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The Power of the Risen Jesus

April 4, 2021 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: Resurrection Day Sermon

Topic: Gospel-Shaped Life Passage: Acts 3:1–4:35

THE POWER OF THE RISEN JESUS

An Exposition of Acts 3:1–4:35

By Pastor Brian Wilbur

Date: April 4, 2021

Series: Resurrection Sunday

Note: Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard   Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

INTRODUCTION

I invite you to turn to Acts 3. I don't like to break from the Gospel of Mark series. I'm really stoked about it, and I'm glad that some of you are too, but this is Resurrection Sunday. And so, I do want to bring a message that's more directly related to the holy day that we are celebrating. So I've chosen Acts 3:1–4:35.

As I was preparing this message, I was thinking about it in relationship to what we've been learning in the Gospel of Mark. And who would have thought, as we were going through those chapters in Mark, that these disciples would become the faithful, courageous, humble leaders of a thriving, loving church family? Who would have thought that, right? They’re stumbling about, they're not understanding things, things are going right over their head. They're concerned about all the wrong things. The last time we checked in on them they were arguing about which one of them was the greatest (see Mark 9:30-37). And yet here they are, in the Book of Acts, and they are different men: transformed, faithful, fruitful, leading the charge. What happened? The resurrection of Jesus Christ is what happened. The resurrection of Jesus Christ gave them confidence. Jesus’ resurrection unlocked the puzzle – they began to understand how God was accomplishing his kingdom purposes. And the risen Lord Jesus Christ poured out his Holy Spirit on those who believed in him, and the Holy Spirit now indwelt them and empowered them. And so, the resurrection of Jesus stands at the center of their transformation.

As we come to Acts 3, keep in mind the timeframe here. Two or two and a half months ago, they were devastated. They were disillusioned. They were sorrowful. Their Lord had been crucified. The shepherd was struck, the sheep were scattered, and they had lost hope. That was just two or two and a half months ago. And then Jesus rose from the dead, and for forty days he appeared to his disciples and he taught them about the kingdom of God. And then after forty days he ascended into heaven. Then ten days later – so now we're fifty days out from the resurrection – ten days later, Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on a small band of 120 prayerful, expectant disciples who were gathered together at the beginning of Acts 2. What unfolds in Acts 2 – on Day 50 after the resurrection – is that Peter preaches the gospel. He preaches the risen Christ to the people of Israel, and by the end of the chapter three thousand have converted. And so all of a sudden you go from a small church of 120 people to a church of 3,120 people. And then, at the end of Act 2, there is a description of what life in the early church was like. It was characterized by their devotion “to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). God was powerfully at work in this newborn church.

Then we come to Acts 3. Now, we don't know exactly how many days after Day 50 that the events in Acts 3 took place, but I'm guessing it wasn't a huge length of time. So I'm just estimating that maybe another couple weeks had gone by, and here we are!

I'm going to pray, and then we'll walk through Acts 3:1–4:35.

Father, we come before you as beneficiaries of your amazing grace poured out through the Lord Jesus Christ. Father, we thank you for feeding us with the bread of life. We thank you for nourishing us with the cup of salvation, for inviting us into your family, and for welcoming us to your table – not because of any merit of our own, but because of the grace and the sacrifice and the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. And Father, we thank you that the risen Christ has poured out the Holy Spirit on those who believe, so that what Jesus taught us in the Gospel of Mark we can actually live, because the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives. And Father, I pray that through this passage this morning, that we would catch a vision of what it looks like to live and serve and evangelize and pray and love in the power of the risen Jesus. In his name we pray, amen.

CATCH A VISION!

I just prayed what this sermon is about. This sermon is not about some neatly packaged point that you're going to take, master, go home, and then everything is going to be different. We are looking at 61 verses – and to set your anxious heart at ease, we will not cover these 61 verses at the same pace at which we covered Mark 8:31. But I want you to catch a vision. I want you to see what it looks like when the risen Jesus pours out his Spirit on his believing people, and they begin to live and serve and pray and love in the power of the risen Jesus.

