Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”
I wanted to revisit this text again this week because we never got to see God’s response to this prayer. Last time we saw the amazing truth that, in spite of the threats by the Sadducees, the church never mentioned one word in their prayer regarding their personal safety. In fact, they really weren’t surprised at all by this persecution. Why not? We find the answer in what they prayed in Ac 4:26-28:
“The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ. For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.”
The pattern of Christ was to suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake. We have a group of people in this text that never agreed on anything! Lk 23:12 tells us that prior to Christ’s crucifixion, Herod and Pilate were enemies. As for the Jews and the Gentiles, we see the animosity between them in multiple texts. When Paul defended himself before the Jews at Jerusalem, they kept silent until he said God had called him to preach to the Gentiles! We read, “And they listened to him until this word [i.e. the word “Gentiles”], and then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!’” (Ac 22:22) This prejudice ran in the other direction as well. Listen to how the Roman Gentiles spoke of Israelites in Ac 16:20-21: “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” Do you hear their “us” and “them” mentality? Yet, in spite of all the hatred these groups had for one another, they agreed fully on one point–they despised the Son of God even more!
So, the early church wasn’t surprised by the Sadducees’ reaction to the gospel because the world has always hated the light because its deeds are evil! (Jn 3:19) Jesus taught clearly that the church should expect resistance and outright hatred. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (Jn 15:19) The comfort in this fact is found in what the church prays after identifying the ones that joined together against Christ. Pilate, Herod, the Jews, and the Gentiles were successful in crucifying Jesus only because they “were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.” God’s sovereign will and eternal plans cannot be undone by the sinful practices of wicked men!
Knowing then that the Sadducees could not touch them except within the boundaries of God’s determined purpose, the church’s prayer addressed their real need in this hour. “Give us boldness to speak your word!” They prayed for strength to not give in to worry, doubt, and fear so they could faithfully fulfill Christ’s command to go “into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15) Was God pleased with their request? There aren’t many places in Scripture that you find God answer a prayer so quickly! “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Ac 4:31) God granted their request immediately! May such a gracious response from the Lord encourage us to pray for the same boldness in our day.