Discuss Acts 6:1-7

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. What is a disciple?
  3. What is one small thing you can do to help Mambrino Baptist make more disciples?
  4. Why do you think church growth often leads to complaints among the members?
  5. Take a moment to consider your family, your church family, your neighbors, and your coworkers. Is there any complaint in these groups? What needs to be done?
  6. Do you tend to over-work/under-work or over-commit/under-commit? How will these tendencies affect the people around you?
  7. When the number of members increases so does the need for organization. Where do you see Mambrino needing to improve organization? What can you do to help?
  8. What is the primary responsibility of church elders? Why is this important?
  9. What is the primary responsibility of church deacons? Why is this important?
  10. What is the primary responsibility of each member? Why is this important?
  11. When is organized religion a good thing? a bad thing?

Discuss Acts 5:33-42

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. When did you see something that, at first, appeared to be of God but proved, in the end, to be of man?
  3. What are some marks of a plan being of man and a plan being of God?
  4. Consider if there is something in your home, work, or church that God is doing but you are opposing. Where might your will be in opposition to God’s will?
  5. In what way does the resurrection of Jesus make the work of the apostles unstoppable?
  6. In what way does the presence of the Spirit make the work of the apostles unstoppable?
  7. Read Matthew 13:44. How is this man similar to the apostles in Acts 5:41?
  8. What would it mean for you to be counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name?
  9. Who can you have into your home to talk about Jesus the Christ? Who are you trying to win to Jesus?
  10. Consider that sharing the gospel causes you to lose your reputation or are passed over for a promotion. Why would you be discouraged? Why would you take courage?

Discuss Acts 5:17-29

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. Moving forward, what will it look like for you to obey Jesus?
  3. Where are you tempted to be jealous of others?
  4. Have you experienced legal or physical opposition because you are following Jesus? How did you handle it? How can you get ready for more opposition in the future?
  5. Where do you see God working around you that is funny or ironic?
  6. What sins are tripping you up as you try to obey Jesus? How should repentance, obedience, and accountability look in this situation?
  7. If you are a Christian, who taught you the words of life? Pray and thank God for that person. Consider writing a note to say, “Thank you.”
  8. If you are a Christian, who are you seeking to teach so that he/she will know and follow Jesus? Pray for boldness and opportunities.
  9. What specific steps do you need to take so that you are better prepared for opposition (regular Bible reading, Scripture memory, dependent prayer, encouragement, getting better established in the faith, etc.)? Who can you ask to help you with this?

Signs, Wonders, and Multitudes

Text: Acts 5:12-16

Main Point: The ministry of the apostles formed the foundation of the church.

The church is built on the foundation of the apostles with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone (Eph 2:20).

My goal today is to lead us through a careful study of Acts 5:12-16 so that we can understand what God was doing, then faithfully apply the Word of God to our lives as individuals and as the church.

I. Significant signs and wonders

Following the swift and fair judgment of Ananias and Sapphira, comes the account of verse 12, “many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.”

Let’s start with a definition. Signs and wonders are miraculous displays of God’s power over his creation. Wonders are unusual events that stand out to the watching world while signs are unusual events that point to a greater reality. A wonder makes you wonder and a sign points to something greater. Let’s look at the various types of signs and wonders.

Types of signs and wonders

  • Physical healing (5:15-16; 3:7)

Look down at verse 15. Multitudes were being saved, “so they carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns round Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.”

In chapter 3 we saw the healing of the man born crippled. The resurrected Jesus was working powerfully through the apostles such that a number of sick people were made well. This healing ministry parallels Jesus’ ministry and that’s Luke’s point; Jesus’ work continues. Listen to Mark 6:53-56, “When they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, they laid the sick in the market-places and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.”