And so, we're going to walk through this one block of verses at a time. I'll kind of give you a little heading just so you can see the progress of thought. I'm not going to read all 61 verses at first, and then comment on them. We're just going to walk through it a few verses at a time, and celebrate – let's celebrate the reality that Christ is risen. And you know, when you look at the Book of Acts, it's called The Acts of the Apostles, but really The Acts of the Apostles is about what Jesus continued to do after his resurrection. What he began to do is recounted in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. What Jesus continued to do – and the kinds of things he continues to do – after his resurrection and after his ascension, is what the Book of Acts is all about.

THE STAGE IS SET (Acts 3:1-11)

My heading for Acts 3:1-11 is ‘the stage is set’. Let’s begin:

1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. (Acts 3:1-3)

The man is looking for a little financial assistance.

And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. (Acts 3:4-8)

I doubt that this lame beggar man would have been so ecstatic if Peter and John had put a few silver coins in his box. Maybe he would have said, ‘Thank you, sirs.’ But physical health is better than financial assistance. And what happened to this man was beyond his wildest imagination. We learn later in Acts 4 that he was over 40 years old (Acts 4:22). From birth, for four decades running, he had never known what it was to walk. He was lame. But through the power of the risen Christ, energy and strength began to come into his feet and his ankles, and he discovered strength to stand up and walk. And as he was discovering his strength, it wasn't enough to just walk – he had to leap. And he is praising God!

And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. 11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. (Acts 3:9-11)

This reads like just what we've been reading in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus performs a healing, and the people are amazed. What power is this? And if you remember a recent passage in Mark 9:14-29, as the demon was wreaking havoc on that little boy and Jesus was talking to the father, the crowd came running together. And right here in Acts 3, what are they doing? They're “utterly astounded” and running together – there is commotion, amazement, wonder, curiosity. And the stage is set for the preaching of the gospel.

I want you to notice how God loves to set the stage for the preaching of the gospel. In the beginning of Acts 2, those 120 disciples spoke in tongues, and the crowd was freaked out. What's going on? Maybe they're drunk. But that wonder of 120 people speaking in all kinds of different languages set the stage for the preaching of the gospel.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are having prayer and praise in prison, and God sends an earthquake. And that earthquake, coupled with some other factors, set the stage for them to preach the gospel to the Philippian Jailer – and the Jailer and his family became believers.

Even something like persecution can set the stage for the proclamation of the gospel. In Acts 8, when persecution came upon the church, God was setting the stage for the gospel to go out to Judea and Samaria – because the disciples were scattered because of the persecution, and they preached the word wherever they went.

And right here in Acts 3, the healing of the lame man sets the stage for the preaching of the gospel.

THE GOSPEL IS PROCLAIMED (Acts 3:12-26)

Thus my heading for Acts 3:12-26 is ‘the gospel is proclaimed’. Verse 12 says:

12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? (Acts 3:12)

If God chooses to do some great thing through us, it is not because we are super-great, it is not because we are super-godly, it is because God is great. By his grace, he may choose to invite us into partnership with him, but the power, the healing, the wonder comes from Almighty God. And so, Peter is deflecting attention – he is deflecting praise – and he is pointing to God. He is pointing not to an unnamed God, not to an unknown God, not to a vague transcendent deity in the sky, but to a God who is known and has been revealed. The passage continues:

13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, … (Acts 3:13)

Here is a God who is personal, and he calls specific human beings into relationship with himself. We're going to read later, in verse 25, that God established his covenant with the fathers and specifically with Abraham. Here is a God who makes promises and brings people into covenant with himself, and this God has done something – namely, he has glorified his servant Jesus. Jesus is the faithful, suffering, obedient Son who laid down his life. Just a couple of months ago he had been crucified outside the city of Jerusalem. Verse 13 continues:

… whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, … (Acts 3:13-15)

What a picture of how inverted sinners become! We get to the point where we say that a murderer is worthy of life, but that the Author of life is worthy of death. They treated Jesus with contempt. They treated him as if he were unholy and unrighteous. But God reversed and overruled the judgment of men. God vindicated Jesus, his faithful servant, by raising him from the dead:

… whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. (Acts 3:15)

This was the reality that had transformed the lives of the disciples. They went from sorrowful and disillusioned, to believing and confident and courageous, because they knew that their Lord had risen from the dead. And now they were going to stake their entire life on that truth. They were going to testify to the grace of God through the resurrection of Jesus.

