The immediate response of the church to the threats of the chief priests and elders is to pray. They do not try political manoeuvring and they do not ask for safety. They pray to the Sovereign Lord (v. 24), reminding themselves that it is God who is in control, not the Sanhedrin. They remind themselves that He is the Sovereign Creator. They remind themselves of the Scriptures, of Psalm 2:1–2—all of humankind’s raging and plotting against God’s Anointed One is in vain (v. 25).
Again, in verse 27, they mention the human players but, again, in verse 28, they put them in their place. Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel conspired against Jesus, but they could only do what God had decided beforehand should be allowed to happen. As Joseph reminded his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good . . .” Here is the crowning conviction of Romans 8:28—that in all things, God works for the good of His people, and in all things God will take the evil intentions of people and use them to accomplish His purpose. The cross is the best example of that.
The mandate of the church is to speak the gospel and the church prays that it would do so (vv. 29–30), that no threat will slow down the church in its ministry. Note again that they do not pray for safety, but for bold speech (v. 29) and accredited speech (v. 30). Luke records the shaking of the place and their filling with the Holy Spirit; the same believers who had been baptised in the Spirit are now filled afresh with Him. We are baptised once, but filled with the Spirit always.
The fruit of filling is again underlined in verse 31—bold speaking of the Word of God. The first resort of the church under threat of persecution is to pray about God’s sovereign control; its petition is about bold speech; its result is spiritual fullness showing itself in bold gospel proclamation.
This is a great pattern for us today who are under all kinds of threats to silence our message.
How does this experience of the church show you the best way to face up to a tough situation?
Are you facing a similar situation today? If so, then write out a prayer similar to that of the first century church and pray it in relation to your situation.