Pray Psalm 56.1, 2.
Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up;
Fighting all day he oppresses me.
My enemies would hound me all day,
For there are many who fight against me, O Most High.
Sing Psalm 56.1, 2
(Morecambe: Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart)
Savior, be gracious, gracious unto me! Weary, I seek the shelter of Your wings.
‘Til trouble passes, till my sighings flee, I seek the Lord Who for me does all things.
Read and meditate on Acts 4.1-4.
1. Why were the religious leaders “greatly disturbed”?
2. What happened after Peter and John were arrested?
The religious leaders regarded themselves as the arbiters of social, cultural, and spiritual life, and they were determined to keep it that way.
Good luck with that.
As Peter and John were doing the follow-up from Peter’s brief sermon, they were taken into custody and charged with teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead (v. 2). Guilty as charged. Note that they were arrested near evening (v. 3). Peter and John had gone up to the temple in the middle of the afternoon. They had been working this crowd for several hours, and that helps to explain why their ministry bore such wonderful fruit (v. 4). Peter and John had gone into the most prominent cultural arena in Jerusalem, where they brought the healing, restoring, and reconciling life of Christ to a lame man.
Now the tiger is out of the cage. The Holy Spirit is loose in the world, and nothing will be able to stop the advance of Christ’s rule on earth as it is in heaven. Peter and John knew this, and they had absolutely no fear that the religious leaders of Jerusalem, who thought they had stopped the work Jesus began to do, would have any more success impeding the work He was continuing to do. The religious leaders seem almost comical here as they fuss about, trying to silence the preaching of Jesus and the resurrection. Rather than scorn these men, however, we should look upon them with sadness and pity, for the depth of their spiritual blindness is great, as we shall see.
The keepers of the unbelieving status quo are ever vigilant against anything that threatens their place of authority and privilege. In their folly and blindness, they thought a harsh warning would get them their way. What they didn’t realize was that they weren’t just warning some Galilean fishermen. The Spirit of God is undeterred by the desperate actions of lost men.
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Here is the thing about working in our Personal Mission Field: We don’t always know what’s in store for us.
Peter and John were just going about their daily routine. And ended up in jail.
I’m pretty sure they didn’t get up that morning planning on an evening in lock-up.
But I’m certain they got up and read their Scriptures, and prayed, fellowshipped with other believers, and encouraged one another in their faith and work. Then the rest of the day happened.
Please look at who the instigators were of the trouble: priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees.
Yes. All the religious. At this point, it wasn’t the government, or unbelieving neighbors, or complete followers of darkness. No. It was the church. The church stood first in line to persecute.
David experienced this and prophesied that Jesus and His followers would be equally troubled by it:
“For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it.
Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; then I could hide from him.
But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance.
We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in the throng” (Ps. 55.12-14).
Granted, Jesus and Peter and John were never tight with the religious of their day, but still, the church should not attack its own!
The warning to us is clear. We don’t know by whom, how, what, when, or where we will be called each day. But we, like they, need to be prepared and ready.
Prepare for anything and everything in the Word:
“The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Ps. 119.160, 105, 11)
Sustain your preparation with prayer: “…praying always…” (Eph. 6.18).
“…pray without ceasing…” (I Thess. 5.17).
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matt. 26.41).
Dress for success: “Put on the whole armor of God…” (Eph. 6.11-17).
Be filled with the Holy Spirit of Jesus: “…He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth…” (Jn. 14.16, 17). “…when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…” (Jn. 16.13). “…be filled with the Spirit…” (Eph. 5.18).
Jesus told His disciples, and He tells us, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16.33). So, whether we are troubled by those inside the Church, or outside, the instruction is this: Be ready. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 612).
Here we go. Again.
1. Why were the religious leaders upset with Peter and John? Do you expect such opposition as you work your Personal Mission Field? Why or why not?
2. How can you prepare each day to make the most of your time for serving the Lord throughout the day?
3. It has often been asked, “If you were taken into custody and charged with being a witness for Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Explain.
The harmless and useful servants of Christ, like the apostles, have often been troubled for their work of faith and labor of love, when wicked men have escaped. And to this day instances are not wanting, in which reading the Scriptures, social prayer, and religious conversation meet with frowns and checks. But if we obey the precepts of Christ, he will support us. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Acts 4.1-4
Pray Psalm 56.8-13.
The world is not always a friendly place for believers. Pray for Christians who are being persecuted for their faith. Pray for yourself, to have courage to stand for Jesus in face of any and all opposition.
Sing Psalm 56.8-13.
(Morecambe: Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart)
Lord, see my wand’rings, see my anxious tears! Help me to trust and praise Your holy Word.
Gladly I know that when I call You hear; I will not fear but trust in You, O Lord.
I will not fear what foes might do to me. I give You thanks, my vows will I renew.
You have redeemed me, set my spirit free, and ever in Your light I’ll walk with You.
T. M. and Susie Moore
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.