16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. (Acts 3:16)

The Author of Life, the one that you killed – he is risen and alive and reigning from heaven, and he is the One who made this lame man well. You'd better take notice, because you're in real trouble. You have a very low estimate of Jesus – Peter is communicating thus to these men of Israel – but God has a very high estimate of Jesus. Which means that you have a problem with God.

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.(Acts 3:17-18)

The suffering, the rejection, and the death of Jesus was all according to plan. It wasn't a detour or a deviation. Sinful men did not interrupt God's plan, but they unwittingly carried it out. Peek ahead to Acts 4:28 – where in their prayer, they're reflecting on the fact that Herod and Pontius Pilate and the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel – what did they do to Jesus? – they put him to death, but underneath that, what do they actually do? This is what they did: they did “whatever [God's] hand and [God's] plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:28). This was all according to plan, that the Lord Jesus Christ would offer himself as a sacrifice for sin and that by his death he would destroy the power of death. And out of that gospel proclamation, Peter issues a call to repentance:

19 Repent therefore, and turn back, … (Acts 3:19)

Now we ought to repent of every sin, but the specific sin that is in view here is their disregard, their belittling, their making light of, their rejection of Jesus. Because Jesus is the Chosen One, the Risen One, the Glorious One. The Father's stamp of approval is on him; at the Transfiguration the Father declares to the disciples and to the whole world, “listen to him [Jesus]” (Mark 9:7). Do you have a high view of Christ? Do you see him as the Holy One, the Righteous One, the Savior, the Author of life? Life does not work well when you are alienated from the Author of life. Are you trying to do life without its author? God would have you have a high view of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. “Repent therefore, and turn back” – and if you do that, there are three promises. The first promise is in verse 19:

19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, (Acts 3:19)

This is the first promise: all your sins will be blotted out, and you will be white as snow through the blood of the Lamb.

The second promise is in the beginning of verse 20:

20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, (Acts 3:20)

Isn't this – “times of refreshing” – what we need in our society? Listen, life doesn't work well when you are stuck in sin, guilt, shame, shifting blame and trying every therapy in the world to make yourself feel better. That is the opposite of refreshing. But unless your sins are blotted out, that's where people are at. They have to attempt to live by managing their sin, and their guilt and shame, and their relationships that are all complicated because everything is messy, and there is blame and finger-pointing. But when sins are blotted out and sinners are reconciled to God – now you have fellowship with God, and the Spirit of God is poured out and filling the lives of his people and transforming them and setting them on the path of obedience, and there is life and refreshing that runs through the entire gamut of our lives.

The third promise involves looking forward to the future, starting in the middle of verse twenty:

and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. (Acts 3:20-21)

Let me just put this in really simple terms: if you repent and turn back to the Lord, if you embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, then you will share in the future restoration of all things – of all creation – that he will bring about when he comes again. But your well-being now and forever depends on your relationship to Jesus. Look at verses 22-25:

22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ (Acts 3:22-25)

If you repent and turn back and listen to him and trust in Christ, then you will have forgiveness and life and times of refreshing and the confident expectation of eternal life. But if you do not listen to him, if you do not turn back, then you will be “destroyed from the people” and you will miss out on the blessing.

What is the blessing of verse 25? What is the blessing that God has designed for believing Israelites and also for believing Gentiles – for “all the families of the earth”? What is this blessing? Is it financial assistance or physical health? We've already seen that physical health is better than financial assistance. But there is something far better than both of those blessings! Look at verse 26:

26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (Acts 3:26)

This is the blessing: to be turned “from your wickedness”, to be brought into fellowship with the righteous God, and to begin to live and move and walk in his righteousness. And this is true both at the point of conversion (which is the main point of verse 26) as well as throughout the Christian life. I know that when I am anxious or angry or frustrated or irritable, a check in the mail doesn't cut it. And I know that a warm tasty meal doesn't cut it. There is no blessing like the blessing of being released from my sin through confession and receiving God's grace and turning back and walking afresh and anew in the Lord's power. That is the blessing!

OPPOSITION BEARS DOWN (Acts 4:1-22)

Now let's move into Chapter 4. My heading for Acts 4:1-22 is ‘opposition bears down’.

