The Praying Of The Persecuted Church
Book of Acts 4:15-37
What does the word “Prayer” mean?
If we reduce prayer to it’s most fundamental element then prayer is “talking to God” on a personal level!
Prayer is all forms of communication with the God of Heaven!
There are basically five categories of prayer:
Praise, petition, supplication, imprecation and intercession.
Today, for the most part, we will see the power of a “petition” in prayer and prayer that offers “praise”.
Every prayer should begin with “praising” Our Father in Heaven!
“Praise” is honoring and glorifying Our Creator and Our Maker!
A “petition” prayer is a formal request of Our Father in Heaven and it cannot be made in a general, or vague or a careless manner!
This prayer is begging God to do what only He can do!
Jas 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. “The effectual fervent prayer “of a righteous man” availeth much”.
The first need for “answered” prayer is for God’s people to be doing what is right.
The Bible is very specific here:
Psa 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, “the Lord will not hear me”:
Unconfessed sin still stop a prayer before it can begin!
*****Act 4:15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,
Act 4:16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.
We can see that these that sat in council that day were not moved by the preaching of Peter. They were only in a dilemma!
They could not deny the miracle of the healing of that once lame man because, that once crippled and once lame man was standing before them with these Apostles.
They could not explain how simple fishermen from Galilee could perform such a miracle whose only fame was that they had been with Jesus of Nazareth.
It is important for us to keep these things in context:
This miracle was not proof of the “Resurrection” of Jesus!
This miracle was not proof that Peter’s message was even true!
Even Satan can perform miracles:
2Th 2:9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
2Th 2:10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
And false prophets can also perform wonders:
Deu 13:1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
Deu 13:2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
The truth of Peter’s message is that The Lord Jesus Christ is “ALIVE”!
That Jesus was working in “His Church” through the “Power” of the Holy Spirit!
Peter preached from the Old Testament to show the truth of the “New Testament Gospel” to these that were Jews.
BUT, Miracles Are Not A Substitute For The Word Of God!
This council of the Sanhedrin court were not seeking the truth, They Were Seeking A Way To Avoid The Truth!
Sounds a whole lot like our courts of today!
They had no interest in the truth of the evidence “that was in their presence” this day!
It had been some of these same men that had tried to trap Jesus in His words!
We can see the proof that “a miracle”, in itself, “cannot bring conviction” to the lost!
It is only by the “Power” of the Holy Spirit that conviction can come to those that are lost!
The problem was not of their mind, the problem was in their heart!
The Bible says:
Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
*****Act 4:17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
Act 4:18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
They now came to the conclusion that like all false doctrine that had come before this, that this was a new fad and would die a natural death in a short period of time.
They Were Very Wrong!
This religious group forbade the preaching of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
AND, The entire religious world is trying to do this same thing today!
Satan has been trying to silence God’s people ever since the time of Adam and Eve!
Sadly even today many of us have become “silent” Christians and even our own governments are being caught up and swayed by these things of false religion!
We know that this is a sign of the end-times because in the Book of Revelation we find a Religious Babylon and also Secular Babylon.
Rev 14:8 And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon “is fallen”, “is fallen”, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
1.) We have the apostate Church, the “Harlot”.
2.) We have the spiritual Sodom, “The Unholy Worldly Alliance”.
This council did not want the Gospel Message to spread!
BUT, Satan’s attempts to silence the Church only leads to a stronger witness of the Lord!
When the world is trying to silence the truth of the Gospel, this only lends to the truth of God’s Word!
*****Act 4:19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.
Who or what should we obey?
Peter said judge this your self!
After all these men did claim Our Creator as their own God. These men had placed themselves above the Word of God and had even made their own laws and added them to the Word of God.
When “we are sure” that we have a “clear” understanding of the teaching of God’s Word then we “may” one day have to defy our own governments BUT we are “always” suppose to deny the teaching of every false religion!
God has given us the Great Commandment:
Act 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
This commandment must not cannot be denied!