Seeing that Jesus is the cornerstone of the church, and the apostles are the foundation, what we expect to see is wonderful miraculous physical healings and

  • Casting out demons (5:16)

Look back at Acts 5:16. It is not just the sick who are being made well, also those afflicted by demons are healed. Here we need to note that there is a distinction between being sick and being afflicted by a demon. It is true that the demonic can manifest itself physically like the woman who Jesus healed in Luke 13. A disabling spirit caused her to be physically bent over. Can spirits cause disabilities? Yes. Do spirits cause every disability? No. John 9:3 and Exodus 4:11 tell us that God causes disabilities. We must be careful not to label every disability as demonic and we must be careful to include the reality of the demonic in some illnesses.

I will admit here that I have little experience with this level of demonic affliction. My goal is to know the Word of God and apply it to these situations, should they arise. Like a faithful ER nurse, we don’t wait until a person is bleeding out to start studying how to apply a tourniquet. We commit ourselves to knowing all the Word so that we are ready to apply the Word to every circumstance.

Let’s move on. Signs and wonders include physical healing, casting out demons…

  • Cross-cultural unity and fellowship (5:12; 4:32)

Look with me at the middle of verse 12, “And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico.” All together doesn’t mean they all showed up at the same time. This word identifies outward unity (showing up in the same place) that is caused by inward unity (sharing a like mind).

The disagreements and divisions of our day are nothing new. The Sadducees and Pharisees of the first century had some serious disagreements. It is the unity of the people of God that makes the surrounding people wonder. Well, it should be the unity of the people of God that makes the surrounding people wonder.

In Acts 4:32 we see that, “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.”

One approach to this verse is to say “Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, is exaggerating here; no group that big (in the thousands) could be that united.” The other approach, the accurate approach, is to say “Luke records the unity of the church and it causes us to wonder. How could that many different people from different cultures be that united? It’s crazy! It’s wonderful!”

A powerful witness out in the world is based upon a deep unity in the church. The us-four-and-no-more mentality that cares only for one’s immediate group is one reason we don’t see more people added to the Lord. Listen, this deep level of unity and fellowship is based on the power of God. Unity and fellowship are as miraculous as physical healing and casting out demons. Of course, you can’t love that many people that deeply. You need God for that level of cross-cultural unity and fellowship.

Here is the next early church sign

  • The judgment of Ananias and Sapphira

Ananias and Sapphira lied to God by lying to the church and God put them to death. This sign points to the holiness of God and the holiness of God’s people. In our men’s Bible study last week we looked at 1 Peter 1:15 and 16, “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” The holiness of God’s people causes the watching world to wonder. Listen, the more we are like the world, the less we are able to win the world. We are called to be wonderfully different, wonderfully holy.

More review and quickly now; another sign and wonder is

  • Radical generosity

The 21st century is like the 1st century; people are characterized by radical selfishness. When the church sells property and gives generously then the world begins to wonder what’s up.

Then there is

  • Boldness in persecution

John and Peter’s boldness in chapter 4 made a lasting impression on the Jewish leaders. The church prayed for boldness, the Lord answered, and the world took notice. It’s one thing to be bold when you are in the position of power. It is quite another thing to be bold when you are being persecuted. Boldness in rough times is a sign and wonder. Lastly, there is

  • Tongues

In Acts 2 we see the believers speaking in foreign languages they had never learned. They are not in a church gathering speaking in tongues. No, they are out in the public square speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues was a clear proclamation of the mighty works of God.  There are some types of signs and wonders. Now let’s consider the purpose of signs and wonders.

The purpose of signs and wonders

  • Signs and wonders are a physical display of spiritual truth

A sign points to a greater reality. The raising of a crippled man points to the greater reality of the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. Jesus’ healing of a paralyzed man points to the greater reality of his ability to forgive sins (Luke 5:24). While the physical is wonderful, do not stop there. We must look to the resurrected Jesus who stands behind these miracles.

  • Signs and wonders are also a power encounter preparing the way for the gospel to be preached

The healing of the crippled man in Acts 4 provides the opportunity for Peter to preach the gospel to the people. The miraculous prison escape coming up in Acts 5 provides an opportunity for the apostles to preach the gospel. The miraculous blinding of Elymas in Acts 13 was influential in Sergius Paulus believing the gospel.