1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family.And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:1-7)

We see here that the gospel is growing. They are proclaiming the gospel throughout the city of Jerusalem and more and more people are believing. And in verse 4 we’re told that “the number of the men came to about five thousand”. Now, if Luke is using the word men generically, then the church has grown from 3,120 to 5,000. If he specifically intends to say men only, then men plus women and children would mean the church had grown to ten or fifteen thousand by now. But either way, the point is that the church is growing. The religious leaders are losing their grip on the people, and they don't like that. Not to mention the fact that the Sadducees don't even believe in the doctrine of the resurrection. The Pharisees believe in the doctrine of the resurrection, but the Sadducees don't. So the Sadducees (in verse 1) don't appreciate Peter and John and the other apostles preaching the resurrection of the dead in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, they've gathered together against them, arresting them, interrogating them. And here comes Peter’s answer:

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. (Acts 4:8-11)

Religious leaders, you've got a building project going on. You're trying to build and maintain this wonderful religious institution of yours, and you're reaping the benefits of being at the top, but that's not God's building project. God has another building project going on – and Jesus, the living stone that you rejected, he is the precious stone. He is the cornerstone, the foundation of God's eternal building project. God is building a family – and he's doing it through those who trust in his Son.

Peter continues:

12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 3:12)

‘Saved’ – saved from your sins (Acts 3:19), saved from your wickedness (Acts 3:26). Jesus is the one and only Savior. Of course, there is this mindset out there in the world that there are many paths to salvation – but this mindset is incorrect. Steven Turner wrote a poem that captures this worldly way of thinking. Here is an excerpt from that poem:

“We believe that all religions are basically the same,

at least the one that we read was.

They all believe in love and goodness.

They only differ on matters of

creation sin heaven hell God and salvation.”[1]

Do you understand that Jesus is the only way? Do you understand that your sins are going to ruin you? Jesus is not a mascot for your own version of love, goodness, tolerance, inclusion and niceness. Jesus came to bring a definite atonement for the sins of his people, so that those sins could be blotted out and so that sinners could be reconciled to a holy God and become part of his forever family and enjoy the fullness of his salvation and peace.

And Peter is sharing this with great boldness and confidence, and it catches the religious leaders off guard. Look at verses 13-22:

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.”18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. (Acts 4:13-22)

The religious leaders are kind of stuck in a tough spot. They want to punish and silence Peter and John, but it's hard to do that when, through Peter and John, a 40 year old guy was just healed – and everybody knows it, and the healed guy is standing right there. The crowds are thinking very highly of Peter and John, so the religious leaders don't have the political capital to punish Peter and John the way that they want to. So they intimidate and threaten Peter and John, and the prospect of future punishment looms over the future horizon.

As for Peter and John, they have this supernatural boldness. They're just common, uneducated men, but “they had been with Jesus” – and now the Spirit of Jesus was at work in their lives. And so they had great freedom and great courage to speak forth the truth, and they would not back down. They declare in verse 20, “[We] cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard”. We have to bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus. We have to bear witness to the grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. And so they will go forth and continue to proclaim the gospel.

PRAYER GOES UP (Acts 4:23-21)

Now let's move to verses 23-31. My heading for these verses is ‘prayer goes up’. When opposition bears down (v. 1-22), prayer goes up (v. 23-31) – or at least prayer should go up.

23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they… (Acts 4:23-24)

They what? They complained? They expressed outrage? They lamented at how people can be so stupid and blind? That's not what verse 24 says, right? We're living in tough times. And it occurs to me how often I find myself talking about the difficulty of the days. But we need to follow their example here. When they heard it, they prayed with great expectation.

24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, (Acts 4:24)

They are acknowledging the sovereign hand of God. He holds the whole world in his hand. He can be trusted. You can trust him with your life. And the one who holds the whole world in his hand is sovereign over the details of history. Their prayer continues:

25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,[d] said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
    and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers were gathered together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:25-28)

I want you to see a wonderful connection here. Remember what we've seen in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus told us to deny our self, take up our cross and follow him. One of the things that this means is that we are called to share in the sufferings of Christ. And there's this parallel going on here where – well, what is happening to the apostles? These religious leaders – some of them are the very same ones who were opposing Jesus two and a half months ago – the religious leaders are doing what? They are “gathered together” (Acts 4:5) against the apostles. Yeah, that sounds about right – that sounds like God’s plan. Because a couple of months ago they were gathered together against Jesus, which was according to God's plan (Acts 4:27-28). The Scriptures foretold the sufferings of the Messiah, and the Messiah foretold that his people would share in his sufferings. And this is the reality – God's got it, it’s in his hands, all things are orchestrated according to his wisdom, and his wisdom often involves our suffering.

