A Timely Prayer
When we feel that our culture is more determinedly turning its back on the gospel and opposing more fiercely the claims of the Scriptures, the natural question is: What do we do? Our answer should not be based on what feels comfortable but on what the Bible says.
The early church was no stranger to social upheaval. Knowing that hope and salvation could be found in Christ’s death and resurrection, Peter fearlessly preached at Pentecost, just a few weeks after he had denied knowing Jesus and being His follower (Acts 2:1-41). The bold preaching of Peter and the other apostles led to the rapid growth of the church—but it also led to tumult and persecution for the believers (v 1-22).
It’s no surprise, then, when we read that they lifted their voices to God. They knew the opposition they faced, and they prayed—knowledgeably, biblically, and boldly.
“And now, Lord…” If we were asked to finish that prayer, we’d probably ask God to remove the threats, stifle the opposition, or keep us from persecution. That was not the prayer of the early believers, though. Instead, they prayed that they would declare the gospel “with all boldness.”
Theirs remains a timely prayer. Surely the great need of the hour in the church of Jesus Christ is simply this: for Spirit-filled, Christ-centered courage. We’re living in a culture shaped by an incoherent mix of opinions and tensions. In that context, God calls us to go out and say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). As we do so, we would do well to remember that at the very heart of the gospel is the cross. If we are going to speak the word with boldness, then we will declare, in the words of Isaiah, that on the cross Jesus “was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). As Rico Tice points out, this will require us to be brave enough to press through the pain barrier and risk the hostility of those who disagree in order to find hunger among those in whom the Lord is already at work.
The whole gospel has been given to the whole church to reach the whole world. Whether you’re a musician, engineer, farmer, or pharmacist, it doesn’t matter; the charge of God to each of us is to speak His word, the mystery of the gospel.
So are you willing to be bold enough to pray for boldness? Not for an easy or comfortable or healthy or admired life but for a life of witness? Will you daily make the prayer of the early church your own, asking that by God’s Spirit you would be filled and emboldened to share His gospel, whatever the cost, with a world that is desperate for truth?
Peter and John Before the Council
1And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
5On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10let 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. 11This Jesus1 is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.2 12And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men3 by which we must be saved.”
13Now 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. 14But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16saying, “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. 17But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But 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, 20for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21And 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. 22For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
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