A Dependent Church – Acts 4:23-35 (pt. 4)

III. A Dependent Church Boldly Proclaims God’s Word (vv. 29-30)

Thus far we have seen that a dependent church, first of all, prays, and, secondly, finds comfort in the Sovereignty of God.  Now, as we turn our attention to vv. 29-30 we are going to see that the third trait of a dependent church is that a dependent church boldly proclaims God’s word.  Up to this point the prayer has been focused on God’s sovereign work in the past, but in these verses the people finally bring their request about the current situation before the Lord.  The idea is that since God has been sovereignly working in the past He is able to help with the current situation.

Here is the request that they make: “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence.”  If I am being honest with you this is not the request that I would have made.  My prayer would have been a lot like the prayer of John and James in Luke 9 when they were ready to call down fire on the Samaritans for not believing in Jesus.  It probable would have gone something like, “And now Lord take note of their threats and smote them down.  Let fleas infest their armpits if they arrest another one of the brothers!”  Needless to say, the prayer offered on this day was far more dependent–and mature–than my prayer request would have been.

Notice that the people do not pray for their enemies to be crushed, or for God to take notice of the threats and punish them.  The people knew that in God’s timing these things would be sorted out by the ultimate and perfect judge.  Their concern was not for personal and immediate vindication.  Their concern was that these threats would distract them from their task, and thus their plea was that God would allow them the courage to continue to preach with boldness.

It is interesting that church refers to themselves as “bond-servants.”  Really the word here means slaves (δούλοις).  This is interesting because it would have been unheard of for a slave to publically speak boldly.  That is, unless he had been commanded to by His master.  Which is exactly the case with the church.  This church recognized that they were slaves who had been left with a task, to spread the good news about Jesus.  Before Jesus ascended back into heaven he made it clear that it was the church’s task to proclaim the Word of God to the entire world.  They knew that they had received the command from Him, and they were dependent upon Him to obey that command.  This is why they requested boldness from God instead of safety.  They knew that the Sanhedrin was most likely going to follow through on their threats, and they were afraid of being afraid.  Like FDR they felt that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” They did not want their fear to keep them from obeying their master.

This church’s passionate desire was to align themselves with the work that God was doing.  This is why v. 30 adds, “while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”  Here the people are not asking for God to do these signs.  They are simply recognizing the special works that God is already doing.  You see, during this time in church history there were many miracles done by the apostles to authenticate the new message that they were proclaiming.  We do not need these miracles today because we have the entire New Testament to authenticate our message.  But you can imagine how helpful these signs must have been for the first generation of Christians who did not have the New Testament.  The miracles proved that there was power in the message, the church did not want to squander this kind of opportunity because they were afraid of the Sanhedrin.  They knew that God was already doing a special work, and they could participate in that work by boldly proclaiming God’s word.

In v. 31 we see how God answered this prayer.  Luke tells us that, “when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”  We will look at this verse a little more closely in a minute, but suffice it to say that God provided them with all the boldness that they needed.  In v. 29 the church had asked for courage, and here God provides them with a fresh endowment of the Spirit accompanied by a visible sign of that endowment in order to provide them courage.  We should not expect this same kind of visible sign, however, as the church we do retain the power of the Holy Spirit.  The reason that we no longer need a visible sign is because we have the bible to remind us of the Spirit’s ministry in our lives, and thereby encourage us to boldly proclaim the Word.

At this point I hope that you see just how important it is for the church to boldly proclaim God’s word, but you may still be wondering how is it dependent to boldly proclaim the word of God?  In this respect there are really several ways in which it is a sign of dependence to boldly proclaim God’s word:

  • There are always consequences to proclaiming God’s word.  In the early church’s case those consequences were quite severe.  In our case the consequences are probably less severe, but nonetheless real.  When we proclaim God’s word we know that it will create controversy and we will have to deal with the consequences.  However, we know the benefits of proclaiming God’s word outweigh the negative consequences because we are depending on God.
  • Proclaiming God’s word is also a sign of dependence because it is obedient.  As this early church understood, by proclaiming God’s word we are submitting to the command of our master.
  • Finally, proclaiming God’s word is also a sign of dependence because when we do so we are depending on God’s methods. God have given us his word and we do not need to improve on it (2 Corinthians 4:1-2).  We simply need to proclaim it.  It is the power of God unto salvation and we should not be ashamed of it (Romans 1:16).

If we depend on God then we are going to use His word to do His work.  We won’t be concerned with the consequences because we can trust God with that.  We won’t be concerned with personal vindication because we are focused on the mission of our Master.  And we won’t be concerned with inventing new methods because we are using the instrument that Jesus left for us.