But everything they did was determined beforehand according to Your will.
(Acts 4:28 NLT)
This morning as I walked my dog I listened to the Daily Audio Bible podcast (highly recommended) and in today’s reading we covered Acts 4. As I put myself into the story and tried to imagine what it must have been like to be there I was amazed by the prayer of the believers. To set the scene, Peter and John are walking into the temple one afternoon when they encountered a lame man.
Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” (Acts 3:4-6 NLT)
Until this point, the Jewish leaders had seemingly taken little notice of this band of Jesus followers. The first mention of conflict came in Acts 4.
While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. (Acts 4:1-3 NLT)
The next day came commands not to teach in Jesus name followed by threats about what might happen if they continued. Now pause for just a moment and think about what was happening.
Do you suppose that some of the Jesus followers might have said things like
- “Maybe we should stop with the preaching in the temple”
- “We must be doing something wrong if the leaders don’t agree with us”
- “Peter, John… why did you have to attract such attention, we need to be more careful”
They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47 NLT)
Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. (Acts 4:10 NLT)
The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 NLT)
Standing before the council, some people might have been intimidated. When asked “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?” (Acts 4:7b NLT) they might have said things like
- “By the power of Yahweh our God we did this.”
- “We are just followers of the law and prophets like you”
But Peter and John had no doubt about what they were doing. They didn’t try to craft and answer that would get them out of trouble. They simply said it straight out, it was by the power of Jesus that this man was healed. And not only that, they had the boldness to declare “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NLT)
Talk about putting it all on the line. These are words that will surely land them in prison, seem them beaten and eventually killed. What gave them this kind of courage?
As the disciples gathered together to pray, after this encounter with the Jewish leaders we can get a glimpse of their thinking.
But everything they did was determined beforehand according to Your will. (Acts 4:28 NLT)
Really? Everything? Yes, everything. “They” in this verse refers to the Jewish leaders and the Romans. The everything they are referring to includes the events of the previous weeks.
- The rejection of Jesus as messiah by the Jewish leadership
- The arrest in the garden
- The scourging of Jesus
- The crown of thorns
- The crucifixion
- The empty tomb
proorizō – to limit in advance
They were confident that these remarkable events were not random acts but the fulfillment of exactly what God said would happen. Knowing this, they prayed for even more boldness.
And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, Your servants, great boldness in preaching Your word. Stretch out Your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30 NLT)
I have so many questions about exactly how God’s foreknowledge and will have predestined events and actions. The tension between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man is so clearly evident here.
- Did the Jewish leaders act freely when they conspired to hand Jesus over to Pilate?
- Did the disciples act freely when they fled from the garden?
- Did Peter act freely when he denied Jesus 3 times?
- Did Pilate act freely when he ordered Jesus crucified?