Acts 4:23 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,
“‘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.
Acts 4:23-31 – The amazing prayer of the Apostles and their friends when Peter and John are released from the Sadducees with orders not to preach anymore. The prayer is marked by a commitment to the absolute sovereignty of God and their duty to obey. What a beautiful combination.
The prayer comes to a head near the end when they pray that the authorities had only done to Jesus what God’s hand had “predestined to take place”. Then they request that God grant that they be able to continue to speak the word with boldness. They are convinced of two great truths. God is the ultimate author of the death and suffering of Jesus and they have a duty to give the Gospel. The suffering they are enduring is no more to them than an extension of what God ordained for Jesus.
The prayer is notably absent of a request for an end of the persecution and suffering they are being subjected to. They know that suffering awaits them. Jesus told them such would be the case. And they know that God has commanded them to give the Gospel. (I don’t think this means that it is wrong to pray for opposition to stop. But I do think that it means that faithfulness to Jesus Christ will not always be well received, especially when it comes to telling others the biblical Gospel.)
The believers in Acts 4 knew that they did not know everything and that all they could do was seek to obey the commands of God. The truth that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass is not a deterrent to their passionate obedience. “You are in charge here and since you are we must obey.” What a glorious combination. How this should mark us as well. The God who does ordain whatsoever comes to pass has included in that ordination the delivery of the Gospel. Can there be a greater incentive to evangelize than this? God commands it. God ordains it. God uses it. God brings fruit out of it. What business do we have analysing whether there are better ways to do things? What business of ours to only do it if we are not going to get hurt, ridiculed, embarrassed, shamed, ostracized and/or rejected? How dare we not obey when God says do it?
Preaching (telling, giving, proclaiming, explaining) the Gospel is what the world needs. It is what it does not want. It is what God uses to save people. Not exactly the combinations we would like, but we are not in charge. He is. (I have to resist the temptation here to talk about those who turn biblical preaching into little more than an opportunity to spew their hatred and politics and twisted understandings at others – but that is for another time.)
O Lord – look on the difficulties and help us to preach the Gospel with boldness.