I like this purpose also

  • Signs and wonders bring relief

Think of the man paralyzed for over 40 years, begging for his daily bread, and he is suddenly healed. Think of the woman bent over for 18 years. Think of the blind who were healed and the lepers. The miracle of repentance leads to times of refreshing (Acts 3:20). The miracle of healing also makes life more bearable. These miracles point forward to a better day.

  • Signs and wonders give us a picture of what life on the new earth will be like

Church, we need to have the categories of already and not yet in our minds when we read the Bible. The signs and wonders performed by Jesus and the apostles point forward to the wholeness we will enjoy at Jesus’ return. Already there is a glimpse of the life to come, but the glorious freedom of resurrected bodies is not for us today. The glorious freedom from the affliction of demons is not for us today. Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Yes, there will be sweet times of refreshing experienced in this age. Already we have begun to experience some of the life to come. Jesus’ life demonstrated the power and goodness of that day, but don’t fool yourself into believing you should have heaven on earth. Signs and wonders point us to what life on the new earth will be like.

Now back to Acts 5:12, “many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.” Let’s talk about

The regularity of signs and wonders

The verb tense of the word “done” points to many signs being done continually or regularly by the apostles. Remember, this is no surprise because the ministry of the apostles formed the foundation for the church. Look at the text and ask yourself, “who was performing these signs and wonders?” Acts 5:12 and Acts 2:43 say the miracles were done, not by all the believers, but by the apostles. In 2 Corinthians 12:12 the apostle Paul defends his ministry by reminding the people that the signs of a true apostle were performed among them with signs wonders and mighty works. Even in the 1st century, right there in the days after Pentecost, it was mainly the apostles who were performing miracles. Signs and wonders were not performed by all Christians or most Christians or even some Christians. The New Testament reveals that Jesus worked miracles through all the apostles and a few Christians. Don’t expect your shadow to heal anyone.

Let’s apply all this to

Signs and wonders today

John Stott’s commentary on Acts is helpful on this point (102-104). Stott reminds us that miracles are by their very nature unusual and uncommon. Miracles have never been everyday occurrences. Stott writes, “Certainly the thrust of the Bible is that miracles clustered round the principal organs of revelation at fresh epochs of revelation, particularly Moses the lawgiver, the new prophetic witness spearheaded by Elijah and Elisha, the Messianic ministry of Jesus, and the apostles, so that Paul referred to miracles as ‘the things that mark an apostle’” (102). Big groups of miracles show up when God is doing big things in salvation history. Miracles accompany God’s advances in the covenants. This means we are in the meantime. Since miracles were uncommon among the billions alive at these high points in history, we should not be surprised when miracles are extremely rare among us today. We set our hope on the grace that will be brought to us at the return of Jesus Christ.

Stott helps again, “If, then, we take Scripture as our guide, we will avoid opposite extremes. We will neither describe miracles as ‘never happening’, nor as ‘everyday occurrence’, neither has ‘impossible’ nor as ‘normal’. Instead, we will be entirely open to the God who works both through nature and through miracle” (104).

Now you have a way of handling the Word of God concerning signs and wonders. Think about all of salvation history, think about the immediate time of the passage we are studying, and think about how it relates to today. Miracles are powerful signs pointing us to the life to come.

Let’s look now at life together

II. The multitudinous multitudes

Acts 5:12-16 talks about a number of different people. Here is a sticky question: Who is the “they” of verse 12? “They were all together in Solomon’s Portico.” Is this a reference to only the apostles, all the believers, or all the people? The NIV supplies the word believers but believers isn’t in any of the Greek manuscripts. I think believers is correct, but we need to own the fact that “believers” is an interpretation not a translation. Let me give you the big picture and that will make the case for understanding “they” as the church. Who was among the multitudes?

