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Before we continue our study on Acts lets review what we have learned about the early church in Acts. We learned that the church waits on God which involves praying together, being devoted to study of the scriptures, obedience of the scriptures and leaving the answer up to God. We also have learned that the early church obeyed Jesus and submitted to the Holy Spirit by preached the gospel, fellowshipping and caring for the brethren.

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unsplash-logoCraig Lovelidge

In Acts chapter four we see that the religious leaders were upset that Peter and John were preaching about Jesus in the Temple (is there any surprise as they were a part of crucifying Jesus?). After speaking to Peter and John and having some time of deliberation the religious leaders orders them not to speak of Jesus anymore. Here is Peter and John's response: "...Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard(Acts 4:19-20, ESV)." In other words Peter and John are committed to obeying what Jesus commanded them to do which was to make disciples which included the preaching of the gospel. The church was already being persecuted when the religious leaders threatened Peter and John. These are the first to things we learn in chapter four: to obey God no matter what man says and secondly the church will be persecuted.

Pray for Boldness

The next things we learn come from verses 23-31. The ESV appropriately subtitles this section "The Believers Pray for Boldness". "And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 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, ESV)." The reaction to the disciples upon hearing about Peter and John's encounter with the religious leaders was to pray and to pray specifically for more boldness to preach the gospel while healing and signs of wonder occur through Christ's power. Something really cool happens next. The place shook and "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness

(Acts 4:31)." So the reprimand the religious leaders gave did not have the effect they had wished. We learn that in all things the church is to pray, to talk to God about all matters and again to wait on His answer and direction.

Verses 32-37 is a great picture of the early church, one that the church must make close attention to. In verse 32 it says: "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 (Acts 4:32, ESV)." The full number of believers was about 5,000 men (Acts 4:4), which means there were over 5,000 believers AND they were all of one heart and soul. That is, they were in complete unity. This was as verse 32 says "they had everything in common." Today in the church if there are 60 people there are 61 opinions.  But at this time the church of over 5,000 and were in complete unity. This is amazing and shows the unity that God brings. The church today would do well to pay attention to this and listen to God so that the Church would be in complete unity.

No Need

The second lesson in Verses 32-33 is that of the care for the brethren. In verse 34-35 says: "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 and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need (Acts 4:32-33, ESV)."  No one had need because everyone in the church shared and made sure that no one was in need. People were even selling property to give to those in need. Today, there are Christians in need and yet many Christians have second properties or extras that aren't necessary. Why don't we do a better job of caring for the needs of the people in the church to the extent that happened in this passage?  When we see a brother or sister in Christ in need, we need to have compassion for them and help them so that they are not in need.

What a great chapter of discovery into the life of the early church. In this chapter we have learned that in every situation we are to go to God in prayer including asking Him for boldness to preach the gospel, to expect persecution, to seek to be unified and to care for the needs of all the brethren.