Bible Studies for Life

with Ann Maniscalco

Sunday, November 29

When Opposition Strikes

Acts 4:23-31

After a six-week study of Daniel and his friends, and their decades of facing – and triumphing over – opposition from a heathen empire, our last lesson for this quarter shows us how the early church faced such trials. The story picks up as these fledgling believers were displaying great boldness and unity by employing the Holy Spirit’s power. Lives were being transformed by the thousands!  And whenever God is mightily at work, Satan is sure to plan and commence a dastardly attack.

Such was the case here. Just as many Jewish leaders tried to thwart and discredit Jesus’ work while He was physically here, these enemies of the cross sought to stir up trouble among the courageous body of believers. In Acts 3, Peter and John, on the way to an afternoon prayer-time at the temple, healed a man crippled from birth. This jubilant man drew quite a crowd, and Peter used the opportunity to preach a powerful sermon, issuing a call to repentance and belief in Jesus.

While Peter and John were speaking, the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees, “greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 4:2 NIV), apprehended the two, putting them in jail overnight (v. 3). However, God’s word certainly wasn’t bound; “many who heard the message believed” (v. 4).

As the disciples were brought out the next day, they were questioned, giving Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (v. 8), another opportunity to powerfully proclaim God’s word. When the Jewish leaders saw the courage these unschooled and untrained fishermen exhibited, “they realized they had been with Jesus” (v. 13 NKJV). What a lesson; the Holy Spirit’s control can take the weakest saints, and make them instruments of God’s incredible power, ready to stand strong in the face of opposition, and share God’s word!

Trying to stop the gospel message from spreading further, the chief priests and elders commanded Peter and John to refrain from such speaking, but the two adamantly refused, saying, “we cannot help speaking about what we have seen or heard” (v. 20 NIV).

Since there were no grounds to hold the two testifiers, they were released, returning to their brothers and sisters in Christ. As they shared what had transpired with their like-minded friends, a praise service broke out! The fellow believers “raised their voices together in prayer to God” (v. 24 NIV). Recalling David’s prophetic words in Psalm 2:1-2, they realized these words about the Lord’s “anointed one” from the long-ago king were being fulfilled (vs. 25-26).  Declaring in prayer that only what God’s “power and will had decided beforehand should happen”, they exalted the Lord together.

Note how the group prayed. They didn’t request safety, personal comfort or deliverance from the difficult situation. Instead, they implored the Lord to consider the threats and enable them to “speak [his] word with great boldness”. They also asked for God’s hand (which represents his provision, his strength and his work) to be manifested by performing “signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (v. 30). The result? God’s hand shook the place, filled those gathered with the Holy Spirit, and empowered them to courageously speak the message (v. 31).

We can likewise fearlessly face opposition and spiritual struggles. In “Fervent”, author Priscilla Shirer adds insight to the mighty “weapons” available to us (Ephesians 6:10-20). She says “the one weapon that ties this whole ensemble together, the one that activates the power of God Himself…is prayer.” Of the words “at all times” in verse 18, she relates the meaning of the word (kairos) in the original language: it “refers to specific times, precise occasions, and particular events.” On engaging the enemy, she reminds us, “our prayers need to be fervent and specific, strategic and personal, tied to the specific needs arising at that specific occasion. That’s the kind of prayer that energizes the armor of God for maximum effectiveness….”

2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) encourages us: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Jesus, preparing the Twelve for a “mission trip”, gave them some instructions, adding, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16 NKJV). When we confront such opposition, let’s be sure to respond with a godly mixture of spiritual boldness and humbleness of heart.

Ann Maniscalco is a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Ocean Springs.