  • There were spectators

So, the apostles are working miracles and the church is gathered in Solomon’s Portico for teaching and evangelism. Look at verse 13, “None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” There was a group of people watching from the edges. When the healings start to increase, these people rush to bring the sick and afflicted. No one faults them for that. But though physically healed, there is a hesitancy to join the church. Some of this fear would come from the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. Some of this fear would come from the arrest of Peter and John.

Listen, the desire to be made well is not the same thing as the desire to be made righteous. A person can ask Jesus to take away the sickness while refusing to submit to Jesus. You can want the splendor and glory and goodness of heaven without repenting and believing in Jesus. An appreciation for the things of God is not the same thing as dependence upon the Son of God.

There were plenty of spectators who held the Christians in high esteem but dared not join them. There were spectators and

  • There were participants

Look again at Acts 5:14, “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” Spectators are not added to the Lord; they stand back and admire. Participants are believers; they join in. Chapter 2, “All who believed were together and had all things in common.” Chapter 4, “many of those who had heard the word believed…now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (4:4, 32). Chapter 8, “when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women (8:12). Chapter 11, “a great many people were added to the Lord” (11:24).

Belief refers to content; you believe something therefore you are a believer in that thing. The church is made up of men and women who believe Jesus reconciles us to God by taking our sins and giving us his righteousness. We are believers in Jesus; believing Jesus restores us to God. Belief in Jesus is dependence upon Jesus. Therefore, believers are said to be added to the Lord. Spectators are not added to the Lord. Believing in the Lord is being united to the Lord.

Now, is Luke here in Acts 5:14 talking about joining the church, which is the body of Christ, or is Luke talking about spiritually being united to Christ through faith? My understanding is that believers are united to Jesus by faith and they join the church which is the body of Christ. The church is explicitly called the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 3:6; 5:23; and Colossians 1:24. Saul learns that to persecute the church is to persecute Jesus (Acts 9:5). So, believing in Jesus runs on a parallel line with joining the church. And how are people added to the Lord in the book of Acts? How are people added to the church? Believers are added to the Lord through baptism. Once a disciple of Jesus is made, then that disciple is baptized (Mt 28:19).

Here’s the big question

III. Where are you?

Are you angry at God because he has not given you your miraculous heavenly healed body? If that is you, I encourage you to do two things: pray for healing now but set your hope on your healing that is to come. We must keep the already and the not yet straight in our minds and hearts. It will keep you from bitterness.

Are you spectating? You appreciate healing, holiness, unity, and generosity, but you don’t want to be numbered among Jesus’ people. You’d rather play it safe with the world and hang out on the fringes of the church then believe in Jesus such that you are added to the church? If that is you, be warned today, spectators are not saved by Jesus. Spectators are spit out by Jesus. Listen to Jesus, “because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, he will spit you out of his mouth. Jesus is standing at the door and knocking. (Rev 3:16, 20) Stop playing the game. Give Jesus ownership of your life. Believe Jesus takes your sin and gives you his righteousness.

Believe in Jesus and seek to be added to the Lord through baptism. Repent, believe, and be baptized. May God work the miracle of the new birth among us today.

Discuss Acts 5:12-16

  • In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  • Of this list of signs and wonders, which one speaks the most clearly to you that there is a God: physical healing, casting out demons, cross-cultural unity and fellowship,  judgment of sin, radical generosity, boldness in persecution, tongues?
  • What questions do you have about the demonic? How can you start finding answers?
  • Who in the church is different from you? What can you do to build up that person?
  • Share an encouraging example of generosity or boldness in persecution.
  • What spiritual truth is declared through signs and wonders?
  • Signs and wonders point to the life to come on the new earth. What do you look forward to the most about the resurrection life?
  • What is the role of signs and wonders in your life today?
  • If a stranger watched you for a month, would he say that your Christianity is best characterized by being a spectator who admires Jesus or a participant who is dependent on Jesus?
  • What makes a person a believer? Are you a believer?
  • Have you joined the church the baptism? Explain what happened when you did or explain why you have not been added to the church.

The Sovereign Lord; Acts 4:23-31

Main Point: Depend on the Sovereign Lord.

Our goal is fairly simple and wonderful: we want to rest in the sovereignty of God. We want to rest in the sovereignty of God such that we pray to him and he strengthens us. Church, we are summoned each day to depend on the Sovereign Lord.

Last week, from Acts 4:13-22, we learned from the example of Peter and John. We are to be men and women of boldness, sharing the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, for the healing of our neighbors. Opposition and orders must not stop us. Like Peter and John, we must continue seeking to do good so that the people around us praise God.

Today, from Acts 4:23-31, we learn from the example of the church. Just as Peter and John followed the pattern of Jesus, so also the church followed the pattern of Jesus. Their focus was on the Sovereign God who strengthens his people. Our focus must be on the Sovereign God who strengthens his people.

Let’s dig into the Word, Acts 4:23-31

Here we see the church at prayer. John and Peter are released, and they go to their own; to their own people or friends. Here again, is the growing distinction between the people of God being those who depend on Jesus and the unbelieving Jews being outsiders. Jesus defines the people of God, not Judaism. It’s important to note, before we get into their prayer, that prayer is the normal thing Christians do. They gathered up to pray. Remember Acts 2:42 and the marks of the early church, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Praying together is a normal part of the bold and fruitful Christian life. Let’s look at their prayer and follow their example.

Verse 24, check out how they started their prayer, “they lifted up their voices together to God and said, ‘Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them.’”

Together, they knew that

I. God is the boss

This word translated as Lord or Sovereign Lord is not a common word for addressing God in prayer. Often, God is addressed as Father or as Lord using the Greek word kurios. Here we have the Greek word despotes. In English, we’ve made the word despot negative, but this was not the case in 1st century Greek writing. The word refers positively to the absolute ruler of a home. A helpful example is found in 2 Timothy 2:20-21, “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house ready for every good work.”

The master of the house is the lord of the house, the absolute ruler and owner of the house. The best English translation is sovereign. So, we affirm that

  • God is sovereign

Now we need to ask what God is sovereign over; what are the limits of God’s great house? Thankfully, Acts 4:24 defines the limits of God’s sovereignty, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them.” God is the absolute ruler of the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them. God’s great house, over which he rules, is all of creation and all creatures. God rules the angels, the demons, the people, the animals, the plants, the weather, the land, the sea, and the sky. God is sovereign over everything and everyone.

Here’s more good news. The sovereign God is not silent; the sovereign God speaks. The prayer of verse 25 is the prayer of a people thankful for God’s word that makes sense of our lives. God, “who spoke through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit.” These people know the word of God and are now applying the patterns of Scripture to their lives. What God said about David applies to Jesus and therefore applies to Jesus’ people. What happened to David foreshadows what will happen to Jesus and since we follow Jesus’ example, we should expect the same to happen to us.

Before we move into the content of this prophecy, take note of the Trinity. It is God, the Sovereign Lord, who is speaking. This refers to God the Father. It is God, the Holy Spirit, who is inspiring David to write these words. It is God, the Son, who is the subject of this prophecy. Verse 26 points to the Lord’s Christ, the Lord’s anointed. God the Father speaks through God the Spirit about God the Son.

The content of David’s prophecy is the Gentiles rage against God. This, verse 27, is a reference to Jesus, Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Romans, and the Jews. We’ll take the details in moment. For now, let’s keep with the thread of sovereignty. What did all these people do? Read verse 28, “whatever God’s hand and God’s plan had predestined to take place.” The King James gives a helpful translation, “to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” Here is a reference to God’s mind; he planned beforehand for Jesus, Herod, Pilate, the Romans, and the Jews to do these things. Here is a reference to God’s strength, it is God’s strong hand that ensures his plan is fulfilled. Plans without power are pointless.