We can see this throughout the Bible:
Exo 1:17 But the midwives feared God, and “did not as the king of Egypt commanded them”, but saved the men children alive.
It is always wrong to murder anyone and that includes babies!
On the average 3700 babies are aborted in America every day.
Heb 11:23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; “and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment”.
Moses’s parents also knew this truth!
Dan 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart “that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank”: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
It is always wrong to eat food that has been offered to Idols!
Dan 3:17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
Dan 3:18 But if not, be it known unto thee, “O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up”.
In other words O king, “do what you have got to do, we are not going to give in to you”!
There are many biblical principles that we must adhere to rather than what our governments write into some laws!
Peter, John and every other believer are under the orders of God to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ until the end of our lives or the Rapture of the Church or whichever comes first!
We must remain in good conscience toward God no matter the suffering!
1Pe 2:19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
*****Act 4:20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
The Bible teaches us:
Heb 2:3 [How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation]; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
Jesus teaches us all, that a righteous protest against injustice will always bring sacrifice and suffering but we cannot and should not, conduct a “holy war” just because of our frustrations!
*****Act 4:23 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.
Peter and John when they were released did not go somewhere and hide. They went back to where the Body of Christ was located. They immediately assembled together and reported their good news.
*****Act 4:24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
Act 4:25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
The greatest concentration of “power” in Jerusalem that day was in this “prayer meeting” with the New Church.
Peter and John had come in from their first battle with Satan and the Body of Christ was meeting to over come that enemy of the Church and all our battles need to always begin with prayer!
These first Christians firmly believed in a personal “omnipotent” Creator, who had now become man in the person of Jesus Christ.
It is Jesus Christ who has been rejected by the religious leaders and by the government of Israel and by the World!
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that God our Creator had made all things according to His written word!
And there was no doubt that this same Creator had come down from “His place in Heaven” and taken on the “body of a human” just for the purpose of saving His creation!
The early Church was glad to suffer persecution for His name’s sake!
BUT, it seems most Christians today are silent and tend to hide from persecution.
The early Church gave praise for the opportunity to preach the Gospel “at all costs”!
Today, it seems that many of the Church question our Creator and His “written record” of our creation in the Book of Genesis.
We cannot be saved unless we believe “with all our heart” that Christ Jesus is also Our Creator!
This reference to the “heathen” which means the “Gentiles” was meant to apply to Herod, and Pilate and the other Gentiles who persecuted Christ Jesus.
The term “Heathen” denotes the “nations” that are not of the Jews, and “rage” denotes an assembly such as an unruly “mob”.
This reference to the “people” refers to the Jewish mob, the Jewish religious leaders and the Jewish government who were also guilty of the same crime.
This a picture of the many nations that plan to unite in rebellion against God that we see today as we get nearer the end of the Church Age!
The Apostle Paul best describes the phrase “vain things”.
Rom 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; [but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened].
All these Jews had said that they knew God but they did nor know Him at all because they did not believe His Word.
This Is The First Act Of Knowing Him!
Paul also added:
Rom 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Our own worldly wisdom will always make us foolish when compared to the Word of God!
The Bible adds:
Heb 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Though the world we live in has lost it’s fear of God all that does is make them all truly “foolish”!
*****Act 4:26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
Today as we live in America there is a thing called the United Nations who are counseling together to seek a humanistic world government and departing from the Word of God.
We can see the outcome of these things in the Book of Revelation:
Rev 16:14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, [to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty].
For the Apostle Peter to make reference to [Psalm 2] indicates that he knew that the secular world would not accept the Church of the Living God!
The early Church felt the urgency to pray about these things yet the Church in our day does not have that same urgency and is not as strong as it could be!
Most of us Christians are just too comfortable in our walk with God. Shame, Shame, Shame on us all!
*****Act 4:27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
Act 4:28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
Though the world gathers against the Body of Christ, the fact remains that it is God who is in control!
That phrase “determined before” is the same in the Greek as “predestined”!
