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August 11, 2021 4:00 am
It's easy for skilled with stories of political unrest or social disintegration to be tempted to ignore all that's happening around us. But is that what were called to do today on Truth for Life Alastair Begg tackles this question by examining a timely prayer that shows us how the early church handled persecution.
Let me invite you to turn to the acts of the apostles and to chapter 4 and I'm going to read from the 23rd verse to the 31st for us when they that is, the apostles Peter and John when they were released they went to their friends and reported with the chief priests and the elders had said to them, and when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to guard and said sovereign Lord who made the heaven and the air to see everything in them who through the mouth of your father, our father David, your servant said by the Holy Spirit.
Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot in vain. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed.
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 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. Now Lord look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness while you stretch out your hand to heal and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. 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 continue to speak the word of God with boldness, and as we turn now to the Bible that is the story of our hearts that we need you, Lord Jesus Christ to come and make yourself known to us so that it may be your voice that we hear by the Holy Spirit and that might be to your endearing call that we respond that it may be before your throne. We bow and so we need you and thank you for the promise of your help. We pray in your name. Amen. While I want to take actually just part of a verse as our text for today and it is part of the 29th verse of acts chapter 4 which we read part of a moment or two ago and in acts 429 the people who have assembled their and have gathered in prayer say and now Lord look upon their threats they were being imposed upon by the authorities look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness and that really is our text for this morning. The NIV translates it enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness and I referred to this and find I called our study this morning. Timely prayer a timely prayer in as much is it is, is that it is as fitting and as necessary to pray this prayer today as it was when I was forced Dr. the Bible makes it clear that the the whole church is to take the whole gospel to the whole world and the world in which we live today is, of course, challenging, and a daunting place.
I was reading this week book by advising the Dutch theologian I had dipped tinted before but I settled upon it this week for some reason, and it's fairly brief and I just read it through yet he entitled the book the riddle of life and in the course of that as he addresses various perspectives. He describes the various views that people have of the story and the unfolding of history and what he comes to comment on the view of the world which is a peculiarly optimistic view of humanity sees humanity as being on the road of constant improvement server along the lines of, we've got to admit is getting better and the idea that as we if we just have a little more time than we can get this correct that the development of the progress of our world will eventually reach its fruition, its final point is pinnacle and commenting on this Plavix says when that will come nobody knows obviously doesn't subscribe to this view, but then he says it looks more and more likely that our culture based as it is on self-satisfaction will at a certain moment collapse and then we as humanity will face a worldwide calamity that will occur without warning. It may yet take a while but there is no doubt it will come driving wrote that book in 1939 on the threshold of the second world war. He died himself in 1965 and what he observes they are almost prophetically is easy to tie in with any kind of survey of history because it is obvious that cultures and empires rise and they fall I found myself sitting and wondering if by having were able to return if he could come back right now to the United States. We defined in some measure the extreme circumstances of today as something of fulfillment of that prophetic word concerning a calamity which will actually be worldwide because here we find ourselves in a period of political agitation and social disintegration and the question that is before us and I wonder study with you this morning is a straightforward one and that is what is the church to do what is the church to do what we called to do. What does the Bible say we must do now what do we want to do what we feel like doing what will make us comfortable and so long no and in tackling that question. I want us to look not simply at this text that we have taken but to consider what gives rise to this particular prayer.
Why is it that at this point in time.
This small group of Christians pray expressly enable your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness. Now we we can start back to foreign worker whale all the way up to this, but we do need to set it in context of first of all, you will remember that the apostles were commissioned by the Lord Jesus.
Jesus said to them before his departure to heaven all authority in heaven on earth has been given to me go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, then we find that he then says to them, wait, so the end of Matthew its goal the beginning of the acts of the apostles is recorded that he said wait wait for what while we wait for the promise of the father, the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon you and then you will be enabled to do that which I have asked you to do. And of course we discover then that the apostles immediately on the receipt of the coming of the Holy Spirit begin to do just what Jesus said and they do it in a quite remarkable fashion in a multilingual Jerusalem crowd. The preaching of Peter is accompanied by what you would refer to as almost a waft of the supernatural and it is in relationship to that that in chapter 3 we are told that when Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour, a man, a lame man from birth was being carried and laid again at the gate of the temple that is called the beautiful gate so that he could ask arms of those entering the temple. This was clearly and he would've been a fixture at this particular beautiful gate people would've seen them on a daily basis, they would've known that he is poor that he was hopeless that he was a blind man and he was a better man.
He was laying and he was a better I don't know why I introduced him as being blind, that is thin and accretion is is not told that that was the case as it is a man lame from birth was being carried now and what happens. Of course you can read engaged in the beginning of the chapter 1 to attend this amazing transformation whereby, although Peter and John, don't give them any money at a given what they're able to give and suddenly he's up and dancing around the community and all the people saw him walking and praising God. And they said I wasn't at the fellow that is usually there in the morning when we come to work asking for alms answer was yes and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to now, what then follows is that the responsibility falls to Peter to give an explanation for this, and it is quite wonderful when you look down at your text if you will and you see that as he addresses the people in verse 12 he begins by saying men of Israel, why do you wonder at this why you wonder this.
Do you think you would wonder if a man who had been in this predicament for so long, suddenly, was dancing around the bazaars and saw and that he says are the reason that you shouldn't wonder is because think about it.
Think about God and about the history of your people think about all that God has promised, and so on, and he provides a quite exceptional history lesson through the balance of the chapter concluding God, having raised up his servant send him to you first to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness from your wickedness.
