2015 11-1 “Praise, Power, Purpose, and a Parcel” Acts 4:23-37

“PRAISE, POWER, PURPOSE, AND A PARCEL”
ACTS 4:23-37

I. Introduction
The Bible is filled with awesome and marvelous promises of blessings, joy, and ultimate glory for all those who have come to saving faith in Christ – for all those who trust in Him and Him alone for their salvation. But the Bible is also filled with dire warnings of judg-ment and the horrors of eternal destruction in hell for those who do not know Christ – for those who trust in themselves, their religions, or their so-called “good works” to save them.

Which of those two things – the hope of heaven, its promises of eternal blessings, joy, and glory – or the horrors of hell, with its warnings of anguish, pain, and eternal destruction? Which of those two would you rather hear about this morning?

The answer is obvious, isn’t it? Who wants to hear about hell? Few unbelievers think it actually exists anyway. And since serious Bible teaching and sound doctrine have lost favor in much of the church today, far too many professing believers doubt its existence as well. “After all,” they say, “God is love, right?”

No one, believer or not, wants to suffer in what Jesus called: “The eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).” In fact, no one, believer or not, wants to suffer at all. Yet the Scriptures tell us that Christians will suffer. Now to be sure, true Christians will never suffer God’s eternal judgment in the lake of fire, the hell to come. But the Bible makes it equally clear that Christians will suffer in this life, in this world. It is a fundamental and unavoidable truth for anyone who strives to live the Christian life.

Listen to the Apostles Paul and Peter as they affirm this truth.
2 Timothy 3:12
12 And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Philippians 1:29
29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.

1 Peter 2:21
21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…

1 Peter 3:14
14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled,

All of that together makes up one essential and fundamental truth regarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That truth might be expressed in four parts.
• If we live for Christ we will suffer persecution.
• God allows us to be persecuted and suffer for His glory.
• Such persecution and suffering is a part of our calling in Christ because it allows us to get a taste of His persecution and suffering for us.
• Suffering is actually a gift of grace; it is a blessing from God.

So I say again, the fact is that persecution and suffering are integral parts of the Christian life in this age and on this earth. But those truths are seldom preached or taught. Rather, the realities of persecution and suffering are usually minimized, downplayed, or simply ignored. And because they are, they average Christian is left woefully unprepared to deal with perse-cution and suffering when confronted by them.

What about us? Many Christians today will do almost anything to avoid persecution and suffering. And what’s the best way to avoid all of that unpleasantness? It’s really easy. We hide our faith. We keep it a secret. We don’t tell anyone we’re a Christian.

Now let’s be very clear. We don’t mind if people know that we “believe in God” as long as we don’t have to get too specific about Who God is. But we know that conversations about “God” can be so generic that they’re virtually meaningless. However, all of that changes the moment we take a stand on the Bible, on the necessity of being born again, on the deity Christ, on His resurrection, on His imminent return to earth to judge sinners, and the reality of hell. And the fact that “…there is salvation in no one else; for there is other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).”

Once we’ve named the name of Jesus we’re no longer in a generic discussion about some mystical god. Now we’re into the very heart of eternal, unchanging, and absolute truth. And now we’ve opened the door to who knows what? So, we rarely, if ever, go there. It just makes life easier. After all, what they don’t know can’t hurt you, right?

But I want us to look at something the Apostle Peter said. So turn with me to 1 Peter 3. As we go there remember that he knows something about persecution and suffering. The fact is that the Apostle Peter knows a lot about persecution and suffering!
*1 Peter 3:14a
14a But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed…

Wait a minute! Blessed? By being persecuted and suffering? Blessed? How can that be?
*1 Peter 5:10
10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

So in 1 Peter 3:14 you have the promise of blessing. In 1 Peter 5:10 you have the ultimate expression of that blessing – the promise of eternal glory.
It is because of Peter’s firsthand knowledge of persecution and suffering that he can teach us how to react when those things come upon us.
*1 Peter 4:12-14
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;
13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.
14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Certainly Peter remembered Jesus’ words from the Sermon in the Mount…
*Matthew 5:10-12
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.
12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecu-ted the prophets who were before you.”

So ask yourself this: Do you so desperately want to avoid any and all persecution and suf-fering for your faith that you’re willing to walk away from God’s promised blessings? If so, let me suggest that you need to think long and hard about the life you are living and your relationship with the Lord Jesus because, “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).”

Listen, please! I say none of this to discourage you. On the contrary, I say it to encourage you. In this morning’s text in Acts 4, we will see Peter’s and John’s reaction to their first encounter with that promised persecution. What will they do? They will praise God for it. The will see God’s power of in it. They will understand God’s purpose for it. And the church will be blessed because of it.
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II. Review
In Acts 4:1-21 Peter and John were in the temple after the miraculous healing of a lame beg-gar. They had done so back in Acts 3:6 by invoking the power of Jesus’ name. Healing the lame beggar was fine, but attributing the miracle to “Jesus the Nazarene,” whom John and Peter claimed was the Jewish Messiah – the One whom the religious leaders had killed, and God had resurrected from the dead – was just too much.

