I have been corresponding with a woman in Biddeford; her name is Linda Hinkley. She has been going through a bible correspondence course, doing an excellent job. Along the way, she has sent me some questions that often have nothing to do with the lesson she is doing. The last question she asked me was this, “What is the great commission?” I wrote back to her Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” If we were to simplify the mission of the church, this would be it. Paul said it this way in Ephesians 3:10, “that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church.” You and I, those in Christ Jesus, have been given the incredible task of sharing the hope that is in Christ. Acts 4:12 in the ETRV says, “Jesus is the only one who can save people. His name is the only power the Lord gives to save anyone in the world. Our salvation comes through him!” Jesus himself claimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). This is our mission! So, I asked myself, “What can I learn from the early church to help empower me for this mission?”
“So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord…” (Acts 4:24)
This chapter begins with Peter and John teaching “the people and preaching in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). This bothered some Jews to the point that they took Peter and John into custody. When confronted by some religious leaders, we again find Peter and John boldly preaching about Christ. Wanting to stop this message from spreading further, these religious leaders thought, “let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name” (Acts 4:17). Their threats did not phase Peter and John, so they were let go. Afterwards, Peter and John “went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them” (Acts 4:23). What was the first thing they did? They “raised their voices to God with one accord.” They prayed together! Prayer is a critical tool when it comes to evangelism. Paul asked the church in Ephesus to pray “for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19). Looking back in Acts 4, consider what they prayed: “Lord, You are God!” They exalted God to His rightful position in life. He is the creator of all things! When the church understands that God is in control, the church’s mission is on solid ground.
Their prayer continues, first quoting the words of David found in Psalm 2:1-2. Then they pray, “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” (Acts 4:27). They remember the opposition which Jesus faced by so many and the cruel death at the hands of these very people. But the next set of words speaks loudly to these early Christians. All of it was “to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (Acts 4:28). The ETRV says, “These people who came together against Jesus made your plan happen. It was done because of your power and your will.” They were acknowledging God’s sovereignty. When the church unites together under the care of their sovereign God, His will can be done.
“Now, Lord, look on their threats and grant to Your
servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word….” (Acts 4:29)
Finally, with the knowledge that such threats are real and the efforts of Satan to stifle the proclamation of Christ apparent, they seek God for boldness. This Greek word means all out-spokeness, i.e., frankness, bluntness, assurance. One commentator writes, “This is an instance of heroic boldness and a determination to persevere in doing their duty to God. When those in power assail us, when the world persecutes us, and we are in danger, we should commit our way unto God and seek his aid so that we may remain focused on the path of duty.” They did not want their circumstances to deter them from their mission. And they knew that within themselves, without their sovereign God empowering them through the challenges they faced, their mission would be lost.
So, what do I walk away with after considering this text anew? What does it teach me about the great commission that is ours today? First, I need to; we need to unite in prayer to our God. The great commission is the mission He has given us. We, like them, need to acknowledge His sovereignty over all things. He has created all things and reigns over them all. Second, we need to seek Him for the boldness to speak of Christ to others. We NEED Him if we are going to fulfill His mission. And if you are wondering if it works, consider the close of Acts 4:31, “…and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” Heavenly Father, grant your servants boldness to speak of Christ to those around us. Help us to unite together in this mission. Why? Because His name is the only power in the world that God gives to save anyone.