Today: [Acts 4 Part 2:] Persecution and Prosperity: After stiff persecution from the Sadducees for the healing of the man at the gate Beautiful, Peter and John report back to the early church leaders. Prayers go up in one accord, and a fresh Pentecost pours out upon them, this time upon more than 8000 converts. The people come together in support of one another and the apostles as tremendous growth and blessing are poured out upon the early church community.
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[Acts 4:22-37 KJV]
22 For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed. 23 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. 24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou [art] God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: 25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. 29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, 30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. 31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. 32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any [of them] that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid [them] down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, [and] of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold [it], and brought the money, and laid [it] at the apostles’ feet.
Peter and John are threatened by the Saduccees and warned to stop preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus. In chapter three they performed a notable miracle on a man above the age of 40 who had daily languished as a cripple at the gate called Beautiful. In spite of the disapproval of the high priests, 5000 converts are added to the church because of this miracle in addition to the 3000 that came to Christ on the day of Pentecost. Wary of punishing Peter and John further, Annas and Caiaphas let them off with a warning which they promptly refused to obey.
What Peter and John did next tells us much about the early church community. They didn’t go to their homes and families. They went straight to the other apostles and leaders of the early church and reported to them all that was said to them, and all that was done to them at the hands of the council of the Jews. In response, spontaneous prayer is offered up with one accord crying out to God for protection and proliferation of continued miracles in their midst. How is this different from what happens when controversy hits the church today? These people came together in one accord. Peter and John’s actions not only put them in jeopardy but also brought unwanted scrutiny upon the other apostles and the fledgling church. What would your church leadership do, or what would you expect them to do if someone else in the church did something that brought the authorities to their door? If a member of your church incited unrest and caused every member of your church family to come under government surveillance would it bring your church into one accord in prayer or would the response be something different or more negative? We must ask these questions because there is a vast divergence between the character and impact of the early church on the world they lived in than the impact and influence of the church that you and I are a part of on the church we live in. Things are the way they are because of what we are doing. If we want something different, we must do something different.
We read these accounts and romanticize them as though we are their compatriots but would we actually stand with someone in our own churches even if it meant your wives and children were in jeopardy because of it? They lifted up their voice with one accord and cried out to God because of the rage and vanity of the religious authorities that called them into question. They didn’t want things to settle down; they wanted more of what was causing the trouble in the first place. They cried out to God to continue to stretch out His hand to heal and to give them boldness to double down on the very activities and ministry that put them in a position of vulnerable exposure to the authorities in the first place. Their cry was “more, Lord…” and what happened? Pentecost was renewed. The place was shaken and the Holy Spirit manifested again in their midst as on the day of Pentecost, not with 120 only but with 120 plus 8000 converts who wanted nothing more but for God to pour out that which was so detested by the religious crowd but utterly longed for by those that believed and adhered to the reality of the resurrected Christ.
These prayers prayed brought a great intensifying of the power of God being made manifest among the early church leaders. They preached and spoke with great boldness. This boldness was not measured by emotionalism or mere passion, but by the confrontation, their words constituted by the challenge their message was to those who could hurt and damage them and destroy them if they saw fit. Could this happen today? Make no mistake about it. Our world is no more civilized or tolerant of faith than the ancient world of Peter, John and the early church. In the 1950’s healing revivals and the early Pentecostal outpouring men and women were arrested, jailed and hounded for their faith. In the 1980’s I personally knew families in Central Louisiana who had their loved ones committed to insane asylums for doing nothing other than speaking in tongues and claiming to hear the voice of God. The world will tolerate our religious oddities, but they will not tolerate an empowered people speaking confrontational truth backed up by signs miracles and wonders.
Because of the depth of the Spirit of Grace flowing down from heaven upon this early community, they began to demonstrate a generosity of spirit unparalleled in the annals of the church in the intervening years from that time to this. They not only laid their money at the feet of the apostles they went so far as to inquire into the financial needs and debts of one another and to speak to those needs with their own finances and wealth. What does this tell us about the early church and about ourselves? You can measure the spirit of revival in the heart of a believer by their attitude toward money and toward giving. Bear in mind that insurrection was brewing against Rome. This nation was not living as free men; they were under an enemy occupation that made the Gestapo and the Nazi’s look like benevolent philanthropists. Civil war was brewing. The economy in Jerusalem was commencing a crash that according to New Testament reports brought starvation and death to many. In all of this, however, the early church was rejoicing. They were flush with cash. They were blessed, and they were looking for opportunities to give and sacrifice of their substance to the furtherance of the mission of the church and to meet the needs of their fellow believers. Money was moving by the Spirit in their midst because by their giving they were connecting with the economy of the kingdom and being made free from the economy of man.
In this remarkable season of financial liberality, Barnabas stands out. He was a landowner and put a piece of property up for sale and brought the price of it and laid it at the Apostle’s feet. This is what giving into the anointing is all about. To lay something at one’s feet is an act of sacrifice, honor, and acknowledgment of authority and order. When you give into the anointing, you reap the glory. What happened to Barnabas? God took him and made him the singular mentor of the one man who would influence human history more excepting Jesus Himself. Barnabas was the mentor and guide to Saul of Tarsus, later to be known as Paul. This is the kind of giving Cornelius did as well and whose almsdeeds opened the aperture of God’s grace to the whole of the Gentile nations. Does giving offend your religious sensibilities? Are you scandalized when money is talked about or becomes an issue in kingdom values? Then respectfully you have found an area where you need to think differently and act differently. God places no premium on poverty or lack. When you become a conduit of kingdom wealth out to the needs of others, you will see something radical happen in your own life not only in the area of provision but like Barnabas in the area of upgrading your destiny to affect nations for Christ.