Speaking Truth to Power (4:1-31)

Bible Passage: Acts 4:1-31

The events of this chapter are the aftermath of the healing in Acts 3. When Peter and John healed the man who couldn’t walk, they did it in the entranceway to the temple. It was a public place and the incident got the attention of the crowd. Peter then preached a provocative sermon proclaiming the risen Jesus. When the authorities saw what was happening they were not pleased and arrested Peter and John.

Opposition to the Gospel: In v1-12 we see the arrest of Peter and John and they begin making their defence before the rulers in the city. This is the first moment of formal opposition in Acts, but certainly not the last. As the mission of Jesus goes forward and the gospel spreads, it does so against a backdrop of those who have power and want to stop this new Jesus movement. The motives are obvious. It is not that Peter and John have committed a crime, it is just that they are gaining influence with people and teaching things the rulers don’t like. When questioned, Peter points out as much and observes that it is because of a good deed that they have been arrested. He then uses the moment as another opportunity to testify about Jesus.

Enemies Silenced: Verses 13-22 show the response of the court to Peter and John. They were amazed at how they spoke, especially given their uneducated background. They knew that this was because of Jesus. The power with which they speak is in part due to what they learned from Jesus during his earthly ministry, and in part due to how he empowers them through the Spirit. The articulate answers given and the healed man left a problem for the court. They had nothing to say against the apostles, but they did want to stop them testifying. In the end they had no choice but to let them go, threatening them not to speak of Jesus any more (though the apostles did not take this threat on board!)

Prayer for Boldness: When the apostles were released, they returned to the other believers and prayed together. The content of the prayer is fascinating. They do not pray for opposition to stop, nor do they even pray for growth or evangelistic success. Their prayer recognises the dual truths of God’s sovereignty and human evil as the explanatory factors for what has happened to them, and their request is for boldness in speaking the word. This is a great lesson for how we pray. So often we ask for circumstances to change, and whilst this is not wrong the example of this passage would be to pray for our own response to those circumstances, whatever they may be. In answer to this prayer, God’s presence came powerfully and the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit to boldly speak the word.

Potential Applications:

  • Pray for brothers and sisters all over the world who are currently facing opposition and persecution for their faith.
  • Follow the example set here and spend some time praying for boldness in speaking the word.
  • As part of the response you could offer to pray for people to be filled with the Holy Spirit, as the believers here were.