There are places in Scripture where I get tinges of excitement and my heart surges in anticipation when I read it, where I can clearly see the kind of relationship I am meant to have with God. For each of us, there should be passages that leap off the page and burn deep within. There are two places in the Bible where my wonder and passion and absolute adoration for the Lord are rekindled every time I read them. The first, for me, is in Exodus chapter 33 and the record of a breathtaking conversation between God and Moses, my all-time Biblical hero.
This week, as I continue my track through God’s Word, I had the privilege of reading Acts chapter 4, my other favorite passage I return to again and again for strength, instruction and courage to be bold in action.
In Acts 4, Peter and John are called before the religious leaders to account for their healing a crippled man. It is no coincidence that these were the two men God had used miraculously and now who had an audience with Annas, Caiaphas and others of the high priest’s family. Peter and John are the only disciples recorded in Scripture, about two months before, who followed Jesus to witness the illegal trials led by these same religious leaders the night before Jesus was crucified.
Instead of hiding in the shadows and even denying their association with Christ, they stood boldly, filled with the Holy Spirit. They had been equipped by their Risen Savior, steadied by their absolute and complete salvation in Jesus, who had commanded them to go and make disciples.
When questioned by what power or what name they performed this miracle, here is Peter’s awe-inspiring response:
Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is
“the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.”
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
What a powerful summary of the gospel! Scripture says that the religious leaders were “astonished” by the courage of Peter and John and that they were just ordinary guys without a formal education. They took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Later when they were released and reported back to the exponentially growing group of Jesus followers, the new church began to cry out together to the Lord in prayer. Their first and only response to what had happened was to pray. As they raised their voices in unity, they worshiped their Creator God, reflected on the Holy Word and shared with their Heavenly Father the persecution against Jesus and now them. As they prayed, they make an amazing request:
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.
My first reaction may have been to ask God to intervene and bind the power of those who sought to persecute them. I may have asked God to protect and go on the offensive against those intending harm to the new believers. They didn’t. They asked God to consider the threats and give the Christians the ability to proclaim the Good News of Jesus with courage. They begged God to make the name of Jesus great through signs and wonders.
God immediately answered their heart cries by literally shaking the place where they met. God poured out His Spirit and each one began speaking the Word boldly.
The believers continued to be “one in heart and mind.” They shared everything and cared for everyone. God’s grace was upon them and they continued to testify with great power.
Scripture is meant to be savored, to be poured over and acted upon. This chapter in Acts is one that challenges me, that compels me on in my journey to know God and follow Him wholeheartedly.
I know that I will never become what God intends apart from His Word. Neither will you. I want to encourage you to become a consistent student of the Bible. Read it, study it, memorize it and meditate on it. Savor it. There is nothing sweeter than to hear God’s voice call to you through His Word.