by Mike Ratliff
1 Why do the nations rage
And the peoples meditate on a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against Yahweh and against His Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord mocks them.
5 Then He speaks to them in His anger
And terrifies them in His fury, saying,
6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
7 “I will surely tell of the decree of Yahweh:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth as Your possession.
9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like a potter’s vessel.’”
10 So now, O kings, show insight;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
11 Serve Yahweh with fear
And rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (Psalm 2:1–12 Legacy Standard Bible)
Christians should not be surprised when they are the minority in the world. They should not become discouraged when worldly philosophies such as Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality become predominate in the social and educational structures where they live. However, we should take a stand when these evil philosophies invade our churches, denominations, seminaries, and Christian schools just as Charles Spurgeon did in the 19th Century when the Baptist Union churches in England began going Liberal. He refused to be part of it and it cost him. He ended up removing the church he pastored from the Baptist Union and was then censured by them. He died just a few years after that, but in our time who do we remember? Who’s books are still studied and who’s sermons are still read? I still read his daily devotionals. On the other hand if you go to the Baptist Union’s website you will find a denomination that stands for nothing.
Let us look at Acts 4:1-31. However, first for context let us look at what happened in Acts 3:1-26.
1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. 2 And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried, whom they used to set down daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. 4 But when Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him, he said, “Look at us!” 5 And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” 7 And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. 8 And leaping up, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God; 10 and they were recognizing him, that he was the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
11 And while he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the portico called Solomon’s, full of wonder. 12 But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 “But you denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. 16 “And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18 “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 22 “Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BROTHERS; TO HIM YOU SHALL LISTEN to everything He says to you. 23 ‘AND IT WILL BE THAT EVERY SOUL THAT DOES NOT HEED THAT PROPHET SHALL BE UTTERLY DESTROYED FROM AMONG THE PEOPLE.’ 24 “And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also proclaimed these days. 25 “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’ 26 “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:1–26 Legacy Standard Bible)
God is sovereign! The crucifixion of our Lord was not unexpected nor was it something that God the Father had to go to Plan B because of it. No, it was WHY Jesus came. The crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord was still very fresh in the minds of these people. Those being drawn to repentance by God were the ones who came to Peter and John seeking what they offered. The crowd and commotion was huge and this disturbed the Sadducces because what Peter and John were teaching was about the resurrection and these men did not believe in it.
1 Now as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, 2 being greatly agitated because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. (Acts 4:1–4 Legacy Standard Bible)
What power the message of the Gospel has no matter the persecution from those who hate it! Look at the number of men who came to faith through their preaching! I cannot wait to meet these men when I go home to be with the Lord.
5 Now it happened that on the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; 6 and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. 7 And when they had placed them in their midst, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, 9 if we are being examined today for a good deed done to a sick man, as to how this man has been saved from his sickness, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. 11 “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. 12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:5–12 Legacy Standard Bible)
These men were the Sanhedrin. The reason John and Peter were being held and tried was that the Sanhedrin believed it had to stop the preaching of the incriminating truth that its members had executed the Messiah. However, notice the power behind Peter’s words. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. In other words, there is not one thing these men could say that could refute anything Peter said nor could they overcome him with any form of “force” or “threats.” Look at v11. This is a quote from Psalm 118:22.
The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. (Psalm 118:22 Legacy Standard Bible)
Look at v12. What a powerful statement about the exclusivism of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ! Despite the fact that the world is full of different religions including false forms of Christianity, there are only two religious paths: the broad way of works salvation leading to eternal death, and the narrow way of faith in Jesus, leading to eternal life (Mt 7:13, 14; cf. Jn 10:7,8; 14:6). The Sanhedrin and its followers were on the first path.
13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and comprehended that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15 But when they had ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin, they began to confer with one another, 16 saying, “What should we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy sign has happened through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 “But lest it spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.” 18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to hear you rather than God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22 for the man was more than forty years old on whom this sign of healing had occurred. (Acts 4:13–22 Legacy Standard Bible)
A good title for this section of scripture would be, “The name of Jesus Forbidden.” This is what the world does with the Biblical Jesus. The world loves the Nebulous Jesus, the Hippie Jesus, the made-up Jesus who is what we call the New-Age Jesus. This Jesus is not Jesus Christ. He is a make-believe idol of those who want Christianity on their own terms. However, Peter and John stood their ground after being threatened to not preach in the name of Jesus. They said, “we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard!” Also, the Sanhedrin could find basis on which to punish them, however, the real reason they let them go was the mass of people glorying God because of the miracle God did through Peter and they could not deny it.
23 So when they were released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Master, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM,
25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, ‘WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE VAIN THINGS?
26 ‘THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.’
27 “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. 29 “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders happen through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed earnestly, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with confidence. (Acts 4:23–31 Legacy Standard Bible)
In v24 there is an interesting word used in praise of our God. The word “Master” in the LSB translates the noun despota the vocative singular masculine case of despotēs, which means ruler, master, Sovereign Lord. The NASB translates this word in v24 as Lord. This is an uncommon NT title for God that means “absolute master.” (Lk 2:29; 2 Ti 2:21; 2 Pe 2:1; Jude 4; Rev 6:10), which represented the disciples’ recognition of God’s sovereignty. I for one believe that it is this aspect of God’s nature that is sorely lacking in our time in the Evangelical Church. In v25 we have the disciples comparing what just happened to what David said in Psalm 2:1,2. I put that Psalm at the top of this post.
Look at v28. God has written all of history according to His eternal plan. The crucifixion of Jesus was no exception. The war between Russia and Ukraine isn’t either. The man in the Whitehouse isn’t either. The state of our economy isn’t either. However, could it be that God is using these pressures for His own purposes? In these last days let us focus on the prayer and obedience and understand that God will work through us with signs and wonders as we speak the word of God with boldness.
Soli Deo Gloria!