When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,Acts 4:23-31
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 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.
The church in the United States faces increasing opposition. We have been fortunately protected to a large extent by the Constitution that our founding fathers, under the providence and wisdom of God, wrote over 200 years ago. Our freedoms have, however, been eroded over time. In California in particular, if the powers that be had their way, the church would not be allowed to teach clear Biblical doctrine on specific subjects. Fortunately, so far, they have not been able to have their way. We are no longer living in Jerusalem but in Babylon. We must realize this. So, how should we who follow Jesus respond to these attacks against our freedom to speak Biblical truth? The answer lies in our book.
When the early church was told to shut up, what did they do? Did they turn Casper milk-toast and hide in the corner? Nope. They gathered together and prayed. Did they pray for an election of better officials in Sacramento, or Washington DC? Nope. Did they pray for deliverance from the persecution? Nope. They did acknowledge God’s sovereign hand in their persecution, “to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” Then their prayers got aggressive.
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”Acts 4:29-30
Instead of backing off and getting quiet, they asked God for greater boldness to proclaim the gospel, and while they were proclaiming the gospel, they asked God to stretch out his hand and to heal, and signs and wonders to be performed in the name of his holy servant Jesus.
This is the New Testament pattern of response to persecution. May we who have in the past been shy about speaking the gospel clearly and boldly be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ boldly and ask God to stretch out his hand to heal and perform signs and wonders in the name of his holy servant Jesus. We must look to God for a resurgence of the Book of Acts in our time in our town in our circumstance.
Jesus couldn’t have made it more explicit about his authority, power, and presence.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20
When we proclaim the gospel, we are speaking as Ambassadors of the One who has all authority in heaven and earth. That is more authority than Washington D.C. or Sacramento have. And when we proclaim the gospel, we are not doing it alone, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” These promises are not given to the church so it can hide in a corner. These promises are only activated by a faith-filled, Spirit-filled, gospel-proclaiming church.
It seems to me that the pattern we are given in the prototypical church in Acts is to fall on our faces before God and ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we can speak boldly and so God will stretch out his hand and heal and perform signs and wonders in the name of his holy servant Jesus. The church, filled with love and grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, must be aggressive in the declaration of the good news of the gospel of the Kingdom of God.