Luke, the physician, not only wrote The Gospel of Luke, but also The Book of Acts. A careful reading of either of these books shows that Luke did quite a lot of investigative homework. At times he was right in the thick of the action he wrote about and at other times he went back to the sources and did interviews with people who had been there and personally seen the things that Luke included in his narratives, which later became a part of the New Testament.
The Book of Acts is like an action adventure novel. In it, Luke captured highlights of the early church that spans from the time right after Jesus’ resurrection to somewhere around the year 62 AD. This morning we studied one of the highlights that happened during the very early, formative days of the Church that Jesus built through the boldness of the Apostles Peter and John. The back story begins in Acts 3. Peter and John were on their way to the temple to pray and came across a man who had been crippled all his life. In that day, there was no welfare system to help take care of someone like this man, so he was left to beg for anything he could get from the people passing by to sustain his life. As Peter and John walked by, the man asked them to help him out. Unfortunately, neither Peter nor John had any cash on them, so they reached down, took the man by the hand and told him to rise up and walk in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Acts 3:6).
This was an amazing thing to all who saw it because all the people recognized the man and knew that he had sat for years at the gate, unable to walk. But now he was walking, and even leaping in praise to God. Peter, who not long before denied even knowing Jesus Christ, took the opportunity to preach the Gospel, the good news of all that God has done to redeem fallen, sinful man, through the life, death and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ, to the crowd. As the Apostles were speaking, the priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came and arrested them because they were annoyed that the Apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
The next day, Peter and John were hauled before the ruling council of Israel. This council was composed of 71 ruling elders that were allowed to rule the nation of Israel by the occupying Roman super-power of that day. They had temporal power over the nation and their recommendations carried quite a lot of weight, but all final decisions were made by the Romans. During a council investigation, the procedure was to bring the accused into the middle of all the council member who were arrayed in a semi-circle around the accused. According to the Intervarsity Press Commentary on the Book of Acts, . . . the council wanted to know by what kind of power (Acts 4:7) or in what kind of name Peter and John had healed the beggar. Thus, the council charged with distinguishing between truth and error in Jewish religion exercised its prerogative to test the basis for this healing. Their interrogation, however, was not unprejudiced. The emphatic placement of you in the question asked in Acts 4:7 lets us know the contempt with which they hold these unschooled, ordinary men.
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 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 all’” (Acts 4:8-10). I’m sure that Peter and John were well aware that the Pharisees hated Jesus because of his harsh words towards them, and that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. So, by this BOLD statement, the Apostles declared war against the council. In today’s vernacular, they certainly didn’t try to win them over to their side of the argument.
One of the questions asked this weekend during the 1st Bold Sermon was, “Why don’t we see God working today like we read about in the book of Acts?” The answer, at least in my opinion is that we do not have the boldness that we are exposed to when we read about men like the Apostles and others mentioned later in the Book of Acts. Boldness, by definition, is behavior born out of belief. This belief that leads to boldness is born out of knowing who our God is. The way that we begin to know who our God is, is by spending time in prayer and studying the word of God. This is not something that will happen by spending just five minutes a day in prayer or reading a verse or two. It is a lifetime of commitment he studying the word and praying that God will open our eyes to a deeper understanding of it.
This is exactly what happened with Peter and John when they stood before the council. Their boldness was related to the fact that they had spent time with Jesus and much time in prayer. Acts 4:13 brings this to light. Luke writes, “. . . now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognize that they had been with Jesus.” God gives ordinary people extraordinary boldness but this only comes through a deep relationship with Jesus Christ.
One of the last things that was brought out in the sermon this weekend was a circular graphic. At the top of the circle was the word “time” and that signified time spent in prayer and study the Word. This “time” then lead to an increase in “faith”, which in turn led to “boldness”, which led to “results” just like we read about in this passage from Acts chapter 3 and 4. But with the “results” the circle completed by going back to spending more time in prayer and study the Word and the cycle started all over again in a deeper way.
My challenge to you is to begin to spend more time in prayer and study of the word of God so that this boldness may be evident in your life because of the faith you have in who God is and what he has accomplished in the death, burial, and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ. With this boldness we can begin to see mighty things take place for the kingdom of God and more people ushered into salvation.