Now we come to the petition:

29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30)

It's far beyond my intent in this sermon to have some big discussion about healings, signs, and wonders. Another day, perhaps. But I will say this: On the one hand, some people just go crazy with this, and it’s as if ministry becomes all about healings and signs and wonders, and it can even be marketed to great profit, it can become the litmus test of whether you've got the power of the Holy Spirit at work in your life, and it can become ‘healing on demand’ – and all this seems erroneous. On the other hand, there's other people who say that healings and signs and wonders are not for today. It was for the apostolic age, but it's not for today. I'm not entirely persuaded of that view either. But I would encourage you with this thought: Can we all agree that as we are preaching the gospel – which is the main thing, that's what they're praying for, for boldness to preach the gospel. that's the main thing – can we all agree that we ought to pray for God to show up in powerful ways, to set the stage for the preaching of the gospel, to cause people to take note, stand at attention, take God seriously, and hear about what he has done? Because that's the role that healings, signs, and wonders play. They accompany, they confirm, they set the stage for, they open doors for the preaching of the gospel.

And what happens after they pray?

31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)

This is our calling: to go forth, proclaim the gospel, and make disciples. And in the face of opposition, we don't need to pull back. We don't need to retreat. We don't need to hole ourselves up and be quiet. We need, from the Holy Spirit, the boldness to preach the whole counsel of God.

GRACE SHINES BRIGHT (Acts 4:32-35)

So far we've got: the stage is set (3:1-11), the gospel is proclaimed (3:12-26), opposition bears down (4:1-22), and prayer goes up (4:23-31). Finally we come to verses 32-35. My heading for these verses is ‘grace shines bright’.

32 Now 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. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35)

This is exciting! We’ve got a church here of maybe five thousand people – or ten to fifteen thousand people – depending on how you take Acts 4:4. And what is going on here is exciting! Here’s what I want you to notice: He did it! Jesus did it! Stay with me now, let me explain. The end of Chapter 3 said: “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” As we look now at Chapter 4:32-35, we realize that they had all been turned from their wickedness. And by ‘all’ I mean every single person who had believed. Everyone who believed had been turned from his or her wickedness, as evidenced by the fact that they are now united in the Lord. They are united in heart and mind and purpose. Their self-absorbed hearts had been conquered, and they were pouring out their lives for each other. Love is the litmus test. Jesus had transformed their lives!

And I remember – though it may not technically be a sign in the sense of the “signs and wonders” of verse 30 – I remember what Jesus taught us, that our love for one another, our unity, our togetherness in him, is in fact a sign to the world that Jesus is the real deal, that he has come from the Father and that he has turned us from our wickedness and brought us into the righteousness of God (see John 17:20-23).

LET US LIVE IN THE POWER OF THE RISEN JESUS!

Brothers and Sisters, I don't know what specific emphasis the Holy Spirit wants you to take away from these two chapters. But do you see? Do you see the power of the risen Jesus at work in their lives, causing them to continue to preach in the face of opposition, causing them to be successful in making new disciples, causing them to pray great prayers of expectation, and causing them to be like their Savior by laying down their lives for the brethren. Let us live in the power of the risen Jesus!

Let's pray. 

Father, we praise you that you have turned us from our wickedness, our selfishness, our preoccupation with trivial things. And you have opened our eyes to the majesty and the worth of Jesus. Father, I pray – knowing you have said that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in our lives, empowering us and strengthening us and sanctifying us and uniting us – I pray that you would unite us afresh and anew, that we may take your gospel to a sinful world. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

 

 

ENDNOTES

[1] Steve Turner, “Creed”, in Up To Date: Poems 1968–1982 by Steve Turner. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1983: p. 138.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles (The Pillar New Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.