The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed and the number of men grew to about five thousand.”
Dear congregation notice that Peter and John were seized because they were proclaiming the name of Christ (Vs. 2). Please take note again also that in verses 4 the people believed because they heard the words of Peter and John and not mainly because of the miracle. The miracle was important to draw the attention of the people, but it was the facts of the gospel which the Holy Spirit used through Peter and John to change the lives of these people.
Miracles are important to draw the attention of people, but it is the facts of the gospel which convict people. When our Lord Jesus Christ was here He performed many miracles like no one else in the history of this world. Many people followed him because they wanted to see the miracles, but when he turned and started to teach them the facts of the gospel, they left him. I am here reminded of the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:66).
It was for this reason that Peter and John where arrested by the Priests and the Sadducees; the fact that they preached the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We further read in chapters four that, “After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.”
It was after their release that Peter and John went to their fellow believers. They told them everything that chief priests and elders have said. After hearing this they raised their voices in prayer (Vs. 23 & 24). Brothers and Sisters this is the reason for this prayer.
You will see later that the chief reason of this prayer was that they speak the word of God boldly (31). These believers came together for prayer because they wanted to see and experience the spread of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What are the reasons for prayer as the church of God here in Pretoria? What are the reasons for prayer in our daily devotions and our respective homes? We need to pray with the focus of the whole work of God or the redemptive perspective for that matter.
I don’t want to waste time here but there are also things to be thankful of always, and that should also make us come to God in prayer. Paul writes to the Philippians:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
As we come to God in prayer we should also be thankful because of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has given us much more through His death on the cross; and that is life eternal.
Let’s move to the second point and see how this prayer starts.
The way this prayer starts
It is amazing to see how this believer started their prayer. The reason why they went to the Lord in prayer is because they where given threats, they where barred from proclaiming the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They began their prayer by filling their mind with divine sovereignty “Sovereign Lord they said, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them,” (Vs. 24)
They also filled their mind with the divine revelation of God by quoting from Psalm 2, “You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:” ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One”
They then applied the Psalm to Christ and later to their current situation, “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people[e] of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen”
One commentator rightly observed that this is the way the early Christian viewed God. They knew him as the God of Creation Revelation and History. You can note this in these three verbs: “You made,” (24), “You spoke,” (25) and “You decided,” (28).
Brothers and Sisters this is how these believers started their prayer. They did not start by telling God about their situation, but they started telling God who he is. He is the creator, the revealer as well as the controller of history.
When I listen to the prayers of many people in our country, it is almost as if one is in a supermarket. I think we have a tendency to start our prayers with our own situations and our needs.
We forget to take some time in our prayers to adore the greatness of God. Dear Congregation our prayers should start with God and they should end with Him.
Our Lord Jesus Christ never taught us to start our prayers by saying, ‘give us today our daily bread.’ This is important and it must be said in a prayer, but it is not the first thing. We begin our prayer by saying, “Our Father who are in heaven; hallowed be your Name.” We start like these believers in our text; we begin by adoring God for Who He is.
When we do house visits in Nellmapius, we often ask people if they have time for prayer and reading the bible. Many people admit that they do pray in the morning and in the evening, but they do not find time to read the bible.
You can never pray efficiently to God without understanding his will. You need to read the bible in order to pray. I know that many people read the bible here in Pretoria, especially after or during meal times, I hope this tradition still continues, is a good tradition, I like it.
But I want to submit to you dear congregation that your prayers will not be fruitful if you do not understand the will of the Lord.
Brothers and Sisters these believers knew what was happening to them, God allowed it. They knew that God spoke about it through the Psalms. That was the reason why they start their prayer in this way.
We have read from the gospel of John, there our Lord Jesus Christ prepares his disciples for situations like the later one, “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.'[b] 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,” (John 15:18-21).
The Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 12 say that we share in our Christ’s anointment to be prophets, priests and kings. In the section of this prayer you see that these believers prayed like prophets. They took the word of God and applied it to their situation. That is like those prophets of the Old Testament. They always used the phrase, ‘thus says the Lord.’
These believers in Acts understood all these because they have received the Holy Spirit, as we have read in chapters 2. This is the reason they are not praying that God would bring fire from heaven or maybe the last judgment.
Brothers and Sisters, these Christians pray that God would enable them to speak His word in boldness. This brings me to our last point:
The main request and its answer
Their main request is in verses 29, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” This was the mind given to them by Christ.
They did pray for miraculous signs in verses 30, there we read, “Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy Servant Jesus.” This is amazing!
We know from 5:12 that the Apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders we read there, “The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.”
They did miracles!
How are we to understand all these dear congregation. Fist I want to disagree with the secessionists, who declare that the miraculous era has passed, as though God can not do miracles today.
Yes, the miracles and wondrous in the bible where for a purpose. The gospel was crossing boundaries from Judaism to gentile world and so on.
They were there for a specific purpose and it was God the Holy Spirit who demonstrated His power through the Apostles.
The more you continue with the book of Acts the less you hear of any miraculous signs. You hear more about the gospel being proclaimed all over the Mediterranean world, especially by the apostle Paul.
We read in the last two verses of this book, “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”
There is no addition that Paul even did miraculous signs, but he preached the word. The latter writes to Timothy, in the 2 letter, “and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus.” Yes, even he and other Apostles did not do miracles at will but depended upon God.
“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
This is main request of these believers. They ask that God will give them boldness not to keep quiet, but that they may speak his Word.
Having said that I believe that God still do miracles today. We can never say no to God! Brothers and Sisters, it is a miracle that you are alive today. In the mist of this Pandemic that has hit the world last year and still continues to claim more casualties to date. It is by grace that the Lord had kepts us.
Brothers and Sisters it is a miracle when you have a headache and you take some pain killers and you are healed. I trust you get my point. God uses all the means we have, be it doctors and medication to bring healing to us. Thus it is important that we do not put our trust in medical aids and so on.
But it is the preaching of the Word which God the Holy Spirit answers, as we conclude our text, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness…. After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (29 and 31)
In this way these believers in Jerusalem prayed like priests. They were self-sacrificial in what they brought before the Lord. They knew that there are people who must hear the gospel. If they had decided to keep quiet and submit to the treats, how could we have come to know this good news?
My dear friend’s prayer is not only the time to bring your complains before God. You need to have the redemptive purpose in mind. Think of other believers. Think of non-Christians in your family, work and wherever you are. Put before the Lord a sacrificial prayer.
We shouldn’t think that we are second grade Christians because there no supernatural things happening our churches. We also should not think that God the Holy Spirit does not dwell in us because of the difference in which He come to the Apostles and they way He come in to us.
In the last place I want to encourage you to continue to speak the Word of God boldly. We witness a lot of decline of faith in this country and around the globe. We need to pray like these believers that God would give us boldness to speak to our family members, to speak to our friends and colleagues.
We depend upon God the Holy Spirit, like these believers, because God’s work is in the hand of God.
In verses 31, the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God boldly. This does not mean that they did not receive the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, but simply that they were filled with Him.
For special work brothers and sisters God can fill us with the Holy Spirit, not that we did not have Him, but we can be filled with Him. In the book of Ephesians 5:18, the Apostle Paul writes, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
For special work of God, we can be filled with the Holy Spirit, be it mission, evangelism or any other work of God. And in this way, we share in the anointing of the kingship of our Lord and Kind Jesus Christ. As we proclaim the good news of His kingdom. May the Lord give us boldness.
Singing: Ps 33:1,2
Scripture Reading: John 15:18 - 16:4 & Acts 2:1-13
Singing: Ps 33:5-7,11
Sermon Text: Acts 4:23-31
Singing: Ps 2:1,2,6
Singing: Apostles Creed
Singing: SB 43:1,2,4,5