Following the resurrection of Christ and his ascension into Heaven to be at the right hand of the throne of God, the disciples were entrusted with the Great Commission. Their Friend Jesus had given his life for all people (Hebrews 2:9), and it was their privileged responsibility to bring that message to others. Being a friend to Jesus requires us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. Acts 4 shows us just how Jesus’ friends can bear their cross for Christ’s glory.
JESUS’ FRIENDS ENDURE PERSECUTION
Acts 4:1-4 records the aftermath of Peter’s sermon in Acts 3. As with any sermon, there will be those who are annoyed by it and those who accept it. Still yet, we must be “instant in season and out of season” (cf. 2 Tim. 4).
The Sadducees, who were the ruling class of Jews and did not believe in miracles or resurrection, were “greatly annoyed” that Peter and John were proclaiming the resurrection from the dead “in Jesus”. Their authority was abused ye again as they put Peter and John into custody until the next day for a hearing.
On the other hand, many accepted the message of Christ based upon the physical evidence of the miracle and Peter’s reasoning from the Scriptures. Notice the pattern that they and all believers follow: they “heard and believed”. Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17). Hearing is not a special gift given to those who already believe as many Calvinist groups claim.
As we preach the Word, we should expect individuals and groups to fall into the same mold as those in Acts 4—they will either accept the word or be greatly annoyed by it. Jesus’ parable of the sower who sowed the good seed in Luke 8 describes the four types of soil, which we can choose to be. It also describes the people which we are trying to help. Identify the soil and nurture it.
JESUS FRIENDS EVANGELIZE WITH PERSISTENCE
Acts 4:5-22 records the great persistence which characterizes God’s people. But we are not of them that shrink back unto perdition; but of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:39). The Sanhedrin asked “by what power or by what name did you do this?” We can hear Jesus’ own defense against the Jewish leaders when he said, “the baptism of John, was it from Heaven or from men?” The authority and name by which this great miracle was done was that of Jesus (Matt. 28:19).
Peter did not shrink back from declaring the authority and power behind this great work—it was Jesus. Let us do all things Biblically and we will never need to hide what we do or say. Jesus was identified as the fulfillment of Psalm 118:22. Not only was Jesus the fulfillment of the prophecies, he was also the fulfillment of hope—there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Peter and John’s defense was not made by their great wisdom, but it was made possible by God. Their defense was not made by education, it was made by inspiration. Jesus promised this in Luke 12:8-12:
Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
The inspiration of the apostolic defense is no reason for us to avoid being Biblically educated. In fact, the absence of continued inspiration today only enhances our need to be educated in the Bible and apologetics.
JESUS’ FRIENDS CONTINUE IN PRAISE
Acts 4:23- shows their continued praise and service despite the negative situation. The apostle Paul would later write: “But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict” (1 Thess. 2:2). No matter what happens, we must be faithful. Job said “ Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:21-22).
Their continued trust in God is signified by their Scripture filled prayer (4:23-30). The disciples prayed to God with the Psalms as the inspiration of their words. Their detrimental situation did not deter them. Rather, they were compelled to move forward and trust in God even more. 2 Corinthians 4:16 says: “Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day.”
Their continued praise for God was also backed up by their service to their Christian family. With a close echo of Acts 2:42ff we see that “the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32). This same benevolent spirit is seen in Christians throughout the Bible (1 Cor. 16; 2 Cor. 8: Acts 24:17).
Trials can help us to be better devoted rather than driven to despair. Hebrews 12:7,11 says, “It is for chastening that ye endure; God dealeth with you as sons….All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness.”