God has told us that these things will happen.
AND, There is nothing that we humans can do to catch God off guard!
We have the complete Word of God and praise the Lord we are on “The Winning Side”!
AND, We should have a clear understanding the more we are active servants of the Lord, the more spiteful will be the agents of Satan!
The Bible teaches us:
Pro 19:21 There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.
*****Act 4:29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: [and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word],
Act 4:30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done “by the name of thy holy child Jesus”.
This the prayer that was made.
They did not pray for the persecution to cease.
They prayed for the power to speak the Word of God with even more boldness!
They did not pray for an easy Christian life.
They prayed for the courage to endure all persecution!
These are some of the things that we need to do today in order to get back the strength that the early Church had!
The early church clearly understood that God had a plan for all His believing children!
And they all were in one accord and knew “the work of the Church” is to glorify The Lord Jesus Christ.
For without Him we are “nothing”!
*****Act 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
Now we can see a second time the early church was filled with the Holy Ghost.
The filling of the Holy Spirit is not a once in a lifetime event!
The filling of the Holy Spirit must be often, even daily and comes through “earnest prayer”!
We can see that there was no “languages” or “tongues” involved with this filling but only the “Power To Speak Boldly”!
AND, also for a joyful and godly Christian life.
What is the will of God?
Eph 5:17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding “what the will of the Lord is”.
Eph 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Eph 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and “spiritual songs”, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Eph 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Eph 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
The filling of the Holy Spirit is necessary for our maturity in the Word of God!
We cannot walk the Christian walk without the Holy Spirit!
The filling of the Holy Spirit is essential for every child of God to be that useful and that available servant to the Lord!
The Bible “does not” command the believer to be indwelt or sealed with the Holy Spirit because this is the “gift” of God!
The Bible “does” command each believer “to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit” in order to to be of use to Our Lord!
In order for this to take place then we must not “grieve” the Holy Spirit!
Eph 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
When we “grieve the Holy Spirit we can also quench the Holy Spirit!
1Th 5:19 Quench not the Spirit.
We can quench the Holy Spirit when we despise the preaching of God’s Word!
How do we grieve the Holy Spirit?
Eph 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
How do we not grieve the Holy Spirit?
Eph 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
*****Act 4:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
According to the Bible the “Heart” is the center of spiritual activity and controls all the actions of the human life.
The “heart” is the seat of our “conscience”!
The “soul” can be said to be that life breath that is given by God! It is the “soul” that retains the knowledge of God in every individual and it is the “soul” that is saved by the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Our Savior!
That word “common” simply means “ordinary”. Some believers were “well to do” but most “became poor” because of the circumstances caused by the unbelieving Jews.
The early Church considered their personal possessions as just “common goods” which could easily be given up.
This was not an early example of socialism!
This was not an early example of communism!
These things were “entirely voluntary”!
These things were not planned!
Nor were these things enforced nor caused by the Church!
They only gave their possessions “as were needed” and were “very” willing to do this.
We of the Church should always be willing to share “as the needs” of our Brothers and Sisters arise!
BUT, this does not mean we are to turn over all our possessions to the Church leaders.
God does not command more than the “Tithe” and all other things are “free will” offerings.
It is that “free will” offering that gains God’s Blessings, not the “Tithe”!
To neglect the “Tithe” is to ROB GOD!
*****Act 4:33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
Even the Apostles needed to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit but they had one thing we do not have today.
They had that personal, eyewitness, knowledge and irrefutable evidence that Jesus Christ had certainly raised from the dead!
This is the crowning proof of Christianity!
Only God Himself can defeat death!
Jesus had demonstrated that He was and is God when He walked out of the grave!
It is this knowledge that gave boldness to Peter, And Paul, And John and all the Apostles!
It is this same knowledge that gives every believer the right into God’s Heaven!
Jesus said to doubting Thomas:
Joh 20:27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
Joh 20:28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
Joh 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: [blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed].