Friday, April 8, 2016


For the week beginning Sunday April 10, 2016

Acts 4:1-22

In Acts chapter 4, while Peter and John were still addressing the crowd, “the Sagan” (the Temple guards), along with the leading priests, and a few Sadducees, approached the pair to arrest them. They were quite disturbed that the two apostles were claiming authority through JESUS CHRIST, and were testifying of the truth of HIS resurrection from the dead. About 5000 men, not including the women and children, now were believers of their message about CHRIST (Vs.1-4).
They arrested both men and jailed them until morning, because, by law, judgments involving decisions of life and death had to begin and end in the same day. It had obviously become their goal to kill Peter and John, just as they had killed JESUS, and now, since it was so late in the day (Temple gates traditionally closed at 4 o’clock P.M.), they wouldn’t have time to complete the legal process unless they got an early start the following day. This confirms the fact of the religious hierarchy’s intentions, and how they fully planned in advance to unjustly sentence the men to death for their public stance in defense of JESUS, being the SON of GOD, and thereby, being worthy to be praised as GOD.
The next day Peter and John stood before, and addressed the 70-member Temple Council (the Sanhedrin). Filled with the HOLY SPIRIT, they spoke boldly to the teachers of religious law (Vs.8-12). The Council was amazed at their boldness, because they could see that Peter and John were ordinary men with no special training. They also knew that they couldn’t deny the miracle that the men had performed on the lame man, who had been crippled for forty years, and was now standing right there beside them for all to see.
In light of all the facts, the Council decided to release the pair, giving them a warning not to preach in the name of JESUS anymore. But Peter and John even responded boldly to their order by saying, “Do you think GOD wants us to obey you rather than HIM? We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we have seen and heard”.
What a wonderful model Peter and John set that day, which all Christian can do well by following. Their proclamation in verses 19-20 is one that all Christians should be able to stand by. In fact, if our fear of man is stronger than our fear of GOD, then, we are well on our way to securing a place in Hell. Such an attitude shows that we have not accepted CHRIST in our hearts, where HE has to dwell.
Remember, Peter was an ordinary man, who, in fact had already denied knowing CHRIST three times. However, JESUS did not forsake him, and indeed, eagerly accepted his earnest repent of the heart, and then, forgave him, and was willing to use him for greater things for the remainder of his life here on earth. And Peter went on to become “the rock” upon which CHRIST built HIS Church, just as JESUS had promised him.

Acts 4:23-31

In Acts 4, verses 23-31, we see that no sooner than Peter and John had been released by the Sanhedrin, they begin to show the heart and character that made them special and acceptable to the HOLY SPIRIT. First, in verse 23 we see that they went to find other believers, and after informing the other believers about their trials, and the threats that the Council had made to them, they all lifted up their voices in unison in a prayer to GOD for continued courage.
One of the first life-style changes that a Christian has to make, after they have accepted CHRIST, is to stop hanging out with the old crowd, and start studying, socializing, and fellowshipping with other believers. We do not need to go back and tempt ourselves with the old lifestyle, not even to try and convert others, until we ourselves have become rooted and grounded in the Word of GOD. We need to know how to defend the Gospel before worldly people, just as Peter and John were able to boldly do here in this chapter, and like them, oftentimes, we will have to defend the Gospel, even in, and especially in, the Church.
Secondly, we see in verse 24 that they used the power of prayer to seek strength and courage from GOD, and they always gave GOD HIS proper place at the head of their lives. All Christians need to have a strong prayer life and communication with GOD. Our relationship with GOD must become an experiential and personal one if we are to expect the “special favor” and benefits that set us apart from just the “general blessings” that GOD almost automatically affords all of HIS human creation i.e. rain, sunshine, wills that are free, sharing HIS nature, etc.
In verses 24-30 Peter, John, and all the other believers came together in unison and prayed this powerfully earnest, and humbling prayer for courage and boldness in their application and carrying out of the work of CHRIST;

“O Sovereign LORD, CREATOR of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— (25) you spoke long ago by the HOLY SPIRIT through our ancestor David, your servant, saying,
‘Why were the nations so angry?
    Why did they waste their time with futile plans?
(26) The kings of the earth prepared for battle;
    the rulers gathered together
against the LORD
    and against his Messiah.
(27) “In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against JESUS, your holy servant, whom you anointed.
(28) But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will.
(29) And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.
(30) Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (NLT)

Finally, in this passage, in verse 29, we see that they all recognized from WHOM their strength came, and they asked for courage and boldness to continue to preach the Gospel to a world that was totally adverse to all that JESUS stood for. After this prayer the building they were in shook, and they were all filled with the HOLY SPIRIT. And they indeed did preach the Word of GOD with boldness from that day forward.

Acts 4:32-37

In Acts chapter 4, verses 32-37, Luke presents to us a vivid description of how the Christian believers had become of one heart and mind, and they all shared in the belief that, the possessions with which GOD had blessed them with, were not their own, but rather, they only held those possessions in stewardship to GOD. They seemed to grasp quite clearly that the true Christian only desires more, so that they may have more to give away. They fully understood the concept of GOD that teaches us, when we give according to GOD, we actually take the “spiritual curse” off of that portion which we keep.
This attitude allowed the Christian community of the first century to share their possessions unconditionally with each other in, both, a social, and, neighborly capacity. The work of the HOLY SPIRIT in each individual made them more sensitive to identifying with those, who were in a state of desperate need, and as a result, there was no poverty among them. They were freely willing to sell all of their possessions, if necessary, in order to come to the aid of their fellowman.
In this passage, Luke also introduces us to a man named Joseph, who was also called “Barnabas”, which by interpretation means “son of encouragement”. He earned the name “Barnabas” by way of his special ability to encourage others through his positive GODly words, actions, and deeds. He was from the tribe of Levi, but came from Cyprus, an island located in the northeastern Mediterranean Sea, about sixty miles off the coast of Syria.
Barnabas is the person who first introduced the Apostle Paul to the Christian Church at Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-28), and then later to the Church at Antioch of Syria, in Acts chapter 11 (v.25). In fact, he even traveled for a year with Paul, during his first missionary journey, but then later, fell out with him over differences involving John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, and also the eventual author of “the Book of Mark”.
However, despite Barnabas’ falling out with Paul, he clearly continued to reflect JESUS’ image of encouragement throughout his lifetime. His presence, leadership, and encouragement to those in the early Church were instrumental in its development and survival. He became a very necessary ingredient in the “Body of CHRIST” in its infancy stage, as it struggled to mature into a viable representative of the ideology of GOD here on earth.
In this passage (v.37), Luke tells us that he sold a field that he owned back on the Island of Cyrus, and gave the entire proceeds to the Church to distribute to those in need. He did this, in order that he might encourage and inspire others in the Church to the spirit of “sacrificial giving” in the Christian community.
Every Christian has the same potential and opportunity as Barnabas had to become active, effective, earnest workers in the Christian community. And just like in the early days, we too, must work to build and add to GOD’s great undertaking, the Church, using all of our GOD-given assets in order to get the job done. And the only way to be successful in our endeavors, is to follow those Christian examples that have already been set before us, starting with CHRIST JESUS, and trickling down to those early Church workers such as Peter, Paul, Barnabas and the like, who faithfully served HIM, with their whole heart.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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