Take note how the sovereignty of God has been Peter’s theme. Acts 2:23, “Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” In Acts 3:18, Peter affirms that God predicted the suffering of Christ and actively guided the fulfillment of that prophecy.

Here is the significance of the sovereignty of God for the early Church: God has a plan and God is working the plan. God’s plan is to redeem his people and his creation through the suffering of his Son. God’s plan will be opposed by every sort of people, but God will strengthen his own to fulfill the mission. Knowing God’s plan to strengthen his suffering people, the early church gathers together to pray for God’s help to fulfill the mission. They pray for God to give them boldness and miracles so that they can continue to tell people about the resurrection of Jesus. Affirming the sovereignty of God led them to pray for the strength of God.

There is a theological affirmation here: God is the boss. There is also a warning here:

II. Don’t fight against God

The church prays Psalm 2 because they know the pattern of history. The Gentiles rage against the Lord and against his Anointed. The people make their plans to oppose God’s plan. The kings stand up against God’s plan. The rulers make alliances to try and thwart God’s plan. Herod, Pilate, the Romans, and the Jews are gladly and willingly opposing God’s sovereign plan.

The idea that if God is sovereign this means people are puppets is an argument based on philosophy not based on the Bible. In the Bible we don’t see puppets mindlessly doing the will of God against their own will. In the Bible we see men and women willingly and ferociously doing the will of God. Herod, Pilate, the Romans, and the Jews are doing exactly what they want to do when they oppose the Lord and his anointed. Herod, Pilate, the Romans, and the Jews are doing exactly what God’s hand and plan had predestined to take place when they oppose the Lord and his anointed.

Now remember, this prayer is a prayer according to the pattern of history. So, the warning is for us

  • We rage against God’s plans

Let’s think for a moment about why Ephesians 2:3 says we are by nature children of wrath. Every human is born with a heart that rages against God. We are born wanting to be sovereign. Why does the toddler refuse to eat when hungry and sleep when tired? Because that toddler would rather battle you for her sovereignty than go your way. Why does the child disobey your instructions that are for his good? He wants to be sovereign and who cares if his running away runs him into the street? Why do we reject God’s good plan for our families and finances? We are all desperate to fulfill the desire inside of us to be in control.

Herod wants to be in control. Pilate wants to be in control. The Romans wants to be in control. The Jewish leaders want to be in control. I want to be in control. You want to be in control. We all want to be God. We rage against God and every expression of God’s authority in our lives. But,

  • God is sovereign

It is common and quite natural to hate the idea of God’s sovereignty because we all love the idea of our own independent self-rule. I don’t want to be ruled; I want to rule! Satan fell into sin because Satan was enamored with the idea of being God. Pharaoh, king of Egypt, was in love with the idea that he was in control. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was in love with the idea that he was in control. I wake up every morning in love with the idea that I control the day and will shape it according to my hand and my definite plan.

Back to Ephesians 2, verse 10 this time, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life. God’s plan is to sanctify me and bring redemption to those around me. The way God has determined to bring redemption is through Jesus Christ turning rebels into humble servants. The cost of this transfer from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son is the very life of Christ. Jesus transforms his enemies by dying for his enemies. Were it not for the sovereignty of God, this plan would be such a foolish risk. But we know, listening to God’s word and looking at history, that God is sovereignly working his plan of redemption. God is working in and through our rebellion. God is working in and through the rebellion of our children and coworkers and neighbors. This gives us strong encouragement to

III. Depend on the sovereign Lord

Don’t lose sight of the fact that Acts 4:24-30 is a communal prayer. The church has gathered together to hear from Peter and John. Their natural response was to pray because prayer is dependence upon the sovereign Lord. Here are three reasons to pray. First,

  • We pray because we are rebels

These Christians in Acts 4 knew they needed help to fulfill God’s will. There is no idea here that God is going to do whatever God wants to do so my choices don’t matter. God’s sovereignty in no way removes our responsibility. God is in control and we willingly choose. Knowing their tendency to run from difficulty in order to protect their own comfort, these Christians pray for God’s help to keep preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ. God you must stretch out your hand to heal. God you must grant that signs and wonders be done in Jesus’ name. The Gentiles are raging against the church like they raged against Jesus like they raged against David. Give us strength and give us boldness.

