The Acts of the Apostles Acts 4:23-37
In this Session we will complete Acts 4 and look at the power of undefiled unity, love, fellowship, powerful corporate prayer, and the continued filling of the Holy Spirit on the church in Jerusalem. The last part of Acts 4 becomes the contrast to the affair with Ananias and Sapphira.
We will also look at the theology concerning the Person of Jesus Christ in the Church of Jerusalem at this time in Church History. This is an exciting section of Scripture because it highlights the power of prayer, the attitude of the Church, and power of undefiled fellowship with God and each other. Jesus prayed that His Church would have unity with Him and the Father so that the world would believe our message.
John 17:25-26 – “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
a) Peter and John report to the believers their boldness by the Spirit and their faithful witness to the Sanhedrin. Peter and John set the example of Apostolic Resistance to the spirit of religion and how it is overcome by the authority of truth.
b) The “people”, the church, responds in prayer and worship. This displays the tremendous unity that was present in this community. It is important to keep in mind that verses 23-37 is the backdrop for the situation with Ananias and Sapphira.
c) The focus of their prayer was the Person of God first, then came their petition. It is interesting that in the original language the title “Lord” is not the common word for Lord in verse 24. The Greek word for Lord used here is DESPOTES. The implication here is that they are recognizing the sovereignty of God in relation to His creation. They are praying from the foundation that God can be completely trusted and counted on in any situation.
a) The church prays Psalm 2. Psalm 2 is one of the most powerful Messianic Psalms in Scripture. It is important to note that a detailed theology of Jesus Christ has already emerged in the church. That because Jesus taught them to see in Him the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies. See Acts 1:3 and Luke 24:25-27.
b) There is recognition of the Holy Spirit being the agent by which Scripture was
inspired. The Early Church in Jerusalem already had Trinitarian theology as displayed in this prayer. See 2 Peter 1:20-21
c) The theology of the church at this time attributed the rebellion of the leadership in rejecting Jesus as Messiah as a direct rebellion against God. They continue to unpack this truth as we look farther into the text.
a) Verse 27 shows that the Psalm 2 prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ at His death and resurrection.
b) The phrase “what your power and will decided” is not a word for word translation. The word in the Greek that is used here is – PROORIZŌ – to predetermine and ordain. We are learning some theological concepts here in these verses.
c) 1 – The death and resurrection of Jesus was no accident and that Jesus was no victim of His circumstances. We can trust the prophetic salvation narrative from Genesis to Malachi. Revelation 5:9 – And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
d) 2 – Providence of God – God will work behind what is seen, through all the circumstances of life to accomplish His purposes. See Ephesians 1:11, Psalm 148:6-12, Romans 8:28 and Psalm 22:28 and many other Scriptures support this.
e) 3 – Sovereignty of God – God as the True King and Potentate can accomplish His will. It is God’s exercise of power over His creation. See Romans 8:28
f) Praying God’s word is powerful. Not only does the church pray with a recognition of God’s ability and power to answer, they pray the Word of God, which possesses power when married to faith.
a) As the church continues in the unity of prayer, they appeal to God in the knowledge that the Lord is present in their circumstances. They ask for boldness in His Word. This is not the Scriptures, but the message of the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the Gospel.
b) They are asking for God to empower them with fearless, free and courageous speech. Greek – Great Boldness – MEGAS PARRĒSIA – freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech, free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance.
c) There was the cost of persecution to present the truth of Jesus in Jerusalem. They describe themselves as God’s servants. Greek – Bond-servants – DOULOS – a slave, bondman, man of servile condition, metaph., one who gives himself up to another’s will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men, devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. We can see that this church prioritized their life around the purposes of God.
a) The church asks for healings, sign and wonders. Part of their enablement to speak the word with boldness, included the clear testimony of the Person of Christ, and the ability to be enabled by the Lord to prove their message with spiritual power. They are asking for the miracle at the Gate Beautiful to be repeated with regularity. They did not ask for a theology of their message, or an apologetic, but spiritual power.
b) The church references the Name of Jesus. There is cultural context to consider in this prayer. They are alluding to the divinity of Jesus Christ, in relationship to the Covenant Name of God. See Philippians 2:6-11.
a) The Lord confirmed their prayer by shaking the place where they were praying. The word in the Greek for shaking means a motion produced by wind, storms or waves. God is showcasing His power and encouraging His church by the physical shaking. It is also important to note that Holy Spirit came like a mighty wind at Pentecost, and wind and water are symbols that communicate truth about Holy Spirit.
b) They were all filled with Holy Spirit – We can only be empowered to be bold by the filling of Holy Spirit. The Lord filled them at Pentecost and fills them again here. We can conclude that Holy Spirit can repeatedly fill us as we ask.
c) The Lord immediately answered their prayers. Corporate agreement is powerful and as is unity in prayer. We can learn from this example in Scripture that unity in prayer and corporate agreement bring powerful manifestations and encounters with God to a community.
a) Again we see a glimpse into a community empowered by love and unity. In Acts 2:42-47. They held the spiritual as the higher order than the natural order of things. Famous theologian, G. Campbell Morgan said. “The material fellowship was merely the outward and visible sign of a spiritual fellowship, necessarily existing between regenerate men and women”. “All material property was subservient to spiritual purpose”.
b) We again see this church in the context of their culture. Their culture reflected the generosity of God in the care of the widow, orphan, the Levite, and the alien as modeled in the Law. Now that the freedom of Holy Spirit had filled them, their generosity became Spirit-filled liberal giving.
c) Common Property – The root of the word here in KOINONIA – This kind of church culture can only exist in soil of fellowship with God, fellowship with each other, held by the bond of love. This was not a program, or an administration, but a community based organic and authentic trust, purity and love.
d) One heart and one mind communicate the incredible, supernatural unity of this church. It is my opinion that one of the hallmarks and indicators of a church that mobilized and filled by Holy Spirit, is unity through love.
a) The fruit of their unity and love was proved by the increase of power (MEGAS DYNAMIS), and great grace (MEGAS CHARIS). The power confirmed the truth of the Gospel and the grace was the benefit of believing. Greek – CHARIS – that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech, good will, loving-kindness, favor, of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues, benefit and favor.
a) There were no needy among them. The word in the Greek means destitute, without sustenance. They cared for each other from the foundation of fellowship and relationship.
b) It would take tremendous trust to place this kind of resource in the hands of church leaders. This highlights the great integrity, and trustworthiness of the apostles. Note that finances were not placed at a single person’s feet, but given to a collective of apostles to be distributed.
c) These verses highlight Joseph (Barnabas) to us because his generosity and purity in generosity and unity will be contrasted to the deception and false generosity of Ananias and Sapphira. Barnabas plays a significant role in the spread of the gospel throughout the Apostolic generation.
d) Barnabas – Son of Prophecy/Exhortation. (Hebrew root NABIY) – Barnabas was the cousin of John Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark. He was from Cyprus, which had a large contingency of Jews living there in the First Century. Barnabas came alongside Paul/Saul early in his walk with Christ and advocated for him. Paul and Barnabas also had a sharp disagreement which separated them from fellowship, that was eventually mended. Barnabas related to people through the eyes of destiny and we see him interacting on the behalf of another to bring about God’s highest purpose for that person. Barnabas was a Levite, which adds to the proof that many priests became obedient to the Gospel. See Acts 6:7