So the two apostles were arrested, spent the night in jail, and the next morning, were brought before the Sanhedrin. There, standing in the midst of the power of Israel, the religious lead-ers demanded to know how the miracle was accomplished. They said, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”
The apostle’s answer was that it was in Jesus’ name. But they went further. They said that His was the only “…name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12b).” With that they were warned to neither teach in Jesus’ name (v. 18), nor to even speak of Him (v. 17). But the apostles said they could not obey such orders, and they would continue to speak the truth.

At that point the Jewish religious leaders’ hands were tied. They had the power to have Peter and John stoned to death for willful disobedience to their authority, but because they knew the mood of the people – there would be a rebellion if they did so – they let the two men go with a second warning (v. 21). But it’s clear that persecution, and the suffering that will accompany it, has begun, and from here on it will only get worse.
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III. Text
And that brings us to this morning’s passage in Acts. But just before we read it, take a quick look back at v. 21. When Peter and John were released, did they run away in fear? No! Did they question God for letting them get caught and dragged before the powers that be? No! They praised God and glorified Him! Did they do that because they had just gotten out of trouble? I don’t think so. I think they knew such “trouble” was only the beginning. I think they glorified God because He had just used them, and they had just witnessed His power.
*Acts 4:23-37 (Please stand with me in honor of reading God’s Word.)
23 And when they had been released, they went to their own companions, and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.
24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them,
25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, ‘Why did the Gentiles (nations) rage, and the peoples devise futile things?
26 ‘The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the LORD, and against His Christ.’
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 Gen-tiles and the peoples of Israel,
28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
29 “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence,
30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”
31 And 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.
32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them.
33 And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.
34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales,
35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.
36 And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement),
37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Here in this passage you hear no anger, no fear, and maybe most important of all, no lack of faith. They had done what is right and they had seen God work.
*Acts 4:23
23 And when they had been released, they went to their own companions, and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.

Since there was no place for all of the new Christians to congregate together “their compan-ions” is probably best understood to mean that they went to the place where the other ten apostles were staying. Can you imagine how the others would have reacted to Peter’s and John’s story? Their first encounter with persecution would have been a great encourage-ment to them. God had not only miraculously healed the lame beggar, but He had given two of their number the opportunity to preach Christ to the rulers of the nation.

Think about this for a moment. Persecuted believers come together for mutual support, do they not? If the world and its systems are attacking you for your faith, do you look to the world for refuge, comfort, or hope? Do you look to the same world that is attacking you for deliverance or encouragement? Of course not! You look to your Lord and Savior, you look to your church, and you look to your brothers and sisters in Christ. It is in that fellowship that you will find strength and peace. This is one of the reasons why a persecuted church tends to be a strong church.

Persecution and suffering cause us to exercise our spiritual muscles. When it comes, we tend to spend more time in prayer, both for ourselves and for each other. When it comes,
we tend to spend more time in the Scriptures. When it comes, we tend to spend more time together lifting each other up. It is prayer, God’s Word, and fellowship that make for a strong church. I hope you can see that God does not allow persecution and suffering to come upon us to weaken us, but to strengthen us. And when we are strengthened, we are blessed. “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed…”
*Acts 4:24-28
24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them,
25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, ‘Why did the Gentiles (nations) rage, and the peoples devise futile things?
26 ‘The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the LORD, and against His Christ.’
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 Gen-tiles and the peoples of Israel,
28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.

In v. 24 the apostles express their joy in what has happened by using an uncommon word for God. “Lord” is not translated from either of the commonly used titles (Thĕŏs or Kuriŏs) that are applied to God or Jesus in the NT. It is translated from the Greek word “dĕspŏtēs,” from which we get “despot.” In English that word has come to have a very negative connotation. We often use it of dictators and tyrants.

However, here in Acts 4:24 the apostles use it in its correct form. They use “dĕspŏtēs” to describe God as master and ruler of His creation. In other words, they begin by acknowledg-ing the absolute sovereignty of God. And in God’s sovereignty they find not only com-fort and encouragement, but great joy as well.

What a lesson for us! Not only can we be assured that persecution and suffering have an eternal purpose, but we can also endure them in the sure knowledge that God is in complete control of every detail. He will uphold us and He will sustain us. And when we struggle with remembering that, we have His written Word, the Bible, to remind us.

In vv. 25-26 we see that the apostles had God’s written Word too. They too had the OT to remind them. In these two verses they quote David from Psalm 2:1-2 where he prophesied that the rulers of the earth would rebel against both God and His Messiah (His Christ). In vv. 27-28 the apostles both see and understand that what has already happened to Jesus, and what has now begun to happen to them, is proof that David’s prophecy is correct and accu-rate, and they are literally living to see its fulfillment.

