3 May 2011

Acts 4:23-37

"Now the whole group who believed were of one heart and soul ..." (v. 32)


The background to today's passage is the healing of the lame man (Acts 3:1-10), Peter's sermon (Acts 3:12-26), the imprisonment of Peter and John and the court case that followed (Acts 4:1-12). The people were amazed both at the healing which had taken place and at the preaching of untrained lay people. Peter and John were threatened by the Sanhedrin to not to say anything else and released. Our passage takes us from them being discharged: naturally enough they go to their friends, where their first action was to pray.

The prayer they offer (vv. 24-30) is a remarkable insight into the devotion of the members of the early Church as reflected by Luke (the writer of Acts as well as the Gospel that bears his name). God is addressed as sovereign (v. 24): they see the difficulties with the Jewish leaders as part of a bigger picture and do not take it personally. This is why in verse 28 they quote Psalm 2:1 and claim help and find comfort.

The effect of the prayer was remarkable as the room that they were in shook as if in an earthquake. (We read of similar events inExodus 19:18 and Isaiah 6:4.) Scholars say that this would have been regarded as a divine response to prayer. The disciples receive a fresh filling with the Holy Spirit to enable them to bear witness on later occasions.

In verses 32-37 we have a summary of the life of the early Church. It stresses the common mind and generosity of their life together, but we soon read that all was not perfect with this group (Acts 5:1-11). Barnabas is given special attention he will appear later as a Christian leader (Acts 11:24), known for his goodness. Certainly a 'person of encouragement' is a wonderful strap line for any of us.

To Ponder

To what extent are we shy of praying together as Christians at times of thanksgiving? Why? What do you think we can do to overcome any timidity?

What do you learn from the cameo of the early Church in verses 32-37? How might it you put this into practice?

How can you develop the gift of encouragement in your life and discipleship?

Bible notes author

The Revd Steve Wild

Born in Rochdale, Steve Wild is a proud Lancastrian, but is at home in his adopted Cornwall where he is chair of district. Steve has been a Methodist minister since 1983 and has served in Cornwall, Preston and Cliff College (as tutor, connexional director of evangelism and acting principal).