Day #82: Acts 3-4. “Persecution”
Rev. Matthew Koerber
In Acts 1-2 the church metaphorically “explodes” into existence. Three thousand people were converted on Pentecost, and the thriving church had “favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day, those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). And then God shakes things up some more. We might desire nice slow growth in the same positive direction, but that is not how kingdom expansion works. The world, the flesh and the devil resist God and the mission of the Church always faces opposition, eventually. The swift early growth of the church leads to swift opposition. When Peter and John heal a lame beggar, it creates an amazing opportunity for witness to Jesus Christ in Solomon’s Portico – the very outside wall of the temple. But the religious leaders are not excited about this new religious trend. So, Peter and John are hauled before the authorities and muzzled (or there is an “attempt” to muzzle them.)
Here is where the story gets challenging. Peter and John face a crisis in their ministry. Either they submit to the religious powers, or they complete their mission for Christ – they cannot do both. They express radical commitment to Christ with these words, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). When the apostles are released they join with others in prayer to God. They request boldness to speak with confidence when facing opposition, and God grants their request with thunderous power. Notice, the request however: they request boldness to keep doing the thing that gets them into trouble. God does not promise that we can complete the mission without opposition. Instead, he promises to give us strength to endure, while facing opposition. This trend continues into chapter 5 when the apostles are rearrested and beaten for speaking about Jesus. After being released, they “rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” Their prayers had been answered – not a protection from suffering, but endurance to be faithful in suffering.
Reflect: It is not wrong to pray for deliverance from the evil one, after all Jesus directs that sort of prayer when he taught his disciples. But, the apostles model a perspective on ministry that emphasizes endurance in trials, rather than exclusion from trials. Where do you need endurance in trials?
Connect: Like the other apostles, Paul understood that the Christian life is not free from suffering, particularly if we are committed to the mission of our cross-carrying savior. What Paul saw as encouragement was that suffering as a Christian aligns us with the life experience of Jesus as we share in the fellowship of his suffering. Suffering “with Jesus” transforms our understanding of what it means to suffer.
Phil 3:10 (NIV) I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
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This blog is part of the ministry of City Reformed Presbyterian Church. Unless otherwise noted, the entries are written by Matt Koerber. This is part of a project that our church is doing as we read through the narrative sections of Scripture between early January and Easter 2020. New entries will be scheduled to drop automatically at 5:00 am on the scheduled day.