Gospel-Shaped Power

By David Herring (June 26, 2011 @ Southside)

Acts 4:1-12 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. 5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:13-37 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. 23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ — 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 plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. 32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts – How does the Gospel get from Jerusalem to the rest of the world?

Our passage – the Gospel impacts Jerusalem on the day after Pentecost (5000 believe)

  1. Gospel silence is demanded
  2. Gospel boldness is requested
  3. Gospel power is displayed

Big Idea: The Gospel produces unnatural boldness and humility in believers.

1. Gospel silence is demanded – the Jewish authorities demand silence about the Gospel

4:13-22 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

– The boldness of the disciples astonishes the authorities

4:13 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”

They had made the connection between their boldness and the relationship with Jesus.

– The product of the miracle silences the authorities

4:14 “But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.”

– Their astonishment and their silence evaporates when they have a council

– What evaporates their bewilderment? They consider the influence these men and this miracle will have on the rest of the people – perhaps these men have more power and will use their power to displace us.

4:16-17 “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.”

Their greed for power blinded them to the meaning the miracle and the Gospel behind it.

– Peter identifies the authority issue.

4:19-20 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

-Why would they fear the spread of such a message? If people came to believe in this Jesus, then they would probably overthrow those who crucified Him

– Therefore, they use all the authority they have to forbid the spreading of the Gospel

4:18 “So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”

2. Gospel boldness is requested The disciples pray for boldness to speak about the Gospel

4:23-31 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ — 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 plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. 

– The disciples are released, so they go and report everything to their friends

-What is their response to this power move?  a bigger power move – prayer; although they have been threatened by the “temple” authorities, they appeal to the King who reigns in the true temple

– Notice the language of authority and power:

4:24-26 “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’

– They interpret this “power struggle” through Gospel lenses with this quote of Scripture

4:27-28 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 plan had predestined to take place.

– Notice their theology of predestination and God’s sovereignty doesn’t stifle their praying or evangelizing, it emboldens them to request what He promises

4:29-30 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

They don’t pray for vengeance against the temple authorities, they pray for boldness in Gospel witness because they expect God to continue to be merciful (“while you stretch out your hand to heal”).

– God grants their request:

4:31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

3. Gospel power is displayed – The power of the Gospel is displayed in the radical generosity of believers.

4:32-37 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

– Luke is doing 2 things in these 6 verses: summarizing and preparing us for the next development

– Now what would you expect after a moment like verse 4:31?  it seems like you would expect this next section to be exploding with more miracles, healings, and exorcisms

– What do you find instead? the miracle of generosity in believers

-Remember what they prayed for:

4:29-30 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

4:33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

– Their theology transforms their practice – we have something in common with everyone (our need of the Gospel)

– They met the urgent needs of their friends:

4:34 There was not a needy person among them

Religious authorities:

– Cowards (weasels)

– Selfish (prideful)

Believers:

– Courageous (lions)

– Generous (humble)

May God grant us the same courage and generosity because the Gospel produces unnatural boldness and humility in believers.

Post Valentine’s Day Thoughts

Learning to love well…

It’s been said that loving well is the essence of true spirituality. Loving well involves authentic interaction (or communication) with God, with ourselves, and with other people.

“Love reveals the beauty of another person to themselves”  –Jean Vanier, friend and mentor of Henri Nouwen

Jesus epitomized – and modeled spiritual and emotional health for us.

[Jesus said], “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” –Matt 22:37-40 (MSG)

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were not able to make the same connection with people as he did. They were competent, diligent, zealous, they were absolutely committed to having God as the Lord of their lives…they memorized entire books of the Hebrew Scriptures, they prayed five times a day, they faithfully tithed off all their increase — plus gave money to the poor, and they evangelized – yet there is little evidence that they delighted in people.

The word incarnate come from a Latin word that means – in – flesh. Jesus choose to limit himself to the confines of human history and a human body.

John 1:14 in the MSG translation says:

“The WORD became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes.”

Today the incarnated presence of God is intended to be the Church – identified in the Bible as the Body of Christ.

3 Dynamics of Incarnational Life…

1. Enter another’s world. James 1:19; Philippians 2:5-8

“Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every [person] be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.” James 1:19 (AMP)

What does it mean to enter “another’s” world?

To care means, first of all, to be present for each other. — Henri Nouwen

What does it mean to be fully present, or become “a ready listener”?

  • Put your own agenda on hold
  • Look people in the eye
  • Practice reflective listening:
  • Allow the other person to speak until their thought is completed
  • Try and restate their thoughts in your own words
  • Don’t try to fix people.
  • Be cognizant of body-language (only 10% of communication is verbal!)
  • Validate people’s feelings. We can validate without being in agreement. (Feelings are neither right, nor wrong, they just are.)
  • Try not to become defensive…

2. Hold on to your world. Ephesians 2:10; John 15:15

“For [you] are God’s masterpiece. He has created [you] anew in Christ Jesus, so [you] can do the good things he planned for [you] long ago.” Eph 2:10, NLT (singular & plural)

In The Emotionally Healthy Church Pete Scazzero states that this dynamic (holding on to our world) is the most difficult and challenging principle to apply. He asserts…

“It is the key to conflict resolution. It is the key to responding in a mature loving way when other people push and challenge your desires, values, and goals inside or outside the church. It is the key to serving as a leader, in any capacity…Without this ability to hold on to yourself, it is not possible to be an imaginative, creative leader who breaks from the status quo and leads people to new places.” (p. 185)

What does it mean to “hold on to your world”?

  • Recognize that we almost always have a choice. (The choice often involves choosing between “peacekeeper” or “peacemaker.”) Peacemakers create false peace.
  • Determine and set clear boundaries:
  • Identify and be clear about limits. Don’t allow people to make demands of you. Allow people to make requests, but not demands. If you hear a request that makes you uncomfortable, your discomfort may be a signal that this is an attempt to invade your boundaries.
  • Learn to say The Graceful “NO.”

“Good boundaries attract good friends.”

3. Live in the tension of both. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Matthew 22:37-40

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Cor 13:4-7 (thought to be a description, not a definition)

  • Living in the tension of another’s world and your own world happens when we are willing to authentically connect with people across our differences (including religion and politics). Civil, or respectful, dialogue…
  • When authentic, incarnational Christian love, or spirituality, is released in a relationship God’s presence is manifest.
  • When we ignore conflict we create a false peace. Jesus was murdered because He disrupted the false peace all around him. True peacemaking disrupts the false peace.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matt 10:34

  • We cannot have true peace in the Church, or society, with pretense and façade.

To care means, first of all, to be present for each other. –Henri Nouwen