Well of course that's things does not, and therefore is no surprise when you come to the beginning of chapter 4 and we have a record of the beginning of persecution certainly of opposition and the opposition is coming from the Sadducees. Those who an elite company of religious people and they were at the head of a of a group that combine both to and Gentile. They decided the best thing they can do is arrest these characters in verse three. They put them into custody until the next day because it was already evening and then gloriously in verse four, but many of those who hear the word believed in the number of men came to about 5000. So they said what what will this will just shut them up and presumably that will take care of all business and while they give them a night in the jail during the night as it were, at the whole numbers increase from 3000 to 5000. God does this.
This is what God does. Now the way in which they are given the opportunity on the following day to set out their case is seized by Peter with great clarity and with great conviction, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit. Verse eight said to the rulers of the people and elders if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man is been healed, led and been known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well and he ties it into their knowledge of the Old Testament.
Well, what can we do about this. They were they were struggling Wednesday because the conviction and the obvious impact in the community was unavoidable. They recognize that although Peter and John were not particularly educated, certainly not like the Sadducees, they were not from a particularly strong background. They were common men and that only added to their astonishment, and furthermore the man who'd been healed, was standing beside them, and so they said well why don't we have a little private counsel meeting. Thank you.
I wish I been present for that. I really do verse 15 when they had commanded them to leave the Council they conferred with one another and as soon as they're on the wrong visit. Wonder what in the world are we going to do what what what will we do with these men because after all, a notable sign is been performed through them. It's evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it, I may just say parenthetically that when God breaks in at any point in history by the power of the Holy Spirit through his servant Jesus, it will be unmistakable, unmistakable, because the man's condition was an impossible condition. He couldn't fix himself. His healing was undeniable. He was standing there in front of and as we discover in verse 19 of the chapter, the preaching of the apostles was proving to be unstoppable. So they called them and they charged him okay I don't want you to teach et al. anymore in the name of Jesus. And remember that great answer of Peter and John while you go to decide for yourselves. Is it right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God. You must charge for. We cannot but speak of what we have seen in her in so when they had threatened them a little more. They let them go. Now all that is by way of the background which leads up to where our Scripture reading began in verse 23 and when they were released they went to their friends and they reported and on receiving the report.
The people there lifted their voices together to God and then acknowledge that all that it taken place was under the sovereign hand of God.
You see, my dear friends unless we understand that God is a sovereign God then it was almost inevitable that we will be buffeted and bowled over by the events which are clearly evidences of opposition and incipient persecution in relationship to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do not misunderstand all that is unfolding in these days as being inexplicable simply in terms of race or color, or gender, or any other thing man as man is opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and particularly when evidence of that gospel is undeniable, so it's no wonder that they lifted their voices to God and they prayed and they prayed, knowledgeably, or if you like. They prayed biblically the pre-big. They recognize this amazing juxtaposition between God who is sovereignly in control of things and get the responsibility that was there in the person of Herod in collusion with Pontius Pilate and seeing things in light of the Scriptures. They take as some to and they say, isn't this just exactly what the psalmist was on about why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot in vain, and the kings of the ark set themselves and they said that's exactly what was happening here. I suggest to you that is exactly what is happening here the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers set themselves against the Lord and against his anointed save you again that the sovereignty of God. God, who is unfolding his purpose from all of eternity is at the very heart of biblical Christianity. Notice what they say Lord you made heaven and earth. Then they say in verse 25. Not only are you the one who made but you are the God who speaks you made use me and in verse 28 and you decide what is happened here is happened as a result of the hateful animosity in light of some to express in Herod and Pontius Pilate, who, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel were were amassing their forces against Christ but that was only doing what your plan had predestined to take place, and now Lord, and now I wonder how we would have finished and now Lord we want to come to you again ask for you. We might've finished it. Perhaps a now Lord, please remove the threats when they say look upon the threats is simply be taken into consideration, or we might've said please stifle the opposition or we might've asked, and now Lord, please keep us from persecution. But no, and now Lord granted to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness. This is why I suggest to you this morning that it is a timely prayer for surely the great need of the hour in the church of Jesus Christ is simply this for spirit filled, Christ centered boldness to speak your word with all boldness. Jesus remember quoting the Scripture says man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. The prophets make it clear that the grass withers and the flower falls by the word of the Lord will endure forever. So this is it this is what he was promising before he left them Jesus is and I will send the Holy Spirit another one who will come and who will lead you into all truth. What an amazing transformation read again Peter's sermon on Pentecost considered his ability to answer here and compare that with what he was like only a matter of weeks before when he stumbles before a lady who accuses him.
Suggest to them that he is a follower of Jesus. I don't know.
I don't know Jesus and now such boldness by the power of the Holy Spirit aware of the fact that what is happening here is that the promise of Jesus has come to fulfillment in the giving of the spirit and the giving of the spirit is revealed in Peter's ability to do this with the come in signs that said is foundations and this time we will hear more about the apostle Peter's bold and courageous declaration of the gospel tomorrow as we continue this message on Truth for Life with Alice to brag what we hope you been enjoying listening to the encore 2021 series.
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Each day you will ponder a different aspect of God's nature so that you can know him better. Trust firmly in his character, everyday life. Request your copy of the book. None else today, when you donate to support the Bible teaching you hear on this program find the book in the app also online a Truth for Life.org/donate or call us to make a donation request. The book number is 888588788. If you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book right Truth for Life at PO Box 39, 8000, Cleveland, OH 44139 when the early church faced persecution they could've gone to God seeking protection or deliverance, but they decided to do something very bold incident about Lapine. Hope you can be back tomorrow to find out what they did the Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life learning