As we go through the Book of Acts, I keep thinking about the beggar that Peter and John healed in Acts 3, and how that one act draws a greater and greater crowd with increasing levels of influence and resistance culminating with the believers praying for boldness before the nations.
Here are 2 observations from chapters 3 and 4:
1. The name of Jesus is brought before more and more people so that they might see the significance of who He is and what He has done.
It starts with a beggar at the beautiful gate. Isn’t that an image–a man crippled for 40 years sitting at the gate called beautiful. He is about to be physically restored, and it is done in the name of Jesus. (Acts 3:6) He is about to be a living, breathing, walking, and talking illustration of Jesus’s power and provision. Think back to Luke 5:17-26 for a very similar event, but that time it was Jesus performing the miracle.
Miracles make news travel fast, and a crowd gathers and they see this man who they pass by daily walking around. They stare at Peter and John (3:12), but Peter and John want them to see who is responsible. “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, The God of our Fathers who has glorified His servant Jesus” (3:13).
Just in case there was any doubt where the focus should be, the name of Jesus is referenced 9 times in these two chapters (3:6, 16, 4:7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 30), and this is exactly what got the apostles into trouble.
The guards and Sadducees came, and then the apostles were put in jail. They were brought before the rulers, the elders, and the teachers of the law as well as the high priest. The leaders were not upset that Peter and John were doing miracles and healing people; they just didn’t want it done in the name of Jesus and referencing the resurrection of the dead (4:2, 17)
It started with a lame beggar at the beautiful gate healed in the name of Jesus. Crowds gathered, and now the apostles are speaking the name of Jesus before the high priests. Peter’s words cut to the core of the issue:
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (4:12)
Everyone, including the high priest, must wrestle with the name of Jesus and see their need for him.
2.God’s sovereignty is the basis for believers to ask for boldness
This opportunity to speak about the name of Jesus started with Peter healing the beggar, but it quickly escalated to speaking before the people and the leaders. Now after Peter and John return to the the other believers and tell them what they had gone through, and the resistance from the leaders, the people pray.
When God’s people meet resistance, the first response should be to pray–not to rally the troops, not to give an impassioned motivational speech, not to brainstorm human solutions, but to pray.
It is interesting how the believers start that prayer by appealing to the sovereignty of the Lord (4:24). They quote David speaking about how the nations gather together against the Lord, and how Herod and Pontius Pilot conspired against the Lord, but at the end of the day God is in control. Luke records, “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (4:28).
When there is resistance to the name of Christ, a recognition of the sovereignty of God and His plan is of utmost importance. Furthermore, that sovereignty is to be the motivation for God’s people to act and to “speak God’s word with great boldness” (4:29).
Oftentimes people say, “well God is sovereign, so why should I pray, or why should I do anything? God is going to do whatever He wants.” That is not the response of the believers in Acts, and it shouldn’t be ours. God’s sovereignty is the exact reason to step out in faith and speak boldly.
God is sovereign, and in light of that we should pray to Him for boldness. Then by faith we should speak out in boldness in the name of Jesus Christ so that people might see the significance of who Christ is, what His death, burial, and resurrection accomplished, and how all people need to be reconciliation to their Creator through Christ.