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First, Unclog the Drain…
In Acts 4, we see the first organized governmental persecution of the early church. They were told, in no uncertain terms, not to “speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). As we have previously discussed, the issue was one of authority and whose authority the church would bow to. Respectively, the disciples refused to follow the governmental mandate, and Christian civil disobedience was born (Acts 4:20). When they returned and reported to their brethren what the government demanded and their response, the entire church broke into a spontaneous time of praise and prayer that is unequaled in the book of Acts.
First, they understood the Biblical basis for their persecution.
So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the LORD and against His Christ’ – Acts 4:24-26.
Next, they acknowledged God’s sovereignty in all they were suffering.
“For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” – Acts 4:27-28.
And finally, they offered to God their two prayer requests.
“Now, Lord, look on their threats, and (1) grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by (2) stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus” – Acts 4:29-30.
So what happened next? They experienced the dramatic power of the Holy Spirit, and God immediately answered their first prayer request.
And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and (1) they spoke the word of God with boldness – Acts 4:31.
But when was their second prayer request answered? Not until Acts 5, beginning with verse 12 and following.
And through the hands of the apostles (2) many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch – Acts 5:12.
This raises just a few questions. Chiefly, why the delay? Why was one request answered immediately and the other took some time? Was there something that needed to be done by the church before they could receive answer two? Or was there some lesson the Lord was trying to teach them, and us, regarding receiving answers to prayer? If so, what can we learn from this? And why is it even important?
Then, His Living Water Will Flow
It appears something needed to happen to unclog the drain that was hindering the church from experiencing the free-flowing Spirit they had before. And it seemed to involve the hypocrisy, and possibly the church’s acceptance of this hypocrisy, that was centered on a man named Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. I am sure you are familiar with the story. You can read about them in Acts 5:1-12.
Needless to say, God’s actions against these two seem, from our vantage point, somewhat heavy-handed, even bordering on overkill. But we forget about Nadab and Abihu, who offered “profane fire before the Lord” (Ex. 28:1), and Uzza, whose only crime was trying to keep the Ark of God from falling in the mud (2 Sam. 6:6-7). In both instances, God’s actions seem extreme when seen through the eyes of fallen, unholy men, like us.
But God sees things differently, especially when His honor and glory are at stake (Mal. 1:6-14).
So what can we learn from the life of Ananias and Sapphira? Let me give you just a few points.
• There will always be tares among the wheat, just like Jesus said in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.
• Actions always speak louder than words. Always!
• The Holy Spirit is fully God and not something less.
• And God is not to be mocked, ever!
• Sin and pride hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in both an individual’s life and in His church.
• Finally, God will go to great lengths to secure and maintain the purity of His church – even doing things that seem heavy-handed and out of character to us today.
Join us today as we discover another way God protects His church during persecution by removing roadblocks that hinder His children from truly experiencing Him and embracing the abundant life He promised (John 10:10), as we Leave Laodicea behind.