The book of Acts was written by Luke. Dr. Luke, a physician. There is the possibility he was the richest among the inner circle of apostles and those close to the apostles. Matthew was a tax collector but he gave that job up to follow Jesus. It’s interesting Dr. Luke includes many stories about rich people in his Gospel and Acts. The rich fool, the rich young ruler, Joseph of Arimathea, John Mark’s mother Mary who owned a big house, Lydia a dealer in purple. Remember the wonderful story about that wee little man Zacchaeus. Remember he was very rich, a much despised tax collector. Then Jesus came to his house and into his heart and there was a sudden and very noticeable transformation, a total change of heart. Suddenly he was giving half his possessions to the poor and he paid back four times whatever he had defrauded. That’s radical generosity. The heart that is transformed by Jesus loves people more than it loves stuff. The heart of a believer in the Gospel uses their stuff in order to love people. Faith toward God produces a freedom toward possessions, a lack of fear about our provisions. The story of Zacchaeus is the story of what happens when a person’s life is totally turned around by Jesus, when the love of Jesus takes over. The story in Acts 4 is a story of the transformation of a whole group of people, of the early church some 10,000 strong. It follows after what happened in the previous text.
Last week we heard John say: That which we have heard and seen with our eyes and touched with our hands we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with God and so that your joy may be complete. The point of the Christian life is to have fellowship with the one, true living God. Now John tells what they proclaimed. The message has two parts, what the world needs to know about God and what the world needs to know about sin (and ourselves). This is the foundational message of the Bible and of all of life. This is the Gospel message. This is the message we have received from Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
We have before us a model of what to do and how to pray. This is the longest recorded prayer in the book of Acts, and it serves as a model, an example for us, to help us in how to pray, especially in times of trouble. Let’s consider how a prayer prayed two thousand years ago still speaks into our lives today in twenty-first century post-modern America.
Preachers and commentators alike tend to avoid I John. It’s hard to outline, it’s repetitive, ideas overlap, there doesn’t seem to be a clear flow or direction. It reads like a patchwork of favorite verses and memorable lines. There seems to be an over emphasis on God and love. But if you think about it, two things that people most often get wrong in this world are God and love, so maybe it needs some over emphasis. The bottom line is clear. The writer wants us to know the joy of intimate fellowship with God, the kind of fellowship there is between a child and his father. The opening three verses are enough to scare off many writers and preachers. It is a grammatical tangle of phrases piled on top of each other. I like the outline one commentary uses that captures this confusing opening paragraph. What is “which”, who is “we”, and what does “we” have to say about “which” to “you”?
Remembering is an important part of life. In fact, life and freedom become precarious and tenuous if we forget to remember. We American are having an especially hard time remembering important things in our past. We want to put all our investment of thought, time and energy in the future. We are a lot like Huckleberry Finn. He was finally starting to get interested in the Bible when Aunt Polly was learning him about Moses and the bulrushes, but then she let it out that Moses was dead and that was the end of that. In the immortal words of Huck, “I don’t take no stock in dead people.” So, it is with us. We as a nation are putting less and less stock in dead people, and as a result less and less stock in the things people died for.
We are in chapter 4 of the book of Acts which gives us the early history of the beginning of the Christian church. The apostles Peter and John were in the temple in Jerusalem and they healed a crippled man in the name of Jesus. That caused such a big sensation the Jewish religious and political authorities stepped in and arrested them and they are now before the court. It was a daunting experience worse than what Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh faced in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee this past week. Peter has given his testimony. This man was healed in the name of Jesus, whom you killed, but whom God has raised from the dead. Salvation is found in no other name under heaven.
Last week we noticed wherever the Gospel is being proclaimed or lived out, wherever the truth of God’s Word and Biblical morality is being held up as a standard, Satan is right there trying to hinder it. It’s what he has been doing since the Garden of Eden and is still doing. “As they were speaking,” the wicked were watching and lying in wait to seek an opportunity. Satan never rests in his relentless drive to kill Christ and kill His Church. We must remember we have an enemy of our souls, an enemy of this church, an enemy of every sermon preached here and of every good deed done here, an enemy of everything that is good. But we also noticed that every effort of Satan is ruled and over ruled by God. Nothing hinders the work of God and in fact God turns every work of Satan to God’s advantage. God continues to build His kingdom and to see that the Gospel of His Son is spread. We see this in two ways in our text. First, the number of believers grew to five thousand men in spite of the opposition. And second, the apostles are given the opportunity to preach the Gospel to the highest authorities of Israel, and they do so in the power of the Holy Spirit.