But they are only seeing the initial fulfillment of David’s prophecy. You and I may not live to see their fulfillment, but we are certainly living in the age that will witness the complete and final fulfillment of the prophecies of Psalm 2:1-2. Such are the last days of the Church Age. In Revelation 17 John describes the world’s situation near the end of the Great Tribu-lation as the stage is set for Jesus’ Second Coming. The unholy trinity (Satan, the Antichrist,
*Revelation 17:14
14 “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful. (the church – the Bride of Christ)

*Revelation 19:11-16 (The Second Coming)
11 And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war.
12 And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many diadems and He has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself.
13 And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
15 And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Revelation 19 concludes with the War of Armageddon and the Antichrist and False Prophet being “…thrown alive into the lake of fire (v. 20).” (back to Acts 4:27)

So, in the end, what will all of man’s raging against the Lord and His Christ accomplish? It accomplishes two things…
• First, regardless of who it is – Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Antichrist, or anyone else who has ever taken a stand against the Lord and His Christ – they will succeed in accomplishing their own destruction.
• Second, Acts 4:28 tells us that God will accomplish His purpose. His plans were laid down in eternity past. He predestined all of these things. “Predestined” means “to determine before hand.” And so, unregenerate man, having done his worst, can only succeed in fulfilling God’s plans.

In this you can plainly see one facet of absolute sovereignty, can you not?
*Acts 4:29-31
29 “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence,
30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”
31 And 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.
In the rest of this prayer the apostles placed themselves under God’s care and in His hands. And they asked Him to empower them so that they might be used by Him to accomplish His purposes. I cannot imagine a better request of God than that! Such a request pleases God. I know it does because of how God responded to it in v. 28. He literally shook the spot where they prayed and blessed them by filling them with His presence.
*Acts 4:32-35
32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them.
33 And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.
34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales,
35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.

The result of God’s presence being so richly seen and felt within the church brought about a love for one another and a unity of purpose that could only come from above. There are great examples for us in these verses. In the second part of v. 32 this love and unity is seen in the fact that those who had much willingly shared with those who had little. In the first part of v. 34 we can see the results of this mutual commitment to care for each other – no one was left in need of anything. In the second part of v. 34 and v. 35 we can see how this was made possible. Some of those who owned excess real estate (more than they needed) sold some of it and gave the money to the church.

By the way, there was no pooling of resources. There was no, “Everyone bring all that you have, put it in a big pot, and then we’ll all draw equally out of it.” That’s how communes work. That’s a form of communism. That’s how many cults operate. What the church was doing here in Acts 4 was purely voluntary.

What drove them? Love for God and love for each other drove them. A desire for unity in Christ drove them. But there was something else that drove them as well. They understood that everything they currently had, and everything they ever would have, wasn’t really theirs at all. It all belonged to God. The early Christians knew that!
James 2:15-16
15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

1 John 3:17
17 …whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
So in Acts 4:32, 34-35 we see how God’s obvious presence in the church gifted it with the blessings of mutual love and care for the brethren. But v. 33 shows us what else it did. It gave the church a desire to get the gospel out. “…with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” If anyone wonders why we are here, that is why. We are here to love and care for each other, and to get the gospel out. Every day we should be asking ourselves, “How are we doing?”
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IV. Conclusion
This morning we’ve seen the apostles react to the beginning of the persecution and suffering that would accompany their lives until the Lord would take them home. They’ve praised Him for it, they’ve witnessed His power, and they’ve come to an understanding of His purpose for what they would be going through. Praise, power, and purpose! But look at the sermon title. What’s a parcel?
*Acts 4:36-37
36 And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement),
37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

One of those who donated the proceeds from the property he sold was Barnabas. He was a Levite (of the priestly tribe of Levi), born on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea. The Jerusalem church met at his sister’s house. She was young John Mark’s mother, making Barnabas his uncle. Although we only meet him here in Acts 4, we’ll get to know him quite well in the weeks and months ahead. But for now, suffice it to say that Barnabas is a very interesting man. You’re going to like him. In Acts 11:24 Luke describes Barnabas as “a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.”

His donation came from a parcel of land. There is no indication that anything other than good came from that donation. But sin would soon enter the church in the form of another donation. It would come from a man named Ananias. But that is for next time.

For today I would simply ask you to take this with you – Every true believer will be persecu-ted and suffer for his or her faith in Christ. The degree and severity of it is known only to God. But the Bible says…
• “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Philippians 1:29).”
• “(when you) suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed (1 Peter 3:14a).”
• “…after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:10).”

May we all be comforted by God’s words to us this morning. ~ Pray ~

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