We pray because we are a rebellious people and we dwell among a rebellious people. God’s will is for husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. God’s will is for wives to submit to the benevolent leadership of their husbands. God’s will is for children to obey their parents, citizens to obey their leaders, and for each of us to love our neighbors. But, we don’t want to.

The reason I don’t pray is because I have bought into the lie that I am sovereign. Think about it. Why does Satan live a life of prayerlessness? Satan does not pray because he is convinced of the idea that going his own way is infinitely better than going God’s way. May God grant us the ability to see the deep-rooted rebellion that lurks in ourselves. May God grant us the strength and boldness and ability to give ourselves for the redemption of the rebels all around us.

We pray because we are rebels and

  • We pray because we are dependent

The praying Christian is the dependent Christian. I can’t change myself. I can’t change my coworker. I can’t change my spouse. I can’t change my child. Sovereign God, stretch out your hand to heal because my hand has no strength. Sovereign God, grant signs and wonders that will point the rebellious to Jesus. Sovereign God, teach me your Word so that I can teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you (Ps 51:13).

I want to run and hide from suffering and sacrifice. I want my own ease and comfort. I do not want my neighbor’s redemption. I want my child to leave me alone I do not want to point her to Jesus. Feeling our rebellious tendencies and feeling our weaknesses causes us to pray. We are dependent upon God. We pray because we are insufficient and

  • We pray because God is sovereign

Angela and I went to Trader Joe’s last week and bought a pumpkin. Imagine that I decided to pray to that pumpkin to accomplish that pumpkin’s will in my life. I might feel spiritual and empowered by praying to the pumpkin, but that prayer would be pointless because that pumpkin is powerless. The reason we pray to God is because he is the boss of heaven, earth, the sea, and everything in them. We pray to God because, Philippians 2:13, God works in us both to will and to work for his good pleasure. We pray to God because, Ephesians 1:11, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

We pray to God because he can actually do something about our situations. God is infinitely greater than my pumpkin. We pray to God because he has not created a world of robots who mindlessly obey his will. We pray to God because we have chosen a world where we are rebels. We pray to God because he has chosen a world where rebels are transformed through the righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. You will not find strength by forming an idol who has neither the power nor the desire to rescue rebels. We find strength in the sovereign God who has a plan and is working his plan regardless of our plans. May the Sovereign Lord grant us repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, that we may come to our senses and escape the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2 Tim 2:25-26).

God is working his plan in you. Stop fighting him and depend on Jesus. God is working his plan in your family. Stop fighting him and depend on Jesus. God is working his plan in your work. Stop fighting him and depend on Jesus. Let us pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us so that we speak the word of God with boldness. Let’s rest in the sovereignty of God.

Discuss Acts 4:23-31

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. How do you define the sovereignty of God? How sovereign is God?
  3. Acts 4:24 defines God as the master of the house (the Sovereign Lord). According to Acts 4:24, what are the boundaries or limits of God’s house?
  4. Why is it necessary for the Sovereign Lord to speak to us?
  5. There is a pattern here of rebels fighting against God (Acts 4:25-27). Describe how this looked in David’s life, Jesus’ life, and now in your life.
  6. What does Acts 4:28 say the people did?
  7. What was primary in the crucifixion of Jesus, the will of the people or the will of God?
  8. How did the reality of God’s sovereignty encourage the church to pray in Acts 4?
  9. How should the reality of God’s sovereignty encourage you to pray?
  10. Did the people resign themselves to the idea that God is going to do whatever God wants to do so their prayers don’t matter? Why should we pray?
  11. Think of one person you know who is living as a rebel against God. Pray and ask God to give you the boldness to talk to him/her about Jesus.